by Phillip Vanwinkle
MARCH 11, 2016

Erasing Arguments for Using Instrumental Music in Worship: The Old Testament Argument, Part 3

Having given the positive case for a cappella music in the Lord’s church, and having shown that using instruments is not a mere expedient, as some would have us believe, we then turned our attention to the Old Testament and the Old Law. And having proven that the Old Law was nailed to the cross, and that it is not our authority today, we will finish our discussion on instrumental music as pertaining the Law of Moses with this blog post.

If you have not already read them, please take the time to read the first two posts in this series:

Is Miriam a modern-day example of worship?

As we close this second supposed "argument" for the usage of instrumental music in the Lord’s church, we recognize that some people will claim that musical instruments were used before the Law of Moses. Their argument is based mainly upon one event predating the giving of the Law of Moses, in which some women danced and sang a victory song with a timbrel.

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels…and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. (Exodus 15:20-21)

Yes! That is the supposed proof that it is now pleasing to God for us to use instruments in our worship to Him, against His explicit statements in the New Testament. Here are some wrong ideas connected with this statement:

  1. It still does not address the fact that we are under a different (new) covenant, and under a different set of laws than those of the Patriarchal and Mosaic age.
  2. It does not address the fact that this shows only how the women reacted to the victory, and does not address the men at all.
  3. It does not address the fact that this is a victory celebration, much more resembling a dance and rejoicing at the celebration of a touchdown (in modern American football) than it does a worship assembly that you read about in the New Testament.
  4. It proves too much! For if we are authorized to use instruments of music by this passage, then we likewise are authorized to dance around as we sing.
  5. It also mentions the only instrument that would be authorized, a timbrel—therefore, one could only be justified to use the aforementioned instrument… if this passage authorized an instrument at all (which it does not.)

In light of all this, we can see that this passage simply fails the test of providing authority for people living under the new covenant today.

“Not the Psalms or Prophets”

Second, there are some who claim that only the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), and not the whole of the Old Testament. They choose to believe this because they cannot seem to let go of their fleshly desire for using mechanical instruments, contrary to God’s New Testament.

They say that the Psalms and the Prophets are not included in the statement in Colossians that says that Jesus …took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Col. 2:14). Is that correct? Were the Psalms considered part of the Law?

The Jews (including Jesus) believed so! Speaking to the Jews, Jesus said in John 10:34: Is it not written in your law? Ye are Gods. This is a quote from Psalm 82:6. On another occasion, Jesus said of the Jews:

But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. (John 15:25)

Where in the Jewish law was this written?  Psalm 35:19.

Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

Notice also John 12:34, where the Jews said to Jesus: We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever. Where in the Law is this found? Psalm 89:4. So the Jews considered the book of Psalms to be part of “the law.”

Should we disregard how the Jews of Jesus’ day viewed the Psalms as being part of their law, the Law of Moses, in order to allow modern thinkers to deceive us and bring innovations into God’s law, the New Testament, today? Should I accept modern-day theory, instead of what Jesus said? It was He who claimed that the Psalms were included as part of the Law of Moses.

Paul also believed the Psalms were part of the Law of Moses. In Romans 3:10-19, He mentions various statements quoted directly from the Psalms, and then says: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.

It is obvious then to any honest Bible student, that during the days of the New Testament, the Psalms were clearly considered part of the Law of Moses.

What about the Prophets—were they included in the Law of Moses?

In 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul writes In the law it is written, referencing the Law of Moses.

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

Where in “the Law” is this found?

For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. (Isa. 28:11)

Paul believed, as any scholarly Jewish man would (not to mention an inspired man) that the Prophets were part of the Law of Moses.

Let us look now at a group of passages found in Romans 3:10-19. In Romans 3, Paul quotes both the Psalms and the Prophets, and includes them in the statement “what things soever the law saith”. In verse 10, we read “none righteous,” which is found in Psa. 14:l-3; in verse 13, “their throat is an open sepulchre" (Psa. 5:9); in verse 15, “their feet are swift to shed blood;” in verse 16, “Destruction and misery are in their ways;” in verse 17, “and the way of peace they have not known.” All of these verses are quoted from Isaiah 59:7-8, and are included in Paul’s reference to the law.

What is the point? Simply this: When Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, it was all nailed to His cross. Notice what Jesus said in Luke 24:44:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

The Jewish books were divided into these three categories: Law, Prophets, and Psalms. However, all three are referred to as “The Law” or “The Law of Moses.” In similar fashion, our New Testament is divided into Gospels, General Epistles, Prison Epistles, etc. Yet all of these are referred to as the “Law of Christ.”

So when Jesus said that He came to fulfill it all, that is exactly what He did. When Paul writes in Colossians 2:14 that the Law was nailed to the cross, it was understood that it had all been fulfilled.

For an extended study on the fact that we are under a New Law and Testament today, and not the Old Law, see the blog posts linked to at the beginning of this article.

The fact is that today Christians are under a new and better covenant. Our worship practices are to be governed by the Law of Christ, the New Testament. It is not appropriate, nor authorized by God, to use the Old Law to try to justify any practice under the New Law. Those who wish to do so are foolish and are simply picking which parts of the Law to obey and which to disobey.

This idea is faulty, as James says:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)

The principle is this: Whichever law it is that we are going to keep, we must keep it all. We cannot pick and choose which laws to obey and which to disobey.

So, if the Law of Moses is the authority upon which we base our worship, then we are to keep the whole Law of Moses, not just the parts that we like. If we begin worshiping with instruments, why not bring back the animal sacrifice, bring back the Levitical priesthood, bring back the physical Temple/Tabernacle, the earthly High Priests, the burning of incense and the various ceremonial washings?

For in choosing the Law of Moses as our authority for instrumental music, we are automatically bound to keep the rest of the Law of Moses as well.

So take your pick:

  1. The Old Law, the blood of bulls and goats, and your mechanical instruments, as David instructed hundreds of years after the Law of Moses was given by God. Or…
  2. Jesus and his New Law, and his sacrifice, without the instrument of music for worship, as instructed by Jesus and His inspired apostles.

Continue to come back as we consider a few more arguments used to try to authorize the use of instrumental music in worship to God today.

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