Tag Archives: a cappella

Where’s the Band?

Ephesians 5:18b, 19, 20 “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,”

Jewish Worship

When the Jews sang in the synagogues, they tended to chant their songs.  They used Psalms and other source material as their “song book.”

When the Hebrew religion ended by the death of Jesus upon the cross, a dramatic change was brought about in the way God wants to be worshiped.

When Jesus came and started His church, the music of worship also changed.  The music of the early church was all vocal.

History: In Chapel Style

The word a-cappella is a very important word when we talk about the idea of history.  Most of us have heard this word in our lives.  Many of us understand it to mean “without instrumental accompaniment.”  What most people don’t know is that a-cappella is an Italian expression that literally means “in chapel style.”

Over time the idea of “in chapel style” came to mean “without instrumental accompaniment.”  That is because throughout most of Christian history the music heard in chapels, was without instrumental accompaniment; it was purely vocal.”

The Music of New Testament Worship

I refuse to worship God with musical instruments because my primary goal as God’s child, His slave and His worshiper is to please Him; and because He has not indicated that he would be pleased with a praise offering from a musical instrument.  I will not make such an offering to Him.

Let’s Read our Bible a Minute

2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Ephesians 5:7-10;Colossians 1:9-10;Hebrews 13:15-16

See also I Thessalonians 4:1-2; I John 3:21-22 and I Timothy 2:1-3

And so we ask, who are we trying to please with our worship?

I want you to see that “pleasing God” must also be our bull’s eye in matters such as coming before God with our offering of praise.

Shouldn’t our first question be: “What can be done in worship to please God?”

God Has Told Us What Pleases Him

Ephesians 5:18-19;  Colossians 3:16

Ephesians 5:19 “addressing one another”

Colossians 3:16 “teaching and admonishing one another”

The instrument of music never fulfills the desires of God and the intention of singing.  It is an addition to the Word as revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.

Singing involves the mind.  And with our mind and our voices we speak to one another, we teach one another and we encourage one another.

The idea of “making melody” or “with thankfulness in your hearts to God” lets us know that we are to engage our minds when we are singing. Singing is not just about notes and pretty singing, but it is worship to God. Our worship partakes of the essence of God.  Worship is making melody in our hearts.

Christians should emphasize music and realize that the worship of God involves spirituality and sincerity from the depths of their hearts.  Music becomes vital as we enter into our worship.  It is our own human response to God Almighty, and we cannot help but become better people when we sing and participate.

The Sound of Praise

Read Hebrews 13:15-16  God wants “the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His name.”  And we know, of course, that this phrase means heartfelt words of praise and thanks.

I Corinthians 14:15  Here Paul discusses how worship must come from both our spirit and our understanding.

Read also James 5:13 Also consider Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:18, 19 and Acts 16:25.

As we look at the expression in these  verses we notice something.  Expression like “singing…to God,” “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord,” and “were praying and singing…to God.” Heartfelt singing and heartfelt praying are given “to God.”  That’s an offering.  That’s worship.  And that obviously pleases God.

But Preacher…#1

It hasn’t been specifically forbidden!

We can’t make assumptions about Worship and assume that we are pleasing to God.  Can you read God’s mind?  Are you a mind reader? Are you going to base your soul on what you feel?

But Preacher…#2

We are under the New Covenant now, and under the New Covenant isn’t it true that God is only concerned with the worshiper’s heart?

Although pure motives and sincerity are without a doubt fundamental factors in how God responds to us, the Scriptures make it unambiguously clear that God is also concerned with our actions.

So please, do not try to have a relationship with God based on the false assumption that all God cares about is your heart—your motives and sincerity.  He is also concerned about your actions.

But Preacher…#3

People worshiped God with instruments in the O.T.

2 Chronicles 29:25 “for the command was from the LORD.”

Notice Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Certainly in Tabernacle worship they used a trumpet to call everyone together.  When David was getting people ready for Temple worship, he was commanded to make instruments and add a chorus to the mix.

Consider this: If the O.T. was binding on us today, then why don’t we have an alter of acacia wood to burn incense to the Lord as commanded in Exodus 30:1?  Why didn’t you bring your grain offering today made of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil an a griddle to the Lord as commanded in Leviticus 2:4-9?  Why didn’t you bring a bull or a sheep or a goat today to fulfill the required sacrifices as described in Leviticus 1:1ff.

Shouldn’t we be consistent with our arguments?

Summary:

Because my ultimate desire in worship is to please God, I’ll keep opting for singing.  The potential of displeasing God in worship is enough to keep me right where I am.  As long as I continue to offer to God only those sacrifices of praise that He has specifically indicated are pleasing and acceptable to Him, I know that He will be pleased and that I will be pleasing.

Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His name.”

 

Musical Praise in the Worship of God

When most people walk into an assembly of a church of Christ for the first time, it doesn’t take long before they experience a bit of religious culture-shock. Not to worry though–they don’t run into anything too weird.  It’s just that the music is very different from what they are accustomed to. Most worship services in Christian culture today are filled with sounds that are absent in ours.  What I mean is, the familiar sounds of a piano, an organ, drums, guitars, keyboards, harps, bells, horns, or other instrument, are nowhere to be heard when they come together for worship.

The musical sound that fills our services, is the sound that most American churchgoers have seldom, if ever, heard in church.  It’s the sound of voices–just voices–singing praises to God.  Our musical praise is 100% vocal…it’s all a cappella.

A cappella-only praise may not be weird to us, but to a lot of folks “weird” happens to be the adjective of choice to describe it.  And who can blame them since seeing it in American church life is about as rare as seeing a triple-play in baseball.

But guess what?  While a cappella-only praise may be virtually unheard of in today’s church culture, would you believe it has been the practice of most churches since Christianity began?  Would you believe that the vast majority of Christians for two thousand years have been just as rock solid in their commitment to a cappella-only worship as we are?

For those who might find that claim a little hard to swallow, I would suggest looking at our web-site and notice some things from a recent lesson.  The message there gives you a short version of singing throughout the ages.   From the beginning, a cappella was the only way the church worshipped.

Most people know that a cappella means singing without instrumental accompaniment, but most people don’t know that it’s an Italian word that literally means “in chapel style,” or “as in the chapel.”  Every time someone says sing a cappella,” they’re literally saying, “sing like in the chapel.”  The irony, of course, is that most churches in America today don’t sing “like in the chapel.”

Why do you think we use a word that means “as in the chapel” to describe singing without instruments? I’m sure you can put two and two together all by yourself, but humor me while I connect those dots.

We say a cappella-“as in the chapel”- to describe vocal-only singing because the music historically heard in Christian houses of worship, or chapels, was vocal-only.

We Are Still Not Alone

Although instrumental praise is obviously not the norm among most church groups, I think it’s important to point out that we are still not alone in our commitment to unaccompanied singing in worship.  There’s actually a sizeable group in the larger, worldwide Christian community that share our vocal-only conviction.  Most of that group–but not all of it–is found in the Orthodox family of churches.

When describing the Christian world, man usually divides up the traditions into three major categories–Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox.  There are not very many Orthodox groups in America, they are usually found in Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and other Eastern European and Mediterranean countries.

The Orthodox tradition popped up almost a thousand years ago (around the year 1054) as the result of a formal split between the western and eastern parts of the Catholic empire.  The western part of that empire has become known as the Roman Catholic Church and the eastern group became the Eastern Orthodox Church.

As far as numbers go, the Orthodox group has about 250 million worldwide, and those who claim to be Catholic number rough 500 million worldwide.

Now back to the mater of vocal-only praise.  After “the Great Schism,” a cappella-only worship was the practice in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. But as instruments began to creep in to Roman catholic worship in the 1300’s, Orthodox churches remained firmly committed to non-instrumental praise.  Today, seven hundred years later, they are still committed to vocal-only worship.

Why? 

Why was Christian worship instrument-free for most of its history?  Why did most Christians throughout history practice vocal-only praise when they gathered for worship  Why do we in this church still do so?

The answer begins with a firm conviction that God is in charge of every element of worship, including the use of instruments in worship. What exactly does that mean?  It means we believe God alone has the authority to decide whether or not to use instruments in worship. If He hasn’t placed any instruments in His worship, we don’t believe we have the authority to bring any in.

Let’s take a short walk though our Bibles and see if we can come to the same conclusion.  Let’s start in the Old Testament, and end in the New Testament.

Old Testament Tabernacle Worship

Soon after the nation of Israel left Egypt, God drafted and delivered legislation to deal with virtually every aspect of their national life, including worship.  For worship, God regulated everything from the specs for building the tabernacle and its furnishings, to the clothing and responsibilities of the priests, to the sacrifices which were to be offered, to the instruments which were to be played.

When it came to the use of instruments in tabernacle worship, God specifically told Moses what instruments to use, who could use them, and when they were to be used.

Read Numbers 10:1,2, 8 and 10.

Moses was to use trumpets in worship.  Now, can you imagine someone arguing that they were free to add other instruments to the two trumpets that God specifically commanded.  Also, can you imagine anyone saying, well god wants trumpets, but I don’t like them so let’s get rid of them.

God said use trumpets, and so Moses used trumpets to summon the congregation, and to break up the camp, and when burnt offerings and other sacrifices were being given.  Moses nor anyone else had the right to change what God said to do.

Years later, when God’s people were firmly settled in the Promised Land, and the ark of the covenant was permanently parked in their capital city of Jerusalem, the center of public worship moved from the tabernacle to the temple.  This transition took place under King David’s oversight and he made some changes to God’s worship.  One of those changes was to add several new instruments.

Read I Chronicles 16:4-6

A few chapter later we read more.  I Chronicles 23:1-5

As we learned a few minutes ago, in the tabernacle there were two trumpets.  But now David comes along and adds harps, lyres, and cymbals to the mix in temple worship.

Why?  Did he have something against trumpets?  Did he feel that the young people would be better served with new songs and louder bands?

During the reign of Hezekiah we read something that helps us understand.

Read 2 Chronicles 29:25 “And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according t the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the LORD.”

There it is.  The reason David brought new instruments into temple worship was because God commanded him to bring them in.  David’s commands for which instruments to use in temple worship were God’s commands, just as Moses’ commands for which instruments to use in tabernacle worship were God’s commands.  (See also I Chronicles 28:11-13, 19)

The text (2 Chronicles 29:25) is dealing with Hezekiah setting out to restore temple worship almost three centuries after David died, he pulled out David’s instructions to see which instruments to use.  And he only used the instruments which were “according to the commandment of David.”  These instruments were the only ones that God had authorized for use.  And so if Hezekiah was to follow God and  to be pleasing to God, he had to do what God wanted him to do.

This happens again.  When Zerubbabel and Jeshua reinstituted temple worship, their approach was exactly the same as Hezekiah’s some two hundred years earlier–they did everything, including choosing the instruments , “according to the directions of David king of Israel.”  (Ezra 3:10)

Another five hundred and fifty years pass, and it happens again.  Nehemiah 12:24, 35-36, 45 tells us that Nehemiah restored temple worship.  That plan was to do everything “as prescribed by David the man of God.”

Nehemiah obviously understood the same thing that Hezekiah and Zerubbabel understood when it came to the use of instruments in God’s worship.  He understood that instruments were under God’s authority alone, which meant that he didn’t have the freedom to add or take away any instrument from the plan that God gave David.

New Testament Christian Worship

When it came to deciding whether or not to use instruments in Christian worship, most believers from the time of the apostles until the nineteenth century found nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God had delegated that decision to His people. As a result, most Christians throughout history applied the lesson they learned from Old Testament worshipers like Hezekiah, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah.

THE LESSON:  Consult the instructions of those to whom God revealed His plans for worship, and then precisely follow those instructions without adding or subtracting anything.

In this New Testament system, God changed how His people would worship Him, and He revealed His new plans for worship through His apostles. That’s why the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”  (Acts 2:42) instead of David’s or Moses’ teaching.

Since God revealed His plans for Christian worship through His apostles, when it came to the question of whether or not to use instruments, most believes throughout history simply asked, “What instruments do the apostles command us to use?”  And the answer always came back the same–none.

Years go by and the Church Father and Reformers and Puritans scoured the pages of the New Testament they found commands to sing praise to God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13), and they found examples of believers praising Him in song (Acts 16:25; I Corinthians 14:15), but they couldn’t find even a hint of an instrument in worship.

For most Christians throughout history, all these things added up to a simple conclusion–since God didn’t place any instruments in Chrsitian worship, they weren’t going to bring any in.

Summary:

  • In the Old Testament, God alone had authority over the use of instruments in both tabernacle and temple worship.
  • God specifically placed certain instruments in both tabernacle and temple worship, and no person had the authority to add or take away from the instruments He placed there.
  • As God inaugurated His new covenant, there’s nothing in the New Testament to suggest that he gave up His authority over the use of instruments in worship.
  • If God wanted instruments in Christian worship, it’s reasonable to conclude that he would have specifically placed them there through His apostles, just as he did in tabernacle worship through Moses and in temple worship through David.
  • There isn’t a single command from the apostles to use instruments in Christian worship, nor a single example in the New Testament for Christians worshiping with instruments.

The simple conclusion that the vast majority of our Christian ancestors came to, and that means we’re going to continue to stand where they stood–since God didn’t place any instruments in Christian worship, we aren’t going to bring any in.  Amen!