Answering Common Sense Questions – #10

Once again I will be looking at one of the supposed “common sense questions a Church of Christ preacher cannot clearly answer” that were posted by David Martin on the Solid Rock Baptist Church website.  The question that I will be addressing is number ten on the list

If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?

With this question Mr. Martin displays a lack of understanding about Biblical authority.  In order to answer this question it is necessary to first explain how the Bible authorizes our beliefs and practices and the difference between specific and general authority.  If we do not understand how God informs us of what he expects and what he forbids then we cannot determine whether any particular belief or practice is acceptable. For an in depth examination of Biblical authority look here https://gospeldefender.wordpress.com/2007/02/02/biblical-authority/.

 An example of general authority can be found in Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands his disciples to go teach all nations.  He did not specify how they were to go teach so they were free to go by ship, horseback, walking, or any other means of travel and today we are free to go by plane or cars for the same purpose. Another example is Hebrews 10:25 in which we are commanded not to forsake assembling together.  We are not told whether we have to gather in a home, dedicated building, hotel conference room, or under a tree in the park. Thus we are left at liberty to determine for ourselves a suitable meeting place.   So when we find a Biblical command to do something but no instructions regarding the manner in which we are to carry out that command we are at liberty to fulfill it in any manner we find expedient. 

An example of specific authority can be found Genesis 6:14 when Noah was told to make an ark of gopher wood.  Since God had specified gopher wood all other forms of wood were excluded.  God was not required to give a “thou shalt not” for each other type of wood because they were ruled out by default when he specifically authorized gopher wood. Another example of specific authority is to be found in 1 Corinthians 14:29-31.  Here Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, authorizes teaching in the assembly and specifies that speakers are to teach one by one.  We do not need a “thou shalt not” for every other number of simultaneous speakers since God specified one at a time.  Thus when God gives a command and specifies how it is to be carried out we have no right to deviate from it.

Now lets apply these principles to the question posed by Mr. Martin. 

Hymnals, Pitchpipes and Pianos

There are two verses that command Christians to worship God by singing and we need to begin by looking at these two verses

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

First we must determine exactly what these passages are authorizing and whether it is general or specific authority.  First notice that both of these passages are giving a command to the entire church.  Thus whatever they are authorizing must be performed by every single member of the church.  It is clear that both passages are authorizing singing and it specifies that we are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs which excludes by default our favorite country, blues or pop songs.  Also each passage commands that in our we should be teaching one another and engaging our hearts, thus our singing should be both verbal and internal.  So every member of the church is required to participate in singing these psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Neither passage specifies which songs so we are authorized to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs from memory, from an overhead projector display of the sheet music, or from a hymnal.   Thus we see the authorization for the hymnal during the act of singing that Mr. Martin requested.  Neither of these passages specifies what we must do immediately before or after any given song.  A pitchpipe is used in this period between songs and is never used during the act of singing.  The pitchpipe is also not used in any way to give praise to or worship God.  So why can a piano not be used with the same justification as for the pitchpipe?  Is a piano used during the singing as an addition to it?  Yes it is and this alone would prohibit its use.  Is the piano used as an act of worship in and of itself? Yes it is and this also would be enough to prohibit its use.  Finally we must note that the phrase “make melody” in Ephesians 5:19 is the translation of the Greek word “psallo” which means to pluck or twang as an in playing an instrument and it specifies that this is to take place in the heart, if this were external since this is a command the entire church every memeber would be required to play an instrument.  Thus we see that while singing is specified to be both verbal and internal  the instrumental accompaniment is specified only to be that of the heart and external instrumental accompaniment is, therefore, excluded.  So there are three reasons that a piano, or other mechanical instrument, is prohibited from use in our worship. 

Pews

Mr. Martin also questioned the authorization for the use of pews.  Christians are definitely commanded to assemble themselves to worship God.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

As noted previously this passage commands us to assemble but does not specify where so we are at liberty to meet in a building, in the park, or in a house.  Likewise there is no passage that specifies whether or not we must sit or stand in such assemblies so we are at liberty to do either.  Since there is no passage specifying whether to sit or stand there is also no passage indicating upon what to sit if we decide to do so which means we are at liberty to sit on the ground, folding chairs, or pews. 

Indoor Baptistries

Finally Mr. Martin asked about the use of indoor baptistries.  There are many passages that command baptism (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3-7, 1 Peter 3:21).  If you search all of the passages commanding baptism you will find not one that specifies where baptism must take place.  Thus baptism can be performed in a river, lake, indoor baptistry, or anywhere else where the is enough water for immersion.

So we see that with a proper understanding of Biblical authority the issue addressed here is easily understood.  In some areas such as the act of singing in worship to God in our assemblies God has requlated how it may be performed and in such cases we are not permitted to deviate from his instruction.  In other areas God has left us liberty to carry out his commands in an expedient manner.  Hymnals, pews and baptistries are all authorized by general authority.  Pianos, and other mechanical instruments, are excluded due to God’s specifications on how he wants our song service to be performed.

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2 Responses to “Answering Common Sense Questions – #10”

  1. Odeliauc Says:

    thats it, man

  2. charlie bradford Says:

    the Baptist insist that baptism is not necesseary for salvation, but is necessary to jointhe Baptist church. They claim their church name is scriptual But why do they call ther name after John the Baptist who not crusifed for our sin. also he was beheaded before Christ estabished the CHURCH. Also they claim they believe Baptism is a work.But isen,t praying for salvation a work The Baptist church church was estabished by a named John alright John Smyith in the eary 1600,s Why do they say baptism not necessary for salvation when they callthemselves Baaptist

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