Please allow me to borrow a quote from the articles of this web-site (But, the Bible nowhere commands NOT to use musical instruments?
). This section was written in regards to instrumental music, but I believe we can easily extend its application to many of the items listed...
But, the Bible nowhere commands NOT to use musical instruments?
This may be the most important question of this entire series, because it highlights the fundamental difference in thinking. Instrumental music is but one application of one's conviction on how to interpret the silence of the Scriptures. Like Luther, will we accept everything unless it is expressly forbidden, or like Zwingli, will we reject everything unless it is expressly authorized? However, this representation is a slight simplification of the latter's position. In truth, those who believe they are limited to "speaking as the oracles of God"
(I Peter 4:11
), recognize a distinction between generic and specific authority
. The implication is that general authority may be provided by Scriptures on some directives, allowing man's judgment and other Biblical principles to determine the specific application.
For example, when Jesus commanded the apostles to "go into all the world and preach the gospel"
), He did not specify how the apostles were to "go"
. They were left to their judgment and application of other Bible principles, if any, to determine the best way to go. The command generically necessitated some form of transportation, but it did not specify which form. Nowhere in the Bible does God offer any statement, uniform example, or basis for necessary inference that would specify a certain form. In contrast to this, God did specify singing to be used in worship (Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:16
). In the absence of a prohibitive command, are we at liberty to presume the freedom to deviate from God's specific command? This is the real question. Justification of a negative answer consists of at least three points.
First, consider what God has not forbidden, which we believe to be evil. The comprehensive listing of such deeds, practices, and attitudes would be an impossible task! If God intended that rule of interpretation, then the Bible would be unending, because man is constantly inventing new ways to sin. Where does the Bible condemn wife-beating or child molestation? How about holy water, incense, or religious dancing? How many false religions have perverted the gospel, yet are not named specifically? This rule of interpretation is impractical, and is therefore in error. How can one honestly and consistently walk according to this principle and not tolerate great wickedness, which he knows in his heart to be sinful?
Second, the Bible provides both principle and example proving this to be false. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, specific commands are recorded instructing "not to add to or take away from"
God's law (Deuteronomy 4:2; Joshua 1:7; Matthew 15:3,9; Galatians 1:8-9; I Peter 4:11; II John 9; Revelation 22:18-19
How can one sanely presume upon the Creator of all things? Do we think that God is like a weak parent, who did not really think through the consequences of a command before issuing it? How can one disobey a positive command, just because a counter-negative command was not provided? Do we see God as a giant, cosmic teddy-bear, incapable of enforcing His warnings of punishment? It is this disrespectful, irreverent attitude of presumption that caused God to punish the disobedient, reminding His true followers, "by those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy
". If we dare make such presumptions (Numbers 14:44-45; 15:30; II Peter 2:9-10
), in spite of the above mentioned specific commands, the following examples should jar us to our senses:
- Nadab and Abihu - struck dead for offering incense in a way different from God's instruction (Leviticus 10:1-3; Exodus 30:9, 34-38)
- Saul - rejected as king for disobeying God's command to wipe out the Amlekites so that he may sacrifice the best of their flocks to God (I Samuel 15:22-23)
- Uzza - struck dead for ignoring God's warning by stabilizing the ark of the covenant with his hand (II Samuel 6:3-9; I Chronicles 15:2, 13, 15)
- Uzziah - struck with leprosy because he tried to offer incense in the temple, which was the role of the Levite priests (II Chronicles 26:16-21)
- Galatian Christians - were spiritually lost because they introduced the requirement of circumcision into the gospel (Galatians 5:1-4)
These examples, among all the other examples from the Old Testament era, were given for our learning and admonition (I Corinthians 10:11-12; Romans 15:4
). Will we heed their warning?
Notably, the writer of Hebrews uses the silence of the Scripture to prove
that the Old Covenant was put away in Christ:
The author of Hebrews wrote:For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest. (Hebrews 7:12-15)
Not only was the silence of the Scriptures respected by first century Christians, the inspired writers of the Bible used it as a basis for deriving necessary, spiritual conclusions! Do we understand better how to interpret Scripture than God's inspired apostles and prophets? Moreover, even God Himself rebuked David for presuming to build a temple for the Lord. What argument did He use to suggest that David should have known better?
The prophets wrote:Now it came to pass, when David was dwelling in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under tent curtains." ...
But it happened that night that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, "Go and tell My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: "You shall not build Me a house to dwell in. ... Wherever I have moved about with all Israel, have I ever spoken a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?' " ' (I Chronicles 17:1-6)
God used the silence of the Scriptures, even all of revelation, to argue against any justification for David presuming to build a temple for God. If God expected David to recognize and respect the silence of Scriptures, should we not do likewise?
Third, the Old Law similarly contained a command and example to sing (Deuteronomy 31:19-32:52
), but it contained no prohibition to instrumental music. Consequently, the Israelites did not use instrumental music until the reign of David. Even then, a commandment from God was required to introduce it (II Chronicles 29:25-28
). Their situation is parallel to our situation. If in the Old Testament, a specific command was required to authorize instrumental music, overriding the prior command to sing, why would a specific command not be required to override the original New Testament command to sing? If it was necessary for them, why is it not necessary for us?
What is the sum of these points? It is agreed that Scriptures nowhere
command us not
to use instrumental music. However, God did command us to sing (Ephesians 5:18-20; Colossians 3:16
). In light of God's warnings and examples against the sin of presumption, I dare not do otherwise than sing. Will you?