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Instrumental Music at the Richland Hills Church of Christ. A Biblical Response. Background. Richland Hills Church of Christ is located between Dallas and Fort Worth, TX., reporting a membership of over 6,000.

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Instrumental Musicat the Richland Hills Church of Christ

A Biblical Response


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Background

  • Richland Hills Church of Christ is located between Dallas and Fort Worth, TX., reporting a membership of over 6,000.

  • Richland Hills now uses instrumental music and Rick Atchley, their preacher, recently gave a defense of it in a series of sermons titled, “The Both / And Church” (December 3,10,17, 2006).

  • Their “Acappella Worship” service is on Sunday (8:00 am, 10:45 am) and their “Instrumental Worship” service (including the Lord’s Supper) is on Saturday (5:00 pm).


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Background

  • Atchley describes this issue as “anti-instrument” (the Richland Hills church was “anti-instrument” one month before Atchley presented his lessons).

  • Listening to the lessons will give you insight into how far away from the scriptures some preachers and members of the church have gone (the three lessons can be downloaded at www.rhchurch.org).


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Background

  • There is a need for another service.

  • A three-year process of reaching this conclusion.

  • This change will allow us to reach unbelievers.

  • What principles guide our future? What fears of I.M. do we have? Is it Biblically appropriate for us to have I.M.? Is it an effective strategy to have worship options?


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Background

  • First Question: Why a Saturday evening (5 pm) worship service with I.M.?

  • According to the New York Times, this is the best time to invite the “unchurched.”

  • Nothing will change on Sunday morning.

  • This will give us more flexibility.


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Background

  • Second Question: May we meet on Saturday instead of Sunday?

  • N.T. Christians worshipped everyday.

  • There is no N.T. command to meet on Sunday only.

  • Jews reckoned time differently than we do – their evening starts the new day.


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Background

  • There is no indication that this was an issue with early Christians (Rom. 14:5).

  • Choose the day that fits your worship preference and conviction.


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Background

  • Third Question: May Christians take the L.S. on Saturday instead of Sunday?

  • Early Christians took daily communion (Acts 2:42,46).

  • Early Church leaders said that Christians took the L.S. daily – no evidence that this was made a test of fellowship.


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Background

  • Does what one church did at one time settle what all churches should do for all time? Luke is recording Roman time in Acts 20:7-12. Paul preached until midnight and took the L.S. early Monday morning.

  • Paul said “whenever” (as often as you) meaning an indefinite time (1 Cor. 11:26).

  • Jesus made the event important, man has made the time important.


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Background

  • No preacher has a problem with taking up a collection on Saturday night; Jesus instituted the L.S. on Thursday.

  • Many Christians look for a plan (pattern), not a man (Jesus).

  • Follow your heart and conscience and worship where and when you choose and do not judge another.


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Atchley opens will a quote from Coach John Wooden who wrote that “there is no progress without change.”

  • Instead of being “either / or”, we should be “both / and.”

  • Can you worship with I.M. acceptably, or is acappella music only acceptable? Both are acceptable.


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • The early Christians were Jews and circumcision was a mark of identity.

  • Do Gentile Christians have to be circumcised to be saved?

  • The early church concluded that circumcision was not an “either / or” issue, but a “both / and” issue.


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Answer: Jewish Christians lived under two covenants (the O.T. had passed away; the N.T. was still in force); thus, circumcision was a matter of judgment (Gal. 5:6; 6:15).

  • Christians today are under one covenant that is still in force, the N.T., and I.M. has never been a part of the N.T. worship.


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Principle #1 – There was clear and respectful communication. No name calling.

  • Answer: Actually, Paul debated the matter with those who demanded circumcision and labeled them (verse 2; Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:1ff; etc.).


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Principle #2 – The believers listened with an open mind.

  • Answer: Paul, Peter and James spoke with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We listen to God’s word today, not man’s word (Rick Atchley, the Richland Hills elders, etc.).


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Principle #3 – They turned to the word of God for confirmation.

  • Answer: What New Testament text do we to turn to authorize I.M.?


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Rich Atchley’s Four PrinciplesFrom Acts 15

  • Principle #4 – They were more committed to their mission than to their tradition. Many churches do not view I.M. as a salvation issue.

  • Answer: The O.T. had passed away. They were now under the Law of Christ. They had to change on circumcision because the covenant had changed.


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #1 – The loss of four-part harmony acappella tradition.

  • Answer: Acappella music is not a man-made tradition, but an apostolic tradition (2 Thess. 2:15).


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #2 – I.M. will discourage congregational singing.

  • Answer: The issue is N.T. Bible authority.


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #3 – I.M. will encourage performance worship. Abuse is never a sound reason to keep a Biblical practice from happening.

  • Answer: I.M. is not a N.T. practice for the church.


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #4 – Family conflict.

  • Answer: We need to be concerned about conflict with Jesus, not family (Mt. 10:34-39).


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #5 – Loss of Richland Hills members to other churches (accepting divorced people, praise teams [choirs], the kingdom of God is larger than Churches of Christ). We have lost too many over an unimportant question.

  • Answer: Some faithful brethren will stand for truth and authority and leave error (Col. 3:17). I.M. is not unimportant.


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #6 – Loss of influence among Churches of Christ. Many encouraged us and praised us for what we are doing.

  • Answer: No, there will be a loss of Bible authority (2 Tim. 1:13); a loss of true, N.T. worship. Our encouragement should come from the N.T., not people.


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Rich Atchley’s Seven Fears

  • Fear #7 – Loss of brotherhood identity.

  • Answer: No, there will be a loss of Bible authority (2 Tim. 1:13); a loss of true, N.T. worship.


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Rick Atchley’s Old Testament Arguments

  • Argument #1 – God did not just allow instrumental music in the Old Testament; he commanded it (1 Chron. 28; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:6; 29:25-26; Psa. 33:1-3; 81:1-3; 92:1-3; 150:1-6)

  • Answer: Instrumental music was commanded as a part of the Old Testament Jewish worship service which has now been done away (Col. 2:14).* Where is it command as a part of the New Testament Christian worship?

    * See also Rom. 7:4; Gal. 3:24-25; 5:4; Eph. 2:14-15; and Heb. 8:6-7,13; 10:9.


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Rick Atchley’s Old Testament Arguments

  • Argument #2 – God blessed instrumental music and was pleased with it (2 Chron. 5:13-14)

  • Answer: God also blessed the animal sacrifices (2 Chron. 5:6). Are we to have these also? Where does God bless I.M. in the New Testament?


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Rick Atchley’s Old Testament Arguments

  • Argument #3 – Messianic prophecy anticipated instrumental music would continue in the coming kingdom (Psa. 45:6-7; Heb. 1:8-9); verse 8 of Psa. 45 includes instrumental music

  • Answer:

    • A part of a prophecy may apply to Jesus, but not all of it; verse 8 is not quoted in the N.T. (2 Sam. 7:12-14; Heb. 1:5)

    • Psalm 45 is a celebration of a King and Queen


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Rick Atchley’s Old Testament Arguments

  • Argument #3 (cont.) – Messianic prophecy anticipated instrumental music would continue in the coming kingdom (Psa. 18:49; 57:9; Rom. 15:9); the word “sing praise” comes from the Hebrew word zamar which includes instruments

  • Answer:

    • The context will determine if I.M. is included

    • The translators used the word “sing” (psallo) in Rom. 15:9, not “play” or “use instruments”

    • Where is the N.T. fulfillment of this Psalm involving instruments?


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Rick says, if God’s attitude toward I.M. changed in the New Testament you would expect one of the following three things…

    1. A clear passage condemning its use

    2. A clear passage commanding acappella praise only

    3. A prophecy announcing the end of I.M.


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • These are Rick’s rules, not God’s rules

  • These rules applied consistently would allow many denominational practices

  • What is needed is one “clear passage” that authorizes I.M. use in the worship of NT Christians


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Arguments #1 – Jesus never deals with the issue.

    (Jesus did not have a problem with I.M. He spoke of “music,” sumphonia, when talking about the prodigal son in Lk. 15:25. Jesus taught in the temple and cast out the moneychangers, not the musicians.)

  • Answer: Jesus did not deal with abortion, gambling, polygamy, sprinkling for baptism, or marijuana, does that mean that these things (and many other things) are right? What about the party and the “dancing” in Luke 15:25?


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Argument #2 – I.M. is a non-issue in the book of Acts. Christians worshipped in the temple in the presence of I.M. Nowhere in the N.T. is congregational singing authorized.

  • Answer: I.M. was a “non-issue” in the book of Acts because I.M. was absent from the N.T. church. N.T. Christians met in the temple for worship, but did not engage in OT worship practices (Acts 3:11). Both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 authorized congregational singing.


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Argument #3 – N.T. commands to sing neither prescribe or prohibit I.M. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13 speak to the individual, not the assembly; 1 Cor. 14 is the only reference to music that deals with the assembly and it speaks of solos). To say that “sing” means “sing only” is a human commandment. “Sing” today means to “sing and play an instrument.”

  • Answer: The words “one another” in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 speak to congregational activity (“yourselves” is plural; reciprocally; mutually).


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Argument #4 – The N.T. refers to instrumental music in heaven (Rev. 5:8; 15:2-3). Whether these passages contain literal or figurative items is irrelevant.

  • Answer: These passages contain other items like incense. Will these items also be introduced into churches of Christ? Where is the N.T. passage that authorizes I.M. in the worship of the N.T. church on earth? I.M. is in the O.T. and it is in heaven, but where is it in the N.T. church?


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Rick Atchley’s New Testament Arguments

  • Argument #5 – The NT idea of giftedness supports the practice of instrumental praise (Psa. 150:3; 2 Chron. 30:21). We have acting and painting! Why not gifted musicians? You can’t open the word of God and show me where God forbids it.

  • Answer: Bible authority, not a personal gift or skill, determines practice. May we have belly dancers in worship? Were Cain, Nadab and Abihu gifted (Gen. 4:1-5; Lev. 10:1-2)? Where does God forbid smoking marijuana, etc.?


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Rick Atchley Attempts to AnswerTwo Points Against I.M.

  • Point #1 – The word “psallo” (Eph. 5:19) does not mean “sing only;” it means to play an instrument (Wine only in 1 Tim. 5:23? Elders only in Jas. 5:14?)

  • Answer: The word “psallo” (to pluck or twain) is qualified by the immediate context; when an instrument is included it is either named or implied – in Eph. 5:19 it is “make melody [lit. psalming] in your heart.” If psallo means “play an instrument,” then all Christians would have to “play an instrument” because all are told to psallo in Eph. 5:19


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Rick Atchley Attempts to AnswerTwo Points Against I.M.

  • Point #2 – The silence of the scriptures argument is not valid. Anti-instrument brethren do a lot of things that the Bible is silent upon (Bible school, one cup, church building, located preachers, orphan homes). Silence in the N.T. on I.M. is not intentional but incidental. Jesus went to synagogues. Jesus went to the Feast of Lights. Jesus used wine at the Passover. Jesus did not allow his worship of God to be restricted to the “law of silence.”


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Rick Atchley Attempts to AnswerTwo Points

  • Point 2 (cont.) – “Silence in the New Testament on instrumental music is not intentional, it’s incidental.”

  • Answer to Point #2 – Rick finally admits that the N.T. is silent on I.M.! Specific authority is not required for all that we do, but authority is (Col. 3:17). Leviticus 10:1-2 and Hebrews 7:14 show that silence is prohibitive.


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Rick Atchley’s “Real Concerns”

  • Real Concern #1 – What this issue says about the Bible. No one, not already indoctrinated, would arrive at such a conclusion. They have been taught to read the Bible as anti-instrument. Thousands have studied their Bible and no longer hold the anti-instrument position. I do not open my Bible to defend the anti-instrument position.

  • Answer: The Baptist would say the same thing about baptism for the remission of sins. What thousands have done does not prove anything!


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Rick Atchley’s “Real Concerns”

  • Answer: Many, including denominationalists (Calvin, Wesley, Clark, Spurgeon, etc.), have rejected instrumental music by reading the Bible only (Campbell, McGarvey, Lard, etc.). Actually, just reading the N.T. by itself one would not conclude that I.M. was a part of N.T. worship.


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Rick Atchley’s “Real Concerns”

  • Real Concern #2 – What this issue says about God. God does not vacillate, liking instrumental music in one dispensation and disliking it in another. I do not believe that what is acceptable in a car or at a wedding is unacceptable in worship. God is not going to hand you harp in heaven after condemning someone to hell who used it on earth. Would God who loves me so much send me to hell because of what he was silent about? That is not the God of the Bible.


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Rick Atchley’s “Real Concerns”

  • Answer: How God will act toward us in the future is the way he has acted in the past; not how we think he will act (Lev. 10:1-2; Rom. 11:22).


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Will I.M. Help Our Mission?

  • (Before going into this part of his lesson Atchley admitted upfront that this material was subjective and invited others to disagree with him if they want.)

  • We must become like those around us in order to win them; find common ground (1 Cor. 9:20-23). The gospel does not change but the packaging of it does.

  • Answer: Paul did not step outside of Christ’s law while trying to win others to Christ (verse 21).


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Four Reasons For the Absence of I.M

  • Reason #1 – It may be that they had to gather in secret to avoid persecution, and the use of mechanical instrumentals would call attention to themselves.

  • Answer: The early church worshipped openly in the temple (Acts 2-5). They did not forgo certain acts of worship to keep from being persecuted.


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Four Reasons For the Absence of I.M

  • Reason #2 – It may be that I.M. was associated with pagan worship and debauchery.

  • Answer: Atchley said earlier that I.M. was associated with O.T. Jewish worship.


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Four Reasons For the Absence of I.M

  • Reason #3 – Christian worship was modeled after the synagogue and I.M. was not used there.

  • Answer: Christian worship was patterned after the words of the Apostles (Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:17; 14:34; 16:1-2)


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Four Reasons For the Absence of I.M

  • Reason #3 – Christian worship was modeled after the synagogue and I.M. was not used there.

  • Answer: Christian worship was patterned after the words of the Apostles (Mt. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:17; 14:34; 16:1-2)


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Four Reasons For the Absence of I.M

  • Reason #4 – In Psalm 137, the Jews were saddened after their temple was destroyed and could not play and sing the songs of Zion. The temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and the Jews forbade music.

  • Answer: What about Christians worshipping before A.D. 70?


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Rick Atchley’s Remarks on Culture

  • Our task is not to duplicated N.T. church

  • Reason# 1 – We must make cultural concessions to reach our neighbors (length of services, dress, Bible translations, technology) – this is not compromise. One expert says that music makes or breaks the sermon.

  • Answer: God’s truth and pattern are not changed by culture (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:13)


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Rick Atchley’s Remarks on Culture

  • People today get their truth from experience (music), not propositionally (Bible)

  • Answer: Truth comes from God’s word (Jn. 17:17; Rom. 10:17), not experience (Prov. 28:26)


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Rick Atchley’s Remarks on Culture

  • Reason #2 – Acappella singing hinders evangelism; our churches are getting smaller. I want our church to grow. Independent Christian Churches are the fastest growing; followed by Mormons. I don’t see how God is honored by dying churches. I.M. is Biblical, missional, and doable.

  • Answer: When you change the truth you will convert people to a man-made gospel. God is honored by keeping his word; not by changing it (Lk. 6:46).


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