by Phillip Vanwinkle
JUNE 12, 2015

The Positive Case for A Cappella Music

Once upon a time, not too long ago, debates and discussions about instrumental music were held. Faithful brethren stood ready, and stood strong against it. And for a while, it seemed it had rested. But recently there seems to be an uprising among some who may have forgotten history and are trying to reclaim the spirit of loosing where God has not loosed.

Recently, I read an article which was titled “Why I No Longer Bind.” This article contained the same rhetoric and faulty reasoning that had burdened the church many years ago. It does not matter if some preacher “no longer binds.” The question is, does God still bind?

Our objective is simple, and scriptural: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:21). If all things were authorized, there would be no need to prove anything. In Ephesians 5:10 Paul says, “Proving what is acceptable to the Lord.” 

We can learn from these passages that doing things pleasing to the Lord is our purpose in everything. Even our Lord did so. He stated in John 8:29, “I do always those things that please him.” As it was his desire, so it should be our desire as well, to do the things that we know will please God.

It is not our desire to act in such a way that we somehow hope will please him, or that we think it might please him. We want to do only those things we know will please him.

I also learn from Paul’s words that only that which is provable is pleasing to the Lord. In the prayer of our Lord, he would teach as he prayed, that we say "not my will, but Thine be done.” And so, we do things that we understand are pleasing to the Lord, and not the way we ‘will.’

The first question that arises then is: How do we know what pleases our God?

We know from God’s word that man has a “way,” but we know that the way that man thinks is right, if followed without God’s instructions, will only lead to death (Prov. 14:12). We understand from the lips of our Lord that there would be those in the days of the apostles who would persecute and even kill the apostles. In so doing, they thought that they would be pleasing God (John 16:2). I know then, that just because someone thinks he is doing right, that does not necessarily mean he is doing right. Therefore, we must do as the prophet Jeremiah explained years ago: "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing" (Jer.10:23-24).

Let us have the heart of Jeremiah that says, "I want to be corrected by judgment, that is, by being able to discern truth from error." Or as stated earlier, to “prove that which is acceptable to God.”

Our Lord said in John 8:28 that he did nothing ‘of his own self,’ but rather what the Father had taught him. Then he says, “I do always those things that please him.”

If our Lord, the son of God, set his mind only to do that which would please the Father, how can we claim that we may do something different?

There are some today who see no need for any authority at all. In so doing they think themselves greater than Jesus. For our Lord admitted that the things that he did were only done according to what the Father had instructed. Later, after he died and was raised, he said “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth” (Matt. 28). But according to him, while he was here on the Earth, he was authorized to do that which had been instructed by the Father (John 8:28-29).

“Where is it condemned?”

Oftentimes, our brothers who wish to use mechanical intruments throw up a dust storm, crying out, “Where does the Bible say it is a sin to use them?” Here it is: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” And, “Prove what is acceptable unto the Lord.” The reason we do not use them, is because we are not able to prove them to be acceptable to the Lord, under the New Covenant. Asserting that they are acceptable is not proving them to be acceptable.

Was instrumental music in worship approved under the Old Covenant? Perhaps; at least it was tolerated by the Lord. There is no doubt that they were used by David the king, after an earthly kingdom which God never intended was established. God did tolerate their usage.

However, when Christ and the apostles came, and Christ began his New Covenant, instruments were nowhere to be found in this dispensation’s worship. No man has ever been able to prove them to be pleasing to God. Plenty of assertion has been made, but assertion is not proof.

We can certainly prove that it pleases God for us to “offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips” (Heb. 13:15). We can please God when we are “uttering with the tongue words easy to be understood” (1 Cor. 14:9), and we do this with the spirit and understanding (1 Cor 14:15). In this music we “speak to one another,” we “teach and admonish one another” in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” and we do so by making melody in our hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

He is pleased when we do these things in spirit (attitude) and in truth (action) (see John 4:23-24). There is no doubt, it is absolutely 100% undeniable, that when we sing praises with the proper spirit, God is pleased. Notice, it is by singing praises with the proper spirit.

There is no denying this proposition. It is provable. And so we see then, that it is proven that God is pleased when we sing praises to him with the right spirit.

We don’t have to guess. We don’t have to appeal to the Old Testament. We don’t have to try to argue from an archaic word to try to prove it meant a certain thing in the New Testament. And we don’t need to appeal to what the spirit realm is doing.

It is plain, it is simple, it is proven. Singing with the spirit = Pleasing to God.

Again, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good,” “Prove those things pleasing to God.” Thus we see that there is no guesswork with singing.

But our brothers know this, because they practice these things daily. We immerse penitent believers into Christ, and only penitent believers. Why? Because it can be proven that God is pleased when we do so.

Some, perhaps even some brethren will say, "What about sprinkling?" It is not practiced because it is not provable. "Baptizing infants," someone says, “that should be okay, right?” It is not provable by God’s word, and therefore it is not acceptable to God.

Someone says: “Well, where does the Bible say these things are sin?” The answer: It says it in all those places where you fail to find any proof that God will accept it. In the whole New Testament, in all those verses, there is no proof at all. That is why it is sin. It is going beyond those things which are written (1 Cor. 4:6).

What if I said, “I’d like to use sweet tea and Doritos chips for the Lord’s supper.” Where does the Bible say that we may not have them? In all the places where you fail to find proof that they are in the Text of the New Testament. Perhaps, as one preacher said, you might want to eat “lamb” in the Lord’s supper. After all, you know that Jesus is the “lamb” slain for sin. You say, “Where is it condemned?” It is condemned in every single passage of scripture, where you do not find authority to use it.

You find the same proof for baptizing infants, sprinkling for baptism, eating Dorito’s chips in the Lord’s supper, as you find for the mechanical instrument in worship in the New Testament. It simply is not there. The Bible is clear: “if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).

God has spoken as to what pleases him in our musical praises to Him. It is simple, and it is clear. Therefore, I speak only as instructed by God.

Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. Prove all things pleasing to the Lord.

Man’s ways are not God’s ways, his thoughts are higher than ours. It is based upon these principles and verses that we appeal to authority for all that we do in worship to our Lord.

Will you align yourself with our Lord, and His clear word on this and all subjects, or will you be like those of whom both Isaiah and our Lord spoke? "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9).

The principle of the great prophet Jeremiah still applies: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16).

Unfortunately, I know that some today will take the same road to destruction as those in Jeremiah’s day, as the verse concludes: "But they said, We will not walk therein."

Which kind of people will we be? Those faithful few, who will humbly listen to the instructions of the Lord, or those who refuse, arrogantly thinking that they know best?