I wish to take this opportunity to respond to the article in The News Democrat and Leader on Friday, February 26, 2016 “Worship Scripture or Tradition?”. The writer makes an issue against churches who use musical instruments in their worship services.
Before I address that issue allow me to say that I have no problem with churches that choose to sing acappella style. In 1972, I was privileged to host a tour to the Bible Lands. My team and I found ourselves on the plane with about a hundred people assembled by the late Ira North, minister at Madison Church of Christ in Madison, TN. Late in the evening we were privileged to hear that group sing hymns for about an hour. It was indeed a most worshipful experience. Over the years, I have developed a friendship with people of that persuasion, both preachers and laity. We have even worked together on community projects. Music style was never an issue with us. Again, I have no problem with any church that chooses to worship without the aid of an instrument. That is a personal choice and I will defend that privilege.
My problem with the article is the writer said and I quote, “out of tradition many (churches) use instrumental music in their worship to the Lord, although, nowhere in scripture is it authorized or commanded.” “Authorized or Commanded?” It certainly is permitted in scripture. A good bible concordance and a little effort will reveal there are at least fifty-seven references to musical instruments in the bible with the harp and trumpet occurring the most often. Most of the references occur in the Old Testament with thirteen in the New Testament. One can find cymbals (loud, high sounding), dulcimer (KJ), flute, harp, horn (Cornet KJ), Lute, Lyre (Sackbut KJ), Psaltery, tambourine, timbrel, and trumpets. Also, there is mentioned instruments of music, stringed instruments, instruments of ten strings, and musical instruments of God (I Chr. 16:42). The Old Testament references overwhelmingly indicate these instruments were used in worship to God with the largest number occurring in the Psalms.
When we come to the New Testament, there are thirteen references to the flute, harp, or trumpet. These instruments were used primarily as announcements that God was about to do something that His people needed to hear. For example, in Revelations 1:10, 4:1, 8:2, 6 and 13; and 9:14, God used the trumpet to announce to John that which is going to occur at the end of time. Perhaps the most memorable passage is the announcement of His coming for his children in First Corinthians 15: 51-57 “Behold I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NKJ)
Finally, it would seem to me that if our Lord is going to use the trumpet to announce His coming for those who know Him as Savior and Lord and if He uses it from heaven to inform the writer of Revelation as to that which is going to occur at the end of time it should be alright to use musical instruments as a part of worship at church services. After all, there will be no greater worship experience for the believer than the opportunity to meet his Lord face to face.
Wilbur Powell is a former pastor of Post Oak Baptist Church in Russellville.