THE FIRST-CENTURY WAY
Music and the Mask
About 450 - AUGUSTINE - PRE-CATHOLIC: "Nor must we keep back the mystical meaning of the 'timbrel and psaltery.' On the
timbrel leather is stretched, on the psaltery gut is stretched; on either instrument the flesh is crucified. How well did he 'sing a psalm on
timbrel and psaltery' who said, 'the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world'? This psaltery or timbrel He wishes thee to take up,
who loveth a new song, who teacheth thee saying to thee, 'Whosoever willeth to be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me.' Let him not set down his psaltery, let him not set down his timbrel, let him stretch himself out on the wood, and be dried
from the lust of the flesh. the more the strings are stretched, the more sharply do they sound." (Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm
About 1270 - THOMAS AQUINAS - CATHOLIC: "Our church does not use musical instruments as harps and psaltries, to praise God
withal, that she may not seem to Judaize" "It is pernicious to make use of the ceremonies of the Old Law." (Bingham's Ant., Vol. 3, pg.
137; Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis).
About 1525 - ULRICH ZWINGLY, REFORMED CHURCHES: Influenced the following events: "On Sunday the 19th of January
, the day on which the doctrine of the Mass was attacked....some men, excited by the passion of the moment, fell upon his beloved
organ, an accomplice in their eyes of so many superstitious rites, and violently broke it to pieces. No more mass, no more organ, no more
anthems!" (History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, J. H. Merle D'Augigne, 1835, Translated by H. White B.A. of
Canterbury, M.A. and Ph.D. of Heidelberg, 1844, Vol. XIII, pg. 606).
About 1540, MARTIN LUTHER - LUTHERAN: "...organs are ensigns of Baal" (Eckhard, Proponent of Instruments, in argument with
About 1550 - JOHN CALVIN - REFORMED CHURCHES: "Music instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more
suitable than the burning of incense, the lightning of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore have
foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the
simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to Him....In Popery there was a ridiculous and unsuitable
imitation [of the Jews]. while they adorned their temples and valued themselves as having made the worship of God more splendid and
inviting, they employed organs and many other such ludicrous things, by which the Word and worship of God are exceedingly profaned, the
people being much more attached to those rites than to the understanding of the divine Word....Musical instruments were among the legal
ceremonies which Christ at his coming abolished; and, therefore we, under the Gospel, must maintain a greater simplicity" (Commentary
on Psalm xxxiii, Commentary on 1 Samuel 18:1-9 and Four Last Books of Moses I:263).
ABOUT 1550 - JOHN KNOX - PRESBYTERIAN: "This principle not only purified the church of human inventions and popish
corruptions, but restored plain singing of psalms, unaccompanied by instrumental music."
About 1775 - JOHN WESLEY, METHODIST: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels provided they are neither seen
nor heard." 
About 1800 - ADAM CLARK - METHODIST: "I have never known instrumental music to be productive of any good in the worship of
God and I have reason to believe that it has been productive of much evil. Music as a science I esteem and admire, but instruments of
music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music and I here register my protest against all such corruption in
the worship of that Infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth" (Commentary on Amos 6:5).
1861, 1870, 1881, CHARLES SPURGEON - BAPTIST: "In many of our dissenting congregations, some five or six who are the choir,
sing to the praise and glory of themselves, and the people sit still and listen, not daring to spoil music so magnificent....In many other places
it is thought most seemly to delegate the work of human hearts and tongues and lips to some instrument which shall praise the Lord. May
that never be the case here....If you and your choir wish to show off your excellent voices, you can meet at home...but the...church of God
must not be desecrated to so poor an end....The institution of singers as a separate order is an evil, a growing evil, and ought to be abated
and abolished....We should like to see all the pipes of the organs in our nonconformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly
filled with concrete. The human voice is so transcendently superior to all that wind or strings can accomplish that it is a shame to degrade
its harmonies by association with blowing and scraping" (Sermons in the Metropolitan Pulpit, London, 1861 pg. 218, 1870 pg. 353,
1881 pg. 474).
1888, JOHN GIRARDEAU - PRESBYTERIAN: "The Church of Scotland....for centuries knew nothing of instrumental music in her
public services....But...some who clamored for a more artistic 'celebration' of worship....The floodgates are up, and the result is by no
means uncertain: the experience of the American Presbyterian Church will be that of the Scottish."
My heart sings to you, God. The strings of my heart tremble in lowliness, resonate in hope, and arise in echoes of love.
From earth to heaven. From my heart to yours. From spirit to Spirit. Transcending worlds, my song spreads your laughter,
calms my tears, and rests in you.
He wondered if she really loved him. He certainly did love her. But the way she responded to him was rather unusual, and at first left
Whenever he went to pick her up at her house, she would fling open the door, sweep her arms upward, and ~ with a tape playing in
the background ~ begin to sing her greeting to him:
With loving effervescence
I come into your presence!
Furthermore, every time he took her home, she would tell him to wait a moment and then fling open the front door, turn on the tape
player again, and sing out her appreciation for their lovely evening together:
When with you my heart can sing and chime.
When apart I relieve this precious time.
Well, he decided this was just her way. And, after all, one of the things he had liked about her from the beginning was that she wasn't
shy about expressing her feelings toward him. He even got so he bragged to his friends about her. As a result, she was so pleased that he
was pleased, she began singing while with him even more.
Eventually he began writing her love letters. When he would see her later, sometimes he would want to talk to her about the letters.
When he'd ask her how she felt about his words, she would burst out in song:
I love your words; they touch my heart
Even when we are far apart.
To her amazement, he was a little annoyed. He tried not to show it because he loved her so, and appreciated her talent. But all he
wanted to do was for them to talk one on one with each other. She'd talk to him some, but then burst out in another refrain:
How assuring it is to firmly know
You'd protect me from every foe.
It was obvious she adored him. This he knew without all doubt. Who else would spend so much time writing such lovely lyrics and
composing such magical melodies? So they continued their relationship.
One time while on one of their dates, she stepped out in front of a car; he saw it just in time to push her out of its path. But in the
process, he was hit and hospitalized in a distant city where she could not go. He nearly lost his life. When he finally got well and returned,
it was like receiving him back from the dead. She had no doubts how much he loved her.
In fact, when she finally saw him again, she could not control her emotions. He felt the same way and expected a hug and a quiet and
intimate moment of just being reunited again. Instead, she burst out in another song:
Your life you willingly gave for me.
Your love has measureless degree.
When other people heard her sing to him in public, they thought how lucky he was to have such a talented woman who adored him
so. Indeed on the surface it seemed obvious she loved him.
But the singing became so incessant, more and more substituting their talks together, their quiet moments together, he finally began to
seriously wonder who she was more interested in ~ him or herself. It was as though she were wearing a mask all the time. It was as
though she was performing rather than face talking directly to him and allowing him to talk directly to her. It was as though she was always
This story is a parable. Do you see the parallels? God the Son ~ Jesus ~ is the groom awaiting the wedding day at the end of time on
earth. His bride is the church. The time spent together is our worship.
Intimacy is avoided. Although there is mutual love, the woman is insisting on "pleasing" the man in her own way, regardless of what
really pleases him.
Oh God, may I never do anything that displeases you. Help me understand more perfectly what does please you and not take
for granted what people claim pleases you.
Our word hypocrite comes from the Greek word, "hypokrites" which originally meant pretender, but later came to mean an actor on
We usually think of hypocrites as doing something morally wrong in their life away from the church building, despite their declarations
on Sunday morning of how much they love God. But we can have hypocrisy in our worship. There are examples in the Bible of hypocritic
worshippers doing what pleased them instead of God, even though it seemed so right.
Cain and Abel both worshipped God. Cain and Abel both made sacrifices to God. Both sacrificed their time to acknowledge God.
Both sacrificed part of their livelihood, part of their income. How righteous of them both.
But Abel's worship was accepted by God and Cain's was not. Although the Bible does not say outright, there seems to be a strong
inference that what displeased God was that Cain offered God products from his gardens and fields. Abel, on the other hand, had offered
an animal sacrifice, shedding its blood. (See Genesis 4:2-5). Many scriptures refer to sacrifices of animals being used as substitutes until
Jesus came to earth and sacrificed his own blood.
How could God be displeased with Cain's worship? After all, Cain chose to worship God and not some idol. Cain wanted to please
God. Cain sacrificed time and things of monetary value for God. Cain gave liberally. But what Cain did was not what God wanted him to
Then there were Nadab and Abihu. They were priests under their father, Aaron, the high priest. Nadab was in line to be the next high
priest, in fact. One day they went into the tabernacle and burned incense to God. How beautiful a ceremony it must have been.
How did God reward them for this beautiful ceremony? The fire they used to light the incense blazed out and burned them. How
could God do such a thing?
Nadab and Abihu both went to "church" regularly. Nadab and Abihu held high office in the church. Nadab and Abihu worshipped
God, not just weekly, but every day. How dedicated to the Lord these "clergymen" were.
So how could God have punished them? Because these men took fire from outside the Tabernacle against God's regulation for
worship. Because what Nadab and Abihu did was not what God wanted them to do. (See Leviticus 10:1-3).
Then there was King Saul. He had just been to battle against the enemies of God and had captured all their sheep which he, in turn,
planned to sacrifice en masse to Jehovah God. What a grand and holy event this was to be. Thousands and thousands of sacrifices to
God! Nothing is too much for God. Nothing is too costly for God. Nothing withheld from God. What pageantry!
How did God reward King Saul for this grand ceremony in his name? God took the kingdom from Saul.
But King Saul had seemed to love God so much. After all, he took the chance of losing his own life in order to fight idol worshippers.
Then he took the plunder and prepared a worship service like none had ever seen before! How grand it would be! How impressed the
people would be. And God.
How could God have punished him for all this? Because Saul was told to destroy all the animals of these people who worshipped
gods of their imagination. Because what King Saul did was not what God wanted him to do. (See 1 Samuel 15:3, 20-24.)
We will talk more later about what pleases God. Let us discuss for a moment first about what pleases our visitors, especially the
Like it or not, in "thinking of the visitors" we are often justifying what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do. It's not a
matter of what is pleasing to God, we illogically surmise. It is popular today to have a lot of hype in our "seeker services." I suppose if no
one is lonely, that would be effective on a permanent basis.
But does a grand musical presentation fill the hearts of the lonely? The music is important. It is part of the public worship. But, after
the hype becomes old hat, so often people leave our congregations because ultimately they feel on a gut level that no one really cares how
Proverbs 14:13 says that, even though there may be a lot of laughter, people with heartache will still have their heartache. Does our
congregation have a revolving door? Does it draw people temporarily; that is, until the heartache and loneliness resurfaces?
Ultimately, having more people on Sunday is what we want to do so we can convert more people. And that ultimately glorifies God.
We have to look at the big picture, we contend. Okay. Let's look at the big picture.
Jehovah God, we're doing everything we know how to glorify you to those who do not know you. You understand that, don't you,
Music in Jesus' Day
According to Time Life Book: Rome, music was as much a part of people's lives in Jesus' day as it is today. Indeed, they had
background music during their entertainment, just as we do during movies.
According to the mosaic of the Dar Buc Ammera from Zliten, 2nd century A.D., while gladiators fought in the amphitheater to
entertain the people, they were accompanied by a band of musicians playing such instruments as bronze horns, trumpets, and the water
Plautus wrote "rollicking musical comedies" for the commoner. 
As depicted on a wall painting from Stabia, probably lst century A.D., Museo Nazionale, Naples, at Roman banquets a single
performer might play two instruments at the same time, such as plucking a cithara with one hand and a harp with the other. 
They had their military bands too. Sometimes they played in front of the procession just before entering battle. And they always
played after they won and as they re-entered their home cities in triumph. These triumphal processions after winning wars included a band
of flute, horn and trumpet players.
So, it wasn't as though music was uncommon or unpopular in Jesus' day. On the contrary, music was expected at just about all
occasions of pomp and ceremony or entertainment.
It is striking then, that when Jesus travelled about for some three years spreading the news of the impending Kingdom of God, never
was music even mentioned other than for children playing games and funerals (Matthew 11:16-17).
Even for his own triumphal procession into Jerusalem, there is no mention of music (see Matthew 21:21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:37;
Only when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper was religious music finally mentioned. Did he organize great pomp and ceremony for this
grand historic occasion? No. Did he organize choirs and dramas and costumes and decorations? No. He held it in private. He held is
quietly. And when he was through leading them in their first Communion, they sang one hymn (Matthew 26:30). That's all.
How amazing it is to our modern minds to think of this auspicious ceremony including only one quiet hymn. Or of the entire ceremony
itself being so quiet.
Was it foreign in Jesus' mind to have a lot of singing and playing which he could call upon for his newly instituted religious ceremony?
No. He was used to it. After all, the Jewish religion guided by the Law of Moses under which Jesus lived his entire life, included many
rules about their use of music in their services. They are quite interesting.
God, I just want to praise you in my songs. Show me how. I'm trying, God. I'm really trying. Don't let me get discouraged.
Choirs in Judaism
There are always ads on the religious page or in the church bulletin section in the newspaper, or on radio or TV about special singing
groups or performances various evenings of the week. They are meant to draw visitors. And, of course, they are usually wonderful in their
own way. Do they draw visitors?
Usually they draw people who are already religious and already attending church somewhere. However, let's consider what it would
take to draw the unchurched.
Our reasoning is that we have to compete with TV to get them to come to church. Or perhaps rock concerts or other kinds of
concerts professionally done. Therefore, we have to draw them on their level, whether or not it is a spiritual level.
Of course, it all makes sense. And in their own way, they accomplish some good. I remember going to hear Christian college
choruses sing at special programs; and since I loved to sing, I decided I wanted to go to a Christian college and be able to sing like that.
Yes, they accomplish some good at their special programs set aside just for that.
But what about drawing people to come to church on Sunday? In order to have such high quality music, we would have to have a
special singing group or choir every Sunday.
Did the church always have special singing groups and choirs? According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the entire
congregation sang until around the sixth century when only men were permitted to sing in church. Soon that, too, was limited, and
only the Catholic clergy could sing. Up until then it was unison singing, the only kind that civilization knew about.
Gradually during the Middle Ages, the idea of singing in harmony came into being, and there became a demand for trained singers.
These singers were usually monks who had been trained in their monasteries. In a nut shell, then, choirs were introduced by the Roman
Catholic Church around the sixth century. 
Is there anything in the Bible about choirs during the regular worship attended by everyone? Let's look it up and find out.
The Bible does not usually say the word choir, but often refers to singers singing together. Obviously, they were choirs. The
first mention is in 1 Chronicles 6:31-46. It says King David, around 1000 BC, put certain men in charge of the music in the house of God
after the ark was put inside. There was still no temple in David's day, so it explains they "performed their duties according to the
regulations" in front of the tabernacle. The tabernacle, which was actually a tent, was too small to hold a choir in addition to all the other
things that had to be accomplished in it. Besides, they couldn't be heard as well inside.
Back in verse 1, it says Levi, one of the twelve patriarchs whose descendants became one of the twelve tribes of Israel, had three
sons: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Then in verse 33, it lists the head musician - the choir director. His name was Heman, and he was a
descendant of Kohath. Heman was a grandson of the prophet Samuel, the last and probably most famous judge of Israel. What a legacy!
Verse 39 says Heman's associate at his right hand was Asaph, who was a descendant of Gershon. And verse 44 says Ethan, a
descendant of Merari, was at Heman's left hand.
The next mention is in 1 Chronicles 9:33. By this time, the temple had been built. This scripture relates that the musicians ~ still all
Levites ~ stayed in apartments provided for them at the temple, and they were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for
providing music both day and night. Being a church musician was a full-time job!
By now there were a lot of men in these choirs ~ 470 to be exact (1 Chronicles 15:5-10). Heman later appointed someone to be in
charge of all the choirs. So he appointed Kenaniah to be in charge of the singing "because he was skillful at it." You will find this in 1
Chronicles 15:22 and 27. Kenaniah was musically talented, a God-given gift. How pleased he must have been to be able to use his talent
for the Lord.
The next mention of choirs is under the reign of King Solomon, David's son, when the brand-new permanent temple was dedicated.
After the choir sang, according to 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, the glory of God filled the temple. This, of course, was a sign from God that he
was well pleased with what was going on.
The mention of choirs is not made again for several centuries. Finally, when King Josiah restored scriptural Mosaic worship, they had
a Passover feast at the temple, the first in many years, and the greatest since the days of Samuel. Here is the first mention of God's direct
authorization of the use of choirs. It says the musicians, descendants of Asaph, "were in the places prescribed by David, Asaph, Heman
and Jeduthun the king's seer [prophet]" (2 Chronicles 35:15).
Once more there is silence in the history of the Jews, much of which was due to the Jews forsaking worship to Jehovah in favor of
idols, and their eventual exile to Babylon. They returned to Palestine to rebuild the temple under the leadership of Ezra around 540 BC.
Singers were listed as the returnees in Ezra 2:41 & 70, 7:7, and 10:24, still all Levites.
A few years later, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah 7:1, 44, 73 lists the fact that singers, descendants
of Levi, returned with him and were appointed to do their jobs at the temple. Nehemiah 10:28-39 says these singers, along with the
gatekeepers, stayed at the temple, and declared, "We will not neglect the house of our God."
So, after all these years, how often were the choirs performing? Nehemiah 11:22-23 says they performed every day as other Levites
offered sacrifices or whatever they were to do daily.
By this time, there were so many singers (see above), plus the 4000 orchestra members (1 Chronicles 23:5), they built entire villages
just for them and their families (Nehemiah 12:28-29)! What a grand idea! They could get together and practice any time they wanted! Is
it any wonder, then, that when they all got together to sing in Jerusalem under their choir director, Jezrahiah, "the sound of rejoicing in
Jerusalem could be heard far away"?
Nehemiah now points out the continuity of having choirs at the temple. "For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been
directors for the singers and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel
contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites" (Nehemiah 12:45-47).
Yes, the singers were even supported by the "church."
Later, Nehemiah became quite disturbed when he learned the apartments had been taken away from the singers, also the rooms used
to store their equipment, and they were no longer getting paid. All of them had just gone home to their villages (Nehemiah 13:5 & 10).
After he restored them, Nehemiah prayed, "Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the
house of my God and its services."
So, there you have it. Choirs in the Bible. Where did they perform? In the temple. When did they perform? Every day
and into the night. How did they make a living? By being paid to sing. Who were they? Male Levites.
Jehovah God, I knew that there were choirs in the Bible. That's why we have them where I attend church. They are exactly
what you wanted. I'm so glad we are pleasing you.
Choirs in the Church
Did God through his prophets say they could have choirs if they wanted to? No. He insisted on it. He designated what they were
to do, when they were to do it, that they were to be paid, and that they were to be only males from the Levite tribe.
Does that mean we should have choirs now during our Christian worship? If God made so many specifications in the Old Testament,
he would have repeated them in the New Testament. God did not just leave it up to our discretion. He was specific in the Old Testament
with what he wanted. Did he forget in the New Testament? He didn't in the Old Testament. There is no mention of choirs in the
If we choose to copy the Old Testament pattern, then our choirs must be only men, only from the Levite tribe, they must sing all day
every day at the church building, and they must be paid.
But, of course, Jesus nailed the Old Law written down by Moses to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
By the time of Martin Luther in the late 1400s and early 1500s, there was no longer any such thing as congregational singing. It had
gradually been taken over by choirs and the clergy. J. H. M. D'AuBigne in the early 1800s explained in his book, History of the
Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, that the congregations which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church no longer had monks
and priests; therefore the chanting of the clergy was to be succeeded by the singing of the entire congregation.
Martin Luther, therefore, translated many of the Psalms into the language of the people and set them to tunes to be sung by the
Baptist leader, Charles Spurgeon, said this in his sermon entitled, "Singing in the Ways of the Lord" preached in 1881:
"Oh, brethren, let us take care that all our songs are to the honour and praise of God, for if we ever sing to our own praise it will be
idolatry. I fear much public worship is thus marred. We heard of a man in Boston, in America, praying such a grand prayer that the
newspapers said on the next day that it was 'the finest prayer that had ever been offered to a Boston audience.'
"Why, we hear of churches where four people are hired to do the praise of God, and all the people sit still and listen to them. And that
is according to the New Testament, is it? It must be a very 'revised version,' surely. I find nothing of that sort in the book I have been
accustomed to use.
"Let all the people of God praise him. Singing should be congregational, but it should never be performed for the credit of the
congregation. 'Such very remarkable singing! The place is quite renowned for its musical performance.' This is poor..." 
Henry Halley said, "....even at best, it is better that the people sing than that they listen to singing. Why not turn the whole congregation
into a choir? Under proper leadership, the hymns of a vast congregation could be made to rise like the swell of an ocean's roar, and cause
angels in heaven to lean over and listen.
"....It was the public singing of Luther's hymns that bore his preaching over central Europe, and shook the world into the Reformation.
It was singing that made the great Welsh revival. Was there ever a revival without it?
"....Sing the same hymns often. Only as they are sung often can the people become familiar with them. It is the hymns that we know
that are the ones we love. And we never tire of the hymns we love, never. Sing the old hymns. Sing them over and over. A church that
would do this would not have to beg people to come to church. It could not keep them away.
"Memorize hymns. A congregation should be taught to memorize the hymns they sing most often, at least some of the verses. They
will sing better, and feel deeper, the spirit and power of what they sing. It will give power to the service. Train children to sing hymns and
to memorize them. It is the best religious education. It will develop their spiritual growth, and tend to tie them to the church for life." 
Well then, if it is indeed possible that we cannot have trained choirs, we have to have something. What about all those people who
can't keep a tune? At least an instrument of some kind would keep everyone on key, and hopefully drown out the bad singers among us
who are just as embarrassed for themselves as the rest of us are for them.
Yes, we know that God loves bad singers as well as good singers. We understand that God hears a perfect voice when we raise puny
imperfect voices to him. But what about the visitors? They're not going to want to come back if the singing is bad. Furthermore, we might
lose what members we have if the singing gets to be too insufferable. Surely God wouldn't want that.
Before we enter into the next phase of music in worship, let us look at some surprising historical facts about church music. For in it we
find out that what we in our century take for granted was always acceptable in the church was not widely acceptable at all until the sixteenth
century. First, review all the quotes of famous theologians of past centuries on the subject at the beginning of our chapter.
Oh, God, I want so much to please you in song. We all thought you'd be more pleased the better the singers were. We all
thought it would glorify you, God.
Instruments in Judaism
Pianos and organs were not invented for well over 600 years after the time of Christ, and not very well developed until about the
1700s, and therefore 2700 years after the time of David, and about 4000 years after the time of Moses. So, research on instruments used
during worship must be done in the Bible concordance using the key words "play," "instrument," "musician," and even "singer."
The first mention of instruments used in worship is 1 Chronicles 15:16-22 which goes into some detail. In addition to the Levite
singers, they were to be accompanied by musical instruments. The instruments were not left to chance or personal discretion. The
selection of instruments was specified: Lyres (psaltries), harps and cymbals.
A trio, Heman, Asaph and Ethan, the head musicians, were to sound the bronze cymbals. An octet was to play the lyres. And a
sextet was to play the harps. It must have sounded very angelic ~ the strings of the lyres played with a pick, the strings of the harps played
with fingers, and the cymbals keeping the tempo. Try to imagine it. So beautiful!
When King David brought the ark of the covenant made under the direction of Moses to Jerusalem where he had erected a new
tabernacle (tent of worship) there was a grand procession. Rams' horns and trumpets sounded out to call people's attention to it. And
what instruments were played? Cymbals, lyres and harps were played while the singers sang (1 Chronicles 15:25-28).
From then on, Levites were appointed to perform various duties "before the ark of the Lord" by playing, yes, the lyres, harps and
cymbals, and to "blow the trumpets regularly" (1 Chronicles 16:4-6, 41-42).
By the time David was old, he had quite an orchestra for worship. There were 4,000 Levites appointed to "praise the Lord with the
musical instruments" (1 Chronicles 23:5)!
After King Solomon built the permanent temple and the golden ark of the covenant had been placed in the Most Holy Place of the
temple, "all the Levites who were musicians...stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and
lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give
praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord
and sang" (2 Chronicles 5:12-13).
Was God pleased with the use of these instruments? You bet he was. In the next verse it says that God's glory filled the temple.
Later, after Solomon's prayer of dedication, the Levites took "the Lord's musical instruments which King David had made for praising the
Lord." Then the priests blew their trumpets. So could instruments be used to praise God? You bet.
Then, when the temple was dedicated, 2 Chronicles 7:6 says the priests took their positions ready to offer sacrifices, as did the Levites
"with the Lord's musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord and which were used when he gave thanks."
Opposite the Levites the priests blew their trumpets.
Some may say that this was David's idea and not endorsed by God. Not so. These instruments were commanded by God.
Some 500 years later, one of the last kings of Israel, Hezekiah, had the temple repaired, it having been closed in favor of idol worship.
When it was rededicated, Levites were stationed in the temple with the usual cymbals, harps and lyres "IN THE WAY PRESCRIBED BY
DAVID AND GAD THE KING'S SEER AND NATHAN THE PROPHET; THIS WAS COMMANDED BY THE LORD
THROUGH HIS PROPHETS." As soon as the burnt offerings began to be sacrificed, the singers began to sing, accompanied by trumpets
and the instruments. (See 2 Chronicles 29:25-30).
Notice what instruments were still being played: Cymbals, harps and lyres. But then, that's what God had designated.
Shortly after that, the first Passover was celebrated in many years. For seven days the Levites and priests sang in the temple every day
accompanied by the Lord's instruments of praise (2 Chronicles 30:21).
After Hezekiah, temple worship was neglected again. But when King Josiah became king, they once more repaired the temple, and
would you believe all Levites "skilled in playing musical instruments" were made supervisors over the repairmen (2 Chronicles 34:12-13).
About a hundred years later, after the Jews were taken exile to Babylon and then returned, Nehemiah led them to rebuild the walls of
Jerusalem that had been destroyed in their capture years earlier. These walls were dedicated with songs of thanksgiving and instruments.
Which instruments? Cymbals, harps and lyres (Nehemiah 12:27-28 & 36).
There are many references to individuals singing to God accompanied by a musical instrument, most of them being in the Psalms.
Okay, we see that God commanded instruments to accompany the singers. But they weren't just any instruments. They were
cymbals, harps and lyres. Trumpets (and sometimes rams' horns) were used to call attention to what was going on, but apparently
seldom played songs. And this was all done during the days that the Law of Moses was in effect.
Heavenly Father, I love you and worship you. The instruments do too. It is just one more way to worship you. I'm eternally
grateful you made instruments available to us all.
Plucking Strings to the Lord
Well, what about New Testament and Christian worship? No instruments are mentioned except in connection with funerals and
children playing. None were mentioned in connection with worship after the time of Christ.
Was this an accident? Did God forget to mention the instruments, or did he leave it up to our discretion? He didn't forget in the Old
Testament. He didn't leave it up to the worshippers' discretion in Old Testament Jewish worship. Why would he forget in New Testament
We may say that we choose to copy the Old Testament where instruments were used. In that case, we can only play the cymbal, lyre
(psaltry), and harp. Furthermore, the only ones who can play them are Levites. Seen any Levites lately? Further, they are required to play
while the Levite priests offer their daily animal sacrifices. Slaughtered any animals in the name of the Lord at church lately?
Others may concede that instruments should not be part of worship, but one can play hymns on the piano in other places and sing
them, and that is not worship. When is it worship and when is it not? It is not worship if a person is not paying attention to the words, such
as when trying to learn a tune. Are there other exceptions?
If we're in a building with stained-glass windows, that's worship, but if we're in a building with curtains, that's not worship? If we're
sitting on a seat thirty feet long, that's worship, but if we're sitting on a short seat, that's not worship? If we're wearing street clothes, that's
worship, but if we're wearing costumes, that's not worship? If we're with a group, that's worship, but if we're alone, that's not worship?
We have examples in the Bible of people worshipping informally in small groups on a hill (Genesis 22:4f), on a road (Joshua 5:13f), at
a camp site (Judges 7:13-15), in a yard (Job 1:20), in a house, (Matthew 2:11), in a boat (Matthew 14:33), in a garden (Matthew 28:9), in
a cemetery (Mark 5:3,6), on a river bank (Acts 16:13f).
Further, we have examples in the Old Testament of worshipping with song completely alone, and yet honoring the commandment given
by God by using only those instruments He authorized in public worship. See Psalm 71:22 which says, I will praise with the lyre, psaltry
and harp; Psalm 92:1-4 mentions singing praises with an instrument of ten strings, psaltry and harp, for God made ME; and Psalm 144:9
says I will sing upon the psaltry and instrument of ten strings to praise God.
H. G. Wells in his famous history of the world published in 1920, said that by the mid-500s, "The music of the early Christian centuries
was devout and enthusiastic rather than elaborate....'A Christian maiden,' said St. Jerome, 'ought not to know what a lyre or a flute is.'
Psalm singing and instrumentation were taken over by the Christians from the Jewish services" 
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that the early church prohibited musical instruments because they were paganistic. It also
states that "the organ has never been prescribed for use in the Roman Catholic Church by Church law; it has apparently been used in the
Church consistently since the 9th century. By the 13th century the organ was certainly in general use." 
However, in 1903, Pope Pius X opposed the use of instruments in worship, although he approved of the organ. Pope Pius XI later
followed this same determination. "In 1939, Pope Pius XII relaxed this prohibition, allowing instrumental music that was executed
In his book, Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries, by Everett Ferguson, he wrote this:
"Until the latter part of the fourth century the psalms were performed responsorially. That is, the main content was sung as a solo by a
cantor (psaltes he was called in the church) with the congregation repeating the last words or responding with a refrain or acclamation
[because they had no song books]....
"In Christian hymnography the words were the important things and melodies were adapted to the words. This was possible where
the words were chanted and so were not bound to a rigid form of meter. The priority of the words and the form of rendition ensured that
the singing was done without instrumental accompaniment. Indeed, an instrument had no function in these simple chants with their emphasis
on the content of praise.
"There is no certain evidence of the use of instruments in the Christian liturgy until the later Middle Ages. Because of the associations
of musical instruments with immorality in the pagan world, the church fathers took a very dim view of them in any setting. 
The Catholic Cyclopedia, considered one of the most accurate sources of church history, says this in Volume 10: "For almost a
thousand years Gregorian chant, without an instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used in connection with the
liturgy....While all this development [of music instruments] had up to the first half of the sixteenth century, served mainly secular purposes, it
was through Ludovico Grossi da Viadana (1564-1627) that the use of instruments became more common in churches."
Holy Father, I never thought of these things before. I have been pleasing you all these years. Surely this cannot be wrong.
God, I just want to please you.
Instruments are mentioned in Revelation and that's part of the New Testament. Indeed they are. So are choirs. Let's look at those
In Revelation chapters 8-11, trumpets are mentioned. Did they play tunes? Actually, they were used to draw attention to important
events, just as they were used to draw the attention of armies and also of worshippers in the Old Testament temple (Numbers 10:1-10).
The sound of the trumpets is described in the Hebrew as "taqa" also used for clap, smite, strike and not associated with music. In fact, Paul
said in 1 Corinthians 14:8, "If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?"
The temple was not just a building. It was a whole complex the size of nearly four football fields. (A football field is 160' x 360'.) The
main temple building was 90' x 30'. But around it were two courtyards. The inner court was 150' x 300' and all around that was an outer
court 300' x 600'. And attached to the walls were many rooms used for various purposes. Therefore, trumpets had to be used to call
attention to things happening.
Cymbals are not mentioned in Revelation. Neither are lyres (psaltries). But harps are. Let's look at them.
Revelation 5:8-14 says four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down to worship the Lamb [Jesus]. Each one ~ the 28 ~ held
a harp and a golden bowl full of incense. Then this ensemble began to sing as though they were choir directors. For immediately they were
joined by millions of angels, and finally by every creature in heaven and on earth. At the end of the great musicale, involving all of heaven
and all of earth, the four creatures shouted "Amen!" and the twenty-four elders fell back down to worship again. Wow!
Revelation 14:1-4 tells us that 144,000 from earth who had been redeemed sang before the throne of God, the four living creatures,
and the 24 elders. Here, the earthly choir is singing to the heavenly ensemble! Their singing sounded like harpists playing their harps.
Revelation 15:2-8 tells us that in front of the throne of God (identified by the sea of glass) were the saved holding harps given them by
God. They were singing about all nations of earth coming to worship God. Then one of the four living creatures gave seven angels seven
First, who were the creatures? Without going into a separate study, most people agree that four represent the earth - four corners,
four winds, etc. The word "creature" is "zoon" in Greek, from the root word "zoe" meaning life. They seem to be life forms in heaven (not
angels) always found in scripture associated with created life on earth and its atonement. We might call these cherubim the guardians of life,
both physical and eternal.
Who were the 24 elders? Again, without going into a long study, it seems that 12 would represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel and
therefore all Jews in Old Testament times. The other 12 would represent the Twelve Apostles and therefore all Christians in the New
Who were the 144,000? We must see Revelation as entirely symbolic or entirely literal. We cannot pick and choose according to our
own desires. If we take the 144,000 literally, Revelation 7:1-8 says there were 12,000 saved from each Jewish tribe. That would mean,
literally, that no Christians can be saved.
But, taken symbolically, they would represent all the saved of the Old Testament/Jewish era (12 Tribes of Israel and followers) and all
the saved of the New Testament/Christian era (12 Apostles and followers). Multiplying 12 x 12 gives us 144. Ten generally represents
all-inclusiveness. Thus, we end with all the saved of the O.T. (12), times all the saved of the N.T. (12), times all inclusiveness (10), times all
inclusiveness (10), times all inclusiveness (10) = 144,000. In other words, none of the saved will be left out of heaven! What reassurance!
And what are they holding?
Revelation 5:8 explains the cherubim and elders held bowls of incense which represented the prayers of Christians on earth.
Revelation 15:7 explains that one of the cherubim handed the seven angels bowls representing the wrath of God.
However, the harps are not explained. If the bowls were symbolic, the harps would have to be also. We look elsewhere for an
explanation of harps when used symbolically, for the Bible always explains itself.
Literal Instrument: "Kithara" Greek for 10-stringed harp: The New Testament Greek word "kithara" is translated in Revelation as harp.
Josephus described a kithara as having 10 strings and being played with a pic.
LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC Instrument: "KINNOR" HEBREW FOR 10-STRINGED HARP, aka VOICE OR HEART: An Old
Testament Hebrew word for harp is "kinnor." In Job 30:27-31, Job complains about his stomach, his skin, his fever, and his voice. His
voice is described as a harp. In Isaiah 16:11, Isaiah says his heart and inmost being are like a harp.
Literal Instrument: "Asor" Hebrew for 10-stringed instrument: This Old Testament word is found in Psalm 33:2 and 92:3, literally
translated the "ten-stringed instrument," and in Psalm 144:9 translated the "ten-stringed lyre" [psaltry].
LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC Instrument: "PSALO" GREEK FOR SONG SUNG WITH A STRINGED INSTRUMENT, aka HEART:
This New Testament word refers back to the psalms which David sang with his lyre or psaltry. It is used in connection with Christian
worship in 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and James 5:13.
What is interesting is Ephesians 5:19 which specifies - AT LAST! - the instrument to be played while singing psalms: "Speak to one
another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and MAKE MUSIC IN YOUR HEART to the Lord." That is, play on the strings of
The word translated psalms is the Greek "psalmos." The word translated "make music" is "psallo." Once more, then, we see that the
10-stringed instrument sometimes translated harp and sometimes lyre or psaltry, represents the believer's heart.
So now, back to Revelation, we see that the four cherubim and the 24 elders are holding the prayers and the hearts of saints on
earth. What a beautiful symbol that incense and harps come to mean in heaven!
Before the end of the first century, the temple in Jerusalem was forever destroyed. And with it the possibility of accurately worshipping
the Old Testament way. With it the literal alters of incense, the literal place of sacrifice, the literal harps.
The alter of incense, the alter of sacrifice, and the harps are all stored up in heaven now. For now the temple is our bodies. The
incense is our prayers, the sacrifice is our daily life, and the harps are our hearts. Why would we want to make literal again such beautiful
God, this is all new to me. I always thought music was music, worship was worship, and it was all the same to you. I never
knew about the symbolism to spiritual things. Music spiritual? What a thought!
The Pattern: A Shadow of Things to Come
The book of Hebrews in the New Testament is full of descriptions of Jewish worship and what it came to symbolize later in Christian
Hebrews 7:26 - 8:1 - A high priest was appointed to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people of the Old Testament once a year. Jesus
became our high priest and sacrificed his own body for the sins once and for all.
Hebrews 8:5 - The sanctuary/tabernacle/temple served as "a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. That is why Moses was warned when
he was about to build the tabernacle: 'See to it that you make everything according to the pattern.' "
Hebrews 9:1-5; 12, 24 - The Most Holy Place was where the golden ark of God's presence, watched over by the cherubim, was placed.
For the Christian, the Most Holy Place is now in heaven where the very throne of God is.
Hebrews 9:21-28 - Without the shedding of blood, there was no temporary forgiveness. Therefore, under the Old Testament regulation,
lambs were sacrificed; in the New Testament era, Jesus was the Lamb of God who paid the price for us.
Hebrews 10:19-20 - A curtain hid the Most Holy Place from the worshipper's view in the Old Testament. Jesus became that curtain and
tore it so the saved could all enter the Most Holy Place in heaven.
What if the believers had not followed God's regulations in the Old Testament Jewish era? The pattern would have been flawed. We
would have been unable to quite understand Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the significance of God's presence available to us all in heaven.
We would have been unable to quite understand that the choirs limited to only Levites in the Old Testament era were to include all
Christians in the New Testament era. Every Christian is a choir member. We would have been unable to quite understand that the
instruments played by these Levites in the Old Testament era were to represent the hearts of all Christians in the New Testament era.
And what if we believers do not follow God's regulations (the few there are) in the New Testament Christian era? The pattern will be
flawed. If we do not all sing, as spiritual priests (yes, all Christians are priests of the Levite tribe (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6)
in the choir, we cannot quite understand the magnitude of the choirs in heaven. If we do not play on the strings of our heart, we cannot
understand the hearts that are being played before God in heaven.
Is it worth it? Hiding our voices and hiring someone to do our singing for us like the Jews did? Is it worth it? Hiding our hearts and
playing on temporal instruments like the Jews did?
Holy Father, the symbols are beautiful. Why didn't anyone ever show this to me from the Bible. Why didn't anyone ever help
me make the connection. It's beautiful! And I missed it, God.
In Acts 3:6, Peter told a beggar he was about to heal, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you." And so, in a similar
way, would it ever be possible for Christians to say, "Choirs and instruments have I none, but the puny voice I have I give you"?
Courage? Would that take courage? You bet! The kind of courage that, when we all get down to it, perhaps we do not have. What
would it mean to our Sunday worship? Really, on the gut level, what would it mean? It would mean facing a part of ourselves that would
It would mean songs sometimes stumbled through because we didn't know the tune or words. It would mean songs sometimes
dragged because we're not very good at keeping good tempo. It would mean sometimes making a fool of ourselves.
Fools? Do we really want to look like fools? Could we endure the embarrassment? Do we dare take off our mask among each
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That
is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am
The story is told of an American university student visiting the home of Beethoven at Bonne. She asked permission to play on his
piano. After playing a few bars of the "Moonlight Sonata," she turned to the guard and said, "I suppose all of the great pianists have played
during visits here." "No, miss," the guard replied. "Paderewski was here two years ago but said he was not worthy to touch it."
One day in London, a preacher got all dressed up in his finest and started walking down a busy street. People walking in the opposite
direction toward him often laughed in obvious derision as they read the words he had attached to his hat in large letters: The words were A
FOOL FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. But those who passed by and then turned back to deride this religious fanatic even more saw another
card attached to the back of his hat. It read: WHOSE FOOL ARE YOU?
A professor of Greek in the 1800s was impressed by one of his students who turned in assigned translations in such fine Greek prose.
The professor asked the student about it and he confessed that he received help from his uncle, W. Kelly. The professor wished to meet
At the arranged time, the two Greek scholars met. The professor asked Mr. Kelly what his vocation was. To his surprise, Mr. Kelly
replied, "I am a preacher and travel here and there all over the country ministering the Word of God to groups of Christians." Aghast at
such a waste, the professor replied, "Man, you're a fool!" To that, Mr. Kelly replied, "For which world?"
Poet Edward Rowland Sill wrote "The Fool's Prayer"
The royal feast was done; the King sought some new sport to banish care.
So, to his jester cried, "Sir fool, kneel now and make for us a prayer!"
The jester bowed and bent his knee upon the monarch's silken stool.
His pleading voice arose, "O Lord, be merciful to me, a fool.
"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes; men crown the knave and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord, be merciful to me, a fool."
The room was hushed; in silence rose he King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low, "Be merciful to me, a fool." 
We interrupted our discussion of motives at the beginning of this chapter to discover some facts. Now let us return to our motives.
Is our church music for the right reason? When we are through singing and playing a beautiful song with all the right notes, or watching
others do so, do we want to say, "Aren't we good"? or "Isn't God good"?
But, someone says, we must give our best to God. Indeed we must. But what is the best?
Should all of us who feel we do not have good enough voices worthy of God pay a soloist to take our place? If our motive is to give
God with the best, technically we would have to go out and find a better soloist than we already have in our congregation.
So, we run a newspaper ad and hire the best soloist in the city. But there's still a soloist out there better than this one. So, if we're
going to give God the best, we need to continue our search. Surely there is an opera singer somewhere with the best voice in the world.
We would then feel obligated to hire that opera singer to give God the best. But what if there is an unknown out there with the voice "of an
angel" who is not generally known? We still would not be able to offer God the best voice there is.
The same thing could be said of choirs and orchestras. If our motive is to offer the best we can, we have a problem. Even if we found
the best soloist, the best choir and the best orchestra in the world, they wouldn't be able to take the place of every Christian in the world.
There would be churches all over the world with no one singing at all because they couldn't come up with the best for God.
Let's back up now. What is it that God wants us to give him? The best that each of us has. That means that when there is singing, we
all sing, and in the process we all "teach and admonish one another with all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16) through our songs.
But we still can't get rid of the nagging problem that without professional help, our song service sounds unbelievably terrible.
It's hard to take off our masks of perfection, isn't it? Here we are with good jobs, houses, lawns with the proper amount of mulch,
computers, cars, motorcycles, the latest styles, and the respect of our peers. Does God expect us to strip all that off in front of other
people? We could do it alone, but not in front of others. Please, God! Not that!
Perhaps now we are at the crux of the entire problem. We do not want anyone to see our frailties. So we keep our mask on and hire
others to take our place so we look good.
It is time to take off our masks. It is time to humble ourselves and show ourselves as we really are - frail human beings with
weaknesses. And in the process, to reveal that, not only do we not always sing with complete perfection, but we don't live with complete
Holy Father, I want to look good in front of my friends. I protect all my private sins from their knowledge. I'd be mortified if
they knew my weaknesses, even the horrible way I sing.
Resetting Our Priorities
But, back to the weak Christians and the visitors. We have to compete with TV, professional concerts, and so on. Who said? Well,
they won't come back if our song service isn't perfect like they're used to seeing. Who said?
Did we ever stop to think that perhaps it is our very perfection that turns them off and we never see them again?
How many times have we heard the expression, "Holier than thou"? Is that what we're portraying in our music during worship?
What does such superiority complexes do to others? It makes others feel even more inferior. And what do people do who feel
inferior to us? They slink into the woodwork, never to be heard from again.
The Associated Press published an article in July 2000 on "Sacred Harp" singing; that is, singing without any accompanying
instruments. "Now Sacred Harp singing is attracting a new following on college campuses and in urban areas."
Many of their favorite songs were composed in the 1700s and 1800s. The latest version of their Sacred Harp song book is published
by the Sacred Harp Publishing Co. in Bremen, Georgia. Over the past thirty years, it has sold about 90,000 song books.
It is appearing in large cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle, and it is the younger people pushing it. Twenty-three states
host Sacred Harp conventions attended by people of all denominations and ages. They even have a web site here, and a web site here:
"Come on, now!" someone may still be objecting. You're expecting too much. What about our dignity?
What about Jesus' dignity? Hebrews 5:7 says Jesus begged God with loud cries all his life not to have to go through the crucifixion and
everything associated with it. Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? I just don't believe he was quietly praying. Jesus was meek, but he
was not quiet. There were times when he was in the temple and called out in a loud voice (see John 12:44, for instance).
So here he was in the garden just before his arrest, probably crying his heart out and begging God not to make him go through with the
crucifixion. His anguish was so bad, in fact, that an angel had to come to help give him courage (Luke 22:39-44). And do you think his
apostles could hear him? Of course they could. He had no mask. He begged right in the hearing of his friends.
What about Jesus' dignity? Though he was God in the form of a man, he allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. Then he allowed
himself to be stripped naked in front of a crowd and displayed on a cross for the whole world to see. Yes, what about Jesus?
Do you think most visitors are motivated to come to service because they heard about your choir or organist, or because they want to
make a connection with a Jesus who understands them?
Holy Father, it's hard to trust you in this. I still don't see how being so humble would attract visitors. Well, it worked for
Jesus. But Jesus was different.
Time Taken From the Lonely
Some may still object, that it would kill enthusiasm to spend twenty minutes to a half hour singing off key. True, it would. But do we
have to sing that long?
Most books on worship emphasize the music and proclaim it is the central part of worship. But is it? Do we now have too much of a
Singing has taken over our worship to the detriment of time for Bible reading, prayer, the communion and soul sharing! Let's repeat
that: Singing has taken over our worship to the detriment of time for Bible reading, prayer, the communion, and soul sharing! We've
When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, explaining that the bread and wine would now represent his lacerated body and shed blood,
did they have a long song service? Mark 14:26 says they sang one hymn.
Later, when Paul was trying to straighten things out with the sincere but mixed-up church in Corinth, he said things were not being done
in order. He didn't say they were doing the wrong things, but they weren't in order. What things?
He said whenever they came together, "everyone has A HYMN, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue [language] or an
interpretation [interpolation;" same word used in Luke 24:27 as explained). He didn't say to add more and more of these, but have a little
He talked elsewhere about their priorities. Did he ever say they were to sing more? In 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 and elsewhere, he said
they were to prophecy more, which in our day would mean to read the Bible more. What percent of the time do we spend reading right
out of the Bible in church compared with the percent of time we spend singing?
In 14:27-31 Paul talked about "anyone" who speaks in a language, "someone" must interpret, "two or three" prophets, and a revelation
comes to "someone." But regarding prophecy (the Word of God) he said, "You can ALL prophecy in turn so that EVERYONE may be
instructed and encouraged." (Remember, prophecy was relied on then before the Word was written and assembled.) But Paul never said
to sing more.
Where in the Bible is there reference to a "music ministry?" There are references to preaching and teaching ministries, benevolent
ministries, prayer ministries, but never music ministries.
If Paul were to write to us today, what would he say? Would he say our singing had turned into performances to each other rather
than the intended revealing of our innermost self, imperfections and all? Would he say spend more time reading what God has to say to
us? Would he say spend more time in prayer? Would he say spend more time remembering Jesus' death and resurrection? Our music
program has taken over.
Sunday is the day God set aside specifically for the Lord's Supper, the day Jesus conquered death. We must center our worship on
his sacrifice and our sins that caused it, and in telling others that story. It is a sin to take that time away to do something the New Testament
hardly says anything about.
If our congregation has a lot of gifted singers and the congregational singing is wonderful, we may say, "But our people won't come to
worship if we don't sing a lot. They love to sing too much."
Perhaps we're being inconsistent. Look at our Bible classes? Do we take up half the Bible class time singing and leave only half for
Bible study because people wouldn't come if we didn't sing a lot? What about our small groups? Do we take up half the sharing time
singing and leave only half for sharing? Also, do not forget the Associated Press article above saying that the young people are leading the
new movement in Sacred Harp singing.
Perhaps much of the arguing between generations today about the types of music is just a symptom of a greater problem: We have
placed music on too high of a pedestal, and it is choking out the rest of our worship. It started 150 years ago when instruments began to be
generally accepted in all denominations putting high enough priority on the music service to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on
instruments to the detriment of the needy, lonely and untaught. Now it has nearly taken over everything else.
Someone says, "But I've had a music ministry all my life." By that they mean they perform solos in front of the congregation. Well, we
can make ourselves look good by singing alone in front of the congregation in our perfection. Or we can make the entire congregation
sound good by sitting among them and singing along with them, the imperfect ones.
Where's our humility? Let us take off our masks. And after our songs, rather than say, "We sure were good," let us say, "God sure is
Shall we completely abandon all the magnificent compositions and choirs? Perhaps when we come together for Sunday worship we
should. People are being entertained and then going home still lonely.
Grandiose music has a purpose. It's something to listen to in person or on the radio or on CDs while we imagine heaven, knowing
most of us could never attain to that height of perfection here.
Yes, there is a place for performances at other times. But in our Sunday worship? Do we dare let someone else do our singing for us
when God tells us all to sing? Do we dare take over someone else's singing for them?
Some say they miss the organ playing while they seat themselves and wait in silence for worship to begin. There are many tape of a
cappella singing that could be played very quietly while we all sit and meditate before worship.
If singing is a special gift of a congregation, perhaps a particular time can be set aside for nothing but singing like in the days of our
grandparents. But in our modern times, with people so involved with jobs and sports and clubs and etc., time normally taken during the
week to encourage each other personally and pray for each other personally hardly exists. So it needs to be done during the Sunday
As long as singing is allowed to take the highest priority, there is little or no time left for the other just-as-important parts of worship.
Perhaps that is why our worship services today are not taken too seriously. People come in, spend a lot of time singing, have a good time,
have a brief prayer, a brief sermon, a Bible verse (maybe), then go home. Lonely.
Singing is wonderful. But do we have to rely on people SINGING to us that Jesus loves us when we long so desperately to hear
people SAYING Jesus loves us? Has our singing monopolized our worship to the determent of the other important things? Has the music
become a god unto itself?
Let us take time, not just to sing it, but to tell people sitting next to us, "Jesus loves you." Let us take time, not just to sing vague
prayers, but to say specific prayers. Let us take time, not just to sing "To the Work," but to find out how we ~ the hands, feet and mouth
of Jesus ~ can minister to the loneliness of those among us.
Oh God, I love the people I worship with. I love our visitors. I had no idea our performances were taking time away from
them that they needed to personally learn of your love. I'm so sorry, God. Forgive me.
The Second-Century Church
Pliny, who wrote about 100 AD said in his Letters [to the Emperor Trajan] Book X.xcvi: "....they sang in alternative verses a hymn to
Christ.... [notice, ONE hymn]" 
Tertullian, who lived about 155 to 222 AD, wrote from Carthage in On the Soul 9:4: "....the psalms are chanted...." 
Clement of Alexandria wrote about 190 AD in Miscellanies VI.xiv.113:3: "....praising, hymning, blessing, singing...." and in Instructor
III.xi.80.4: "Those who sing such and sing in response are those who before hymned immortality...."  He further said, "We make use
of only one organ or instrument, even the peaceful word, with which we honor God; no longer with the old psaltry, trumpet, drum or pipe."
. Walker, Fred B., The Kind of Music God Wants, Milbryan Foundation, Dallas, undated, pg. 8
. Hadas, Moses, Great Ages of Man: Imperial Rome, Time Inc., New York, 1965, pg. 51
. Ibid, pg. 103
. Ibid, pg. 134
. Ibid, pg. 58-59
. McDonald, William J., New Catholic Encyclopedia, "Choir," pg. 621, "Music, Sacred," pg. 129-131
. D'Aubigne, J. H. Merle, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, The Religious Tract Society, London, pg. 376-377
. Spurgeon, Charles H., The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit During the Year 1881, Vol. XXVII, Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena,
1973, pg. 483
. Halley, Henry H., Pocket Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley Publisher, Chicago, 1952, pg. 740-741
. Wells, H. G. The Outline of History, Garden City Books, NY, Book 6, Ch.28, Pg.448
. McDonald, William J., New Catholic Encyclopedia, McGraw-Hill, Chicago, 1962, pg. 129-131, 746
. Ferguson, Everett, Early Christians Speak, Sweet Publishing Co., Austin, 1971, pg. 161
. George, David L., The Family Book of Best Loved Poems, Hanover House, Garden City, NY, 1952, pg. 465-466
. Ferguson, pg. 81
. Ibid, pg. 82
. Roberts, Alexander, Ed, Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol. II, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.