“When the Lord Opens the Door You Have to Seize the Opportunity...”

by Bob Lovelace

For some reason. perhaps because it is beneficial to be reminded how apostasy works, or better yet because apostasy does indeed “work” and present itself in order to perpetuate its working of error, I keep meeting those who say they really do not see anything wrong with instrumental music in worship.

Conversation with a Visitor

At the beginning of the year someone who was in town visiting their family called me one Tuesday morning with the general statement or question:How many churches of Christ are in town? He asked if I was at the building, and I said I was; thus, he desired to drop by since he said was close by.

He had two things on his mind. The first was: “Why do your churches not have kitchens?” I wasn’t amazed at hearing this having recently made an application on that very thing in our Bible class — the very point being about brethren’s inability to accept what Christ authorized for the local church. He said, “I think my brethren would call you and your brethren (pause)” — and I finished it for him and said, “Antis.” He said, “That’s right! That’s what I’ve heard them refer to you as.” He wanted to know what I’d call them. I told him some might refer to them as Liberals or Institutionalists, and to us as Noninstitutionalists or Conservatives, but so far as I was concerned they left the faith and they are apostates (cf. II John 9). Some refer to them as the “denominational church of Christ.” Since he said he’d came out of the Jehovah Witnesses, I told him he needed to do research and learn who divided the Lord’s church in the 1950's and 60's and why. I told him primarily they wanted the church support of human societies in order to get the colleges in the budgets of the churches. I also told him we had members here who had adopted orphans and should he hear we hate orphans he’ll know better.

He said one of the problems his church had was they’d rented their building to some Seventh Day Adventists who were paying them a monthly fee. He and another did not think that was scriptural. Evidently they had stopped the practice, but he said that did cause problems. I drew a circle and illustrated the contribution in Acts 4:37. I asked, “Is a contribution from those ‘outside’ the church the New Testament pattern?” He said, “No.” It was obvious that he was able to recognize the pattern for the church receiving funds. Why couldn’t he accept what Paul said in I Corinthians 11:34? He wanted to know how I felt about I Corinthians 14:34. We read it together. I told him I thought anyone could read it an understand it. After all, brethren, what did Paul say in I Corinthians 14:37? We are to acknowledge that what he wrote were the commandments of the Lord. I took a tablet and did a quick listing of the work of the church:

  • Edification (I Corinthians 14),
  • Worship (I Corinthians 11),
  • Support of Evangelists in teaching and preaching the Gospel (I Corinthians 9; I Timothy 3:15; I Thessalonians 1:8), and
  • Benevolence (Acts 6).

Then I drew a line and below it I put “other things” done elsewhere by individuals. Such things as social fellowship halls known as church kitchens along with entertainment are not part of the work of the local church (I Corinthians 11:22; Acts 2:46). I asked him if he considered what they did as “individual” action or “collective” as a church functions? He said he considered it “individual” action. That just simply doesn’t go with his initial question, “Why no church kitchens?”

Brethren, you must study to stay away from error. As individuals we must study to be able to expose error (Philippians 1:7, “confirmation” — to make stable). Moreover, we must strive together in the local church in opposing error (Philippians 1:27).

“I really think it is okay to have instrumental music in worship” He Said

The second thing on his mind was that he really thought it was okay to have instruments in worship. I thought about how I had just made an application on that very thing as well — the point on brethren’s inability to discern and keep what Christ authorized for the local church.

“Where is your scripture?” I asked. His first answer was a reference to the Old Testament musicians at the Temple. I gave him Ephesians 5:19 and he said that didn’t mean the same thing for him it did for me. I told him he could read the parallel in Colossians 3:16 for it says “sing” as well. “Speaking” in Ephesians 5:19 is not “playing” an instrument! One reply was, “You just don’t realize how hard it is for those who come out of denominationalism to accept just singing.” First, that’s simply not true of all people who come out of denominationalism. I’ve known musicians who told me they knew when they read those verses what God wanted in worship and it pleased them just fine because what they did was to entertain with the instrument. I explained to him that anyone knows that there were no instruments used in the first century church as recorded in the New Testament. Even denominations opposed them in the early years in our country.

Striving to help I told that he needed to consider Leviticus 10. Does that ring a bell? Ding! Ding! What happened when Nadab and Abihu broke the pattern for acceptable worship? Moreover, they were taught properly “before” this and given specific instructions not to change things (Exodus 30:9, 37-38). They “practiced” the truth before this (Leviticus 8:36). His reply: “Yeah but that’s the Old Testament.” However, he used the Old Testament for justification for instruments when he wanted to. I gave him II Timothy 3:16-17. His reply: “All scripture includes the Old Testament.” I wrote down his favorite phrase on the tablet: “It doesn’t say not to.” Question: What does it say to do? Sing! I told him you need to deal with the “must,” friend, in John 4:24, and that’s what I’m trying to show you. I read him II Timothy 1:13 and he read it: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Concerned reader, the New Testament came from the Father to Christ, then through the Holy Spirit to the apostles and inspired prophets in the first century (John 16:13-14; 17:8, 14). What is our responsibility? II Timothy 1:13! The one who wrote II Timothy 1:13 and demanded that of us was not Moses but rather an apostle under the New Covenant! “Sing” is New Testament authority for worship. “Playing” was authorized in the Old Testament. There is no physical Temple as in the Old Testament today! (cf. Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:13).

This man is a sitting duck for the movement within his brotherhood that is pushing instrumental music. He said he was an evangelist. What kind of evangelist is he? You have to be careful with strangers! (I John 4:1).

A Recent Visit Back Home

I recently went back to my home town to attend my mother’s funeral. Even before going I was aware that the University Church of Christ had added the instrument of music to their worship of God. I have been away i.e. lived away from Las Cruces, N.M. for many years. One thing I do remember is the teaching given at the Miranda Street church of Christ on what the church that belongs to Christ consists of in organization, work and worship. I recall preachers such as Gene Frost, Maurice Barnett and H.E. McCaskill. None of these men would be surprised that the University church now advertises a service with instruments of music as well as one that is a capella.

While there at the “viewing,” I met an elder of the University church of Christ. We have known one another since schools days. His father was among those who left the Miranda St. church and helped start the University church. Our friendship split when the church was split over the institutional questions of the 50's and early 60's. I asked him, “Since when does the church of Christ have instruments of music in worship?” He replied: “When the Lord opens the door you have to seize the moment and step through.” I replied that you stepped through that door into apostasy.

Why would the University church of Christ’s web site recommend Max Lucado’s booklet “Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion”? The progression of apostasy in Max Lucado is something well known. This is the man quoted as saying, "We hope that renaming the church, opening new campuses and adding musical instruments to the worship service will help bring more people to Christ." When the emphasis is on numbers and pleasing the young people adding the instrument of music always fits right in! The Baptist Press article "Max Lucado transcends Church of Christ beliefs" by Michael Foust (May 2005) says, "Lucado's church is Church of Christ -- but not a typical Church of Christ. For starters, musical instruments are used (although there is still one a capella service). Also, the church has a baptistic view of baptism -- that is, that baptism isn't required for salvation.” Moreover Lucado signed a faith only document that says, “The moment we truly believe in Christ, the Father declares us righteous in him and begins conforming us to his likeness.”

Apostasy never stands still! You should know this and be able to see this. The next generation goes yet further progressing in error. Some in my own family, I’ve heard, who left the church to start the University church of Christ regretted the day they did so in their later years seeing the fruit of what they helped build. Others left foolishly thinking they wouldn’t have to give account themselves for innovations but rather the elders would. Old friends left the church through the years to go there or elsewhere — some hoping to find a church not so conservative. Should there be anyone anywhere just “aching” to make that passage into apostasy, perhaps thinking it will be a spiritual revitalization of some sort, then let the adding of the instrument of music in so called churches of Christ be a lesson against it this very day! (Read II John 9).