Featured Items Ritchie Christian Media

May 2005

From the editor: Character Studies in the Assembly (3)
J Grant

The Offerings (1)
J Paton

Stem Cell Research: A Biblical Perspective
D Vallance

Words from the Cross (5)
C Jones

Question Box

Be not ignorant (3)
R Catchpole

Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5)
J Gibson

Notebook: The Prophets of Israel and Judah
J Grant

Book Review

The First Epistle of John (12)
S Whitmore

Whose faith follow: Dr & Mrs Walter Fisher (1865-1935)

With Christ

The Lord’s Work & Workers


Question Box

What might be the line drawn on musical accompaniment in praise and worship?

The New Testament is silent as to the subject of instrumental music in the assemblies. Both in Acts and in 1 Corinthians there is no hint that the early Christians used musical accompaniment in their gatherings for praise and worship. It is interesting that we have many references to music in the Old Testament, but very few in the New Testament. The only reference to music in 1 Corinthians 14 is by way of illustration and not instruction (v.7). Notice in v.15 that both praying and singing is to be in the spirit and with the understanding. We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it. In Ephesians 5.19 Paul exhorts the saints at Ephesus to make melody "in your heart" and as William Rodgers writes in Bible Problems And Answers (page 333), "If we make good use of this instrument we shall have little need of any other". A great simplicity characterized the assemblies in apostolic times. The character of music in these early churches must have been purely vocal. As far as the history of music in the post-apostolic church period is concerned, about 700 years passed before musical instruments were introduced. Gradually over the centuries music became more and more prevalent until it grew to be an accepted part of church services.

It is said that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was opposed to musical instruments in the church, that John Calvin considered that music has no more place today than the burning of incense and other shadows of the law, and that Charles H Spurgeon used no music in his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Interesting though it is to know what these renowned men believed and practised, as believers we must be persuaded by Scripture. We may draw a line here, for the danger is that while some assemblies today use a musical instrument we must not, as some, go to an extreme by asserting that an assembly is not an assembly because, for example, they may use an organ in the gospel meeting. It is good to remember that God is more concerned about praising Him with the fruit of our lips than the fruit of our finger tips (Heb 13.15).

John J Stubbs

What did Paul mean when he wrote, "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment" (1 Cor 7.6), and is he teaching in v.7 that it would be better for men to be content in the unmarried state?

From this point in 1 Corinthians, Paul begins to answer questions raised in a letter he had received from Corinth. In ch.7 the issue considered is that of marriage; Paul confines himself to the questions raised in the correspondence and does not attempt to give a complete treatise on the subject.

Verses 1-2 of the chapter are introductory; then in vv.3-7 Paul gives counsel to the married. The apostle speaks to the unmarried and widows in vv.8-9, whilst in the next section of the chapter he again addresses the married, a) where both are believers (vv.10-11), and b) where the persons concerned either have an unconverted husband or wife (vv.12-16).

Physical union in marriage is an undertaking involved in the marriage contract (v.3). The woman who has married gives up the right to her own body and so too the man (v.4). In view of this, Paul exhorts the married couple not to refuse or deprive one another in the matter of their marital rights, unless it be for a limited time, by mutual agreement, in order to give themselves with greater concentration to spiritual exercise before God, then they must come together again (v.5).

Paul then says, "But I speak this (the counsel given in v.5) by permission and not of commandment" (v.6). Thus Paul was writing by way of "permission"(the only time the original Greek word is found in the New Testament), namely, making allowances for circumstances, "and not of commandment": there is no such legislation in Christian liberty. The apostle was not simply giving his opinion as a private individual, he was writing in the consciousness of his apostolic authority and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Paul makes reference to his own single state in v.7, desiring that all might be "even as I myself". He then qualifies this personal desire, not wishing to force his state upon others, recognising that each has his own gift of grace bestowed upon him by God.

Whether a believer marries or remains single, responsibility in the matter is to God alone. Evidently with reference to the service of God, it would be an advantage, in some circumstances, to remain unmarried.

David E West


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