Why do Primitive
Baptists not use man made Musical Instruments?
We will examine the following questions in our quest to show that the use of man-made musical instruments is not authorized for New Testament worship:
1. What is the authority for any
activities in worship?
First, we examine, “What is the authority for any activities in worship?” Our authority is found in three verses or passages of scripture as follows:
1. John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and
they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:24 gives us the must of worship. Worship must be based on the truth. Anything that is not truth cannot be considered true worship. Also, Mark 7:7 tells us that there is such a thing as vain or empty worship. That is, attempts at worship can be unacceptable to God. When anyone teaches for doctrines the commandments of men, then their worship and the worship of those who believe them will be considered vain or empty and not acceptable with God. Next, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 tell us that the scriptures provide everything that is needed for good works. True worship is a good work before God. Thus, everything that is needed for worship is provided in the scriptures. We need not go outside the scriptures to determine what we are to do in worship. Furthermore, since the scriptures thoroughly furnish us everything, if something is not in the scriptures, then it cannot be a good work. The scriptures are our authority for all activities of worship.
If the scriptures are silent, does that implicitly give authority to add anything that is not explicitly prohibited in worship? As we noted above in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 the scriptures are a thorough furnisher unto all good works. Thus, if it isn’t in the scriptures it cannot be considered a good work. We give two examples that fully explain God’s attitude toward adding anything to what God has given in the way of worship:
1. Lev. 10:1 “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. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Obviously, God was not pleased with Nadab and Abihu, the two oldest sons of Aaron. However, we do not find anywhere in the scriptures where God ever commanded not to offer strange fire before the Lord. What we do find is that God commanded to use fire from off the altar. If silence gave implicit authority to add to what God had given, then it would have been okay for Nadab and Abihu to offer strange fire in their censers. The conclusion we draw from this is that we are to do what God commands, but we are not to add to what he commands.
2. 2 Sam. 6:3 “And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” God never commanded not to carry the ark on a new cart, nor did he command not to steady the ark if it appeared to be shaky to fall off the cart. The problem is that God did command that the Levites were to be responsible for carrying the ark and they were to carry it by the staves through the rings on the side of the ark. Man’s hands were not to touch the ark. Even though Uzzah had good intentions, yet he greatly displeased the Lord when he put forth his hand to steady the ark.
God has plainly told us not to add to his word: Rev. 22:18 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:” Also, in the Old Testament we read: Deu. 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Our conclusion must be that if the scriptures are silent, that does not implicitly give authority to add anything that is not explicitly prohibited in worship? We have no authority to add anything that the scriptures do not give explicit authority for.
Can we use Old Testament practices in our New Testament worship? There are numerous references in the Old Testament to the use of musical instruments in the Old Testament worship. Can the authority or example of the use of man-made musical instruments in the Old Testament be used as our authority to use man-made musical instruments in the New Testament?
Paul addressed two major issues in the book of Galatians. He addressed the practice of preaching a gospel other than the gospel of the grace of Christ. He also addressed the issue of taking Old Testament practices and carrying them over into the New Testament. Some Jewish preachers from Jerusalem had come to the Gentiles in the churches of Galatia and told them that salvation is by grace, but you must be circumcised in order to be saved. In other words, they were telling these Gentiles that they must observe the Old Testament practice of circumcision in order to be saved by grace. Two passages in the book of Galatians summarized Paul’s teaching on the adding of Old Testament practices to the New Testament worship:
1. Gal. 5:3 “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Paul tells these Gentile brethren at Galatia that if they add the Old Testament practice of circumcision, then they become a debtor to do the whole law. Paul is saying you cannot take just one aspect of the law and carry it over. He is saying that if you take one aspect of the old law covenant then you are a debtor to observe every aspect of the old law covenant.
2. Gal. 4:21 “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
In putting forth the above allegory, Paul is comparing the Old Testament covenant of law service with the New Testament covenant of grace service. When Paul quotes the scripture: Cast out the bondwoman with her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman, he is telling us that we are not to observe any element of the Old Testament law service in our New Testament worship service. We are free from worshipping under the Old Testament law service. As the children of the freewoman (New Testament covenant of grace) we are free to worship under the New Testament covenant of grace without the works of the law.
What is the purpose of singing? Do we sing to be entertained or do we sing to praise God? Or are we to do both? There are 138 times that the words “sing, singing, sang, or sung” appear in the scriptures. The vast majority of times they appear in connection with the worship of God. In those times in which they appear in connection with the worship of God, they are used in connection to give praise to God. They are never used to indicate the singer or those who listened were to be entertained by the singing. The purpose of singing is to praise God. Notice the following two times that the words are used in the New Testament in connection with the worship of God:
1. Eph. 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in
your heart to the Lord…”
In these two verses it is evident that singing is directed toward God and is designed to praise God. It is not designed to entertain man. That does not mean that at times we are not entertained by the singing, but it does mean that the purpose is not to entertain men, but to praise God. Can the singing be uplifting? The answer is yes, but that is a byproduct of the singing and not the design of the singing of praises to God.
Does the New Testament authorize any musical instrument and, if so, what is it? Let us first look at the specific mention of musical instruments in the New Testament. The trumpet is mentioned in the following verses:
1. Mat. 6:2 “Therefore when thou doest
thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in
the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
The only one of the above references that would even remotely seem connected to the worship service is 1 Cor. 14:8 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” However, this is more closely connected as a symbol of the preaching of the gospel and is not connected to the song service.
Sounding brass and tinkling cymbal are referenced in the following verse: 1 Cor. 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” These two instruments are referenced to represent a lack of love, so they would in no way be connected with the singing in worship.
The pipe is mentioned in the following verse: 1 Cor. 14:7 “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” The pipe and harp are used in connection with the practice of speaking in unknown tongues in the church that Paul was condemning in this chapter. Thus, this verse does not give rise to authority to use man-made musical instruments.
The harp is mentioned three times in the book of Revelation and is closely connected to the singing of praise to God:
1. Rev. 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 odours,
which are the prayers of saints.”
What is the harp mentioned in the book of Revelation? When studying the book of Revelation it is important to take heed to the 1st verse of the 1st chapter of Revelation. It tells us the nature of the writing. Rev. 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:” The word, “signified” literally means “to show by signs.” The book of Revelation is written in sign language. In order to understand something written in sign language, you must know the meaning of the signs. The bible itself gives us the meaning of every sign in the book of Revelation. To properly understand the book of Revelation we must study the bible as a whole so that we may understand the individual signs in the book.
The “harp” like everything else in Revelation is a sign. To understand the meaning or significance of the use of the harp we must study the appearance of the harp throughout the scriptures. The harp appears 50 times in the scriptures. The number fifty along with the number eight are very closely associated with the subject of new beginnings. Thus, the harp is closely associated with a new beginning.
In the vast majority of times, the harp is used in connection with “praise to God.” Some examples of the harp being connected with praise to God are as follows:
1. 1 Chr. 25:3 “Of Jeduthun: the sons
of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah,
six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a
harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD.”
Next, the harp is an instrument of ten strings. The number ten in the scriptures is very closely associated with the subject of the law or commandment. Thus, we can deduce that the harp is closely associated with the law or laws of God. When a person is born of the Spirit (new beginning) he has the laws of God written in his heart (number ten). The following verses show this to be so:
1. Heb. 8:10 “For this is the covenant
that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the
Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their
hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:”
Who plays the harp and what is to be
sung on the harp? The harp appears in the following three passages in
the book of Revelation:
In the above we make the following observations or conclusions:
1. The harp is used to represent the
strings of the heart which are implanted of God in the new birth as he
wrote his laws in our heart when we were born again.
Now, let us look again at Eph. 5:19
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody in your heart to the Lord…” Notice the melody of our
singing is made in our heart, not on some man-made musical instrument.