"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.IV Pg.4-7
November 1941

"My Views On Instrumental Music

More Fruit' From The Unity (?) Meetings

John T. Lewis

In the Christian Standard, October 18, 1941, James DeForest Murch has a long article giving what he calls: "My Views on Instrumental Music in Worship.", The following statement was blocked off and put in middle of his article.

During one of the panel discussions held in connection with the National Unity meeting at Columbus, O., last May, Brother Murch made an extempore statement of his views on instrumental music in worship.

So many requests were made for it in written form that the accompanying manuscript has been prepared. Before publication it was submitted to brethren of both groups for criticism and is thus a fairly accurate reproduction of the Columbus statement.

If there was any criticism offered by either "group" to Brother Murch's "views," it is conspicuously absent in the above statement. What conclusion did Brother Murch expect his readers to draw from the statement? Were his "views" acceptable to "both groups" in "the panel discussions"? If I have not the truth, on this or any other subject, I want it, and if I have the truth I want the other fellow to have it. And I think I know the editor of the Bible Banner well enough to believe these are his sentiments. Therefore I am publishing Brother Murch's views, accepting whatever truth he may teach, and pointing out the errors with which his article is replete. And if I am not hoping against hope, I hope the Christian Standard will give its readers my article. It will, if it is not afraid for its readers to see the truth.

We now come to Brother Murch's article.

Since some writers in our brotherhood papers have intimated that I have neither convictions on the use of musical instruments in worship, nor regard for the authority of the Holy Scriptures, I wish to make this statement:

I believe that the Bible is the divinely revealed and inspired Word of God, and that the New Testament is our rule of faith and practice in the church of Christ. We cannot hope for abiding unity unless we come together upon the Word of God.

I accept the second paragraph, in the above, as the absolute truth about the word of God, and as stating the only possible ground of Christian union--"Coming together upon the word of God." As to the first paragraph, I believe the "writers in our brotherhood papers" who declare that Murch has no "convictions on the use of musical instruments in worship" are absolutely right, and I offer, as evidence, the following from Murch's article.

It is my usual practice to worship with my brethren in Christ who sing with the aid of instruments of music. Upon occasion I worship with brethren who are opposed to such aids. I sincerely believe that brethren in both groups perform acceptable worship unto the Lord, and my conviction is based upon the teaching of the Word of God.

If I should say, "it is my usual practice to" attend prayer meetings; but "upon occasions" I attend dances, the brethren would have a perfect right to say that I had no convictions in the matter, and it would not change the truth for me to declare, "I sincerely believe that brethren" who do both are living acceptable lives before God.

Brother Murch next declares.

A study of the Bible on this subject shows that worship in the Tabernacle, in the Temple and in the New Testament church was conducted both with and without musical instruments.

This is a bald assertion with no foundations of truth in it. Therefore Murch offered no Scripture to sustain it.

Of course he knows some people do not know the difference between assertions and the truth. If "a study of the Bible" shows that worship "in the New Testament church was conducted both with and without musical instruments," then that is the end of all controversy on that subject. But that "a study of the Bible" shows this, I deny in Toto, and demand proof. And it will take more than the example of Jorgenson and the "Highlands" church of Louisville, Kentucky, to convince me.

The next paragraph from Brother Murch's article follows.

In the Tabernacle, prior to David's introduction of instruments of music, worship was acceptable to God. When they were introduced into the Tabernacle they were specifically called "musical instruments of God" (1 Chron. 16: 42), indicating their acceptability.

Brother Murch is right when he says David introduced "instruments of music in the tabernacle worship." Of course the tabernacle worship was acceptable to God, "prior to David's introductions of instruments of music, because it was the worship God himself had prescribed. In Deuteronomy 31:19, God commanded Moses to write a song and teach it to the children of Israel. Singing therefore was commanded by God both in the tabernacle and temple worship." In 1 Chron. 23:5, we read: "And four thousand were door keepers: and four thousand praised Jehovah with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith." David did not try to justify his introduction of musical instruments into the worship on the ground that they were aids to the singing, just as the song Moses wrote was an aid to the singing. He declared that he made them to praise Jehovah therewith. And nowhere in the Old Testament were the instruments of David ever said to be aids to the singing.

But Murch and his "group" claim that the instruments are aids to the singing just as songbooks are aids. The naked truth is, when you sing, and play an instrument of music, in the worship you are offering two kinds of music to God. If He commands one kind, and you offer two kinds, there is no question, or doubt, about your adding one kind. Read Amos 6:1-6, and see what God said about David's instruments.

But we go on with Murch's rambling.

When Solomon dedicated the Temple, 2 Chron. 7:6 says that "the priests waited upon their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, (because his mercy endureth forever, when David praised by their ministry." Note again that musical instruments used in worship are specifically said to be "of the Lord." The divine record further indicates that the Lord was pleased with worship. In this connection it may be observed that God would never approve that which is inherently wrong, immoral or degrading in worship.

The Psalms which were used in the praise services of the Temple are filled with references to singing, both with and without musical instruments. A number of the references of both types are express commands which are understood to be given by inspiration of God.

Thus, so far as the Old Testament is concerned, we can say that the use of instrumental music in worship is Scriptural and acceptable to God.

The reader will notice that all the scriptures Brother Murch quotes from the Old Testament declare that David made the instruments to praise the Lord with; but no where declares that he made, and used instruments as aids to the singing. Therefore, when Murch and his "group" use instruments of music only as aids to the singing they are not even operating under the Old Testament.

"The divine record further indicates that the Lord" tolerated many things under the old covenant that were not His will. He tolerated kings instead of judges; He tolerated divorcement for any cause; He also tolerated the instruments that David made to praise Him with. But "the divine record further indicates that the Lord" was pleased with none of those things. In Hosea 13:11, we read: "I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath." In Matt. 19:8, Jesus Christ said: "Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so." In Amos 6:1-6, God pronounces a "woe" upon all who "invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." Brother Murch ought to know that God was tolerant with those people because they were living in the moonlight age of the world, and under a covenant dedicated with the blood of animals. The acme of Brother Murch's reasoning (?) is reached in the following: "In this connection it may be observed that God would never approve that which is inherently wrong, immoral or degrading in worship." Now Brother Murch, is there anything "inherently wrong, immoral or degrading" in water or milk? How about putting those things on the Lord's table, as aids to the "fruit of the vine"? Would that be a sin? Brother Murch also says: "A number of the references of both types are express commands which are understood to be given by inspiration of God." If "both types" of music, vocal and instrumental, were "commands of God" under the old covenant, then let Brother Murch and his "group" find "express commands of God" for "both types" under the New Covenant—that will end all controversy.

We now take up Murch's arguments (?) in the New Testament.

In the New Testament, we will readily agree, a new order was set up. The ritual and sacrifices of the temple were gradually displaced as no longer essential, though many of the Jewish disciples under the new order continued to participate without rebuke from the apostles. In fact, a number of the apostles themselves so participated. They evidently had no revelation of God or compunction of conscience against the use of instrumental music there, for it is nowhere expressed in their writings. The writer of the Hebrew letter and other New Testament writers, specifically mention certain temple rites, ceremonies and practices that are no longer effectual or that are superseded, but nowhere in this category is instrumental music mentioned. They continued to use the Psalms of the old order in distinctively Christian worship. Several of these Psalms specifically refer to the praise of God upon musical instruments. The use of instrumental music in New Testament worship was no more of an "innovation" to the early disciples; than the use of prayers or the reading of the Old Testament Scriptures. It had been a practice common to their worship for centuries.

There are five outstanding Scriptures in the New Testament which definitely mention the use of music in worship-Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:7-9, 15; Rev. 14:1-5, and Rev. 15:1-4.

Let us examine each one carefully.

Eph 5:19 is taken from a context concerned primarily with personal Christian conduct. The worship of the Christian assembly is not under discussion. The text deals with the acceptable worship of the individual Christian.

It reads: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," and is a phrase extracted from a sentence beginning with the eighteenth verse and closing with the twenty-first verse. The primary admonition of the sentence is contained in the words, "Be ye filled with the Spirit."

The apostle Paul is saying in effect: Let your worship be the expression of a heart that is right with God. The methods of expression are Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing, and making melody in the heart, the giving of thanks and holy submission in the fear of God.

That portion of the passage which refers to music in worship mentions "psalms," with their references to instrumental music, and "singing," which in the original, psallo, means "sing plucking the strings." Notice how the apostle is thus reminiscent of the temple praise services. These definite allusions to the customary use of instrumental music in worship leave the burden of proof resting on all those who insist that the use of instrumental music in worship in the New Testament order is sinful, and, therefore, unacceptable to God.

That this was the accepted meaning of the word when Paul wrote it is attested by over seventy Greek lexicons, including Trench, Souter, Woodehouse, Liddell and Scott and Thayer. Among scores of other modern Greek scholars who are on record in agreement with this translation are: A. T. Robertson Richard T. Elliott, J. B. Rotherham, Benjamin W. Bacon, M. B. Riddle, John A. Scott, A. C. White, A. H. Cruickshank, I. P. Posegate, Max L. Margolis and Richard Gottheil, to say nothing of the ancients.

The primary emphasis here (as throughout the passage), is upon the spiritual aspect of worship. The singing, to be acceptable, must involve "making melody in the heart to the Lord." He who sings, with or without the instrument, and fails to make melody in his heart unto the Lord has not rendered an acceptable worship.

The passage, Col. 3:16, is of similar nature. It is a part of a chapter filled with admonitions to members of the church at Colossae, concerning their personal conduct as Christians. The worship of the Christian assembly is not under discussion. The text deals with the acceptable worship of the individual Christian.

It reads: "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."

The primary admonition is concerning the indwelling of the Word of Christ in the heart of the Christian. This indwelt soul expresses itself in teaching and admonishing by means of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and in singing with, grace in the heart.

Outside the suggestion of the use of Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs for purposes of teaching and admonishing, the passage is almost identical with Eph. 5:19 and the observations concerning instrumental music and spiritual expression already given in that connection are applicable here. Those who hold that the passage eliminates instrumental music from worship must first prove their case.

First Corinthians 14 has definitely to do with the conduct of the Christian assembly. The primary question under discussion is the use of tongues in the assembly. In

Paul's argument he is questioning their worth, unless they have instructional or inspirational value. Then he introduces musical instruments as a further proof of what he is saying: Verse 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?" In Verse 9, he makes the application, "So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?" A little later in the same discussion Paul carries his application to singing in worship when he says (V. 15), "1 will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding." In mentioning pipes and harps he was referring to instruments commonly used in worship. The word "and," which introduces Verse 7, links it inseparably with the discussion of worship in the assembly.

In Revelation 14 and 15 we are given a picture of the New Testament church functioning as a perfect institution. We have sometimes differentiated between the church on earth and the church in heaven by designating the former "the church militant" and the latter "the church triumphant," but Scripturally speaking they are one and the same. If they are not we have no hope of eternal life. The church in heaven is the perfection of all that Christians have striven for though the centuries in the church on earth. In Rev. 14:1-5 we are given a heavenly picture of the ultimate in church worship. There, to the accompaniment of "the voice of harpers, harping with their harps" the 144,000 "sang as it were a new song before the throne". . ."and in their mouth was found no guile: for they were without fault before the throne of God."

Again in Rev. 14:1-4, "them that had gotten the victory over the beast. . stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God (cf. 1 Chron. 16:42 and 2 Chron. 7:6). And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. . ."

(See also Rev. 5:6-10.)

Thus we see that instrumental music, while neither Scripturally commanded to be used nor prohibited from use in the worship of the assembly of the saints, is Scripturally recognized as acceptable to God.

It may also be observed that there is nothing in the use of instrumental music in Christian worship which is subversive of the gospel; no disloyalty to Christ, no substitution of ordinances or no perversion of ideal worship" in spirit and in truth."

After all, the basic consideration in acceptable worship is not methods of worship or aids in worship, but rather the spirit of worship.

When Christ held His immortal conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, He said, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when he shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father . . but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." And then to emphasize and elucidate He continued, "God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:19-24).

Whether as individuals in the quiet of our homes or in the public assembly of Christians, whether with instruments of music or without them, we must have hearts attuned to God, and from then depths praise Him with the spirit and with the understanding. Only God can determine whether that worship is acceptable. Let us, therefore, employ ourselves, not in vain discussions as to orders and methods and aids, or the castigation of brethren of varying tastes and habits, but rather in searching our hearts, seeking a closer walk with God, growing in grace and submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of our blessed master.

I want to go on record as saying that I would never advocate the introduction of a musical instrument in a congregation which was conscientiously opposed to its use. If the elimination of the instrument would bring peace to a troubled congregation, I would advocate its removal. Furthermore, my mind is open to any Bible proof that the use of instrumental music in worship is sinful. If I were thus convinced that it is sinful I would unhesitatingly give up my present practice.

I am publishing all of Brother Murch's article because I am not afraid for the readers of 'the Banner to see the arguments (?) the digressives make for the use of "instrumental music" or aid to their singing. Again, since Brother Murch intimates, in the last two sentences of his article, that he is an honest truth seeker in this matter, I want to make the following suggestions, and ask: Would you be willing to debate the music question with Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Editor of the Bible Banner? I am asking this question, and making this suggestion, without the knowledge or consent of Brother Wallace; but I know him well enough to believe that he would be glad to meet you in public debate any time or anywhere it can be properly arranged. It would be a great opportunity for you to get your views on instrumental music before the people. Just think what a great opportunity you would have to bring all those "Greek Lexicons" and show us what they teach on "instruments of music" in the New Testament worship. As a gospel preacher, and seeker after unity among God's people, you cannot afford to let such an opportunity pass. It would be interesting to me to hear you tell about the kind of worship the church will have in heaven. Therefore I shall look forward with pleasure to meeting and hearing you in the debate as early as it can be arranged. Don't disappoint me. Of course you will have no fear of meeting, in discussion, the editor of a paper that you declare to be on the "lunatic fringe" of religious journalism.

I had become so enthusiastic over the possibility of meeting, and hearing Brother Murch give, and defend, his "views on instrumental music in worship," I was about to forget his article.

I believe it is absurd to say that "the Jewish disciples under the new order continued to participate without rebuke from the apostles," in the temple worship. If they did, they worshiped with the Jews who believed Jesus Christ was an imposter, they used instruments to praise Jehovah with, not as aids to the singing, they burned incense to Jehovah, and continued to observe the Passover. That combination may suit Murch and his "group"; but those who read papers on the "lunatic fringe" of religious journalism cannot stomach it. It is true that the apostles, and early Jewish disciples, did observe some of the Jewish ordinances. They could circumcise their children as a family mark; but the Gentile Christians could not circumcise theirs, because that would have brought them under the law, and forced them to do what Brother Murch says the Jewish disciples did, worship with the unbelieving Jews. They made and kept certain Jewish vows; but that is a long way from saying they worshiped with the unbelieving Jews.

Brother Murch says: "The worship of the Christian assembly is not under discussion" in Eph. 5:19, and Col. 3:16. I would like to know how they could "speak one to another," if they were not assembled, as they were taught to do in Eph. 5:19, or how could they "teach and admonish one another," as they were taught to do in Col. 3:16, if they were not assembled? Again if psallo means "sing plucking the strings," as Brother Murch says it does, what kind of "strings" would we have to "pluck" to obey the command? And how could we obey the command without "plucking the strings"? Brother Murch's "spiritual aspect" cannot do away with the "strings," if we have to "pluck" them. Brother Murch, are the "strings," we "pluck" in singing, the vocal cords? Or are they the fiddle and banjo kind? You must bring your strings, and carpenter lines, along with all those "Greek Lexicons," to that debate. You will need them to lasso Wallace with. He is from the West. If you tie him up, I feel sure we will all want to change from the debates to the Murch-Witty (?) unity meetings. If that should happen I would want a front seat in your "panel discussions."

Brother Murch says: "The use of instrumental music in New Testament worship was no more of an 'innovation' to the early disciples than the use of prayers or reading the Old Testament Scriptures. It had been a practice common to their worship for centuries." All you will have to do to see the (fallacy in the above statement, is just to substitute "burning incense" for "instrumental music." Burning incense "had been a practice common to their worship for centuries," and it was authorized by Jehovah, and not by David. Therefore, according to Brother Murch's logic (?) we have more authority for burning incense in the worship than we do for the use of instrumental music.

Referring to Eph. 5:19, Brother Murch says: "Those who hold that the passage eliminates instrumental music from worship must first prove their case." Shades of Aristotle! Just as well say: "Those who hold that" Matt. 26:29 "eliminates" water or milk from the Lord's table "must first prove their case." We can prove anything to be acceptable to God by such fallacious reasoning. I think Brother Murch knows this, and he was only appealing to the credulity of Witty's "group" in their "panel discussions."

What Murch says about 1 Cor. 14:7, reminds me of the Methodist who practice sprinkling for baptism; when they find the word sprinkle, they shout here it is! So Brother Murch found "pipe or harp," in 1 Cor. 14:7, and declares here are your instruments of music in the worship! If he had quoted verse 8, he would have not only found pipes and harps in his worship (?) but the trumpets also. Get all these instruments in, Brother Murch, and you can prove the orchestras your "group" use in the worship are scriptural. At least you can say: "The burden of proof rests upon the other group" to show they are not scriptural, that might have some weight in your "panel discussions."

Finally, I believe it is both unscriptural and unreasonable to say, "the church on earth, and the church in heaven, are one and the same." If "the church" is in heaven, then all the faithful of the patriarchal age, all the faithful of the Jewish age, all the infants and idiots of all ages, as well as the baptized believers, must be in it. Whereas "the church on earth" is made up only of baptized believers. Therefore it is apart from the issue to talk about the worship of the church in heaven. Brother Murch knows as much about "the worship of the church in heaven" as I do, and that is absolutely nothing. Maybe he can talk better on those subjects than he can on other subjects.