Why Won't They Change?

In the recent book, The Transforming of a Tradition, Milton Jones compares the struggle over the use of instruments of music in worship to the Confederate flag. According to Jones those who wish to remain a cappella are like those who wish to keep the Confederate flag regardless of how it hurts others. He argues:
Why won’t the ones who want a cappella music change? It is more than heritage for many. It is conviction. Even if nearly all of Christendom doesn’t agree, they must be faithful. To give up the cause is to lose all for which they have been fighting. They lose identity. How would they be recognized? What would our ancestors think? (76-77)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, members of churches of Christ had pretty much divided from their instrumental brethren. The a cappella group numbered only 159,000, while the instrumental group boasted of more than 600,000. The instrumental brethren had their way and kept most of the church buildings and almost all the schools. A cappella groups were left to fend for themselves, to build their own church buildings, and to establish new schools. But according to Jones, they were the aggressors who have beat up on their brethren.
Jones suggests brethren have remained a cappella because they fear losing all that they have been fighting for, their identity. This is only partially true. If Jones is suggesting that churches of Christ have remained a cappella because that is what distinguishes them as a denomination, then I would object.
If Jones is suggesting that some have remained a cappella merely because that is their tradition and heritage, he is right. Some among us are so complacent they do not see the need to stand strong for Biblical truth. Indeed, many do not know or do not believe the truth about the use of the instrument in worship.
If, however, Jones is suggesting that true, Biblical discipleship includes abiding in the words of Jesus (John 8:31-32), then I could agree. That is what I am fighting for, true Biblical Christianity. There is no warrant in Scripture for the use of musical instruments in worship; their use is a human innovation that disrespects the will of God. I have no desire to maintain a human tradition or “our” heritage; but I have every desire to please God and to do His will.
What “nearly all of Christendom” thinks is not the issue. God does not take opinion polls to determine truth. The New Testament church should consult Scripture, not men, to determine what God wills for their beliefs and practices.
What our ancestors think is not nearly as important as what God thinks. We will not be judged by our ancestors but by the words of Jesus (John 12:48). While we may have much respect for Campbell, Stone, McGarvey and Lipscomb, we have only one Lord; and He alone is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23).
Our identification as true disciples of Jesus Christ includes a great deal more than merely refusing to use instruments of music in worship. Our identity is in living to do the will of God (John 4:34), in abiding in the words of Jesus (8:31-32), in keeping His commandments to show our love for God (John 14:15), and in putting the Lord first in every respect (Col. 1:10). Our identity is derived from an overwhelming desire to please and to serve Him by doing exactly what He asks of us (John 14:31). We are His servants, saved by grace, living by faith, and under His authority. We belong to the Lord.
If the Lord had wanted us to use instruments, He surely would have told us. For hundreds of years early Christians understood that a cappella music was the will of God?a Divine tradition (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). We are willing to follow that tradition, not because men observed it but because God delivered it.

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Phil Sanders

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