Instruments of Music in the Service of God

By David Lipscomb

Gospel Advocate, Vol. XLIII, No. 44 (October 31, 1901), 696.

It seems there cannot be a doubt but that the use of instrumental music in connection with the worship of God, whether used as a part of the worship or as an attractive accompaniment is unauthorized by God and violates the oft-repeated prohibition to add nothing to, take nothing from, the commandments of the Lord.  It destroys the difference between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy, counts the blood of the Son of God unclean, and tramples under foot the authority of the Son of God.  A Christian loyal and true to the Lord Jesus Christ cannot do this, nor in any way countenance the setting aside the order of God by adding to or taking from his appointments, even in the smallest matters, as washing of hands, while forbearance and love should be exercised in showing them the error of the way.  When the church determines to introduce a service not required by God, he who believes it wrong is compelled to refuse in any way to countenance or affiliate with the wrong.  To do so is to commit a double sin.  It is to sin against God and their own consciences and to encourage by example others to violate their consciences and the law of God; it is to lower the standard of regard for right.  It is generally insisted that the peace of the congregation should not be disturbed by as small a matter as the use of instruments.  The test of a congregation of Christ is: It recognizes God as the only Lawgiver.  It serves God alone.  When it consciously changes the smallest appointment of God, it dethrones God as the only Lawmaker and ceases to be a church of God.  The test of personal discipleship to God is:  That in all matters in which God has given order we will do what God commands, adding nothing thereto, taking nothing therefrom.  To add as simple and harmless a thing as the washing the hands as religious service before eating destroys discipleship to Christ.  (Matt. 15: 5-15).

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matt. 5: 19.)  “He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much: and he that is unrighteous in a very little is unrighteous also in much.”  (Luke 16: 10, R. V.)  Our fidelity to God is tested as easily in little things as in great ones; rather, nothing is little where God’s authority is at stake.  Witness the sin of our first parents.  Paul kept a good conscience in all things; so God honored him and chose him to be the great apostle to the Gentiles.

Sometimes when a part of a church insists on and adopts the wrong, had I not better yield than to create division in the church?  A church that requires disobedience to God to maintain peace in it is already an apostate church; it has rejected God as it only Ruler.  While forbearance and love should be exercised in seeking to show them the right and persuading them to do it, it is sinful to so affiliate with them as to encourage and build up a church that is going wrong.  It is a greater sin for those who know it is wrong who yield to and go with those in the wrong than for those who think it right, because those who know it wrong sin against light and knowledge.  The greater sinners in every congregation that departs from God’s order in these things are those who know the wrongs, yet remain with and build up the congregations that practice the wrongs.  “That servant, which knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worth of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”  (Luke 12: 47, 48, R. V.)  There can be no doubt that those who cling to the church and build it up, knowing that it is maintaining practices contrary to the word of God, are worse sinners before God than those who introduce them believing they are right. 

Often our lifelong friends and associates are in the church, our children and grandchildren are there, our brothers and sisters.  Shall I leave them or remain with them?  To leave them is to bear our testimony to them for the truth and to warn them there is danger and ruin in departing from the law of God; to go with them is to affiliate with and build up the wrong and to encourage them in the way that leads to ruin; to depart from the order of God to go with them is to love friends, father, mother, brothers, and sisters more than God.  “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  (Matt. 10: 37.)  “If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  These mean that a man must be willing to separate from and give up all to be true to Christ.  True love to these friends and ourselves demands the same course.  There is no real kindness in going with them in wrong courses and encouraging them in setting aside the law of God; it only helps them forward to ruin.  Love is the fulfilling of the law.  True love to every creature in the universe is perfected and manifested in doing the will of God.  That is love to God, and love to God is love, the only true love, to every being in the universe of God; and be sure God is not pleased when his children violate his law to preserve standing in and harmony with a church setting aside his order.

Then my faith is that it is the duty of those who believe a church sets aside the order of God to strive to correct that wrong, to be patient and forbearing in it; and if they fail in this, to withdraw and at once go actively to work to form a true church and observe the true service of God.  If they quit work because some have gone wrong, they will die and the cause of truth will perish in their midst.  Go to work to maintain the truth of God and to induce others to accept it, and God will bless you.  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse;  therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love the Lord they God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him: for he is thy life.” (Deut. 30: 19, 20, R. V.)  D.L.

Home Page

Musical Worship Index