A Variety of Attempted Justifications

In the religious world today the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship assemblies is the rule, rather than the exception. While there are a few holdouts among the churches of men, by far the majority employ some form or other of mechanical instrument in their services. And with such folk, by and large, there is cool disinterest in the question of what the Bible teaches. Whether it is authorized is unimportant. It pleases them; therefore they have it, and God has to like it.

Some, though, who retain some vestige of respect for the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, have endeavored to find permission (i.e., authority) for such practice. Their task is a daunting one: whenever the New Testament speaks of music in connection with the worship of Christians, the music it specifies is singing . So Paul wrote, in Romans 15:9, I Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, and Colossians 3:16. So James wrote in James 5:13. Where can instruction (i.e., authority) leading to the acceptable use of a piano, or a pipe organ, a string ensemble, a full orchestra, or anything like that as a part of the worship of God, be found?

Harps in Heaven? In Revelation 14:2, John hears a voice from heaven, and it was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps (and confer also Revelation 5:8, and 15:2). So, there are and will be harps in heaven, and harps are mechanical (?) instruments of music, and therefore what? What? The question is not, how has God chosen to furnish music in heaven? ; the question is, how has God directed men and women on earth to worship Him in song? Mechanical instruments of music can be found in heaven and were found under the law of Moses (I Chronicles 16). Mechanical instruments of music are found and played in our homes today. The place mechanical instruments of music cannot be found is in the assemblies for worship of those who have a thus saith the Lord for their practice. Jesus Christ is head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22): where did the head direct (i.e., authorize) the use of a mechanical instrument of music in the church? Its presence after these last days (in heaven), or before these last days (under Moses), is irrelevant; the requirement (i.e. authorization) is, sing , for the time in which God has spoken to us in His son (Hebrews 1:1-3), in which He said hear ye him (Matthew 17:5). We must be not distracted by what has been done or will be done.

Fly To The Greek? In a debate in 1955, James P. Miller began his response to an argument on the Greek word psallo by whimsically observing, When on instrumental music I must do or die, then to psallo let me fly (Book-Miller Debate, page 130). The word translated sing in Romans 15:9, I Corinthians 14:15 and James 5:13, is rendered make melody in Ephesians 5:19, speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord . This word, psallo, with its meaning of plucking or twanging, is introduced as proof for the presence of a mechanical instrument, inasmuch as it requires something on which to twitch or twang or pluck. This is involved in playing a harp or a guitar, and so it is argued that wherever psallo is used an instrument of music is authorized.

It is true that whenever psallo is used twanging or plucking must occur; but before this can occur, that which is to be twanged or plucked must be named. This is the word used when the carpenter snaps his chalked twine to mark a line; he must psallo that twine, must twitch, twang, or pluck it. It is an incomplete statement without the instrument being twitched, twanged or plucked being identified. The carpenter psallo-es his line. The one acceptably worshiping in song psallo-es his heart. This is explicitly stated in Colossians 3:16 singing with grace in your hearts unto God. So, yes indeed, an instrument is involved in acceptable worship in song, but it is not a mechanical instrument but the heart, and it is so specified.

This points to a problem they have who would appeal to psallo for their permission (i.e., authority) to use mechanical instruments of music in worship. Such is an individual thing: this psalloing is to be the activity of each one, speaking one to another. So, each worshiper is to be employing his/her instrument not just one or a few performing for all.

The perceived necessity of making an appeal to the original language is yet another problem associated with that position. Jesus said, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35). If, however, to understand the will of God in this matter it is necessary to make an appeal to the original language, then for the vast majority of people, Jesus words have certainly passed away because we are now dependent on the assertion of other uninspired men. Study of the text in the original language is beneficial in many ways, for instance, to help us see nuances not immediately apparent. But the truth can be discerned from examination of the Bible in our hands. If it requires an appeal to the original to be established, that is prima facie evidence that it is not the truth.

The melody that comes to the ears of Almighty God proceeds not from the lips of the worshiper, but from his heart. Ability to carry a tune in a bucket is not a requirement of acceptable worship in song; making melody with your heart is.