Circumcision And Instruments Of Music
The early church had many struggles as it grew from infancy to spreading the gospel to the whole world. There was a great conflict with understanding the role of the Law of Moses and the new message of salvation for the Christian. At Pentecost, three thousand Jews accepted the kingship of Jesus Christ and formed the core of the church’s beginning. Their baptism for the remission of sins changed their spiritual lives but they would find it difficult to remove many of the trappings of the Law from their beliefs. Life under the Law of Moses was not a philosophical system of belief alone but an integration into every part of life. The Law prescribed the family life, economics, political and social culture that made a man and woman accepted under the covenant of the Law of Moses. At the center of the Law was circumcised, ordained by God through Abraham. Without circumcision, there would be no covenant with God. This was hard for the early Jews to change in their belief that circumcision (under Christ) availed nothing. Many in the First Century taught salvation through obedience in baptism but circumcision was also necessary to be saved.
Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia addresses the problem of salvation through circumcision. The apostle reaffirms the doctrine of Christ to the saints showing the Law of Moses was an integral part of God’s plan but now served only as a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to the knowledge of the Son of God. The Law was no longer binding and to teach the necessity of circumcision bound the person to keep all of the Law of Moses. If the Jewish Christian used the Law of Moses to prove the need for circumcision, he would have to enforce others parts of the Law. Paul shows the fallacy of this doctrine as trying to justify themselves by law thereby falling from the grace of God. Keeping one part of the Law required keeping every other part of the Law.
The question of instrumental music in worship is the same question of salvation by circumcision. Both are contained in the Law of Moses and commanded by God. Under the Law, instruments of music were a large part of the worship. Thousands of musicians, singers, choirs and instruments were used under the covenant of God with the Jews. David made instruments of music. Arguments made today for the use of instruments of music all come from the Law of Moses. There are no references to instruments in the early church because the Lord did not command their use. He clearly defined their use in the Law of Moses and if He had wanted them to be a part of the New Testament covenant, He would have clearly defined their practice. On the day of Pentecost, the first people to become Christians were Jews. They knew everything there was to know about musical instruments in worship. Why did the early Jews not use instruments of music? They were given a pattern to follow that would not accept the authority of instrumental music. Rather, they accepted the new law prescribing singing only.
Defending instrumental music in worship for the Christian is binding a portion of the Law of Moses that requires keeping the whole law. When an argument crosses the boundary of the Law of Christ to the Law of Moses, authority is destroyed. Keeping one part of the Law of Moses requires keeping the whole. Paul affirms keeping circumcision will necessitate the keeping of the whole law and this is true for instrumental music. When a person believes God accepts instrumental music, the law of circumcision will also have to be bound as necessary for salvation. Truth requires the binding of both laws because they come from the same law. Attempting to be justified by the law (whether instrumental music or circumcision) shows a person to have fallen from grace.
The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to the church as to a theater, to have their ears tickled. (Martin Luther;1483-1546)