Our Instruments of Music (Colossians 3:16)

Our Instruments of Music
Colossians 3:15-17

Alexander Hamilton was George Washington’s Secretary of Treasury. Thomas Jefferson was the Secretary of State. Hamilton believed in a strong central government. Jefferson was opposed to a strong centralized authority that would impose on the role of the state.

The Federalist Party under Hamilton believed that anything was allowed that had not been expressly forbidden in the U. S. Constitution. Thus, he wanted a centralized federal bank. Jefferson believed (his purchase of the Louisiana Territory notwithstanding) that everything was forbidden unless it was expressly authorized in the U. S. Constitution.

When we don’t limit ourselves to the powers expressly given to us in those documents that define who we are as a people, then we eventually evolve into something quite different, distinct from what we were originally.

The Hebrew word often translated “heart” refers both to the emotions of man and to his intellect. We simply cannot do anything enthusiastically unless we do it from our hearts. We may not always do what our brains tell us to do, but we will always do what our hearts lead us to do. In Genesis 6:5, Moses writes about mankind before God destroyed the world with the flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

This is why the Old Testament deals so much with loving and serving God from the heart. The heart is what moves us to worship. In Exodus 25:2, God had commanded the Israelites to give to support the building of the tabernacle and its worship and the text reads: “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution.”

In the famous passage in Deuteronomy 6:5, God told Israel through Moses: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” In the same book, Deuteronomy 10:16 and again in 30:6, God told Israel to circumcise their hearts. In Leviticus 26:41, God suggests that a circumcised heart is a heart that is humble toward His teachings and commandments.

To help with this obedience, God told Israel to make tassels for their robes - Numbers 15:39-40. Observe this passage.

It takes a conscious effort on our part to obey the Lord from our hearts. Consider these passages that emphasize the relationship between the heart and obedience: Psalm 37:31 - “The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.”

Psalm 40:8 - “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”

Psalm 51:17 - “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Psalm 119:10, 112 - With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments.” Verse 112 - “I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, even to the end.”

The heart that is given to God fully, then, is a heart that will obey and will not pass beyond what obedience is required. To word it another way, obedience means a heart that will not add to what God has commanded.

“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Seven verses later, Moses commands: “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”

We have a host of examples of men from the Old Testament who did not obey God as He commanded them to do. Despite how sincere we might think they were, they were disobedient and God punished them. This shows that their hearts were not right in the eyes of God. A pure heart is an obedient heart.

Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3.
Moses in Numbers 20:8-13.
Saul in 1 Samuel 15:20-23.
King David in 1 Chronicles 15:11-15
King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21

In the New Testament age, under the guidance of Christ’s apostles, the Christian assemblies were commanded to sing from the heart. It is our heart that motivates us to worship. But our hearts have to be submissive to the Word of God. Temptations will always come along to see if we will remain submissive to the word of God or if we will do what our self-centered heart desires. Again, obedience to God involves not adding to what God has commanded.

Thus, when Paul talked to the Christians in Corinth about their attitude toward God and toward one another, he uses their singing as an illustration of that unity that should prevail in their assembly: “What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15).

To the saints in Ephesus, Paul said, “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (5:18-19). Please observe that if Paul had limited his command to “making melody,” then any source of “melody” would have been authorized. But, he limited his command to “singing” and “with your heart.”

Then to the Christians in Colossae, Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (3:16). Again, this “song service” is limited to that which “teaches and admonishes,” showing us the purpose of the song service is educational. Paul also says it is the heart that is to do the worshipping.

The Jews did not use mechanical instruments of music in the worship in the NT times. There is no evidence that mechanical instruments of music were used in the synagogue worship. The pagan Greeks and Romans used such and the Christians after the NT times criticized them for that use.

Are mechanical instruments of music the same thing as the pitch pipe and tuning fork? We point out that an “aid” to worship is something that helps us to fulfill a command of God. We must have words to the songs we sing. A song book or the PowerPoint paperless hymnals help us sing. A mechanical instrument is not necessary in our worship; it is not a “must.” In any way, shape, form, or fashion. On the other hand, it can be quite a hindrance to worshipping God.

On those occasions when I have been a part of a worship where mechanical instruments of music are used, I have noticed that fewer people sing. They depend on the choir to sing and / or they depend on the music to basically drown out their voices. But a cappella - which means “singing as they do in the church / chapel” - encourages us to sing, to teach, to improve, and of course our words praise God through our songs.

Take home message: Let us limit ourselves to the instrument which God has authorized in our song service: our hearts.


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