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Frank Jamerson


The book “Old Light on New Worship” by John Price, who preaches for the Grace Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y., has a chapter answering common arguments for instrumental music in worship.


   He begins by discussing “the regulative principle” of authority, which means that God has revealed what He wants in worship. Some say “musical instruments are only an aid to the commanded element of singing and therefore their use is not bound by the regulative principle of worship” (p. 176). Mr. Price showed that instrumental music is not an aid, but an addition. “Singing and playing musical instruments are two separate actions that can exist independently of each other...Some will say that musical instruments are necessary to singing with decency and propriety. If this is true, then we must accuse the church throughout the greater part of its existence of singing without decency and propriety” (pg. 179,180). Often instruments are played with no singing.


The second argument he discusses is that the instrument is authorized in the word psallo. He traced the history of the meaning of this word from 900 B.C. until New Testament days. First it meant “to rub, wipe; to handle, touch” and “to pluck off, pull out,” with no reference to instrumental music. Later it came to mean “to sing to the music of the harp.” He quoted E.A. Sophocles (professor of Greek at Harvard University for 38 years) as saying: “by 146 B.C. this verb had already lost it association with musical instruments and from that time forward referred to the human voice” (p. 188). Mr. Price pointed out the “historical fact that the Church Fathers vehemently rejected the use of musical instruments in the worship of the church. These same men were also masters of the Greek language, many of them speaking and writing fluently in it, since it was the language of their day...If they had understood the word to include musical instruments, surely they would have brought them into the church” (p. 191).


   Next, he discussed the argument that “musical instruments assist the devotion of the people of God.” Mr. Price said, such arguments are subjective and depend upon individual preferences, then he  concluded: “Acceptable worship is to be determined not by what is deemed to enhance dignity and elegance, but by God’s command alone.  These arguments of assisting the devotion of the people and adding an attractiveness to the services of the church were the very same arguments used by the Roman Catholic church to bring in all its unbiblical ceremonies and rituals in the dark ages, including its musical instruments… Such arguments will lead the church directly back to the sensuality of Medieval worship” (p. 199).


   Mr. Price has an excellent discussion of the argument that instruments are mentioned in heaven, therefore should  be in the church. He pointed out that heaven also has  “golden  bowls  full  of incense”

(Rev. 5:8; 15:7), a “golden altar” (8:3), twenty-four elders “clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads” (4:4). He concluded, “The apostle John is speaking figuratively of heaven’s worship under the image of the Old Testament Temple” (p. 202). He continued, “We must obey the clear commands and examples of His Word for worship on earth. If there are changes in the worship of heaven, we must wait for those to come. There are many things that will change with our entrance into heaven. For example, we will ‘neither marry nor be given in marriage.’ If this example of heaven becomes our rule on earth, then we would cease to exist after one generation” (p. 202).


   He briefly discussed several other arguments, then came to the pitch-pipe. He said: “The differences between a pitch-pipe and a musical instrument are quite apparent and should hardly need to be mentioned. The pitch-pipe is used before the hymn actually begins, and it remains silent throughout the entire act of singing. Once the singing begins, not another sound is made from it, and only the human voice is heard. There can be no reasonable comparison between this and the use of a musical instrument that continues to sound its own notes with every note of singing throughout the entire hymn. If a musical instrument is used for the same purpose as the pitch-pipe, namely, to set the pitch with a single note before the hymn begins, we will have no objection to its use” (pg. 206-207). Mr. Price did an excellent job in discussing both the Biblical and the historical evidence against the use of instrumental music in worship.


                       Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014    This page last modified July 03, 2014