Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

Hypocrites Abound

We see hypocrites in all walks of life. People are constantly pretending to be something they are not. Salesmen pretend to be your friend in order to sell you an item (house, car, clothes, etc.). Politicians pretend to be just like you in order to gain your vote. False teachers pretend to be servants of God in order to cause those weak in the faith to give them money (Rom 16:17,18).

Hypocrisy Defined

What is a hypocrite? It is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. In the religious sense, it refers to the person who pretends to be righteous when in essence they are wicked.

Examples of Hypocrisy

1. Peter (Gal. 2:13). This passage records the conduct of Peter while he was in Antioch. In the early church, Antioch was one of the first congregations to overcome its Jewish background sufficiently to break down the middle wall of partition which separated the Jews and Gentiles. In Antioch, the two groups had fellowship with each other; they ate meals together. When Peter came to Antioch, he joined right in with the two groups. He ate with Gentiles on the same basis as he ate with Jews. Soon, however, some men from the Jerusalem church arrived in Antioch. The Jerusalem Christians apparently still clung to their Jewish heritage. These men would have considered it a sin to eat with a Gentile. Consequently, they would disapprove of what was going on in Antioch. When these men arrived in Antioch, Peter put on his mask; he pretended to be what he was not. Whereas he had been eating with the Gentiles, when the men from Jerusalem arrived he ceased to have anything to do with the Gentiles. Therefore, he was playing a part, pretending to be different to what he really was. Consequently, we read this report of what happened in Antioch:

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:11-13).

This example from the New Testament illustrates what a hypocrite is; he is a man who pretends to be something he is not.

2. Matt. 23. Consider the various passages in this chapter which illustrate to us what the hypocrite is. Here is Jesus’ description of the hypocrisy of the Jews; He said:

“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do sad observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (vs. 1-5).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive a greater condemnation” (v. 14).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (v. 23-24).

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also (vs. 25-26).

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (vs. 27-18).

These passages very well portray the nature of hypocrisy. Like the beautiful mausoleum which is very beautiful on the outside but full of decaying bodies on the inside, the hypocrite puts on a front which is very attractive but inwardly he is full of wickedness.

Hypocrisy Still In the Church

I have known businessmen who use their money to gain rule over the church. Whenever threatened, they threaten to leave and go to another church. They pretend to be faithful Christians who have the best interest of the church, but in reality, they are vested in self-interest.

I have known preachers, elders, and deacons to have had sexual affairs with women of the church while at the same time condemning such things as sin. They pretend to be good husbands and law-abiding Christians, but in essence, they use the church to fulfill their fleshly lusts.

I knew one preacher who was living in an adulterous marriage as biblically defined. During his tenure with this local church, he had convinced nearly the entire congregation that his marital situation was right with God. This caused many to be lead astray and commit adultery.

The man who pretends to be righteous but who cheats on his income taxes is a hypocrite. The man who portrays the image of a faithful Christian while loafing on the job which he is being paid to perform is a hypocrite.. The man who waits on the Lord’s table but lies when asked about the condition of the car which he is selling is a hypocrite.

Not All Sinners Are Hypocrites

None of us who claim to be Christians can live a perfect life. Consequently, we are going to be guilty of sin from time to time. The man who, when guilty of sin, falls down on his knees, prays to God for forgiveness, and honestly tries to cease practicing the sin of which he is repenting is not a hypocrite. This man is not trying to put on a cloak of righteousness to cover the wicked conduct in which he is engaged; he is a man who openly admits his guilt and asks God’s forgiveness. The hypocrite is aware of his guilt but has no intention of quitting his sinful conduct. Rather, he only wants to retain the respect of God’s people while following the Devil.

Conclusion: The hypocrite has the ability to hide his devious deeds from the sight of men, at least some men on some occasions. However, he can never conceal his conduct from God. Though the hypocrite might have a good reputation among men, his character is rotten and God knows it. The hypocrite is, therefore, a man who cares more about what men think of him than what God thinks of him.

God has revealed to us that all hypocrites will be exposed. Jesus said,

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Lk. 12:1 3).

The hypocrite will be exposed by God at the judgment. At that time, God shall tear away the cloak of righteousness with which the hypocrite hides his wicked heart underneath. Every idle word (Mt. 12:36) and every evil thought (Heb. 4:13) will be exposed for what it is.

Are you ready to stand before the judgment seat of Christ? Only the man who is protected by the blood of Christ can stand before God. Having had his sins washed away, this man is acceptable to God Almighty. The hypocrite, on the other hand, will be cast into Hell. Let us be sure that our righteousness is genuine and not feigned. Let those who call themselves a Christian, let as a Christian. Let the preacher, the elder, the deacon practice what they preach (Rom 2:21,22).

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Have you ever heard, “You go to your church, and I will go to mine, and we will both meet together in heaven?” A lot of sincere people believe that, but then a lot of sincere people will be in hell come the day of judgment.

You will hear, even among brethren, that except for the gospel that there is no absolute truth. Have you ever pondered, even for a moment, what that would mean in terms of how we worship and how we serve God?

No absolute truth means we can make up our own truth, and we can do what we please as opposed to what God pleases. If there was no absolute truth, then truth itself would cease to exist.

Just think, what if there is no absolute truth…

Instrumental Music Would be Optional

If Paul’s writing about singing in the books of Ephesians and Colossians were not absolute truth, then that means we can have instrumental music, choirs, and solos. If the scriptures can’t be believed, then the denominations and liberal-minded brethren have it right. Worship as you please, do as you please, and by all means, be entertained to the fullest.

Women Could Preach
and Be Church Elders and Deacons

Once again, poor ole Paul must have been writing from his own personal hatred, and disdain for women when he wrote for women to be silent in the churches, and to not teach or to usurp authority over men, but to remain silent (1 Cor 14:33-40 f; 1 Tim 2:11-15) While we are at it, remove all those requirements for elders, and deacons that have to do with gender (1 Tim 3 f; Tit 1) With those prejudicial writings discredited, any Christian woman could hold the position of a preacher, elder, or deacon.

Sins Of The Flesh Would Not Exist

If one were to eliminate Jesus’ definitions of adultery in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, and eliminate Paul’s writings in Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7, we can eliminate the word adultery this very moment. Imagine, no more adultery. Marry as many times as you want with no repercussions whatsoever. In fact, there would be no real need for marriage. Just cohabitate with whomever you choose and do whatever is your fancy.

Homosexuallity and lesbianism would be as natural as hetrosexuals. Transgenders and drag queens would be as normal as breathing. Gay marriage and gay parents would be the norm. Prostitutes and porn stars would be pillars of the community.

No More One Gospel of Christ

If we can eliminate truth, then there is no greater truth than the gospel of Christ. If Christ and his apostles can’t be trusted for the truth, then there is no truth. Since Christ defined the truth as himself, then the absence of absolute truth means no gospel, no salvation, and no right or wrong way of doing anything (Jn 14:6).

That means we can make up our own gospel. Sprinkling and Christening would be truth to the Catholics. Faith only would be truth to the Baptist. Belief and immersion would be truth to the churches of Christ.

In fact, make it easy on yourself, just call yourself saved, and call it the truth. Isn’t that what most denominations do already? Save your money, or join a country club if there is no truth. Eat, drink, and be merry, for, without truth, there are no restrictions whatsoever.

Conclusion: If there is no absolute truth, then there is no salvation, there is no Christ, and there is no God. Either the bible is our source for the absolute truth of God, or it’s nothing more than a book filled with laws, history, poems, proverbs, prophecies, gospels, and letters that were written by 40 uninspired men.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t pick and choose what we choose to believe, and discard the rest. We can’t use ignorance of the scriptures as an excuse not to obey God (Mk 12:24 f; Acts 17:30).

If the Word of God was totally inspired of God then we must obey, and remain faithful to the gospel of Christ (2 Tim 3:16,17).  If the Word of God was totally inspired of God then we are assured that heaven awaits all who obey the gospel (Tit 1:2). If even one part of God’s Word is not truth, then that means God is a liar, and is not to believed whatsoever. However, we have God’s oath, and promise that his Word is the truth and that God can’t lie (Jn 17:17 f; Heb 6:16-19). If we truly believe in God, then we are assured that truth has only one version (Jn 8:32).

However, if we can’t take God’s Word for the absolute truth, then there is no God, there is no heaven, there is no hell, and when we die, we cease to exist. We would be just like the atheist who is all dressed up, and laid to rest with no place to go.

Let us never fall into the snare of doubting the veracity of God on some things, while believing other things. It is better to be an atheist or a Christian than one who is in agreement with both (Rev 3:15,16).

If God’s Word is the absolute truth, then obey it (Jn 14:15 f; 1 Jn 5:3) If not, then why waste your time partially obeying only the parts you like, and discarding the rest. Half truth and partial truth is no truth at all (Jn 17:17 f; Jn 8:31,32).

There are a multitude of reasons why one would want to take vengeance upon another but all of them reveal a lack of faith. Why? Because vengeance belongs to God, and no matter what evil we want to place upon another for doing something against us, God does it better.

What does the Bible say about vengeance?  “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; lf he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Following are seven reasons not to take vengeance” (Rom 12:17-21).

First, God is impartial in his blessing to mankind.  “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:44-45)  Just as God sends his blessings on the evil and on the good, so also He wants you to bless and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you as well as those who are your friends and loved ones.

Second, you are to live in peace with others. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom 12:18)  When you take vengeance, you are engaging in a battle. The person you took vengeance upon will want to take vengeance on you for what you just did, and back and forth it may go. You are not living at peace with others when you take vengeance.

Third, vengeance is God’s. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19)  By taking vengeance, you are taking over God’s role.  When we take vengeance upon another, we are actually stealing from God. God has not given you that right. He is the one who takes vengeance; since He is all knowing, He will take the appropriate vengeance at the appropriate time.  It is not your right to take vengeance upon another, no matter the reason.

Fourth, you may heap coals of fire on his head. “Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’” (Rom 12:20)  Burning coals heaped on a man’s head would imply mental pain.  When you take vengeance, he feels justified in his actions and has no mental pain. However, the effect of you returning good for evil may be that his conscience will convict him of the evil of his conduct and he may be fearful of God’s displeasure; this may lead to repentance.

Fifth, when you take vengeance, you are repaying evil with evil.  That means you have just committed an evil act.  “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:17, 21)  God’s way for you is to overcome evil with good.  Ultimately, good is more powerful than evil.

Sixth, the Lord will reward you for not taking vengeance.  “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov 25:21-22)  There is no reward for you when you take vengeance.  You will receive a reward only for returning good for evil.

Seventh, the Lord may withhold his vengeance if you take it instead. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him” (Prov 24:17-18)  The point is that when you take over God’s role of vengeance, you have the potential of messing up God’s purpose and plan and He may turn away his wrath from the one who has hurt you.

Be assured that God will take vengeance for you at the appropriate time.  “Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed”  (2 Thess 1:6-10).

It may feel natural to want to take vengeance upon another but don’t do it! Do not take vengeance by word or by deed. Your role is to bless your enemy and pray for them.  Return good for evil.  God’s role is to take vengeance and repay those who trouble you. Therefore, when someone harms you, put them in God’s hands.

The Sin of Covetousness

When did you ever hear someone admit to covetousness? When was the last time you coveted? This may indicate that it is the least confessed and least understood sin.

Covetousness is not just desiring something what someone else has. It is desiring something that I have no right to possess. In the 10 commandments, Israel was commanded not to covet their neighbor’s house, wife, servant, ox, donkey, “or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Ex. 20:17). Why? These things did not belong to them, and they had no right to them. In Jericho, the reason the gold, silver, and iron things were banned was because they had been claimed by the Lord. The Israelites were to keep themselves from things they had no right to (Josh 6:18).

What makes covetousness so least-confessed and misunderstood? Covetousness is a silent sin. “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17) was different than the other commandments. The other laws had to do with things that were outward and noticeable when you violated them: do not “commit,” “kill,” “steal,” and “bear.” But the 10th commandment was inward, having to do with the thoughts. In Jericho, Achan “took” some of the things under the ban because he first “saw” and then “coveted” them (Josh. 7:19-21).

All sin begins in the heart. What silently starts on the inside is ultimately expressed in actions. That’s why covetous and covetousness are also translated “unjust gain” (Prov. 28:16), “dishonest gain” (Jer. 22:17) and “bribe” (Ex. 18:21). The desire for something you have no right to have leads to use dishonest means to obtain it. What is your heart’s desire? Do you have a right to it? If not, don’t even think about it.

Covetousness is a subtle sin. Jesus said, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of covetousness” (Lk 12:15). Watch for and then guard yourself. Why? Because it is such a subtle sin. “Every form” or “every kind” of covetousness tells us that this sin manifests itself in different ways.

This is not just about money. Pornography is another way of “coveting your neighbor’s wife” (Deut. 5:21). You have no right to her. You can covet attention. What is our motive for posting things on social media? Is it so people will be impressed that we have reached a status in life where we can take this vacation, live in this house, or purchase these things? You can covet praise. In the worship service, do we serve for God’s glory or for our own? That is reserved for God and Him alone.

Covetousness is a destructive sin. It was one of the “seven deadly sins”. In 1 Cor. 6:9-10, it is listed alongside fornicators, idolaters, homosexuals, and drunkards as those who shall not “inherit the kingdom of God.” In Eph. 5:5, “no immoral or impure person or covetous man. . . has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” That which is silent and subtle in the end is destructive and deadly.

How often have people pursued this path? Achan saw and coveted and took. As a result, he and his family were stoned, burned, and then covered by a heap of stones (Josh 7:24-26). Judas, one of the 12 apostles, gave up Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he was so overcome with grief that he hanged himself. Ananias and Sapphira were not required to sell their land. But they coveted the praise of the local church, and they were struck dead on the spot when they coveted part of what they had given to the church. When you don’t guard against every form of it, you destroy your life and lose your soul.

The cure for covetousness is contentment. “Let your conservation be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). Is God’s companionship enough for you? Then make Him your heart’s desire.

Paul presents a different view of suffering from the conventional wisdom we read in the book of Job (2 Cor 1). One of the major reasons for the shift in thinking about suffering is the experience of Jesus Christ, the ultimate righteous suffering servant. The notion that He who was without sin was made to suffer for the sins of the world must have some sort of extension into the life of faith. This extension is that when we suffer on behalf of others, we reflect the attitude of Christ and therefore join Jesus in his work to love the world until it hurts.

Paul wrote this to the Corinth church:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ”. (2 Cor 1:3-5)

Paul seems to argue that the reason why we can relate to people and help others is that we have experienced the same things. He claims that when we suffer and are comforted, we learn how to be a comfort for others as they suffer. We are God’s tools for administering healing in the world, but only as we have received healing ourselves from God.

And notice who we are suffering for__Christ!  He is the example and the one through whom the comfort comes. God comforts us because we suffer for Christ. This is different from suffering because we face the consequences of some sin we committed. This is not suffering because we made a poor decision.  Paul was participating in church planting work all around the Roman world, and he experienced suffering because he was a follower of Christ.  We must make that important distinction here!

Paul Continues:
“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us” (2 Cor 1:8-10).

There is something in the above passage that seems to show us that those who suffer have the opportunity to put greater trust in God. Paul said that although they thought they would die they trusted in the God who raises the dead! That is a powerful proclamation! As we suffer, we still have a choice to put our confidence in God or to reject God. To Job’s credit, he did not reject God but went to God with his question of “WHY?” Paul’s writing declares that when we put our confidence in God, He will rescue us and this promise does not come from someone driving an expensive car and living in a fine house. It’s from Paul who has a laundry list of bad days for the sake of Christ.

When Paul was rejected by God to deliver him from his thorn in the flesh, Paul rejoiced. For this thing, I petition the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:8-10).

In the end, there is a purpose to the madness and contradiction of life that has the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering. There are those who think that if we receive comfort from God, then our troubles just go away, but instead of removing the pain God grants us the grace and strength to persevere through the pain and hurt and time of suffering.  God also grants us the opportunity to become a blessing to others in their pain and hurt. So the end game is not our comfort, but God’s Kingdom.

Churches of Christ do not sing a cappella because we dislike other kinds of music. Most of us have as many songs on iPods as the next person. We do not lack financial means to purchase instruments or capable musicians to play them. We are not just trying to be different or stubbornly upholding a longstanding tradition. Why, then, do we sing a cappella?

We Must Follow the New Testament NOT the Old Testament

The church is a New Testament institution, purchased on the cross and established on Pentecost (Matthew 16:18 f; Acts 2:1–47; 20:28). The covenant (New Testament) Jesus delivered by the Spirit is a rule of faith and practice, not the Law delivered to Moses at Sinai (Old Testament).

The New Testament Records This Transition:

  1. Hear Christ, not Moses (Matt 17:5).
  2. Preach the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:18–20).
  3. Judged by Christ’s Words (Jn 12:48).
  4. Loosed/delivered from the law (of Moses) (Rom 7:1–7).
  5. “Christ is the end of the law (of Moses)” (Rom 10:4).
  6. “Engraven in stones” law (of Moses) abolished (2 Cor 3:7–14).
  7.  Separating wall removed (Eph 2:14).
  8.  Old law nailed to cross (Col 2:14).
  9. Change in priesthood required a change in law (Heb 7:12; 9:11).
  10. New effective after Christ’s death (Heb 9:16–17).
  11. Christ came to take away the first law (of Moses) to establish second (law of Christ) (Heb 10:9).

A new law changed humanity’s response to God. Christians no longer offer animals, keep the Passover, observe Sabbaths and new moons, or avoid pork and catfish (Col 2:14–17). Worship is not conducted by a special class of priests; blood is not sprinkled on a mercy seat; and unusual ceremonies involving goats, red heifers, and burnt animals are not required.

In the changeover, God omitted such things as burning incense, golden vessels, colorful tapestries, dancing before the Lord, bitter herbs, and instruments. He kept unleavened bread, the fruit of the vine, prayers, and singing.

Was this incidental? God always meticulously planned worship (Ex 25–40 f; Lev 1–27). He spent more than six thousand years completing His plan for the church (Eph 3:11 f; Gal 4:4–5) so nothing was left to chance.

The Old Testament is written for our learning but not for our obedience (Rom 15:4). Going back to the Old Testament for a study is helpful in understanding many things, but going back to the Old Testament for any practice obligates one to keep all its ordinances (Gal 5:1–3 f; Jam 2:10).

Understanding of Worship

True worship is done in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Individually, God only accepts worship “in spirit”—that which comes from proper attitudes, such as reverence, thanksgiving, and humility (Heb 13:15). We must examine ourselves before worshipping (2 Cor 13:5).

Collectively, God only accepts “in truth” worship, which means according to His Word (Jn 17:17). We have no authority to put words in God’s mouth, or to ignore words from His mouth (Matt 4:4 f; Revelation 22:18–19). Man is not at liberty to select a worship form that appeals to him. The danger for any church is to make worship entertainment oriented. The important thing is not what draws a crowd but what pleases God. Loving God supremely means acquiescing to His will (Matt 7:21 cf; 22:37–38; 23:23 f; Jn 7:17).

Reproducing the Original Church Today

The church of Christ sang a cappella in the days of the apostles, so the church of Christ sings a cappella today. It really is as simple as that.

Churches of Christ today strive to be identical to the church in the New Testament (Rom 16:16). Before we practice anything, we verify that it was practiced by the first-century church. Thus “proving all things,” we hold “firm that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21 f; Jer 6:16). It is the safest approach one can take in religion—the way that is right and cannot be wrong.

No scholar (of whom I am aware) says early Christians used instruments. No Bible verse records it. The phrase a cappella, which now means “without instrumental accompaniment,” originally meant “as in church.” Instruments were available and widely used in pagan worship and theaters, as well as the Jewish temple, but they were not used by the church.

More than five hundred years passed before instruments were used. The organ is said to have been introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian in 666 ad.

At first, the organ was played only before and after the “liturgy” (worship service). Years later, it was moved into the service proper. Then it caused such controversy that in ad 1054 it led to a split between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. (Orthodox Churches, with few exceptions, continue to use vocal music only to this day.)

Most Protestant churches did not use instruments until the 1800s. In the time of the Reformation, churches opposed instruments in stronger language than we would likely use today. Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church, called the instrument “an ensign of Baal”. John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian Church, wrote, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law”. John Wesley (1703–1791), founder of the Methodist Church, said: “I have no objection to instruments of music, in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen” Adam Clarke (1762–1832), prominent Methodist scholar, wrote: “Music as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor”. Charles Spurgeon, a renown Baptist preacher, wrote in his comments on Psalm 42: “We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it”. He never allowed instruments in his ten-thousand-seat Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

These quotations are not given as authority, and certainly not to offend, but simply to show that church history is firmly on the side of a cappella singing.
The practice stems from our conviction that we must add nothing to the Scriptures.

Divine Authority For All We Say and Do

Churches of Christ believe strongly in having divine authority (a scripture) for all we teach and practice. We do this because the Bible says, “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17). “Whatsoever” and “all” are comprehensive words. To do a thing “in Jesus’ name” means to do it by His authority. The Bible warns against venturing beyond “that which is written” (1 Cor 4:6) or adding anything to the Bible (Rev 22:18–19). We must continue in the doctrine of Christ and His apostles (Acts 2:42 f; 2 Jn 1:9).

What are the Bounds Regarding Worship?

The New Testament does not say much about music in the early church. The one time music is used (Luke 15:25), is not even talking about worship, but about the party held for the returning prodigal. A few verses mention pipes and harps (e.g., Matt 11:17 ff; 1 Cor 14; Revelation 14–15), but none in the context of church worship. Singing, however, is mentioned seven times in that context (Acts 16:25 ff; Rom 15:9; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Heb 2:12; Jam 5:13).

Singing is definitely “In Bounds.”

Singing is commanded (Eph 5:19). There are examples of Christians singing (Acts 16:25 f; 1 Cor 14:15). It is in the principle of offering God the fruit of our lips (Heb 13:15).

On the other hand, the New Testament is silent on playing songs for God. Instrumental music is not commanded in the New Testament nor is there any example of the early church using it. If the Lord did not command the use of instrumental music in worship, then why are you doing it? If there are no biblical examples of New Testament Christians using instrumental music, then why are you doing it? New Testament Christians were commanded not to change (Gal 1:6-9), go beyond (1 Cor 4:6), add to or take from (Rev 22:18,19) the law of Christ. New Testament Christians were commanded to “speak the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11) and whatever we do in word or deed, we must do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col 3:17).

Why doesn’t the church of Christ believe in music? Why do you people have this obsession with a capella music? What do you all have against instrumental music? Don’t you know David played instruments in praise to God? These are just a few of the questions and comments denominations will make concerning the churches of Christ.

If you have been a member of the Lord’s church for any length of time, you have probably heard these and many more questions raised regarding what you believe about music in worship to God. While some may ask the questions to arouse anger and/or deflect questions from us about salvation, we must assume that most people are legitimately asking why our practices do not mirror what they see in the rest of the religious world. How should you respond?

As in most things, it is best to respond simply, for the New Testament pattern for worship is very simple indeed. First, there are certain things one should avoid. Avoid the Old Testament in this discussion, because what we are interested in is becoming New Testament Christians. There is no such thing as an old testament Christian or a half old testament and half new testament Christian. Just as we would not argue forgiveness of sins on the basis of animal sacrifices (for we have the better sacrifice of Christ, once for all time), we should not argue music based on the practices of David or any other Old Testament figure. This does not mean we flatly refuse to discuss those practices, but we make it clear that those have no more bearing on our discussion than do animal sacrifices.

Secondly, popular culture is no argument for the use instrumental music. To argue against that point by saying “our” music sounds better is subjective and, in many cases, wrong (that some beautiful instrumental music has been written cannot be denied). The only way to prove what sounds best to God is to examine His instructions for us. What we are concerned with is, “What does the New Testament say?”

There are a total of nine passages in the New Testament which involve singing (other than angelic singing, also avoided as we are not angels). Two, (Matt. 26:30 and Mk. 14:26) involves Jesus and His disciples after they had eaten the Passover, “And after singing a hymn …” One is a direct quote from Psalms 22, “In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise” (Heb. 2:12). One discusses God’s plan for the Gentiles (Rom. 15:9). One is an account from the jail of Philippi of Paul and Silas “… singing hymns of praise to God” (Acts 16:25). One concerns Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts but makes an important point about understanding what we are singing (1 Cor. 14:15). And one is an admonition to happy Christians that they should sing (Jam. 5:13). It should be pointed out that in none of these passages are instruments mentioned.

That leaves two passages which discuss everything we are given in the way of instructions for our musical worship to God. That may not seem like much, but Paul said, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (5:18-19). He also wrote to the Colossians, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (3:16). It is here, in these two passages, that we find our instruction for what God would have us do when we sing (incidentally, we are talking about any worshipful singing, as the text does not necessarily suggest a “worship service,” thus any song-filled praise to God must conform to these passages).

First, notice that both require that the Spirit/Word dwell in us. To try to worship God without an understanding of His will for us is much like working in the dark. Better to let the light shine on us so we can see. Better to understand His will so we can know. Second, one of the benefits of singing to God is teaching and helping each other. That is why the words of many songs sound like mini-sermons, so that some teaching may take place as we sing. That is also why we should pay careful attention to the words and avoid songs which are not grounded in scripture.

Finally, we make our plea for Biblical authority. There is no New Testament passage authorizing the use of instrumental music. We cannot condone what is not authorized, no matter how it sounds, no matter what other religious people do, no matter what some may desire, no matter what. We must stand on the Bible, and New Testament practice is clearly that of singing and singing alone.

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