Mar 24

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What Do The Scriptures Authorize In Worship With Song?

Since Jesus stated, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat. 15:9), it is clear that (1) it is possible for men to worship God in a means which is following a teaching of mere men [in contrast to that which God has instructed], and (2) such worship is sinful. Thus, worshiping God in song as He instructed is truly a crucial matter. What saith the Scriptures?
One may attempt to worship God by (1) making music; (2) singing only; (3) playing an instrument only; (4) whistling only; (5) humming only; (6) a combination of any of 2 through 5. Notice: number one (making music) is a general term, but numbers 2 through 5 are each specific. Thus, if God tells us to “make music,” then we may freely choose whatever method of making music we wish. However, if He has only told us to hum, then we must hum and only hum. We would not be able to sing because He has not told us to sing. Nor would we be able to play an instrument or whistle for the same reason. It is as Colossians 3:17 tells us, “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Since “in the name of” means “by the authority of” (Acts 4:7; John 10:25 + Mat. 21:23), then everything a Christian teaches in doctrine and does in practice must be authorized by God (so instructed by means of His Scriptures). What then, does God authorize? He tells us to “sing” (Eph. 5:19), “sing” (Col. 3:16), “sing” (Mat. 26:30), “sing” (Mark 14:26), “sing” (Acts 16:25), “sing” (Rom. 15:9), “sing” (1 Cor. 14:15), “sing” (Heb. 2:12) and “sing” (Jam. 5:13). These are all the New Testament instructions or examples for the Christian in regard to worship in song. What is it then that God authorizes? Singing, and only singing.
OBJECTION: “David used mechanical instruments” Yes, but David was a Jew living under the Old Testament Law which is no longer in effect (Col. 2:14).
OBJECTION: “They have harps in heaven (Rev. 5:8).” Yes, but they are in heaven, we are on earth.
OBJECTION: “The NIV says ‘make music’ in Eph. 5:19, and making music includes playing instruments.” The NIV, although popular, is an unreliable translation with numerous crucial verses mistranslated, of which Ephesians 5:19 is one. The NIV is a “thought translation”–it gives us what the translators think God meant. It does not attempt to make a direct translation of the Greek (as did the KJV). In its preface it is admitted that the translators “have striven for more than a word-for-word translation.” Thus, with the NIV you have no assurance that what you read is what God said or what the translators think!
Tell us plainly, what do the Scriptures authorize in worship in song? We are to sing, period. All else is vain worship as the worshipers are acting upon the teachings of mere men.

Gary Henson
Series on: “Tell us plainly” (John 10:24)

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