What Is True Worship? Thus Saith The Lord.
"Worship"... what does it mean?
[n] the activity of worshipping
[n] a feeling of profound love and admiration
[v] love unquestioningly and uncritically or to excess; venerate as an idol; "Many teenagers idolized the Beatles"
[v] show religious devotion to, as of a deity; "Many Hindus worship Shiva"
[v] attend religious services; "They worship in the traditional manner"
Worship is translated from the Greek word = sebomai
Middle voice of an apparently primary verb;
to revere, that is, adore: - devout, religious, worship.
1) to revere, to worship
Worship is translated from the Hebrew word = shachah
A primitive root; to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
Understanding the definitions of worship and what worship means, we can worship any person or thing we wish to worship. In the sense of this study, we want to consider our worship to God. I believe most religious people would agree that prayer is one of our greatest ways of worshiping God. The apostle Paul writes that we should pray without ceasing.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
If we indeed pray without ceasing, we would be constantly worshiping God. However, in this study we will focus on our worship activities within the organized church worship service... the specific acts of worship that God has directed us to do each Lord's Day in order to glorify Him.
When we worship God we must worship Him by faith and in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
We find the first account of worshiping God in the Old Testament.
Genesis 4:1-4 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
In the Old Testament, worship first occurred when Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices to the Lord. God was more pleased with Abel's sacrifice because God viewed it as the manner in which Christ would be offered at a later time.
We can read of Abel's more noble sacrifice in the letter of Hebrews.
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Abel's offering was by faith with respect to what God desired (it was according to God's very words), while Cain's sacrifice was from his own ideas without faith and sincerity. Abel "obtained witness" by "God testifying of his gifts". God testified that He approved of Abel's sacrifice and disapproved of Cain's. Abel obviously followed the instructions that God had given to them for worship, while it is evident that Cain did not. This is our first account and verification that we cannot worship God based on our own ideas… we must worship by faith, from God’s instructions in His Word. This is important to remember as we proceed with this study.
Abraham also worshipped God by building an altar, and he "called on the name of the LORD."
Genesis 12:7-8 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.
Consider the following Old Testament story where God gave specific instructions on how to worship.
Leviticus 10:1-3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
Notice how they "offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them." Then God sent fire down to consume them. Nadab and Abihu were not walking by faith (by God's instructions... His very words), therefore they were condemned by God. We learn again that they had their own ideas of what God wanted for worship, but God did not ask for what they brought (the strange fire). Their worship was NOT by faith.
We can learn from these first few passages that God commands the specific way in which He wants to be worshipped. When God gives us specific instructions we are not to violate them. We are to worship God according to His instructions and not of our own desires. Where do we get His instructions from? From His Word of course.
These stories help to teach us how we walk by faith.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight).
From where do we get the faith to walk by? God tells us in His Word, the Bible.
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We walk by faith by knowing God's Word and honoring it. This is the only way we can please Him.
When Abel and Cain were instructed on how to worship God, Abel walked by faith because he followed God's instructions, while Cain did not walk by faith because he decided his idea was better than God's instructions.
We should walk by faith just as God has instructed us to do through His Word, the Bible.
Where there is no revelation from God on a subject, there can be no faith. If there is no instruction on a subject then it is impossible to walk by faith on that subject. It would only be our opinion or our idea, and we know what happened to those who offered their own ideas. Consider the story of Nicodemus.
John 3:1-2 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
By faith we know that Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and that he came to Jesus by night. What we DO NOT know by faith is why he came by night. It would be only a matter of opinion as to why he came at night because God's Word does not tell us why.
So by faith we hear the Word of God and worship Him in spirit and in truth because we have God's Word that instructs us to do so. We must lay aside our own suggestions and ideas and walk strictly by the Word of God.
We should speak only where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. We should submit to the authority of God... His divine power has given us everything we need.
2 Peter 1:2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Everything we do we should do in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means by His authority.
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Notice Paul wrote, "whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.". To do something in "word" is to "teach". To do something in "deed" is to "practice". Remember the ole saying... "practice what you preach". But the key part of this passage is to "do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus." These are the three important words in this passage... "word, deed, and name". "In the name of" signifies the AUTHORITY by which something is done.
It is clear that whatever we teach and whatever we practice is to be done in the name of Christ. Whatever we teach must be by divine authority. Whatever we practice must be by divine authority. ALL that we teach and do must be by the divine authority of Jesus Christ. God has given us “everything we need” right in His Word.
If we do not have authority for what we are practicing then we should not do it. We should be silent when the Bible is silent. If God has not spoken about it then it is not authorized. We cannot walk by faith if it is not authorized by God’s Word.
We are not bound by the Old Testament today, but consider what the apostle Paul wrote.
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Paul was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures because the New Testament had not been finished at the time of his writings. Paul wrote that these Old Testament writings were "written for our instruction". No, we are not bound by the Old Testament but we should always consider it in our learning. Paul further tells us that "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching".
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
Obviously, we do not worship in the exact same way as the people of the Old Testament did because the sacrifice of Jesus replaced the sacrifice of animals. The blood of Jesus Christ is now the satisfaction and atonement for our sins while the blood of animals is no longer needed to cleanse us.
Hebrew 9:6-16 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
Hebrews 7:11-12 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
We are no longer under the Levitical priesthood... we are no longer under the old covenant; we are under the new covenant.
Romans 7:4-6 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
To worship in truth we must worship in Christ and according to His word and His covenant, which is the New Testament. We cannot worship today according to any other covenant. All other covenants have died. We are not authorized to bind a commandment or make an inference for worship outside of the covenant we have with Christ. We cannot tamper with the authority Christ has over the body.
Ephesians 5:23b-24a even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ,
While we may not worship in the same way people worshiped in the Old Testament, what we can learn from the Old Testament writings is that God has always provided specific instructions on how we should worship Him. God expects us to understand what He desires in worship to Him. He expects us to have the right attitude, and to be obedient in reference to His way of worshiping. God, through Jesus and the apostles, gave us authority and instructions on how we are to worship under the new covenant. Consider a warning from Jesus on improper religion which can be tied back to worship.
Matthew 6:1 "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."
Jesus is not telling us we cannot practice righteousness in front of people, but it should not be done for the purpose of being noticed and to receive recognition for it.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We should not do our deeds for the sole purpose of being noticed. We cannot be flamboyant with our deeds. Jesus continues after this verse and gives us several examples of what He means.
Matthew 6:2-4 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
It should be clear what Jesus is referring to in the above passages, but in summary, we must have the right attitude when we worship and we must be worshiping for the right purposes.
We must teach the truth in worship and not man-made rules and man-made doctrines.
Matthew 15:8-9 "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is empty, because they teach human rules as doctrines." (ISV)
Matthew 15:8-9 'THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.'" (NKJV)
What is Jesus saying here? Consider what the inspired author of Hebrews wrote.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
What Jesus wants is for us to draw near to God with our mouth and then show we mean it by practicing it in our good works. If we follow the doctrines of men as many do in their worship services, then it renders worship in vain... the worship is fruitless, useless, without profit. If we want our worship to be acceptable to God we must obey Him.
Paul spoke about ignorant worship in Acts.
Acts 17:22-21 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
When Paul talks about these people being very religious he is referring to the fact that they had altars, especially this one special altar. These people had an image for every god they could name but for this particular one they had it labeled “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. They were already worshiping the very God that Paul wanted to tell them about but they just didn’t know it because they were ignorant.
Neither “vain” nor “ignorant” worship is acceptable to God.
God is specific in how He wants us to worship Him. Jesus tells us what true worship is.
John 4:23-24 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
True worship includes the right object... God! See Exodus 20:1-6.
True worship includes the right attitude... in spirit. The attitude of our heart and mind must be sincere, focused on pleasing God.
True worship includes the right way... in truth! Worshiping in truth limits the worship to what God has specified in His Word, the Bible.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Acceptable worship is "true worship" and during a specified time.
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (KJV)
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (NASB)
The first day of the week is Sunday. This is when the disciples "came together" (KJV) and "when we were gathered together" (NASB).
The first day of the week is when the congregation worshiped. This is also when they partook of the Lord's Supper.
Why is it so important that we gather on the “first day of each week”?
Consider that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week.
Luke 24:1-3 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
Consider that the church was established on the first day of the week. After the gospel message that was preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, people were being added to the church daily and they worshiped.
Acts 2:41-47 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Remembering Christ is a vital part of our first day of the week worship.
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (KJV)
Luke 22:19-20 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
Jesus Christ instituted the Lord's Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.
The Lord's Supper is communion with Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 The cup of blessing that we bless is a sign of our sharing in the blood of Christ, isn't it? The bread that we break is a sign of our sharing in the body of Christ, isn't it? Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, because all of us partake of the one loaf.
If Jesus, the One who suffered so horrendously for us, the One who paid the penalty for our sins, asked that we partake of the Lord's Supper "in remembrance" of Him, why would we not want to show our gratitude by obeying God's commandment to remember Him when we come together on the first day of each week for worship service? During the days of the early church, the people gathered together on the first day of each week and broke bread. What has changed this pattern of worship over the years? Men have changed it to be more convenient and less time-consuming... however, God has not authorized any changes to the pattern of worship. The apostles had the full measure of the Holy Spirit and they set the pattern for worship that we should follow. Remember what happened to those who did not follow God's way of worship in the Old Testament days. We must follow God's Word, the Bible.
Remembering Jesus is not something we do only at Christmas time or every fifth Sunday or quarterly, semi-annually, or annually... it is something we should desire to do every day... and certainly by partaking of the Lord's Supper every Sunday worship service. No matter what size congregation you attend, the Lord's Supper can be conducted in 5-10 minutes (not that time should even be a factor). Is it asking too much to do something that God has demonstrated through the apostles that we should do on the first day of every week (Sunday)? We should follow the example of the early church because God has not authorized any changes. Just remember the very words of Jesus and let them dwell in your heart and on your mind for a few minutes… “DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME”. How can you possibly resist partaking of the Lord’s Supper EVERY SINGLE LORD’S DAY from now until you go to be with the Lord? Are we so vain?
We should also give on the first day of each week.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, you should follow the directions I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside and save some of your money in proportion to what you have, so that no collections will have to be made when I come.
The apostle Paul instructed the churches in Corinth in the same manner which he instructed the churches in Galatia... that they should give "in proportion to" what they have... as should we.
Consider how the churches of Macedonia gave.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 We want you to know, brothers, about God's grace that was given to the churches of Macedonia. In spite of a terrible ordeal of suffering, their abundant joy, along with their deep poverty, has resulted in the abundance of their generosity. I can testify that by their own free will they have given to the utmost of their ability, yes, even beyond their ability. They begged us earnestly for the privilege of participating in this ministry to the saints. We did not expect that! They gave themselves to the Lord first and then to us, since this was God's will.
God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.
Consider the very words of Jesus.
Luke 16:1-15 Now Jesus was saying to the disciples, "A rich man had a manager who was accused of wasting his assets. So he called for him and asked him, 'What's this I hear about you? Give me a report about your management, because you can't be my manager any longer.' "Then the manager said to himself, 'What should I do? My master is taking my position away from me. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg. I know what I'll do so that people will welcome me into their homes when I'm dismissed from my job.' "So he called for each of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' The man replied, 'A hundred jars of olive oil.' The manager told him, 'Get your bill. Sit down quickly and write "fifty."' Then he asked another debtor, 'How much do you owe?' The man replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' The manager told him, 'Get your bill and write "eighty."' The master praised the dishonest manager for being so clever. For worldly people are more clever than enlightened people in dealing with their own generation. "I'm telling you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous riches, so that when they're gone you'll be welcomed into eternal homes. Whoever is faithful with very little is also faithful with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with very little is also dishonest with a lot. So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous riches, who will trust you with true wealth? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to foreigners, who will give you what is your own? "No servant can serve two masters. For either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!" Now the Pharisees, who love money, had been listening to all this and began to ridicule Jesus. So he said to them, "You try to justify yourselves in front of people, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly valued by people is detestable to God.
We came into this world with nothing... everything belongs to God.
1 Timothy 6:6-12 Of course, godliness with contentment does bring a great profit. For we did not bring anything into the world, and surely we cannot take anything out of it. So as long as we have food and clothes, we will be satisfied with these. But people who want to get rich keep toppling into temptation and are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires that plunge them into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with much pain. But you, man of God, must flee from all these things. Instead, you must pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith. Keep your hold on eternal life, to which you were called and about which you gave a good testimony in front of many witnesses.
1 Corinthians 10:26 FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.
Acts 20:35 In every way I showed you that by working hard like this we should help the weak and remember the words that the Lord Jesus himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
When we come together in worship we should pray.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
James 5:16 Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Prayer is our way of communicating to God... because of God's love for us we should always be willing to communicate with Him and have a genuine communicating relationship with Him.
Preaching and teaching is also an important part of worship to God.
Romans 10:14-17 How, then, can people call on someone they have not believed? And how can they believe in someone they have not heard about? And how can they hear without someone preaching? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!" But not everyone has obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah asks, "Lord, who has believed our message?" Consequently, faith comes from listening, and listening comes through the word of Christ.
2 Timothy 2:2 What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.
1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, thirst for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in your salvation.
God commands preaching.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
We should not forsake the assembling of the saints.
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (KJV)
The author wrote "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is"... let's consider verse 25(a) is a few other translations...
Hebrews 10:25(a) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some (NASB)
Hebrews 10:25(a) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some (ISV)
The Hebrew author also made a clear statement in the very next verse.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.
Forsaking and neglecting our worship with other Christians is to willfully sin... and if we continue to willfully sin after we are saved, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." Who is our "sacrifice"? Jesus!
We must worship with eagerness and willingness to glorify God in a manner that is worthy of Him. We may miss a worship service occasionally because of sickness, but we cannot make it a "habit" of missing the assembling of the saints.
Notice again how those who were saved on the day of Pentecost worshiped.
Acts 2:41-42 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 persons were added to them. They continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer.
They "continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer."
Our greatest example of worship is found in the Bible and this is one reason God gave us His Word... so that we can know how to live godly lives and how to walk by faith.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.
We are also to sing in worship.
This is a subject that was difficult for me to understand initially, but out of love for the Lord, I studied it, and the truth is simply the truth when it comes to this subject. It is something that I was fighting to accept for a while but now understand and accept it. We must all walk by faith... we must follow the authority and instructions that God has given us in His Word.
So why was this subject so difficult for me to accept? For years I attended worship services where instruments of music are used. So you may ask, what is the big deal about musical instruments? The big deal is that they are not authorized for use in the church worship service today. They have never been authorized in the church under the new covenant (the Lord's church which He built beginning in the New Testament).
Remember, the church that Christians are a part of today is the church that Jesus said He would build.
Matthew 16:18-19 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Peter was given the keys to the church by Jesus and the church was started on the day of Pentecost. We can recall in Luke that Jesus stated repentance and remission of sins should be preached beginning in Jerusalem.
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And this is exactly what Peter did... he preached the gospel message beginning in Jerusalem. After preaching this message the people repented and were baptized for the remission of sins. This is when Peter used the keys to the church that Jesus had given him. In reviewing the story of what the people did after hearing this message we can learn that there were about three thousand souls added to the apostles and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Acts 2:37-47 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
We know that the Lord's church which Christians belong to today was not started until Peter used the keys to open the doors to the church on the day of Pentecost. This is the same Lord's church of today... nothing has changed it and no one is authorized to make any changes to it. We must follow God's instructions as He has given us in His Word as to how we worship in the Lord's church of today. Again, culture should not dictate how we worship, God’s Word should. I make this point to show that we cannot go back to how people worshiped in the Old Testament because the Lord's church was not created at that time. Nonetheless... let's look at the use of musical instruments in the Old Testament.
The first use of mechanical instruments was authorized by God... we certainly cannot deny the use of instruments in the Old Testament.
Numbers 10:1-3 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Numbers 10:10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.
David also ordained instruments in worship.
1 Chronicles 15:16 And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.
2 Chronicles 29:27-28 And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.
Notice that singers sang, trumpeters sounded, and there were burnt offerings.
We must realize that God was very specific about what He wanted His priests and Levites to do. What He designated was considered "holy", and anything other than what God designated was considered "unclean".
Leviticus 10:1-10 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses. And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
As people of the Old Testament approached God in worship, God only accepted what was "holy" or "clean", that which was specified by Him. There is no doubt that mechanical instruments were divinely authorized in the Levitical worship. God also specified animal sacrifices, priestly garments, and burning of incense, however, we certainly would not consider animal sacrifices or burning of incense in our worship services today. Are we walking down the aisle of the church building with burnt offerings, with fatlings, with incense of rams, or with a lamb slain over our shoulder? So why do we use mechanical instruments, such as pianos, organs, guitars, and drums, along with other instruments? If you are going to approve of mechanical instruments in worship today because it was in worship of the Old Testament, then you cannot forbid animal sacrifices nor can you forbid the burning of incense, or any other Old Testament ritual of worship.
During the time of captivity when the temple was destroyed and there was no temple worship, the Levitical musicians did not play their musical instruments.
Psalms 137:1-4 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?
There were no mechanical instruments, no burning of incense, or anything designated for temple worship that was used in the synagogues during captivity. The people understood that this kind of worship was specifically designated for the temple in Jerusalem and the priesthood. Once the captivity ended and the temple was rebuilt during the time of Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra, the Levitical worship was reinstituted.
Ezra 3:10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel.
Later when the early church was started, the early Christians understood that mechanical instruments were tied to the Levites and belonged to the law and temple worship. Early Christians understood that the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ instituted a spiritual worship that is to be carried out by a priesthood of believers in a spiritual temple that "replaced" the rituals of the law.
1 Peter 2:4-5 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people to be his very own and to proclaim the wonderful deeds of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Neither Jesus nor His apostles ever taught their disciples to use mechanical instruments in worship and the early church never used mechanical instruments.
Ephesians 5:17-21 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Question: Does the word “psalms” in these two passages, authorize the use of mechanical instruments in worship service?
Translated from the Greek word = psalmos
1) a striking, twanging
1a) of a striking the chords of a musical instrument
1b) of a pious song, a psalm
Greek = psal-mos'
From G5567; a set piece of music, that is, a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a “psalm”); collectively the book of the Psalms: - psalm.
Some religious organizations claim that the word “psalms” in these passages is used to define the striking of a mechanical instrument. However, we can reason with the scriptures that this definition and use of the word would not be in the context of what God is commanding.
It is important to note that these passages are commandments of God that Paul was inspired to write, they are not optional. These are not a matter of opinion. To worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24) we must obey His commandments (1 John 5:2,3). The commandment is to each individual Christian, as Paul in the context of the letter is speaking to each Christian at the church at Ephesus.
Ephesians 1:1 To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
We cannot have a proxy for worship service… no one can worship on our behalf, thus all commandments pertaining to worship are for each individual that is worshiping in the congregation. Someone cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper for us as we are commanded to partake of each Lord’s Day. Someone cannot pray on our behalf, we must pray along with the men that are called on to lead the prayer, and obviously not all of us out loud as it would create confusion in the worship service. We worship as individuals.
Therefore, if these passages instruct us to use mechanical instruments, we must each use a mechanical instrument, and we are also not authorized to sing without a mechanical instrument in worship. In the same way that no one can sing for us and no one can use our heart for us, neither can anyone play the mechanical instrument for us. If these passages only authorize us to sing and make melody with our hearts, then we are not authorized to use mechanical instruments in worship when we sing. The passages are commandments, so we cannot pick and choose what we desire to do, we must obey God’s commandments and worship Him in spirit and in truth as individual Christians and as a congregation.
To clarify further, the commandment is NOT solely for the church or congregation as a whole, instead, it is to each individual Christian in the church congregation. Therefore, if you somehow believe that this authorizes mechanical instruments in worship, you also must accept that it is a commandment to every individual Christian during worship, which means that EVERY Christian at worship service MUST be playing a mechanical instrument. Imagine what that melody might sound like, and how confusing and disruptive our worship would be. Do you really believe anyone is going to be teaching or admonishing with all that noise going on? (A rhetorical question of course.)
Because we are each commanded to sing during worship, which includes everyone in worship, an individual or group singing without others singing is also not authorized in the New Testament to do so. Thus, eliminating choirs and solos while others are not singing. You will not find any authorization for such in the New Testament.
As we can see from the Thayer and Strong definitions of the Greek word that is translated as “psalms”, it can have different meanings. When a word has several meanings, we must consider the context in which that word is used to determine its intended meaning.
In these passages what is God commanding of us? He is commanding us to speak, teach and admonish.
- Can we speak with a mechanical instrument? No.
- Can we teach with a mechanical instrument? Yes, if we are teaching someone how to use it, but we know very well this is not what we are teaching in reference to these passages.
- Can we admonish with a mechanical instrument? No.
If we keep the use of the word “psalms” in context with what God is commanding here, its use here is referring to using the words from psalms, a sacred ode, and in this meaning, it would be accompanied with the voice.
In the context of this commandment, we are instructed in what we are to use to speak, teach and admonish, and that is singing with our heart. In order to speak, teach and admonish one another as God has commanded, vocal words are required.
- Can we speak through singing? Yes.
- Can we teach through singing? Yes.
- Can we admonish through singing? Yes.
Words from our heart that exit through our vocal cords in the form of singing is what we are commanded to use in worship to teach and admonish one another, not plucks from an instrument, and certainly not chords from a piano or sounds emanating through organ pipes.
Singing is commanded, not singing and playing. The heart is the instrument (“making melody with the heart”), not a piece of mechanical equipment. The specific action of the verb “singing” is vocal… to sing is a vocal action. The commandment specifies singing. If these passages commanded singing and playing a mechanical instrument, then we each could not do one without the other.
Some religious organizations claim that God does not tell us in these passages that we cannot use mechanical instruments. However, this would ignore the context of the passage, specifically Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This verse commands us to have authority (in the name of the Lord Jesus) for everything we do.
Thus, the notion that something is not excluded does not authorize it to be included. That notion would be thinking along the lines of how Nadab and Abihu were thinking when they brought strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 2:1,2). As we previously learned, God struck them dead because they did not offer the type of fire God commanded. That notion would be like Saul’s thinking that he was doing good by doing more than God commanded and was punished by God because he did not do exactly as God commanded (1 Samuel 15). God did not have to tell Noah not to use pine or oak wood because he specifically commanded him to use gopher wood, which excluded all other types of wood. We are to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. We are to do no more and no less than the Bible commands us, as evidenced by the examples we have in the Bible.
Consider God’s command that only Jewish men from the tribe of Levi could be priests (Numbers 18). God did not say that women could not be priests. God did not say that non-Jewish men could not be priests. God did not say that men from another tribe could not be priests. However, could a woman be a priest, could a non-Jewish man be a priest, or could someone from the tribe of Judah be a priest? Absolutely not… because that is not what God commanded. Consider that the Hebrews writer wrote about this very thing. Hebrews 7:13-14 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
When the law of Moses specified that only Jewish men from the tribe of Levi could serve as priests it included only those who met the qualifications. There was no authorization for anyone else to be a priest outside of those who were qualified.
We can clearly see that God has a particular and specific way He wants worship carried out. We cannot add to God’s Word or His commands just because He has not addressed what we are attempting to add.
Question: Does the phrase “making melody” in Ephesians 5:19 authorize mechanical instruments in worship service?
Translated from the Greek word = psallo¯
1) to pluck off, pull out
2) to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang
2a) to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument so that they gently vibrate
2b) to play on a stringed instrument, to play, the harp, etc
2c) to sing to the music of the
2d) in the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song
Probably strengthened from psao¯ (to rub or touch the surface; compare G5597); to twitch or twang, that is, to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes): - make melody, sing (psalms).
Some religious organizations claim the word “psallo” as translated as “making melody” in Ephesians 5:19, authorize the use of mechanical instruments due to how it can be defined. However, as with the word “psalms”, we can reason with the scriptures that this definition and use of the word would not be in the context of what God is commanding.
Again, if this is true, then we must use mechanical instruments in worship to obey God’s command. History indicates the early church congregations did not use mechanical instruments. We obviously cannot judge anyone to heaven or hell (paradise or torment until judgment day), but it would not be unreasonable to believe that those in the early church congregations are in torment if mechanical instruments are commanded in worship since they did not use them. Think about it... if the Bible commands we use mechanical instruments in worship and the early church did not use them, then they did not obey God's commandments... their worship was in vain for hundreds of years.
As we can see, this word also has various meanings. In the context of this commandment, “psallo” means to sing a hymn and celebrate the praises of God in song, and make melody with the heart, as the passage instructs.
Mechanical instruments were introduced into the Lord's church by men hundreds of years after the church was started.
Consider this secular history on the subject proving that for hundreds of years there were no mechanical instruments used in church worship service.
- The American Encyclopedia: "Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs into some of the churches of Western Europe about 670AD, but the earliest trustworthy account is that of the one sent as a present by the Greek emperor Constantine Copronymus to Pepin, king of the Franks, in 755AD." VOL 12 p. 688.
- Chambers Encyclopedia: "The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian 1, in 666AD. In 757, a great organ was sent as a present to Pepin by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Copronymus, and placed in the Church of St. Corneille at Compiegne. Soon after Charlemagne's time organs became common." VOL 7 p. 112.
- Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia: "In the Greek Church the organ never came into use. But after the eighth century it became more and more common in the Latin Church (Roman Church); not however, without opposition from the side of the monks."
- Joseph Bingham, the well-known author of "Antiquities of the Christian Church" and said to be one of the most learned men the Church of England has ever produced, says: "Music (singing) in churches is as ancient as the apostles, but instrumental music not so." Works, VOL 3 p. 137.
- Lyman Coleman, Presbyterian author says: "The tendency of this instrumental music was to secularize the music of the church and to encourage singing by a choir. Such musical accompaniments were gradually introduced, but they can hardly be assigned to a period earlier than the fifth and sixth centuries. Organs were unknown in church until the eighth or ninth century. Previous to this they had their place in the theatre, rather than in the church. There were never regarded with favor in the Eastern church, and were vehemently opposed in many places in the West." Primitive Church, pp. 376-377.
- John Spencer Curwen, a member of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1880, President of a college in London, stated: "Men still living can remember the time when organs were very seldom found outside of the church of England. The Methodists, Independents, and Baptists rarely had them, and by the Presbyterians, they were stoutly opposed." Instrumental Music in the Worship by M.C. Kurfees, p. 146
The majority of denominations using mechanical instruments are not familiar with their very own history, and nearly all of the denominations at one time opposed mechanical instruments in worship.
- John Calvin, who many credits as the founder of the Presbyterian church, and the Calvinist denomination was named after him, states in his commentary on Psalms 33, "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps and the restoration of the other shadows of the law."
- Martin Luther was a German theologian and founder of the Lutheran Church, although he did not want it named after him. He also started the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s. Luther rejected the use of the organ saying, "The organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal."
- Adam Clark, former president of the Methodist Conference, was one of the most well-known Methodist commentators who ever lived. In his commentary on 2 Chronicles 29:25 he states, "But were it even evident, which it is not, either from this or any other place in the sacred writings, that instruments of music were prescribed by Divine authority under the law, could this be adduced with any semblance of reason, that they ought to be used in Christian worship? No: the whole spirit, soul, and genius of the Christian religion are against this: and those who know the Church of God best, and what constitutes its genuine spiritual state, know that these things have been introduced as a substitute for the life and power of religion; and that where they prevail most, there is least of the power of Christianity. Away with such portentous baubles from the worship of that infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth, for to no such worship are those instruments friendly."
- Adam Clark, on his commentary on Amos 6:5, "And I further believe that the use of such instruments of music in the Christian Church is without the sanction and against the will of God; that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion, and that they are sinful. I am an old man, and an old minister; and I declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor."
- Adam Clarke also wrote, "The late venerable and most eminent divine, the Rev. John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, in his terse and powerful manner, 'I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither HEARD nor SEEN.'" John Wesley was also the co-founder of the Methodist denomination and chartered the first Methodist Church in the United States.
- Charles Spurgeon, reckoned to be one of the greatest Baptist preachers to ever live, a preacher for the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London England (a congregation of 10,000), wrote in his series The Treasury of David (commentary on Psalms 42), "We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it." Charles Spurgeon never allowed mechanical instruments at Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle. This is from one of the greatest Baptist preachers to ever live. How many Baptist attendees know this tidbit of truth?
- David Benedict, one of the greatest historians of Baptist churches, wrote in his book Fifty Years Among the Baptists, "Staunch old Baptists in former times would have as soon tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries. And yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them and their successors in church management, with nothing like the jars and difficulties which arose of old concerning the bass violin and smaller instruments of music."
- Alexander Campbell, the founder of the restoration movement, made this statement, "To all those whose animal nature flags under the oppression of church service, I should think instrumental music would not only be a desideratum but an essential prerequisite to fire up their souls to even animal devotion. But to all spiritually-minded Christians, such aids would be as a cowbell in a concert."
- J.W. McGarvey (also part of the Restoration Movement) stated, “We cannot adopt the practice without abandoning the only ground upon which a restoration of New Testament Christianity can be accomplished.”
Think about all of the above well-known and respected men who were founders and/or leaders of these various religious organizations that were very much against mechanical instruments in the worship service. Yet, members of these religious organizations will argue against their own, because they have to devise some sort of justification for the many years they have used these instruments. It would also fly in the face of their family members who give (or gave) praise to the use of mechanical instruments in worship. Furthermore, it would cost them too much pride to make a stance at this point. The evidence shows that mechanical instruments were introduced into the church by men, long after the church was established by Jesus, and are simply not authorized by God.
While there are many examples useful for our learning in the old law, we are bound by the commandments of the new law, the Law of Christ, which is the New Testament. The very words of Jesus are what will judge us (John 12:48). The New Testament is full of warnings to those who tried to continue following the old law. What was practiced in the old law does not authorize the same practices in the new law. It is no surprise that there is not even a hint of mechanical instruments used in the early church.
The New Testament as a whole only ever references singing without any use of mechanical instruments.
Matthew 26:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Acts 16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Revelation 14:3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
Revelation 15:3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Since not one of these verses references mechanical instruments, we are not authorized to use them when singing in worship service and still adhere to the commandment of Colossians 3:17.
At the beginning of this study, the provided passages clearly prove to us that we must walk by faith and that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (2 Corinthians 5:7 and Romans 10:17). The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
If we must "walk by faith" and if "without faith it is impossible to please" God, then it must be true that any act of worship, regardless of how small or great, must be by faith, in order to please God.
Let's look one more time at the unquestionable, absolute, and undeniable teaching of God's Word on what it means to "walk by faith". Paul, an inspired apostle, wrote that faith comes by hearing the word of God.
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
This makes it very clear that where there is no Word of God then there can be no faith. Therefore, where there is no Word of God on a given subject, there can be no faith. The Bible makes it very clear we are to "walk by faith".
2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight
It can only be true that when the Word of God does not speak on any given matter, regardless of what it might be, and then we apply it in worship, we are then not walking by faith and we are not pleasing God.
How much clearer can it be that where there is no revelation by God on a subject, there can be no faith? There is no revelation in the Bible that mentions instruments used in worship under the new covenant, which we are to live and worship by today. It would only be an opinion to suggest that it is okay to use mechanical instruments in worship and opinions do not please God... only faith pleases God... "without faith it is impossible to please him..." We cannot ignore this and try to use our own logic and reasoning to justify something that is not authorized by God.
Remember the story of Nicodemus mentioned earlier. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. We know this by faith because the Word of God tells us this. However, faith cannot tell us why he came by night because the Word of God does not tell us why. We can assume why he came by night, we can have 10 different rational reasons as to why, but it would only be opinions since the Word of God does not tell us why he came by night.
When God specifies something, all else is should be excluded. To understand this we look to how God has instructed certain people to do certain things.
Genesis 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
God specifically told Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood... not oak or pine. If Noah had prepared the ark from anything other than gopher wood he would not be walking by faith... the Scripture tells us this.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
By faith Noah prepared the ark... he had the word of God (God's very words) to instruct him. God did not have to tell Noah NOT to use oak or pine, or what not to do, because God authorized what to use and how to build it to start with.
Consider the story of Naaman.
2 Kings 5:10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
Naaman wanted to be healed... God used Elisha to deliver the message to Naaman. He did not have to tell him not to go to any of the other rivers because He gave specific instructions on which river he was to go to. He did not have to tell him to not dip 1 time, or 3 times, or 6 times, because He gave specific instructions that he was to dip 7 times.
We looked at a few examples earlier of how certain Biblical persons attempted to please God or do a good service to God that was forbidden or not commanded and it was rejected by God. Let's consider one of those in-depth.
1 Samuel 15:1-3 Then Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"
Here we learn that the Lord used the prophet Samuel to deliver a message to Saul. The Lord commanded Saul to kill Amalek and destroy everything he had... EVERYTHING... plus kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. The Lord wanted nothing of Amalek's spared. But what did Saul do?
1 Samuel 15:7-9 So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Saul did not follow the Lord's commandment, he spared Agag and the best of the livestock. What was Saul thinking?
1 Samuel 15:13-15 Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD. But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed."
Saul was thinking that he was doing a great deed for the Lord by saving the best to sacrifice to Lord... he thought he had carried out the command of the Lord and only wanted to please the Lord. But what did the Lord have to say about this?
1 Samuel 15:10-11 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands." And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.
Samuel further explained how Saul was in the wrong and Saul finally understood.
1 Samuel 15:22-24 Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.
Again we can clearly learn that God gives specific instructions on how we should do things... if He does not authorize it then it should not assume that it is okay, even if we feel like it would be pleasing to God.
I ask you, what music did God specify in the new covenant (New Testament), which we worship by today?
There are two kinds of music... instrumental (using instruments) and vocal. God knew there were instruments that could be used in worship because the Old Testament is filled with examples that He authorized. BUT, in the New Testament, He specified what kind of music He wanted and it did not include mechanical instruments.
Others say that the ability to play mechanical instruments is a natural or God-given talent and should be dedicated to God. They claim that if God gave them the ability to play an instrument that they should be able to use that ability to worship God. After all, what is the difference between this God-given ability versus "speaking" and "singing" mentioned in Ephesians 5:19? The myth or misleading notion in this attempted argument is answered in the Bible. The Bible clearly specifies "speaking" and "singing" and does not specify "playing instruments". If we place instrumental music as a natural talent on par scripturally with speaking and singing, why didn't Paul specify it? If we allowed natural talent to be a principle of divine worship then we would not need the Bible... we could simply do what is "natural" in all of our worship. If instrumental music being a God-given talent makes it okay in worship service, then does that not make any God-given talent okay in worship, regardless of what it is... think about it... it's God-given. Now think about all the talents that are God-given... do we want to even go there... especially in our worship services? The Bible tells us to walk by faith and not by sight... faith is not credited to the dominion of natural things.
There are yet others who claim there are mechanical instruments in heaven. I cannot say that there will or will not be based on the Bible, but this would not authorize mechanical instruments in New Testament worship. Personally, I think it might be illogical to think there will be these instruments in Heaven, but it really doesn't matter what I think. I'll be fine if there are. This idea is taken from the book of Revelation which mentions harps on three occasions. Let's consider one of those.
Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
We must understand that the book of Revelation is a book of symbols and the very first verse of the book explains this.
Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Notice the phrase "he sent and signified it". The word “signified” comes from the word "sign" and to signify something is to set it forth by a "sign". A sign cannot be a sign of itself. In other words... "harps" are a sign of something else. Can we really believe there are actual harps and golden vials full of odor (bowls of incense), in heaven? Does this mean we are going to have material things in heaven? Heaven is going to be a place of spiritual souls... it is where "the spirits of just men are made perfect." (Hebrews 12:23) What would a spiritual soul do with a material harp? I am very curious… does this mean we are going to have cars, TVs, etc., in heaven? This is why I state it would be illogical to believe such a thing. Furthermore, to try and justify mechanical instruments in the church because of a "sign" of something in the book of Revelation is stretching God’s Word considerably. Just for the sake of argument though, what difference would it make if there are going to be mechanical instruments in heaven? It would make no difference here on earth and it would still not be authorized by God in worship service today. We cannot place heaven on the same level as earthly worship. Nonetheless, the Bible does not specifically and literally tell us that there are mechanical instruments in heaven.
Let's consider a few more passages concerning singing.
Romans 15:9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
Hebrews 13:15 Therefore, through him let us always bring God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What does this mean? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing psalms with my spirit, but I will also sing psalms with my mind.
James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
We are to "sing unto thy name."... "bring God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name."... "sing psalms with my spirit,"... "sing psalms with my mind"... but singing is not done with an instrument, it is done with our lips, our mind, and our spirit.
We consider these passages and are reminded of Cain, of Nadab and Abihu, and of Saul, and those who made mistakes by not obeying God's commands. We are reminded of how they tried to worship God in ways He did not specify... in ways He did not authorize.
For 7-8 centuries we know from history that people obeyed God's Word and did not use instruments in worship. God did not have to tell us NOT to use instruments because He specified WHAT we are to use, our hearts. No example, no commandment, and no authorization for mechanical instruments are found in our instructions from God on how we are to worship today.
Since there are no such instructions for use, are we walking by faith or by opinion when we do use instruments? It can only be opinion since there is no authorization by God.
Earlier I asked the question, what has changed our pattern of worship over the years? I suggested that men have changed it to be more convenient and less time-consuming... however, God has not authorized any changes to the pattern of worship. The apostles had the full measure of the Holy Spirit and they set the pattern for worship that we should follow. Paul wrote the following in his second letter to Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (ASV)
If you believe the New Testament is a pattern for our worship, as God has shown, where is the use of mechanical instruments? It is NOT there! Is it not important to follow the teachings of the Scriptures?
2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Have you been to a worship service with NO instruments used and listened to the beautiful melody of the voices? This is what God wants to hear because this is what He specified.
Having established that God commanded mechanical instruments to be used in the Levitical worship, and having established that the Jews did not use mechanical instruments otherwise, we have also established that the early church, which was established by Jesus Christ and His apostles, never used mechanical instruments. If we are to obey God and submit to the authority of what the Scriptures reveal to us, then we should worship Him, including singing to Him, in the way He ordained through His apostles. The spiritual worship of the New Testament does not include animal sacrifices, burning of incense, priestly garments, nor does it include mechanical instruments. To use mechanical instruments in worship is NOT in obedience with God's will, but rather a means of pleasing our own desires.
It is a tragic mistake to cling to the traditions of men rather than the Scriptures. Remember Jesus' warning of vain worship.
Matthew 15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Paul further instructs us to steer away from those who practice such.
Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Are we listening to Jesus and His apostles?
We have learned from this study that there are two ways we can treat God's authorized order of worship... we can obey it or we can disobey it. Obedience consists of doing exactly what God commands, no more and no less. Disobedience consists of any departure from what God has authorized, whether it is doing something He has forbidden, omitting all or part of what He has commanded, and/or doing a religious service that He has not commanded.
True worship not only demands the right spirit but also the right covenant. We must worship according to the covenant God made with every nation (Matthew 28:18). To say that we must keep the Sabbath, tithe, or worship with a mechanical instrument of music because it was authorized in the old covenant under the law, is to make the law of greater force than the grace given by Christ.
Worship should include the study and preaching of God's Word, prayer, singing, giving, and the Lord's Supper... on the first day of each week... as instructed, specified, and authorized by God under the new covenant, and we should not forsake the assembling of the saints.
Let us all walk by faith and worship according to God's Word.
God bless you!