God’s Preference vs God’s Tolerance
God wants that which He prefers, while He accepts that which He tolerates. What God wants and what God accepts are two separate issues. He prefers His ideal will, while He tolerates His circumstantial will. God prefers that we live perfectly sinless, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. (1 John 2:1a). He tolerates us who sin when we trust in the advocacy of Jesus, “. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b)
God preferred to dwell within a tabernacle among His people, Israel. Therefore, He commanded Moses to build that tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-31:11). God provided divinely engineered plans for building that tabernacle. That tabernacle was a 15 ft. wide by 45 ft. long movable tent. He placed the tabernacle within a 75 ft. wide by 150 ft. courtyard. The tabernacle consisted of two compartments, the holy place and the most holy place. The holy place, a type of the church, was 15 ft. wide by 30 ft. long. The most holy place, a type of heaven, was 15 ft. wide by 15 ft. long. Scripture verifies that God commanded the specifics of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9, 40, 39:1, 5, 7, 21, 26, 29, 31-32, 42-43, 40:16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32).
The most holy place contained the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:17-22), a wooden chest 27 in. wide by 45 in. long overlaid with pure gold. The Mercy Seat, a plate of pure gold, sat atop the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant indicated the very presence of God. It emphasized the person of Christ while the Mercy Seat emphasized the purpose of Christ (Exodus 25:10-22; 36:6-9; 37:1-5; Numbers 7:8-9). When the tabernacle contained the Ark of the Covenant, it was the appointed place to offer sacrifices (Leviticus 17:1-9).
God preferred that His favorable presence would rest upon the ark of the covenant within the Tabernacle. Therefore, He consecrated the ark of the covenant, placed His favorable presence thereupon, and commanded that it be placed within the most holy place within the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-22, 26:34, 29:42, 30:6, 36, Leviticus 16:2, Numbers 17:4).
God preferred that a heavenly king with human judges would rule over His people, Israel. Therefore, He positioned Himself as King over Israel and provided judges to rule. Providing divinely engineered plans, God approved judges not kings to rule over His people Israel, “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment” (Deuteronomy 16:18). Scripture verifies that God approved human judges, not human kings, to rule over His people, “even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you” (2 Samuel 7:11). For further references, read (Judges 2:14-16, 1 Samuel 12:12-25).
God tolerated a human king to rule over His people, Israel. The people had decided that a human king should rule over them. Therefore, they demanded of Samuel, their judge, a king to rule over them. Firing God as King, they sought a human king that they might be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). God labeled their request as a rejection of Him, a further extension of their having already forsaken Him (1 Samuel 8:7-22).
Though their request dishonored God, He actually chose their king for them (1 Samuel 9:15-16). Imagine that! God selected a king for them even though He preferred that they not have a king. In addition to selecting their king, God provided instructions and blessings for him (Deuteronomy 17:14-15).
God tolerated dwelling in a temple among His people. King David decided that God would dwell within a temple among His people. Therefore, providing humanly engineered plans, King David commanded Solomon, his son and successor, to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19). Scripture nowhere verifies that God commanded David or Solomon to build the temple. Thus, God provided no divinely engineered plans for the building of the temple as He had for the tabernacle. David designed the temple and orchestrated the worship therein (1 Chronicles 15:16-28, Nehemiah 12:24-36).
God reminded David that He had adequately provided for His people, Israel though He had never dwelt within a temple. Also, He reminded David that He did not ask for this temple to be built (2 Samuel 7:4-9, 1 Chronicles 17:1-15). After the dedication of the temple, God informed Solomon that only obedience not a physical building would secure His permanent favor (1 Kings 9:1-9). God emphasized a people for the house of God. Man emphasized a house for the people of God.
King David decided that the favorable presence of God would rest upon the ark of the covenant within the temple. Therefore, he intended to build a permanent house for the ark so that he could enjoy the permanent favorable presence of God (2 Samuel 6:12-7:2, 1 Chronicles 28:2).
God preferred that His favorably presence rest upon the ark of the covenant within the tabernacle. Yet, He tolerated His favorable presence resting upon the ark of the covenant within the temple.
God wants that which He prefers, but He accepts that which He tolerates. What God wants and what God accepts are two separate issues. His prefers His ideal will while He tolerates His circumstantial will.
Israel’s choosing of a king indicates that God may tolerate that which He does not prefer. God wanted judges to rule but accepted a king to rule. A judge, whom God wanted, is not identical to a king, whom God accepted. God may use that which He does not approve. Subsequently, God may even give instructions to regulate that which He initially did not approve.
David building the temple indicates that God may tolerate that which He does not prefer. God wanted the tabernacle to dwell within but accepted the temple. A tabernacle, what God wanted, is not identical to a temple, what God accepted. God may use that which He does not approve. Subsequently, God may even give instructions to regulate that which He initially did not approve.
Vocal singing without the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music is called acapella singing. Often, during the history of Christianity, the controversy has flared up between those who use mechanical instruments of music and those who do not use mechanical instruments of music to accompany the singing in Christian worship.
Those who do not use mechanical instruments of music do not need to prove that using mechanical instruments of music is sinful. However, those who do not use mechanical instruments of music do need to prove that acapella honors God’s preference for the new covenant worshipper. Those who do not use mechanical instruments must call attention to the passage or passages of scripture which teach that singing acapella honors God’s preference. They must show either by the precept of the passage (what it says), or the purpose of the passage (the stated or implied reason for the writing), or the principle of the passage (the fundamental rule that is always true), or by the precedent established by the passage (acceptably authorized trend) that God expresses His approval for singing acapella. He expresses His approval for singing without the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music for His new covenant Christian worshippers. It is not enough to just prove that God tolerates singing without the accompaniment of instruments of music.
Those who do use mechanical instruments of music do not need to prove that not using mechanical instruments of music is sinful. However, those who do use mechanical instruments of music do need to prove that using mechanical instruments of music honors God’s preference for the new covenant worshipper. Those who use mechanical instruments must call attention to the passage or passages of scripture which teach that singing with the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music honors God’s preference. They must show either by the precept of the passage (what it says), or the purpose of the passage (the stated or implied reason for the writing), or the principle of the passage (the fundamental rule that is always true), or by the precedent established by the passage (acceptably authorized trend) that God expresses His approval for singing with the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music for His new covenant Christian worshippers. It is not enough to just prove that God tolerates singing with the accompaniment of instruments of music.
God preferred the tabernacle. Specific divine command regulated every element of the tabernacle worship (Exodus 25:1-40:38). God authorized only two trumpets to be used in conjunction with the tabernacle. Yes, the trumpet was the only mechanical instrument of music that God authorized for use in conjunction with the tabernacle. God approved the days and the occasions in which the trumpets could be used (Numbers 10:1-10). He authorized the trumpets for two purposes: to summon the congregation in and to send the congregation out. The blowing of the two trumpets did not accompany the singing.
Ancient Egyptians were well known for a wide variety of musical instruments of music. They used them in the worship to their many Egyptian gods. Moses was well educated in the Egyptian culture (Acts 7:20-22). Obviously, he was familiar with the many mechanical instruments of music. But, because of divine command, he only introduced two trumpets. Why? Moses limited Himself to God’s preference. Should not we also limit ourselves to God’s preference?
It was not until the days of King David that other mechanical instruments of music were added to the public worship (1 Chronicles 16:1-6, 23:1-5). Therefore, the mechanical instruments of music are referred to as the instruments of David (2 Chronicles 29:26-27, Nehemiah 11:24, 12:36, 45).
Nowhere in scripture does God ever express a preference for these additional instruments. Therefore, when God issued commands to regulate them, He was regulating His tolerance for them, not His preference for them (2 Chronicles 29:25-27).
God never gave worship to be a matter of liberty for men to do as they please. With strict regulation, God guided and guarded the public worship of the Old Testament. Why would we not expect Him to also with strict regulation guide and guard the public worship of new covenant Christian worshipper?
The fact that God tolerated and regulated the use of instruments in worship (1 Chronicles 16:4-6, 25:1-31) does not prove that God prefers the new covenant Christian worshipper to include them in public worship. The psalmist sang of being purified with hyssop (Psalms 51:7), offering burnt offerings (Psalms 66:15), wearing sackcloth for clothing (Psalms 69:11), blowing of the trumpet at the new moon (Psalms 81:3) and his prayer as incense (Psalms 141:2). No one applies them with literalism within the church today. We have no justification to place the instruments of Psalms 150 into the church today. Instruments were a tolerated part of the ceremonial that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Real Purpose for Singing
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
God wants the word to dwell within our hearts. To dwell literally means to settle down, become familiar with, and live as if at home. We are familiar with our home. At home, we are not foreigners, strangers, nor just visitors. Therefore, the word should neither be foreign, strange, nor a temporary visitor in our hearts. It should reside permanently in our hearts. Therefore, we should receive the word in such a way as to allow it to settle in our hearts. Yes, we ought to provide a home in our hearts for the word and provide the word in our heart for the home.
God wants the word to dwell rich within us in all wisdom. Wisdom has to do with recognizing and regulating properly our relationship with God. Therefore, we ought to provide enough word in heart so that we can properly regulate our relationship with God.
God wants the word to saturate our hearts. When the word saturates our hearts, we cannot help but to sing. Singing satisfies the irresistible urge caused by the indwelling word within our hearts.
Our singing should congratulate our eternal Father (Hebrews 13:15). Yes, our singing extends from earth toward heaven. We are to sing with thankfulness (grace) in our hearts to the Lord. What does that mean? Grace is the acceptance and approval of God toward us. Because He has accredited to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ, God accepts and approves of us. Therefore, knowing in our hearts that the grace of God is bestowed upon us, we sing congratulating God for what He has done for us. Yes, we sing congratulating God for His provisions that satisfy our spiritual and physical being. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they sang to congratulate God for His handiwork (Exodus 15:1-2).
Our singing should educate our earthly sisters and brothers (Hebrews 2:12, Deuteronomy 31:19-22). We educate them when we teach and admonish. We teach when we provide information for their mind.
When the word settles down and becomes familiar in our hearts, we sing psalms. A psalm presents the view point of another. For example, the psalms of King David present his view point (Psalm 18:6, 24; 23).
When the word settles down and become familiar in our hearts, we will sing hymns. A hymn tells how great someone or something is. For example, the hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” provides a message of how great Jesus is. The hymn “Love Lifted Me” tells how great love is.
When the word settles down and become familiar in our hearts, we will sing spiritual songs. A spiritual song speaks of values that proceed from the mind of God. For example, the message of obedience, kindness, and mercy are spiritual songs, for these values proceed from God.
Biblical Reasons for A Capella Music
God authorizes Christians to sing without any mention of the accompaniment of instruments of music (Ephesians 5:19). Therefore, a capella singing satisfies totally the command to sing.
Singing should congratulate our eternal father and our earthly siblings (Colossians 3:16). Therefore, a capella singing satisfies totally the purpose for singing.
Jesus and His disciples sang (Matthew 26:30). There is no indication that Jesus ever sang with the accompaniment of mechanical instruments of music. Therefore, a capella singing conforms totally to the singing example of Jesus.
Within the latter scripture, the New Testament, God provides examples of singing (Matthew 26:30, 1 Corinthians 14:15; 26, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). All New Testament examples are of a capella singing without the accompaniment of instruments of music. Therefore, a capella singing conforms totally to the latter covenant, New Testament, examples of singing.
We are to offer to God the sacrifice of praise (James 5:13). The praises are to be from the fruit of our lips (Hebrews 13:15), sung (Hebrews 2:12), understandable (1 Corinthians 14:14), and for teaching and admonishing (Colossians 3:16). Therefore, acapella singing satisfies totally the singing of praise to God.
There is neither precept nor example for instrumental music in Christian worship. One can search the New Testament throughout and will never find any indication that Jesus, the apostles, or the early Christians ever used instrumental music in accompaniment of their Christian singing.
It is clear from the Old Testament that instruments of music were available (Genesis 4:16-21). Equally as clear is the fact that instruments of music were used during the worship of the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 16:4-6). Yet, in spite of the availability of the instruments, Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians did not use them to accompany their singing.
The absence of instruments of music in New Testament public worship to God speaks loudly. Divine design eliminated instruments of music from worship. The absence of instruments must be by design not by default. Obviously, Jesus, the apostle, and the early church did not use them. There must be some reason why Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christian had instruments available but deliberately did not use them. It must have been that mechanical instruments of music were not the preference of God.
As a matter of fact, all religious groups avoided the use of mechanical instrument of music for more than 1,000 years. It has only been within the past five hundred years that instruments of music have been used to accompany singing in worship.
Practical Reasons for A Capella Music
Vocal music satisfies all the scriptural requirements and causes those who sing a capella to be in harmony with biblical principle. Therefore, mechanical instruments of music are not needed to meet the scripture requirements.
Vocal music is a safe practice. It is a practice that could serve as a strong solid foundation for Christian unity. Even those who insist on using instruments of music must admit that Jesus, the apostles and the early Christians never used them. Therefore, the use of instruments of music for worship is not a safe practice.
Through singing, we speak, teach, and admonish. Only the human voice can speak, teach, and admonish. Mechanical instruments of music can do neither. Therefore, the use of instruments of music is an unnecessary addition.
God created the human voice. Through God’s magnificent creation of the human vocal chords, human beings can sing. The vocal chord serves as a string, wind, and percussion instrument. Interestingly, those are the three types of mechanical instruments of music: string, wind, and percussion. Therefore, a capella singing utilizes the natural instrument while mechanical instruments are an artificial imitation of the real.
The types and shadows of the Old Testament are eliminated in the New Covenant to make way for the real. At best the instruments of the Old Testament are a shadow of the real, and by design are eliminated leaving the real. Therefore at best, instruments of music fell into the category of God’s tolerance not within the category of God’s preference.