Music In The Early Church — post by Michael J. Findley

lastsupperJesus and the disciples attended Jewish synagogues and temple worship. These services included stringed, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The book of Psalms was the hymn book of the second temple. After finishing the Passover meal they sang a hymn, presumably not a Psalm, and presumably without instruments, before walking across the Kidron Valley to the garden of Gethsemane. Until forced out, first century Christians continued to worship in synagogues and follow Jewish customs.

Paul wrote to the new Gentile converts “Let the word of the Messiah inhabit you richly with wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 and “Then you will recite to one another psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; you will sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts,” Ephesians 5:19. This admonition was taken by some to mean antiphonal singing, with either two choirs or dividing the congregation into two parts and alternating the parts of the hymn or song.

Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Trajan (61-113) about the proper punishment of Christians. “They had been accustomed to come together on a fixed day before daylight and to sing responsively a song to Christ as God.” (AD 112?)

Five times in the book of Revelation a song is sung in heaven; 5:9, 5:11, 14:1, 14:3, 15:3. Harps are played heaven. Revelation 5:8, 14:2, and 15:2. The musical instruments of Babylon are condemned, Revelation 18:22. Trumpets in heaven are sounded, but not used as musical instruments. Zechariah 9:14, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Hebrews 12:19, Revelation 1:10, 4:1, 8:2, 6,7,8,10,12,13, 9:1,13,14

Justin the Martyr wrote (AD 155?) in his Apology to the Emperor Chapter 13 “to use [material possessions] for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation …”

“Chapter 41. The crucifixion predicted And again, in another prophecy, the Spirit of prophecy, through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign, and spoke as follows: Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and day by day declare His salvation. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols of devils; but God made the heavens. Glory and praise are before His face, strength and glorying are in the habitation of His. Give Glory to the Lord, the Father everlasting. Receive grace, and enter His presence, and worship in His holy courts. Let all the earth before His face; let it be established, and not shaken. Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord has reigned from the tree.”

Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, approximately AD 235? “Then, rising up after supper, the children and virgins having prayed, they shall sing psalms. Then the deacon, holding the mixed cup of the offering, shall say a Hallelujah Psalm. Then, the presbyter having commanded, ‘And also such-and-such Psalms,’ after the bishop has offered the cup with the proper thanksgiving, all shall say “Hallelujah” as the Psalms are sung. And they shall say: We praise Him who is God most high; Glorified and praised is He, Then, when the Psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the bread, and shall give the fragments to all the believers.”

Music had only two purposes in the earliest Church. It was used to instruct, build up, edify, believers. It was also used in direct address to God to worship God. There are no recorded instances of performing music to please those who listened. Performing music just to please the listeners has been condemned as a sin by thousands of pastors for over 1500 years. At the same time, music to glorify God is essential to worship in the Christian Church. The Spirit of the prophet must be controlled by the prophet and this includes music.
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4 thoughts on “Music In The Early Church — post by Michael J. Findley

  1. Jennifer644 Do you mean the phrase “Performing music just to please the listeners has been condemned as a sin?” That is very different from “music not for praise or worship.”

  2. Allowing or providing permission for singing in the church with instruments is just that. There is not exclusion clause written or inferred that one cannot perform or listen for enjoyment. Where does enjoyment of music become a sin in scripture? Are the worshippers not allowed to enjoy the sound their music is making? Sounds to me like men added their own opinions based on fear of sinning, not on a commandment, or clear instruction. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any…. Listing names of Pharisee Christians is ineffective, as there have always been legalists who judge other people’s liberties. There are also denominations that refuse to use instruments, although I can’t figure out how they have a scriptural basis for that, since instruments are clearly listed, as in the passages you describe. Worship is diverse throughout the whole world, and who are we to judge another man’s offering of praise? It is up to God to receive it or not. We can follow our own conscience, but judging another’s offering makes us pharissaical, judgmental, and hypocritical. What if we get to heaven and find out that God accepted their offerings, and we spent our lives condemning them? These worship wars have done so much harm in the body of Christ: like another “I am of Paul, I am of Appolos, type of argument.” We have liberty in Christ that may extend to areas that are surprising to some who have been influenced to condemn. What message are we sending? If everything we do is supposed to be done as an offering to God: all ground is holy ground, how can anything we do not be for God’s glory if we offer the work of our hands to him every day, moment by moment? Do you weld to God’s glory, do you nurse for God’s glory? Do you teach for God’s glory? All work, including singing for an audience should be done to God’s glory…I guess even playing football, but that’s another subject all together.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nancy Horine. Perhaps I am a little slow, but I do not understand how your comments relate to this blog. What am I missing?

      1. It was the last paragraph of the text she was referring to stating that for the last 1500 years music that was not for praise or worship was condemned.

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