God has commanded many things throughout time.  Yet the most powerful, the most intimate is what He has commanded with regard to worship.  Worship has already been defined from scripture on this wiki, but it bears repeating that in worship, we come before the Throne of God, gathered as the children of God (Job 1 & 2), to communicate to our Heavenly Father through His Only Begotten Son and our one and only Intercessor, Christ Jesus.  It is therefore important to get it right.

I. Some basic points to consider:Edit

  • Whatever we do in word or action we must have authority from Jesus to do it under the NT dispensation (Col. 3:17).
  • We are not under the law of Moses (and we could look at a host of verses, but I’ll just list a few – Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15; Romans; Hebrews; Galatians).  In fact, much of what Paul wrote was addressing the superiority of the Law of Christ over the Law of Moses.  Those who seek to justify anything they do by the Law of Moses have fallen from Grace (Gal. 5:4).
  • Anything we do not have authority for is by definition an addition to the Word of God which is explicitly condemned in several places (Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 15:9).
  • The Law of Specificity:  This is a very well understood rule of logic throughout the world…except when it comes to religion.  It says simply this – when something is specified, all other types of the thing specified are automatically eliminated.  The very definition of the word “specify” indicates that this is meant to the exclusion of all thats.

II.  Music in worship to God.Edit

A. It is evident that God commanded us to sing in worship to Him.
1. We are commanded to sing – Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:13.
2. We have examples of Christians singing – Acts 16:25; Heb. 2:12
3. We are even told why we sing – 1 Cor. 14:15; Col.3:16; Eph. 5:19
B.  The purpose of singing in worship to God:
1 Cor. 14:15 teaches that we must sing the same way we pray, understanding what we sing.
Col. 3:16 teaches that singing is a way for us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, that we teach one another through song, admonish one another through song.
Eph. 5:17-19 teaches that we are not to be unwise, but to be filled with the spirit of Christ.  We do this by “speaking to yourselves in songs, hymns, and spiritual song, singing and making melody in your hearts.”
C.  Congregational singing – Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; and Heb. 2:11-12 all indicate that the singing we do in worship to Jehovah God is reflexive in nature.  That means that when singing is done, all present should sing.  “Speaking (vocalizing) to yourselves”, “teaching and admonition one another”, “in the midst of the congregation” are the phrases that tell us Christians should all sing together to each other.

III.  Modern forms of worship – mechanical instruments, clapping, humming:Edit

A.    Violate the Law of Specificity (sometimes referred to as the Law of Silence).  Nowhere in the New Testament are mechanical instruments, clapping, humming or any other form of music commanded, recorded as an example, or implied.  Singing is specified and therefore all other forms of music not specified are by definition an addition and sinful.  There does not need to be a command specifically against mechanical instruments, one against clapping, and one against humming.
Since these modern forms of worship are not taught in the New Testament, they are the doctrines of men, and therefore using them is vain worship (Matt. 15:9).
B.     Do not fulfill the purposes given for singing in worship.  The point of singing one to another in worship is a mnemonic device, a way to remember better the teachings of the New Testament.  Mechanical instruments are explicitly said to not communicate (1 Cor 13:1).  What doctrine can be taught by clapping hands or humming?
C.     Cause division.  No person who claims to be a Christian has any issue whatsoever with singing.  Singing has never caused division either within the church or the denominational world.  Mechanical instruments, clapping, humming, and all other forms of modern worship have continually divided not only the churches of Christ, but even the denominations of the world.  The founders of most of the Protestant Reformers despised mechanical instruments calling them things such as “the ensign of the devil” (Martin Luther).
D.    Are primarily for self-gratification through entertainment.  Where the Bible teaches that singing is for mutual education, reciprocal teaching and admonishment, the playing of mechanical instruments, clapping, or humming (music without the words) do not educate or admonish anyone, nor do they facilitate this in anyway (in fact they get in the way in many cases).  The only purpose that these things can have is to entertain or amuse.
Muse – to think.  A – prefix that negates a word.  Amuse – not to think.
These modern forms of worship are focused on self, rather than each other or Jehovah.

IV.  Common defenses answered.Edit

A. Psallo.  The most common defense from relatively educated proponents of the use of mechanical instruments comes from the use of the word psallo (Greek) which is translated as “making melody” in Eph. 5:19.  The original meaning of the word means “to pluck” or “to pull out” (as in the plucking of a hair from a goat’s beard).  Eventually it came to mean to pluck or twang a string on a stringed instrument such as a harp.  The argument goes that in using this word, mechanical instruments are authorized because psallo is the plucking of instruments (as in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) in addition to singing as written earlier in the verse.
Rebuttal:  There are two problems with this argument.  The first is that words change meaning over time.  If they argue that they don’t, then why aren’t they arguing for plucking a goat’s beard in worship?  Or for that matter, how can they squeeze drums, wind instruments, and anything you don’t “pluck” out of that one word?  If they do allow that words change meaning, how can they argue that the word psallo had not changed meaning again by the time it was used in Eph. 5:19?  The second, and this is the more problematic issue, is that the verse specifies what is to be psalloed…the heart.  In specifying the heart, all other instruments for psallo are automatically eliminated.  The psallo argument is not reasonable.
B.  They used mechanical instruments (or clapped) in the Old Testament!  This is probably the most common argument in support of the use of mechanical instruments (or clapping).  The argument essentially points out that God doesn’t change and if He accepted these forms of worship before, He still does and always will.
Rebuttal:  The rebuttal to this point is actually covered above, but it is made so often that it bears repeating.  First of all, the majority of Christians today are Gentiles and were never amenable to the Law of Moses (the OT).  Second, the Law of Moses is not law that is in effect today.  Jesus nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15).  Finally, and most importantly, those who seek to justify themselves by the Law of Moses have fallen from Grace (Gal. 5:4).  To justify mechanical instruments or clapping or anything at all by appealing to Moses or David or any part of the Old Testament is to fall from Grace.
C.  They used harps in Revelation.  There are three verses in Revelation that mention harps (Rev. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2).  The argument goes that these harps were used in worship in Heaven and whatever is permissible in Heaven must certainly be permissible here on Earth.
Rebuttal:  There are two major problems with this argument.  The first is simply this, Heaven is a spiritual realm and physical objects such as mechanical instruments simply don’t exist there. 
The second, which is related to some extent to the first, is that the book of Revelation is a book of symbols.  To draw conclusions about basic things such as worship from a very complex book in what amounts to code is very problematic at best.  The harps represent things (see my posts on Revelation in the relevant chapters).  In Revelation 5:8 it says that they represent the prayers of the saints.  In chapters 14 and 15 the harps are the same as the waters and the thunder are all the same thing, the voice of God.  In each case, the symbol (harps) is interpreted in the context.  To use this text of symbols to justify something literal (and unrelated), is a last, desperate grasping at straw.
D. There is no authorization for buildings, song books, a song leader, etc.  The argument goes that since the churches of Christ use buildings to worship in, song books while we are singing, a song leader to direct the singing, and so on that our reasoning is hypocritical and contradictory.  Therefore we should at the very least not condemn the use of mechanical instruments, clapping, etc.
Rebuttal:  This is actually the worst argument for if it were true, then all it says is that those other things are also sinful to use.  It does not actually argue in favor of mechanical instruments and clapping.  It only points out an alleged inconsistency in the position held by faithful churches of Christ.  This argument stems from a woeful lack of understanding of the nature of worship.  No one I know of argues that using a song book is an act of worship.
The truth of the matter is, that there is authorization for these other things.  Since worship is an action, a verb, then it is the specific acts intended as worship that are specified.  Using a songbook is not an action of worship.  It is only used to facilitate the singing.  The using of a pitch pipe before the song starts is not an act of worship either, it is an expedient to facilitate order in worship.  The list could go on and on.  Since none of these things usually brought up are intended to be used in worship, the way mechanical instruments and clapping are actually used as worship, the argument is not a valid one.  It’s little more than a scarecrow down a rabbit trail.
E.  Clapping is simply an emotional response similar to that of laughing, sighing, groaning or even clearing your throat.  Some folks respond to sermons or prayer with "Amens" or "Preach on" or similar utterances.  Clapping is a similar type of response, an expression of joy.  Since we do not have authority to laugh, sigh, or express these verbal responses during sermons or prayers in worship but we understand that natural emotions are acceptable, so too is clapping, its just a natural emotional response.  Furthermore, "this is not like mechanical instruments because it uses our own body".
Rebuttal:  This amounts to nothing more than "do whatever feels right".  If this argument were valid, nothing that is not explicitly condemned is acceptable (an extension of the "all life is worship" false teaching).  The error here is that it makes of no effect passages like Matthew 15:9 or any passage that says "don't add to the gospel".  It also ignores the concept of specificity, and completely eradicates the significance of singing as given in the New Testament.
As for the last statement about it being our own body instead of mechanical, by this argument, Ned Nostril and his band would be acceptable.  Let's all fart for Jehovah!  After all, its part of the our natural, bodily functions!
F.  Mechanical instruments and clapping are Romans 14 issues.  If it violates your conscience, don’t use them, but don’t condemn those who think its okay.  Paul wrote in Romans 14 that we should not judge each other in matters of liberty.  After all, we don’t really know what worship was like back then.  We have some record of some of what they did, but we don’t know specifically.
Rebuttal:  Those who use this argument completely miss the context of Romans 14 which has nothing to do with worship.  Though some might argue that the word λατρείαν (latreia) means worship, this is not correct.  It is a much more general term that means service such as seen in John 16:2.  While it can refer to that which is related to worship (the Old Testament rituals of the Levitical priesthood surrounding their duties, which included some aspects of worship), it is too generic to be used the way that it is used to support any and all forms of worship.
Furthermore, if the Romans 14 defense is true, then it renders passages such as Matthew 15:9 completely of no effect (Gal. 5:4; Mark 7:13).  Romans 14 is not a do-whatever-you-want passage.  It has limitations related to the context in which Romans 14 is found.  Eating meat offered to idols or “unclean”, drinking alcohol, and celebrating special days (related to the Hebrew calendar specifically).  To use Romans 14 with regard to worship is disingenuous at best.

V.  Conclusion.Edit

Ultimately it is our duty to fear God and keep His commandments.  We express our love to God by keeping His commandments, not thinking we can do better than He can and adding to or modifying what He commanded.  Mechanical instruments, clapping, and other similar forms of worship are unauthorized additions and therefore sinful.  They do not fulfill God’s purpose and are ultimately selfish and arrogant in their nature, the very essence of what sin is.
Those who use them imperil their eternal souls.

In Truth and Love,