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Singing
in Worship
The churches of Christ, in contradistinction to other religious bodies claiming to be Christian,
owes its very existence to its claim and practice to follow the inspired advice of Peter: "If any
man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;..." (1 Peter 4:11).

This means that unless the churches of Christ can give book, chapter, and verse for what they
say they will not say it; this means that unless the churches of Christ can give book, chapter and
verse for what they practice, they will not practice it.

"We speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it is silent; we do Bible things in
Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names."

As Dirk Phillips penned in the 1500's:  "It is evident that whatever God has not commanded and
has not instituted by express commands of Scripture, He does not want to be served therewith;
nor will He have His Word set aside nor made to suit the pleasure of men." (
Vindication)

That is why J.D. Murch in his book,
Christians Only, in speaking of the growth of the church
says: "This is due to two things: (1) Its people have stood like a rock of Gilbraltor for 'the faith
which was once delivered unto the saints', amid the doubt and confusion superinduced
liberalism.  They have challenged the spirit of compromise and dared to be a 'peculiar people'
teaching and practicing what they believe is the Bible way of life. (2) They have come to realize
that the silence of the Scriptures must be respected as well as the commandments of
Scripture, BUT that obedience to its silence permits freedom of judgment and action."

Friends and brethren, no where has this stand for what the Bible and the Bible alone says
become more peculiar to those who have attended our worship services than in our singing.  
The absence of choirs has been a curiosity piece for for more than one denominational
neighbor who has dropped in for a visit.  Is the absence of special singing groups in our
worship a matter of tradition and custom?  Or, is there a Biblical principle behind the
conspicuous void of these in our services?  It is a matter of principle.

The command to sing

The commands of God for us to sing are found in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.  They
read:

"Speaking to yourselves [one to another -- ASV] in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one
another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the
Lord."

The command to sing is given to all.  The understood subject of "speaking" in Ephesians 5:19
is "you" in the plural.  Paul says, in essence, "all of you speak one to another" in singing.  
Friends and brethren, you will notice the same application in
Colossians 3:16, "teaching and
admonishing one another".  
The reflexive pronoun indicates an interchange of action, or
implies that each individual must take part in the action; all are to sing.  This means that the
command to sing is a command for
congregational singing.

In Leviticus 10:1-2 is found a small story with a large principle.  "And Nadab and Abihu, the
sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon,
and offered strange fie before the Lord,
which he commanded them not.  And there went out
fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord."

Notice, they did not do something that God said "thou shalt not do;" they merely did not do what
God told them to do.  When God says to do a certain thing that immediately and completely
eliminates everything else
(see also 2 John 9; Revelation 22:18,19; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1
Peter 4:11; Acts 15:24; Hebrews 1:5; 7:12-14).

The fact that congregational singing is commanded automatically eliminates any special group
of singer, unless there can be produced a verse of Scripture which authorizes such a special
group of singer.  Friends and brethren, this means that choirs, choruses, quartets, duos and
solos are contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures and transgress the doctrine of Christ.  They
are sinful to utilize in the worship of God.  To use them is to offer vain worship.

The testimony of history

If the position of the preceding paragraph is true, then it would be expected to see the history of
special singers in the worship of the church begin at a time following the Apostolic Age.  This is
exactly what is found.

Henry Hart Milman in his
History of Christianity, Vol. III, states: "The first change in the manner
of singing was the substitution of singers, who became a special order in the church, for the
mingled voices of all ranks, ages, and sexes, which was compared by the great reformer of
church music to the glad sound of many waters." (p. 409)

In
History of the Christian Church, John F. Hurst, in commenting on the singing of  the church
in its early years, says: "The singing of psalms and hymns was an important part of the service.  
It might be led by an individual, but Paul's advice proves that the singing by the whole
congregation was regarded as the best form of praise... The music at no time, and in no place,
was regarded as the prerogative of the singers.  That only was held to be sacred music which
the congregation could participate in, either responsively or continually." (Vol. I, pp. 142,357)

Congregational singing was at the first practiced by the church, according to
The Oxford
Dictionary of the Chrisitan Church
, "but gradually the practice of having a body of trained
singers was introduced." (p. 1225)

According to the
Cyclopedia of McClintock and Strong, "From the apostolic age singing was
always a part of the divine service, in which the whole body of the church joined together; and it
was the decay of this practice that first brought the order of singers into the church." (Vol. IX, p.
776)

Go to Singing in Worship 2.