by Phillip Vanwinkle
NOVEMBER 6, 2015

Erasing Arguments for Using Instrumental Music in Worship: The Old Testament Argument, Part 1

There are some today who wish to use the Old Testament as their authority for using instrumental music in worship. They do not seek to do animal sacrifices. They do not find authority for burning incense from the Old Testament. However, they do try to find authority from the Old Law so that they may use mechanical instruments to praise God. The problem is that the Old Law has been taken away, and nailed to the cross. It has been fulfilled completely, and a New Law has been established.

Growing up, I was given some booklets by Ira Y. Rice Jr. Much of the following information comes from those booklets. I have used these booklets all my life and find them to be a great resource for teaching the lost.

If the Old Law has been fulfilled, there is no reason for a person to ever try to go back to it again for their authority. But how do we know whether the Old Law has been done away with? First we must back up. We must identify three different dispensations, or time periods, which the Bible refers to. There have been three identifiable time periods of God’s will to mankind since the world began—they are: Patriarchal, Jewish and Christian.

The commands given to the patriarchs before Moses applied only to the person or family to whom they were given (for example, Noah alone was commanded to build an ark to the saving of his house; nobody else). People today are not building arks to the saving of their houses. Why? Because we are not held accountable for the laws of that time period.

The Patriarchal time period lasted roughly 2,500 years, from Adam to Moses. Then after that, God gave a special law to one nation, Israel, whom He had specifically chosen to be His people.

This law, known variously in the Bible as “the covenant,” “the law of the Lord,” or "the law of Moses,” was not given to Israel’s “fathers” (Deu. 5:3), neither was it binding upon the Gentiles (Rom. 2:14), but it was for those “brought...out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” i.e., Israel (Exo. 20:2; Deu. 5:1-4).

For the next 1,500 years, God no longer dealt with people by individuals and families, but with the children of Israel as a Nation. Then Jesus came—not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Mat. 5:17-18). This law would not pass until it was “fulfilled” (v. 18). Jesus finished the work He came to do (John 17:4). Since He came to fulfill the law, He did fulfill it; and, being fulfilled, as we shall learn in this lesson, the Law was nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ.

Thus the way was opened for a new law (covenant or testament) to come into force, as it did about 50 days later on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). However, before turning our attention to the requirements of the New Testament, we must first consider whether the Old Testament continues to be in force in any sense.

Many honest people have been led to believe that the New Testament was merely added on to the Old Testament, and that Christians are governed by both testaments. Such an arrangement would lead to endless contradiction, for the two testaments do not require the same things. Once it is understood that the law given by God through Moses (i.e., the Old Testament) was given to the children of Israel exclusively, then we understand that Christians are under a new law entirely. The idea that the old law authorizes our actions today will be shown to be in error. Jesus said:

And he spake also a parable unto them: No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment; else he will rend the new, and also the piece from the new will not agree with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will burst the skins, and itself will be spilled, and the skins will perish. But new wine must be put into fresh wine-skins. And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good. (Luke 5:36-39 ASV)

Jesus here illustrates a basic principle of the New Testament. He says, No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment (v. 36). He lists two reasons:

  1. The new will make a “rent” (i.e., tear) in the old.
  2. The piece that was taken out of the new does not agree with the old.

Then he says: And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins (v. 37).

Again He lists two reasons:

  1. The new wine will burst the wine-skins, and be spilled.
  2. The wine-skins shall perish.

He concludes then that new wine must be put into fresh wine-skins, and both are preserved (v. 38).

This passage refers to the Two Testaments, the new and the old. Jesus was trying to get His disciples to see that these two testaments were to be kept separate. Verse 39 must refer to the Jews, who had drunk deeply of the Old Testament. They did not soon desire the new and fresh wine (the New Testament), for they said the old wine (i.e., Old Testament) was better. And to this day, the majority of the Jews continue to hold this same opinion.

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband. So then if, while [her] husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? [Is] the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:1-7)

Although this passage mentions some ideas and principles about marriage, we should focus on its main thrust. Paul shows a parallel between human marriage, and our spiritual marriage to the Law of Moses and/or Christ.

The human law of marriage has dominion over a man for as long as he lives (v. 1). The woman who has a husband is bound by law to this husband while he lives (v. 2). But if the husband dies, she is loosed (i.e., freed or discharged) from the law of her husband (v. 2). If, while the husband is still alive, she gets married to another man, she will be called an adulteress (v. 3). The word “called" here is a word that literally means, “called by God,” so regardless of what others think, God calls her an adultress. But if the husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is not an adulteress, even if she gets married to another man (v. 3).

So what is the point?

Christians have been made “dead to the law (of Moses)” by the body of Christ, that we should be married to another, to “Him who is raised from the dead” (i.e., Christ), that we should bring forth fruit (i.e., have children) unto God (v. 4).

He says that we have been “delivered” (i.e., discharged) from the law (v. 6). So we ask, What law are we delivered from? Verse 7 answers: We are delivered from the law that says "Thou shalt not covet." Well, which law was that? The Mosaic law.

So why would I go back to a law to which I had been made dead, since Christ has set me free from that law? Why should I seek authority from a law that is no longer around? Honest Bible students will not do this. In Ephesians 2, Paul says:

Wherefore remember, that ye [being] in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world... (Eph 2: 11-12)

Notice that this passage describes Gentiles as being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,” as well as “strangers from the covenants of promise.”

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us]... (Eph. 2:13-14)

Christ is peace between Jews and Gentiles. He made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) one. Then, He broke down the middle wall of partition.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace... (Eph. 2:15)

So now, what was the enmity that He abolished? This “middle wall,” or “enmity,” was “The Law of Commandments contained in ordinances.” Notice that the law was “abolished,” and that Christ’s reason for breaking down and abolishing the law was to make in Himself of Jew and Gentile “one new man”—so making peace. But why? Paul continues:

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby... (Eph 2:16)

Both Jew and Gentile were reconciled unto God “in one body” (i.e., the church—Eph. 1:22-23). The “enmity,” i.e., the law, was “slain” by the cross.

And [he] came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. (Eph 2:17)

Now because the law was done away with, peace was to go forth to the Gentiles, those who were far off, as well as to the Jews.

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God... (Eph. 2:18-19)

Through Christ, Jews and Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners to each other, but “fellow-citizens.” If the law, which had been a “middle wall of partition” between Jews and Gentiles, had not been “broken down,” “abolished,” and “slain” (v. 14-16), this new arrangement of fellow-citizenship would not be possible. The middle wall (or law) had to be dismissed first; fellow-citizenship followed as a result.

Gentiles who claim, “Instrumental music is acceptable by the Law of Moses,” have no right to appeal to that law. They were not under the Old Law, and it would not apply to them today, even if the Law of Moses were still in effect. However, it is clear that the Old Law has passed away. Paul writes:

...Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross... (Col. 2:12-14)

This is quite similar to what Paul wrote in Ephesians:

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace... (Eph. 2:15)

As well as in Colossians:

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col. 2:14-15)

What is the point of all these passages? That by His cross, the old law was to be done away with. Now notice what he says:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)

Paul is telling us that it is no big deal whether you keep those Jewish holidays or not. But notice this too: Christ has come one time, and these ordinances of the law were blotted out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross—they are gone!

Please stay tuned as we continue this thought next time by looking at the book of Hebrews to show how the Old Law is no longer authoritative as pertaining to our worship today.

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