Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Let’s not use 1Co. 9:22 to deceive ourselves

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm

1 Corinthians 9:22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

Paul’s testimony and policy in this verse is a strong rebuke to our reluctance to surrender our personal preferences, even for a short while, in order to remove barriers to the Gospel among people different to ourselves.  Whatever Paul’s preferences in life-style choices not prescribed by the Law of God, he voluntarily denied himself those choices in order to conform to the preferences of the perishing souls before him.  If such people refused to hear the Gospel, it would not be because he offended them by the practice of his liberty.

This policy ought to instruct us in our efforts to evangelize our increasingly God-less generation.  The proper application of Paul’s example has proven to be a hot topic for entire congregations in the noble attempt to remove unnecessary hindrances in making disciples of all nations.

My purpose is not to discuss how I think this text ought to be used or should not be used in the out-working of corporate evangelism, except for one dangerous abuse (as I see it).  This abuse has to do with using Paul’s challenge (to become all things to all men) as the basis for conforming ourselves to one segment of American culture in our approach to worship.  “All things to all men” is not the same as becoming “all things” to one particular group of people.  Unless our congregation finds itself utterly surrounded by one distinct class of people (such as 3rd Street in Mebane swiftly becomes a predominately Polish community), we must aim at all the many subsets of people comprising the melting pot that is America.  We are deceiving ourselves if we change in order to reach one particular group yet in undergoing that change we actually alienate other groups.  That is what Paul purposed not to do.  If a congregation made a concerted effort to appeal primarily to the wealthy, most of us would easily recognize the imbalance and inappropriateness of such an effort.  But, what if a congregation deliberately tailors its services to reach white upper-middle class folk—is that in keeping with Paul’s policy, or are we simply pleasing ourselves?  Or, what if a congregation tailors its services to reach 20-30 year olds and thereby ignores the preferences of “baby boomers” which comprise the largest demographic of the American populace?  Is that becoming all things to ALL MEN, or is it becoming all things to just one portion of all those who are perishing?

The danger here is that we use 1Co. 9:22 to be what we really want to be while professing to be making an attempt to reach the unreached.  The target group is the world…at least that portion of the world that is within our reach.

It seems to me that in our cultural mix churches must develop their own unique culture.  That is a culture that is somewhat beyond being labeled, lest we become a stumbling-block to some.  This is a challenge that few of us are willing to tackle.  All things to all men would mean that we do not conform to any specific group; rather, that our styles (dress, music, ethos) are comfortable to all without being preferential toward any.  People who insist that their peculiar preferences be followed are tempting us not to be all things to all men.

Paul’s policy is much more difficult for churches to apply to themselves than we suspect.  We must be honest about our own prejudices, including which group of sinners we would prefer to reach as opposed to all the groups that we ought to reach.

Of course, the temptation is to resolve the issue by arguing that our services are only concerned with God’s worship and that 1Co. 9:22 does not apply.  The problem is that God has not prescribed the particulars of our outward church culture.  We must choose.  Do we choose to please ourselves?  Do we choose to please one specific group of people (the one we most prefer to reach)?  Or, do we seriously attempt to be bland enough to be non-offensive to all men?

Gary Hendrix, Pastor
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Mebane, North Carolina
  1. Gary,

    Thanks for this penetrating analysis!

    It is of interest to consider the NT churches. Paul addressed Jews and Gentiles, the rich and poor, children, singles, married folk, masters, slaves, the aged, etc. This certainly reflects the broader culture. I am sure each group had its unique cultural baggage, as do various sub-cultures in our day. I fear that some change today is being suggested and implemented to fit the tastes of one sub-culture, which inevitably alienates others – both in and outside of the church. I think churches ought to have folks of all age groups, as our broader culture does. Per above, the NT churches seemed to be similar. Could it be that sometimes change is recommended to fit the tastes of the individual change agent(s)?

    Your piece is timely and very perceptive. Thanks again!

    Rich B.

  2. I agree with Rich and Gary.

  3. Saddleback Sam looks like David Charles. 🙂

    Rich B.

  4. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing. I think you have addressed an often undiscussed element of “over contextualization.” I think that we can do this when we only consider the cultural dimensions of one particular age group or part of the population. I think we need to wrestle with what it means to be all things to all men one at a time. In Acts 2 with the miracle of tongues they could be all things to everyone at the same time. Yet it is not often so. What is endearing to Jews may be offensive to Gentiles. May God give us wisdom.

  5. Let’s also not deceive ourselves regarding the application of this passage in light of the context. I am afraid too many Christians look at this as a license for so many things that Paul never intended. The context of the chapters surrounding these verses has to do with liberty in regards to the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament. In fact every instance of “liberty” that many modern Christians use for license actually speaks to the ceremonial law.

    Look at who makes up the “all men.” They are 1) Jews; 2) those willingly abiding under the ceremonial law; 3) those who felt no duty to the ceremonial law (certainly he is speaking of things indifferent even as Calvin points out); 4) the weak (most likely a mix of the above – not following one or the other wholly). Paul is not becoming a Roman to the Roman. He is not becoming a barbarian to the barbarian. He is not becoming a Scythian to the Scythian. As far as I can tell from the context, he is excercising liberty in regards to the ceremonial law in order to reach Jew and Gentile – something very needful in that day as the New Covenant was replacing the Old. Paul, as a Jew ministering to Jews and to Gentiles, had need of becoming “all things to all men.” We even see this worked out in the area of circumcision involving those ministering with him. Again, realted to the ceremonial law. From the context, it seems to me that this is one man’s ministry to the lost; not an argument for church culture and how worship services are to be conducted. He becomes “as” them to the end of seeing them saved.

    As Matt said, “May God give us wisdom,” and may He do so in relation to our imitating Christ even as Pual did (11:1). May we not fall in the ditches of mere tradition or of pragmatism as discussed in an earlier blog entry. May we be Christ-centered and not man-centered in all that we do in His church.

  6. Great word from Pastor Hendrix. Much thinking needs to be done here. I’d like to respond briefly to some of the comments offered by A concerned Reformed Baptist. He writes,

    From the context, it seems to me that this is one man’s ministry to the lost; not an argument for church culture and how worship services are to be conducted. He becomes “as” them to the end of seeing them saved.

    First, the general principle from a biblical law or precedent can be extracted from one context and applied to another. Hence, Paul could take a Mosaic commandment regarding the muzzling of oxen (Deut. 25:4) and apply the general principle behind the command to the remuneration of elders (1 Tim. 5:17). So here you have an “all of life” precept transferred to the context of the corporate life of the NT church.

    Second, this is precisely what Paul does with the precedent in view. Sacrificing one’s preferences for the edification of believers and to remove obstacles so that lost might hear the gospel is not merely relevant outside the corporate gatherings of the church. Not surprisingly, Paul applies this principle to corporate gatherings in 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 where he calls on the church to accommodate their language to insure its intelligibility for the edification of others and the salvation of the lost.

    Third, if one limits the principle of self-sacrificing deference for the sake of removing obstacles only to situations involving the Jewish ceremonial law, then he’s effectively undercut the relevance and application this passage has to many NT churches around the world since only a few of them are interacting with actual Jews.

    Fourth, I agree with being “Christ-centered” not “man-centered.” I believe that when it came to the gospel, sound doctrine, and elements of worship, Paul refused to be a man-pleaser and sought God’s approval (1 Thess. 2:4). Nevertheless, when it came to non-essentials, when it came to potential obstacles (that weren’t necessary), when it came to merely circumstantial aspects of Christian life and worship, Paul was willing to be flexible and to “please men”:

    I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

    And verse 31 reminds us that this flexible falls under the rubric of God-glorifying behavior. Let’s be imitators of Paul has he has imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). That’s not pragmatism, that’s biblical Christianity.


  7. Granted that Paul was expressing his personal approach to evangelism; yet, Paul was made by Christ the wise master-builder of the church. His philosophy must be regulative with respect to the church wherever possible. The fact remains that every church has a culture in the way it expresses itself in worship and fellowship and evangelism. Since that culture is not dictated by Scripture and is chosen by each church or by its leaders, should we not make choices that reflect Paul’s attempt to be as accessible and as non-offensive to all men as possible? Church culture should, I believe, be an enigma to the world: warm and joyful, yet intense and serious; moderately contemporary, yet in touch with the church of the past; accessible in vocabulary, yet robustly exegetical and doctrinal. The unbeliever should walk away from our services thinking that he was welcomed and that he could connect on some level with what was happening, but at the same time unable to fit the church into the pigeon hole previously constructed for evangelical Christianity–feeling himself an utter stranger to the passionate convictions that were attractively and thoughtfully expressed in every part of the service.

    This kind of church culture does not simply happen. It is not the product of pleasing ourselves or following our preferences. It is the product of prayerful, Biblical thought–thought which embraces a responsibility both to worship God and to make disciples of the world.

  8. Gary,
    Thank you for the helpful entry. There is much wisdom in what you say. I have also enjoyed reading the various comments. This is, indeed, an area in which much thought needs to be given.

  9. An excellent article by pastor Hendrix. For me, I think it is helpful to distinguish between mission and church, which some missiologists have called “modalities” and “sodalities”. In mission we seek to reach people and therefore must discern how to communicate effectively to them. If you want to reach Chinese immigrants, you’re likely going to have to make some accomodations to Chinese culture. But when saved people come together, they do so as the church and not primarily as members of one ethnic group. The tragedy is that some Christians are all mission and no church and others are all church and no mission.

  10. Our motto at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church (near Danville, VA) is “Relevant when reaching out; Reverent when reaching up.”

  11. I think OldguyRB and John make some good points.

  12. Pastor Gary:

    Thank you for this article on over-contextualization.

    In my experience, Reformed Baptists are rarely falling into the error of over-contextualization.

    Can someone follow up on an article on under-contextualization, i.e., the inability to culturally adapt on non-essentials when doing church-planting cross culturallY?

    Trevor Johnson

  13. Good stuff Gary, I am encouraged at this article and the discussion it has generated.

    It is an issue that we must face and must understand in order to honor the Lord and be effective in our generation.

    In our melting pot of California it continues to challenge me having spent my first 12 years of pastoral ministry in a very different cultural setting.

    I rejoice in the challenges but feel my weakness continually and my inadequacies greatly as I see my preferences and opinions needing to be put to death for the furtherance of the gospel.

    It is however such a great joy to pastor an increasingly ethnically diverse church and call them to walk in self-denying love for the glory of the King !

    Thank Gary for your faithfulness to our souls.

    Warmest regards


  14. Too often doesn’t it seem that we are only contextualizing to ourselves-to the existing members and attenders of the church- without any reference to that generic world living outside the walls of our church?

    It just seems when the call to become all things to all people never involves us changing in anyway the way we do things personally or corporately that we have not got a hold on the passage or rather the passage really hasn’t got a hold on us yet.

    I’m really not interested in becoming cool in the evangelical world, but I’m concerned that RBs feel so comfortable, so often, with what we are doing to reach the world, that we never seriously ask ourselves what areas do we need to change.

  15. “The danger here is that we use 1Co. 9:22 to be what we really want to be while professing to be making an attempt to reach the unreached.”

    Is this really the danger that RB have? Or are we so happy being the way we are, that we don’t reach any culture, and will put up an argument like this one to stay within our comfort zone?

    I agree with your proposition, but I’m just not sure if we need to be worried about it at this time, because sometimes to get back to a balanced position you need a little imbalance in one direction. If you know what I mean.

  16. In terms of our church culture, we (RBs) seem so concerned that the pendulum not swing too far to the left that we are oblivious that the pendulum is actually stuck in inertia far to the right. By that I mean that many RB churches maintain a culture that is distinct to the distant past, so much so that it appears artificial to those who are not comfortable in it. What keeps us there? Is it fear or is it stubbornness or is it the persuasion that this culture is somehow synonymous with Biblical fidelity? Whatever the case we are becoming monuments of the past and not vital forces in the present.

    Nonetheless, I think the purpose of the blog on 1Cor.9:22 is to warn that when/if the pendulum begins to move, let’s guard ourselves against permitting it to swing too far to the left.

  17. Oldguy,

    Did your mom give you that name? 🙂

    Just last night I worshipped with one of our churches. There were many young folks there (most everyone there must have been under 30) and none seemed to feel awkward with the culture of that church. In addition, the fellow that was preaching is like you, and elderly fellow.

    After the gospel message (that came from the Old Testament), singing of old songs, there was much joyful fellowship.

    Tomorrow, I expect pretty much the same here in Toledo. My point is this; in all the concerns over the dangers that I churches face, there is also the danger that we paint all our churches with too broad a brush.

    Thanks for your thoughts.


  18. Should I take this to mean that we as a rule are reaching many unchurched folk as opposed to people who have been in our churches? I hope that is indeed the case.

  19. A Concerned Reformed Baptist stated:
    From the context, it seems to me that this is one man’s ministry to the lost; not an argument for church culture and how worship services are to be conducted. He becomes “as” them to the end of seeing them saved.

    I agree with you on this. 1 Cor 9:22 was never a prescription to corporate worship. I think 2 Kings 16:10-18 is a good example of what not to do in worship. Worship is for God first and foremost, not for our entertainment or preference. Sure we are edified in our worship to God, but most of the edification comes from the Word of God, not (and should not be) in the aesthetics. And I have to agree with you, we more often abuse our Christian Liberty … but it’s human nature to do so! That’s why we need to be very careful when it comes to the worship of God…. to not do it as King Ahaz did!

    And I totally agree with you David, folks of all ages do not at all mind the singing of old hymns, if they truly seek to be edified by the words and not the music itself! In our Bible studies, which consist of a wide age range of folks, we love picking out songs from the Trinity Hymnals prior to starting the study. For many of us, it’s a great opportunity to check out songs we haven’t sung before. And sometimes after just singing a song, we’d speak about the words and what makes it so endearing to us. Again the focus is how the words speaks to us as Christians. Even the kids present will pick out songs…. I think it’s great!

  20. Opps I meant “And sometimes after just singing a song, we’d speak about the words and what makes it so endearing to us”. I suppose it could also be “enduring”! Afterall these hymns are classics! 😀

  21. Opps, another error! I meant “1 Cor 9:22 was never a prescription to church worship” … not subscription! Duh! Gotta go get coffee…. the context of 1 Cor 9:22 was evangelism, not church worship.

    Again, I think “being all things to all men” in worship, would be inconsistent to OT examples of what NOT to do. And certainly God’s mind hasn’t changed…
    Imagine being all things to all men in light of our godless culture! That’s exactly what the emergent churches are doing … gotta wonder …

  22. Christianity has been infinitely hindered by the musical, the aesthetic, and the ceremonial devices of men, but it has never been advantaged by them, no, not a jot. ~ CH Spurgeon

  23. Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! ~ The Inspired and Authoritative Psalmist.

  24. But you know the people didn’t really like or appreciate that music, and it had nothing to do with their cultural context. The way they chose those instruments (or as you will later see that one instrument) is because they were best for congregational singing. Everyone knows it is really the best to sing with trumpets blaring and lutes playing and cymbals smashing. (not that that was what those were as you will see from my analysis later) After best for congregational singing, they chose those instruments not based on whether they were in the Bible or not, but because that is how the Israelites did it 300 years before when Isaac Achmed Watts’ched, the famous Israelite hymnist wrote his hymns.

    Now for a better translation of the text:

    Trumpet could be translated as piano. Lute and harp could be translated as piano and piano. Timbrel is probably the kind of Piano that Linus from Peanuts likes to play, and dance well that is better translated “Stand with your hands in your pockets and look down on people who lift their hands as crazed emotional charismatics who need brought along in the things of the Lord”.

    The piano is a stringed instrument and flutes is better translated as piano. Loud cymbals refers to the keys striking the strings on a piano really hard, and clashing cymbals is a piano out of key, but it is still good to use.

    So no worries. We’re still doing everything perfect. Anyways that is in the Old Testament, and people didn’t know how to worship God back then or anything, not like RBs.

  25. So, do you two men dance well at worship? Oh wait, concernedRB said that dance should be translated as, “lift your hands.”


    BTW why is it so hard to put your real name on your posts?

  26. Do I dance well at worship? No, but apparently the Israelites did. Alas I don’t dance well at all ever really. And you forgot the rest of my translation: “Stand with your hands in your pockets and look down on people who lift their hands as crazed emotional charismatics who need brought along in the things of the Lord”.

    Why is it so hard for me to put my real name on my posts?
    Of my many flaws cowardice is one. And when I send a post out there full of sarcasm and satire, I don’t personally want to receive any of the flack unless it’s necessary.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing people dance at church. It would drive me to distraction and wouldn’t help me to worship at all, but it really just drives me crazy to see people standing with their hands in their pocket when they sing. I know they aren’t even thinking about it, but God really is worthy of excitement that spills over in bodily gestures. I am to love him with all my strength, including my physical strength. Sometimes when I’m singing I catch myself doing it and I hate that I can be so flippant and nonchalant about worship. I raise my hands and yell when I’m watching football. God should be more exciting than football.

  27. I once was “a crazed emotional charismatic” and I am SO thankful for my RB brothers who did help me “along in the things of the Lord!” Funny thing is, when I was a Charismatic, we made light of Baptist worship ALL THE TIME. But I seldom have heard Charismatics mocked by RB folks.

    The day is fast approaching when some of our churches will bring in many instruments, the hand raising (maybe even the liturgical dance) and all the so-called “praise and worship” too.

    But I am willing to bet all my Spurgeon books that those who now complain about our “plain” worship will still find something to complain about with “new” worship. Chasing after the emotional buzz is as vain as chasing after the wind. What will get ‘em all jacked-up this week will bore them to tears next week.

    Of all the people that I have evangelized, and all the people we have baptized, none, not one has ever said that it was music that either kept them from Christ or brought them to Christ.

    The Reformed convition of Sola scriptura assures us that God will not share His glory with any in the salvation of His elect; not even with the “worship team.”

  28. The Reformed conviction of sola Scriptura assures us that God will not share His glory with any in the salvation of the elect; not even with “the preacher.” Shall we then ban the preacher from our services?! Give me a break!

    David, you’re logic is flawed and your commitment to sola Scriptura is selective given the fact that you appear to reject the abiding relevance and authority of Psalm 150, which does in fact (to your discomfort) enjoin music and instrumental accompaniment as an important part of God-pleasing worship and which constitutes part of that God-breathed Scripture which is (still) profitable as the rule for corporate church life (2 Tim. 3:15-17). I get the impression you’re more zealous to promote your personal preference than to uphold the whole counsel of God. To “the law and the testimony,” my brother!

    For anyone interested in a more biblically based and balanced view of music and instrumental accompaniment in corporate worship than the perspective promoted by Mr. Charles, let me commend to you “The Regulative Ideal of Music in the House of God” by Gary Hendrix, who happens to be the author of this post.

  29. Dear concerned RB,

    Thanks for your satire on Psalm 150. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of laughs. And I fear it’s not too far from the truth in some (but not all) Reformed congregations.

    Let me encourage that there are some Reformed Baptists, like myself, who are all for sound preaching, solid doctrine, and reverent worship but who also, because of our commitment to all of God’s Word, believe God is glorified and his saints edified by the sound of God’s people lifting their voices (and hands) in exuberant praise to the accompaniment of various instruments (including but not limited to a piano).

    What a blessing it is to know that we can worship God according to the Book and get an “emotional buzz” at the same time from God’s Word, as it’s proclaimed through preaching, prayer, and musically adorned praise! After all, “Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites,” as Jonathan Edwards has persuasively argued.

  30. David,

    I hope you know I still love you even when you’re looking down with your hands in your pocket 🙂


  31. Gotta love it…

    Bob G says “to the law and to the testimony…Let me commend to you ‘The Regulative Ideal of Music in the House of God’ by Gary Hendrix.”

    Nice, Bob.

    Sleep well tonight, David. Bob still loves you. 😉

  32. May He send you help from the sanctuary And support you from Zion! May He remember all your meal offerings And find your burnt offerings acceptable! Selah.

    Rich B.

  33. Sola scriptura in my post above should have read Soli Deo gloria.

  34. Bob,

    I think you are being unfair to David when you write the following:

    “David, you’re logic is flawed and your commitment to sola Scriptura is selective given the fact that you appear to reject the abiding relevance and authority of Psalm 150, which does in fact (to your discomfort) enjoin music and instrumental accompaniment as an important part of God-pleasing worship and which constitutes part of that God-breathed Scripture which is (still) profitable as the rule for corporate church life (2 Tim. 3:15-17). I get the impression you’re more zealous to promote your personal preference than to uphold the whole counsel of God. To “the law and the testimony,” my brother!”

    The psalmist also prays

    Psalms 107:21, 22 “21 Oh, that men [that would include us] would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 22 Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing.” cf. Leviticus 7

    Are we to take this also as it stands as an abiding practice of the Church of Christ; that we would sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving as it was in the psalmist’s day? Are we to take that at face value or does it need some interpretation for our application under the New Covenant?

    Likewise Psalm 96 enjoins us to ,

    Psalms 96:8 “8 Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts.”

    Is this an abiding and still pleasing exhortation from the Lord to be taken at face value and are we to exactly follow the practice that psalmist had in mind when he wrote? Should I perhaps bring a calf to worship next Sabbath that God may be glorifed? Or again is there another interpretation and application to be made in light of the New Covenant?

    There are hundreds of texts concerning worship in the OT that are of abiding relevance to us but must be interpreted in certain ways for our application. And this process has been applied for hundreds of years in the Reformed churches with regard to Psalm 150.

    Another way Psalm 150 (and a few others) is to be interpreted is that it at the very least combines national and corporate worship themes and so may not be literally applicable to corporate worship as such at all i.e not even in the psalmists own day and context never mind ours.

    Another way this psalm has been interpreted is that it is evocative of the joyfulness and variety of emotion to be involved in worship.

    Others have ably pointed out that a number of the instruments mentioned in Psalm 150 were in fact instruments which were banned from the corporate worship of Israel.

    Thus, for many Reformed Christians around the world Psalm 150 is not discomforting at all, nor embarassing to their worship hermeneutic because they interpret it in historical context and then into their own New Covenant context just as they do with many, probably hundreds, of other Scriptures concerning worship.

    So by all means disagree with David, but I believe it is unfair to condemn his commitment to sola scriptura in the way you do in the quoted paragraph.

    It is too simplistic an argument by far to quote 2 Timothy 2:16&17 and say that Psalm 150, as interpreted by you, is still profitable as a rule for corporate church life and imply that David does not view it as relevant at all. Surely without further clarification and exegesis it is a meaningless argument and somewhat disingenuous.

    Couldn’t I say that about any given text in Leviticus where we are enjoined to offer up bulls, or probably for most of us pigeons, in obedience to God’s express commands. If someone does not want to offer up sacrifices should I just hit them with 2 Timothy? These texts also are (still) of relevance to us, but must be interpreted.

    At the very least this is an interpretative procedure that may be necessary in interpreting Psalm 150 is it not? Or is Psalm 150 exclusive in its status in the Old Testament as being the text that is not to be interpreted according to the normal methods and practices but is rather to be complied with without any clarification whatsoever? If so can you explain the hermeneutic method and rule which governs such a treatment of this text as opposed to the normal procedure?

  35. Paul,
    For research purposes do you have any sources for the statement: Others have ably pointed out that a number of the instruments mentioned in Psalm 150 were in fact instruments which were banned from the corporate worship of Israel. Who said that? And what instruments were they talking about? And why would he suggest illegal instruments?

    And if that was the case wouldn’t your other arguments make that argument useless? If we can’t take Ps.150 as direction for NT believers and churches to follow, would it really matter whether it was right or wrong for certain instruments to be used in the corporate worship?

    Just curious and interested in your response.

  36. Jason

    My point was not to recommend any of these as being “the” interpretation but to show that there are “other” interpretations that cause no discomfort to many believers as Bob suggests. With regard to the list of instruments a source of that argument is Dr. Peter Masters of Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. I believe his paper is available on the internet somewhere. As to your question why would he suggest illegal instruments, I assume by “he” you mean the psalmist? If so then he would merely be stating that such and such instruments can be used for the glory of God, though perhaps not in corporate worship along the same vein of thought as saying that the farmer can use his plough to the glory of God but not in corporate worship. Again I am not promoting this interpretation or any other one as such, but merely pointing out that it is an interpretation.

    I would also note that Calvin believes that “sanctuary” in Psalm 150 is heaven and not the gathered church per se which also must be included in our interpretative framework or at least not excluded.

    With regard to your second paragraph, that first argument would in fact harmonise somewhat with the others but if followed may indeed render them superfluous – such and such instrument may be used to praise God in a national context but may be excluded in the worship context and so forth.

    But I emphasise again these are not “my” arguments they are arguments used by many others to interpret Psalm 150 is a way that does not assume that this psalm is to be applied in the New Covenant context “as is’. In other words David I assume and myself do not really feel any discomfort with Psalm 150.

    I will state my opinion that Psalm 150 (and the other “worship” psalms) is more and more frequently interpreted with a simplicity and literalness (if there is such a word) that is not afforded (rightly and importantly) to the vast majority of other Old Testament texts which are interpreted with a more nuanced hermeneutical methodology.

  37. I find the argument for using the Psalms (as they were used prior to the coming of Christ) as prescription for New Covenant worship as overly simplistic in the light of the coming of Jesus and fraught with insurmountable difficulties. I am not saying anyone is advocating such, though some statements seem to be leaning in this direction. I am sure Bob, for instance, would qualify what he means by simply quoting Psalm 150, in terms of New Covenant application. The NT interpretation of the OT must be our starting point, not simply the quotation of a Psalm. There is no simple equation. Things don’t always mean now what they meant then. For instance, if I simply quoted, “May He remember all your meal offerings And find your burnt offerings acceptable! Selah.” and then said, “The Inspired and Authoritative Psalmist,” as Bob did, and did not offer any interpretation in light of the coming of Christ, IMO, I would not be adding anything to help the discussion along. In fact, I think I would be oversimplifying a complex issue. Granted, some Psalms contain universals that are transcultural and transcovenantal, however, others contain highly conditioned elements and need interpretation in light of changed redemptive-hisotrical circumstances. I think this is the hermeneutic of Jesus and the NT writers. Our approach to the Psalms, so it seems to me, must take these things into account.

    Rich B.

  38. Though I am no expert on the worship of the early church, I have read enough to know that it was quite simple. I think they stood for most, if not all, the service. I have read that they prayed standing with eyes open and hands lifted (palms up toward heaven). There was Scripture reading, a sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and prayers. They sang or chanted the Psalms and poetic parts of the NT. There were no musical instruments. I think if we make the Psalms as is prescriptive for New Covenant worship, underground churches would find it difficult to remain such. The use of cymbals would surely get them in trouble. I am not prepared to say they would be in sin if they did not utilize cymbals.

    Rich B.

  39. David, I am interested to understand your comment about Sola Scriptura and the” worship team” and the glory of God. Do you believe that if we are singing the truth while accompanied by a team of musicians (say a piano, a cello, and a flute) and singing (say actually singing scripture, or even a good rendering of the gospel like “And can it be”) and an unbeliever is convicted and trusts in Christ… that the communication of the gospel through that medium robs God of glory?

    I have often heard you and others refer to the complexity of using the psalms in NT worship and I can see your point- kind of. It is plain to me how the sacrifices and temple and priesthood of the OT were fulfilled in the work of Jesus. They all pointed to his work and the NT clearly shows that those things have passed away. But how does the use of musical instruments point to Jesus in a “shadowy” way that would cause them to pass away? Especially in light of the presence of instrumental worship in heaven in the book of Revelation? So really I guess this is two questions. How do instruments point to Jesus in a transient way in the OT? and How does the work of Jesus cause them to pass away? Also if Jesus has fulfilled them in this way wouldn’t this result in the prohibition of the use of ANY instruments (including pianos), pitch pipes, etc.? If it is an area of liberty, then wouldn’t it mean that the application of those portions of the psalms that refer to instruments may be legitimately applied to NT worship? These are not simply rhetorical questions, I am sincerely interested in hearing an answer to these issues. I have heard this angle a number of times, but I have not heard a textual explanation for it.

    On another note, I recently read where a Psalms-only, acapella scottish presbytery was facing division over music. Not the use of instruments but the attempt to sing psalms to contemporary tunes. I think in some cases this issue is bigger than instruments, it is about using contemporary forms.

  40. Paul and Richard,

    I appreciate the request for clarification. Here is my answer:

    (1) My position is not that music is more important that the preaching and teaching of Scripture. Nor is it that musical instruments should be treated as essential (sine qua non) elements of New Covenant worship. I certainly concur that there may be contexts where it would be best not to use musical instruments such as in countries where the church has to meet “underground” because of persecution. (I suspect persecution may be part of the reason some congregations in early church history may not have used musical instruments.) I do believe, however, that the use of musical instrumentation in New Covenant worship is a biblically warranted liberty. So does Gary Hendrix, the author of this post, and that’s why I recommended his sermon “The Regulative Ideal of Music in the House of God.”

    Hence, what I do object to is an unwarranted uniformity based on certain regulations and/or restrictions imposed on me and my congregation either by the Lord Bishop (i.e., the Church of England) or the Lord Brethren (i.e., some Puritans, old and modern). Bottom line: if David and his church want to sing a capella or exclude music altogether from their New Covenant worship (since in his mind, and apparently Spurgeon’s, it can only hinder and never advantage true religion), then let him keep his opinions to himself or present them for what they really are–mere personal preferences not precepts. But if he tries to assert publicly that music is inherently antithetical to God-pleasing worship, he should prepare to have his view challenged. My congregation reads this blog as well as his, and I don’t want them to adopt unwarranted notions about what Reformed worship should really be like, which notions often promote tensions not unity in and among the churches of Christ.

    (2) That leads me to the primary reason I cited Psalm 150. I did not cite Psalm 150 as some kind of proof text to argue that New Covenant worship must have musical instruments in order to be authentic. Nor am I ignorant of the fact that the precepts, precedents, and principles of the OT must be interpreted in light of NT revelation. My point was simple: C. H. Spurgeon and David Charles seem to think that the musical, the aesthetic, and the ceremonial are intrinsically antithetical to true religion and God-honoring worship. Psalm 150 (as well as many other Psalms and portions of Scripture) discredits such a notion. God would never have prescribed any activity as part of private or public worship that was inherently detrimental whatever the dispensation. Hence, those who attempt to prohibit or discourage the use of instruments in public worship on the basis of some inherent and unavoidable danger like, for instance, it naturally appeals to man’s emotional or physiological dimensions will find no support from Scripture though they may find support from Plato, the Stoics, and the Early Church ascetics.

    (3) Paul and Richard seem to find fault with my hermeneutic. They want me to give an account for seeing Psalm 150 (and other Psalms) as normative for New Covenant worship. I’ll be happy to do so if they’re willing to explain the hermeneutic for excluding the use of musical instruments in worship. Jesus is the ultimate Temple (John 2:19-21); He’s our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14); He’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36). Pray tell … where does it say that Jesus has become our Great Harp, the Second Tambourine, the Cymbal of cymbals, the New Covenant Trumpet, etc.? Is that in the Gospel of Thomas?

    If the instruments of the Psalms are types and shadows that are fulfilled in Jesus and the gospel, we’re left with one of two alternatives. First, we could forbid the use of any musical instrument under the New Covenant as some Puritans did. Second, we could allow the use of musical instruments as circumstantial facets of corporate worship using the Psalms, as well as passages like Exodus 15:20-21 (pre-Tabernacle/Temple) and Revelation 5:8, 14:2; and 15:2 as warranting precedents.

    If one takes the former approach, he should be consistent. He shouldn’t write a book that depicts of the use of musical instruments under the New Covenant as a violation of the Second Commandment and an instance of idolatrous will-worship, yet, in the name of pursuing unity, tell believers that there can be unity between churches using no instruments and churches using only one instruments but no unity with churches employing more than one instrument (e.g., John Price, Old Light on New Worship: Musical Instruments and the Worship of God, A Theological, Historical, and Psychological Study). Sorry, but the no-instrument and exclusive psalmody folk can’t play the part of Janus and look both ways. It’s either idolatry or it’s not.

    If the latter–musical instruments may be used when circumstance permits and/or warrants–then refrain from trying to portray “plain” worship as somehow inherently more pleasing to God and more elaborate forms of worship (like those depicted in some of the Psalms) as inherently less pleasing to God, that is, as sensual, worldly, and sub-biblical.

    In closing, let me say that I’ve worshiped in all kinds of corporate worship settings. I’ve worshiped in third world countries in a little thatched roof shack with no instruments or, in some cases, one guitar. And I’ve worshiped in relatively bigger RB churches, like the one Richard Barcellos currently pastors, that employ a worship leader and team of musicians who play instruments like the guitar, bass, violin, djembe drum, tambourine, and piano. I’ve worshiped in some pretty “plain” churches that only sing from the Trinity Hymnal and aren’t very emotionally expressive but love the Lord. And I’ve worshiped in some Latin RB churches where the folk are quite emotionally and physically expressive in their praise, clapping hands and swaying (on their feet) to the rhythm of “Blessed Be Your Name.” (Perhaps this comes close to something like a congregational form of “dance.”) I believe there was authentic worship taking place in each of these contexts and that each were within the bounds of biblically regulated worship. So I just don’t agree with Mr. Spurgeon or Mr. Charles that music is of necessity a hindrance to Christianity.

    Respectfully yours,
    Bob Gonzales

  41. Bob,

    Would it be possible that Jesus being the Temple does not just away with the Temple building, and the sacrifices offered there, together with the ceremonies but also His being the Temple likewise does away with in the musical accompaniments to the sacrifices etc.?

    Is that a possibility? In other words Jesus fulfils all that was specifically Old Covenant ceremonial worship in his being the Temple. It appears to me that that possibility is discounted, or not considered yet it seems warranted by John 4; New Covenant worship will neither be on that Samaritan mountain or Jerusalem with the ceremonies, building, complex liturgy, with carefully timed instrumentalism, there will be no need of the Temple, the priests, Levites, choirs etc.

    Is that a possibility, if it is could it be that Psalm 150 therefore and some of the other references to music in the psalms are indeed fulfilled in Christ our Temple?

    That of course would not answer or decide all the questions but I believe it should be considered.

  42. Paul,

    (1) As I noted above, musical accompaniment used in corporate worship both antedates (Exod. 15:15:20-21) and also postdates (Rev. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2) the Solomonic Temple. This inclines me to view the instrumental accompaniment of praise (whether private, corporate, national, etc.) as not necessarily limited to a particular dispensation but as transcovenantal and transcultural.

    (2) John 4 definitely teaches that New Covenant worship will decentralized and that gospel shadows will give way to gospel realities. (That’s what the phrase “in spirit and truth” alludes to.) The only shadow John to which explicitly refers is the Temple structure in Jerusalem, which required a centralized and exclusively Jewish form of worship. Such an arrangement wouldn’t work very well under the New Covenant when the gospel is to be taken to all the nations. As to the question of which facets of OT Temple worship are obsolete, we must look to other NT texts for the answer. The priesthood, sacrifices, and ceremonial regulations (like circumcision) are clearly identified in the NT as fulfilled in Christ and the gospel and the New Covenant community and are, therefore, no longer elements of NC life and worship. But I see no explicit text or implicit rationale for viewing musical accompaniment as an obsolete shadow or type.

    (3) You don’t seem to be too sure yourself and speak of it as only as “a possibility.” Mere “possibilities” don’t constitute clear and irrefutable biblical warrant. For this reason, I’m wary of transforming “possibilities” into precepts.

    (4) If you think John 4 provides clear and irrefutable evidence that musical instruments have been abrogated along with the Temple and centralized worship, then you have to answer the question of whether elements of Old Covenant life and worship are in every instance forbidden under the New Covenant or whether they might be employed circumstantially.

    While Paul in no uncertain terms rejected circumcision as a necessary element of New Covenant life and worship (Gal. 2:1-5), he didn’t hesitate to employ the OT rite when circumstances gave warrant (Acts 16:1-4). Similarly, the early Christians met in houses for worship. I’m not aware of NT evidence to the effect that early Christians are commanded to build temple-like structures and call them “sanctuaries.” But as circumstances permitted (decrease in persecution and legalization of Christianity), believers began erecting buildings for worship–not as necessary elements, such as the Temple structure was, but as a “circumstance” to facilitate corporate worship (see LBCF 1.6).

    I hope this helps. As I said above, I don’t mind if pastors or believers or whole churches prefer a capella singing without instruments. But to forbid the singing of non-inspired hymns with Scriptural lyrics and to forbid the musical accompaniment of corporate praise without clear, irrefutable biblical warrant but only on the basis of a “possibility” is to allow human speculation a normative role it should not have over the consciences of God’s people.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Bob Gonzales

  43. Bob,

    In response to (1) You make much of my use of the word “possibility” later on, but is it any less certain than your “inclination” here and subject to the same critique? Can I be so bold as to return you number (3) back on you? Mere “inclinations” don’t constitute clear and irrefutable biblical warrant any more than “possibilities” surely? I am however “inclined” to understand that you were using the word “inclination” as I used “possibly” (see below) i.e. as a way of actually communicating a degree of uncertainty as to one’s position. I think that’s a useful position to take sometimes. I do not fear a certain degree of uncertainty.

    In response to 2) Would not the complete silence on musical accompaniment in the NT corpus be a rationale in addition to the inferences from John 4? Is it not a possibility that the New Covenant believing Jew would have wondered to himself “What do I need a trumpet for, there is no sacrifice to signal, no Festival Day to bring in”? (e.g.Nu 10:10, Le 23:24, 2Ch 29:28). This may be an argument from silence, but given the importance of trumpets, choirs etc. to Old Covenant worship, is it a significant silence? These were used to signal particular parts of the ceremonial, therefore they would naturally be no longer needed if the ceremonial was abrogated. Thus while the musical instrumentation may not be a type or a shadow they may have been parts of the type or shadow and are abrogated along with the type and shadow.

    In response to 3) I agree possibilities should not be raised to dogma but neither should we be so self assured as to think that we have arrived at the absolute truth, likewise if we wish to discuss this matter in a respectful fashion perhaps more of us should ask honest questions and use such words as “possibility”. That was the spirit of my use of “possibility”, I desire to know the truth, not merely continue with my own prejudices. My entry into this discussion is not in fact to promote a position but to further the discussion, thus my use of the word “possibility”. Too often this discussion begins and ends with stubborn heads butting against one another with the same old arguments, but never advances. One is often left wondering if truth does indeed get set aside in the pursuit of defending one’s position. Questions honestly dealt with make us think outside our own box and in my opinion can advance the discussion.

    So, yes, my use of the word possibility is a signal of uncertainty, but I’m not building any precept on it, not yet any way, but it should be on the table for discussion. I would apply this comment also to the last paragraph of your response to me.

    In response to 4) – that is exactly the question that must be answered and I have not as yet settled on one. If we define an element as essential to worship, and so important that elements are always explicitly commanded by God, then God must have a very good reason for withdrawing that element and we would do well to observe that withdrawal carefully, in fact we should be very cautious of reintroducing it, even circumstantially. It appears to me that music is certainly not an element of NC worship, as it is not specifically warranted by precept, therefore we should be very cautious about reintroducing it circumstantially.

    As a side note, as it is in your response, I would not go along with your analogy of the worship house being a circumstantial application of the temple element of Old Covenant worship (the circumcision one is more challenging) – it became this when the Romish aberrations of priestcraft took over the Church and degraded it with sensual worship and grandiose buildings, of that I am in no doubt. Rather I would think the worship building was an expedient to merely accommodate the crowds – it was a practical matter – just a bigger space under cover. if the average house in Jerusalem or Antioch or wherever had been big enough they’d probably just have used them. I think it unlikely that Paul was thinking of the Temple element and circumstantially utilising it when he rented the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) and I think it unlikely that this was ever the catalyst for the adoption of worship sanctuaries by the early church and certainly not for the Protestant Reformation which eschewed the aesthetic of buildings and promoted a utilitarian approach.

  44. Paul,

    Thanks for your patience. I’m sorry that my earlier remarks weren’t clear to you or if I mistook your intentions. I’ll attempt to provide further clarification.

    (1) I make much of your “possibilities” when and if you attempt to use such to mandate or prohibit what are presented and viewed as elemental activities in worship. I speak of “inclinations” when speaking of circumstantial activities in worship since such are based not on clear prescription but on the light of nature, Christian prudence, and general biblical principle. If you wish to use the term “possibility” when speaking of circumstantial aspects of worship, fine. I guess that might be roughly equivalent to “inclination.” But if you (or Spurgeon or anyone else) are going to command or prohibit what is circumstantial in my worship, you’d better come up with something stronger than mere “possibility.”

    (2) I’ve already conceded that musical instruments are not sine qua nons of New Covenant worship. If I treated them as absolute necessities for authentic NC worship, the lack of explicit NT reference might be significant (though the NT says little about tithing yet most Reformed churches I know require it). But as I’ve already pointed out earlier, the NT is silent about a lot of other things such as church buildings, printed hymnbooks, pews, neckties, amplification systems, projectors, etc. Such silence doesn’t prohibit me from the use of such things circumstantially in the preaching, praying, and singing of corporate worship. And when it comes to musical instruments, I find adequate precedent in Scripture, not limited to the Solomonic Temple period, for their use in corporate worship. That’s enough for me.

    (3) Paul, I apologize if I’ve come across stubborn. My initial remarks were directed toward Mr. Charles with whom I’ve had many a discussion about the subject at hand. Moreover, I discuss this subject as one who once held what I now perceive to be an overly restrictive and imbalanced view of the RPW. After being challenged by other believers and after studying the Scripture further, I can no longer defend this more restrictive view of the RPW as biblical. And now I have the challenge, as a pastor and seminary professor, of trying to correct the pendulum swing I see among some Reformed Christians and churches. Thankfully, the ARBCA position paper signaled a reluctance among the RB churches of that association to adopt the more restrictive view advocated by many Puritans. So I don’t feel I’m completely alone.

    Perhaps it might be helpful at this juncture if I pointed out at least three areas where my thinking has changed with reference to the so-called RPW:

    First, I reject the notion espoused by some Reformed Baptists that the New Testament alone is the only rule to direct New Covenant worship. For one, the NT canon was not complete and accessible to the churches until well into the 2nd century B.C. Moreover, the apostle Paul clearly includes the OT as part of that revelation which is to have normative value for the New Covenant community (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

    Second, I no longer accept the notion that there are two normative principles that regulate covenant life, i.e., sola Scriptura for “all of life” and the RPW for corporate worship alone. This notion cannot be supported exegetically (see Jim Domm’s “The Regulative Principle in Exegetical Perspective”). Moreover, the Westminster Standards and LBCF are ambiguous and inconsistent on this question and there hasn’t been uniformity of perspective among Reformed theologians either (see Domm’s “The Regulative Principle in Historical Perspective”). There is, therefore, only one principle that applies to worship as a way of life or to worship corporately. One may call it sola Scriptura or he may call it the RPW. The Scripture may have more to say about corporate worship or church life than it has to say about plumbing or auto-mechanics. But the difference is in degree of specificity not in the manner in which Scripture regulates.

    Third, I do not prefer the term “prescribe” used in the Confession since it has lead some (mostly laymen but some pastors) to the notion that we can only do what is explicitly commanded. More mature Reformed believers, pastors, and theologians recognize, however, that the Scripture also norms covenant life and worship in other ways such as precedent and principle. Accordingly, I prefer the broader term “warrant.” We should only eat, drink, labor, recreate, study the Bible, preach, praise God corporate in ways that are warranted by Scripture.

    (4) My interpretation and application of John 4 to the subject of New Covenant worship actually warrants greater flexibility rather than greater restrictiveness. It envisions the gospel going into all the worlds and churches being planted among different nations with different languages and cultures. Hence, the lack of minutia in the NT regarding New Covenant worship relative to the greater degree of minutia in the OT regarding Old Testament worship signals, in my mind, a shift from less freedom to greater freedom in the circumstantial expressions of our gathered worship under the New Testament. John Piper touches on this in his series entitled Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning: the Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship, which I commend.

    (5) Finally, I don’t share the distaste some Reformers seem to have towards music and aesthetics. I also reject the notion of the primacy of the intellect and the depreciation of the emotions and empirical senses as “sensual” (in a negative sense). I find such reasoning to smack more of Plato than Bible. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of the kind of gaudiness or extravagance that actually distracts God’s people from the gospel of Christ, which is the centerpiece of New Covenant worship. I’m for buildings that are functional (or “utilitarian” if you wish) with a pulpit in a visible and central location. But that doesn’t mean church buildings need to be square boxes painted gray lest they appeal to “the sensual.” Moreover, I’m for praise that engages the mind with sound doctrinal lyrics–lyrics that laud God (vertical) and lyrics that teach one another (horizontal). But I don’t think we’re obligated by Scripture to choose tunes or genres of music that are ugly or dull or monotone in an effort to starve or straitjacket our emotional and physiological senses. As I’ve argued in another venue, the Bible draws a connection between aesthetic beauty and moral virtue (Exod. 33:18-34:8, 29-35). And what God has brought together, let not man put asunder.

    I hope these comments serve to clarify my presuppositions and hermeneutic vis-à-vis the topic of discussion. If you need further clarification, I’d be happy to correspond with you on another venue since I’m not sure it’s wise to get too far afield on a post not primarily dealing with music in worship. Perhaps a more appropriate venue to carry on this discussion might be in relation to the latest RBS Tabletalk post: “The Sacred ‘Whymns’ of Isaac Watts: the Worship Wars of the 18th Century.”

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  45. First, I confess not to have read all of the above posts. Thus, if the following points have been made or made and refuted, please forgive my needless repetition.

    Regarding the use of musical instruments in the Psalms, I do not accept that all of the Psalms referring to the use of such instruments were designed for corporate worship. Some are used with respect to personal or private worship by individuals who were not priests! Which I interpret as demonstrating that God delighted in the use of musical talents in bringing worship before Him both vocally and instrumentally. The pleasure of God is the ultimate factor in worship. There is at least a possibility that God takes pleasure in our employment of musical aesthetics in our worship and indicates that in the Psalms for our immulation (not argumentation). Edwards said that the requirement of music in worship is appointed to facilitate the exercise of our affections (emotions) in worship. Could it be that God really does want us to be emotionally engaged and to demonstrate that engagement by music that engages and exhibits our emotions? Could that possibly have been the purpose of the references to musical instruments in the Psalms? Is everything expressive of emotion in the Psalms typical or ceremonial?

    Next, all musical forms are cultural. All of them! We would neither recognize nor appreciate the musical forms of the 1st century church (OK that is an unprovable assertion, but it makes the point). Every hymn and every tune we employ displays cultural adaptations and preferences. Is it not a bit beyond the actual text of Scripture to argue for the “sacredness” of musical forms belonging to certain periods of Western Civilization–only past periods? Where does the factor of understanding and edification enter (1Cor. 14:12)? Is it carnal and unlawful for one to find specific musical sounds of the current culture to be edifying? If not, is it unlawful to adapt Biblical texts to such sounds? If not, is it unlawful to adapt paraphrases of Biblical texts to such sounds?

    The limitation of musical forms or tunes to past periods of Western culture (and some of them not so far past), is arbitrary. And, as such, has the fragrance of legalism. The Holy Spirit just may still be enabling people to write Bbilically accurate and edifying texts set to edifying tunes (tunes which flow from certain developments within contemporary culture). If that is at least a possibility, perhaps we should not be so arbitrary in dismissing all that is current.

  46. Enjoyed reading this discussion between some of my most esteemed friends and brothers.

    I do believe that Bob makes a valid point earlier when he asserts you either understand things in such a way as to have no instruments, or you understand things in such a way as allowing instruments.

    Having read John Price’s book a while back I was disappointed at the notion of one instrument is allowed but more than one causes division. John is a dear brother, but his reasoning there seemed more an attempt to defend a certain modern RB tradition than do any justice to Scripture or the issues opened up in this recent discussion.

    Which ever side of the fence we land on regarding this brothers let us maintain a spirit of grace and love towards one another and recognise that whilst we all need to settle this issue in our local assemblies it should not become an occasion of inter-church division amongst Confessional RB’s.

    Knollys and Keach were on either sides of this issue, so let us not think we will resolve it in our day. Neither should we allow the evil one to make it an occasion of conflict when it does not need to be.

    Rich Barcellos playing a drum would however be a sight to behold 🙂

    After all when we get into the New Heavens and the New Earth we will enjoy worship in all its fulness and those who have believed no instruments are allowed will know the truth and those who have employed instruments will know the truth and we will all live happily ever after 🙂

    In the meantime brothers let us adorn love and humility and exert our energies in bringing the gospel to a dying and perishing world in an effective and powerful way for the glory of God.

    Warmest regards


  47. I agree with OldguyRB and Robby Briggs. I especially appreciate Pastor Briggs’s exhortation that we not allow our differences on the issues of music in worship divide us. As I indicated above, my point is not to argue for a kind of cookie-cutter uniformity in our worship. I don’t think the NT or a sensible application of the RPW demands this. Differences in time and culture and circumstance will result in RB churches that look more like fraternal twins than like identical twins. Where we as pastors and churches allow for biblically warranted diversity, there will be less worship wars and greater degrees of mutual deference among us (Phil. 2:1-4).

  48. Bob said, “(3) Paul and Richard seem to find fault with my hermeneutic. They want me to give an account for seeing Psalm 150 (and other Psalms) as normative for New Covenant worship. I’ll be happy to do so if they’re willing to explain the hermeneutic for excluding the use of musical instruments in worship.” Bob, I have never, as far as I can remember, argued for excluding the use of musical instruments in worship so I see no need for providing an argument for something I do not affirm. Also, I did not ask for an account for seeing Psalm 150, etc. as normative for NC worship. I assumed you had one.

    My view, as I think I have posted here before or maybe on the RB Fellowship email discussion list or RBDL, is that instrumental accompaniment during public worship under the New Covenant is adiaphora.

  49. Just a PS guys, who designed the stereo-type guy at the top of this page ? Is it from a book somewhere ? and can someone explain its relevance to the article?

  50. Bob

    I agree we should not proceed further on this post.


    I too hope and pray that a degree of unity is maintained even with the ever increasing diversity of opinion and practices exhibited in the RB world. However I must confess that having read the expressions of others on other blogs about this (and I’m not getting at Bob here, should anyone think I am) I fear that humanly speaking I am not encouraged that this unity will be maintained. There is a serious degree of arrogance and dismissiveness towards conservative Reformed Baptist churches out there, yes no doubt the reciprocal is the case to, but the most audible, verbal, and frequent theme I read on too many places is by those who say they are RB, but obviously believe most RB churches are Ichabod; they don’t evangelize, contextualize, worship right, their covenants are legalistic…etc. etc. This issue IS causing division and we need to face up to it.

  51. Rich,

    I’m sorry if I gave the impression that you were arguing against the use of instruments in corporate worship. Actually, as I pointed out at the end of one of my responses, I noted that your church employs multiple instruments and a worship leader.

    As for viewing the use of musical instruments in New Covenant worship as adiaphora, which for those who aren’t familiar with the term means “things indifferent,” would you view animal sacrifices in New Covenant in the same way? If so, how do you justify that? If not, then you apparently don’t see the musical instrumentation of the Psalms as obsolescent shadow/type in the same way you view animal sacrifices as obsolescent shadow/type. So it seems to me, but correct me if I’m misreading you.

    And do you mean “indifferent” in an absolute sense? Or would you still condition the prudence or non-prudence of their use on circumstance, as Paul seems to with with respect to things indifferent in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10? Just curious. We can talk about it in another venue.

    Once again, I apologize for not clearly representing your position.

    Your fellow servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  52. And I might add (to what Paul said above), achieving unity BETWEEN churches, as hard as that can be, is much easier than achieving unity WITHIN the local body of Christ where the implementation of issues such as these HAS caused division and HAS resulted in some leaving.

    Over the course of the last 10 years or so, our adversary has succeeded in destroying local churches by means of immorality and other heinous sins. Most of you who have been an RB for some time know to what I refer. The devil is crafty, however, and is not limited to one arsenal of weaponry. I truly believe that his present-day attacks of churches in our RB circle are coming in the form of wedges or division that are occurring over doctrine/theology/interpretation/orthopraxy (all things we love and to which we are committed). We must guard against this. He intends to divide, weaken and isolate both within bodies and between. I see him at work also among those outside of the RB walls – dividing many by means of the Manhattan Declaration. And I do not doubt that are very strong and differing opinions to be found among us. Yet again, Satan seeking to divide and weaken. Yes, all of these things will be sorted out when we get to heaven; but we are not there yet. Yes, unity and peace should be sought after; but that which is not of faith is sin.

    If I may also add: this article was written to encourage us to “become all things to all men” in order to reach the unconverted outside the church. The conversation then turned to a discussion of how we do worship, and it was argued by some that this passage is relevant for how we approach worship (though I voiced by disagreement). Then the discussion turned more specifically to music. My point is this: IF 1 Cor. 9 can rightly be applied to worship, and we are to become “biblically” contemporary (as some have argued) by adapting our approach to worship (i.e. in this case music) in order to become “all things to all men”; IF that is true, how ought we to look at that call to liberty in light of Rom. 14:20-21 – “Do not destroy the work of God [in your brethren] for the sake of [liberty]…It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak”? Do we put in jeopardy the work of God in him who is our brother under the guise of reaching a culture and getting an “emotional buzz” (borrowed words from one who commented above)?

    Care must be taken. Prayer must be maintained. Warfare must be engaged. Peace AND holiness must be pursued. And as Matthew Henry points out in his commentary, TRUE peace will only be found in TRUE holiness.

    We must be a Seeker-sensitive people. That capital “s” is not a mistype. It is essential. God is the one seeking; not man. There is none that seek after God, no not one. But God is seeking; seeking worshippers who worship Him in spirit and truth. I know we all agree with that. Now may the God of grace grant us understanding how we go about that.

  53. Dear Paul,

    I don’t intend to carry on our debate about the question of whether music instruments are obsolescent OT types and shadows that no longer have place in New Covenant worship.

    I do, however, want to respond briefly to the concern you express above. My comments here have been motivated what I perceive to be a tendency among some more conservative and traditional Reformed leaders and churches to speak of other churches that employ modern hymnody and use multiple instruments as un-Reformed, worldly, sensual, pragmatic, and/or man-centered. If anyone thinks I’m erecting a straw man, I’ll simply say that I’ve been a pastor in three different Reformed Baptist churches over the past 12 1/2 years and, as a pastor, seminary student, and now seminary dean, I’ve read lots of books and articles by Reformed authors on the subject of contemporary worship and the RPW. If you need the resources, send me a private email.

    In any case, I’ve become more convinced that the Bible allows churches greater flexibility on matters that are circumstantial to church life and worship. This allows churches to accommodate the circumstantial aspects their church culture, which would include language, dress, musical styles, technology, etc. to the non-sinful aspects of the culture in which they minister. Of course, this doesn’t amount to an “anything goes” approach to corporate worship or church life. There are many non-sinful cultural customs, activities or technologies that may have a place in other settings but not in the setting of corporate worship. Square dancing or basketball or Sony PS3 would be facets of modern day culture that are not appropriate to the occasion of corporate worship (1 Cor. 14:40) and are, therefore, unfit.

    Moreover, in accommodating to our culture, we need to be reminded of the excellent observation made in this post. Most of us in the United States are not just trying to reach people who are part of a monolithic culture (such as one might encounter when trying to reach an Indian tribe in the Amazon jungles). We live in somewhat of a melting pot with lots of subcultures. And ideally, we should try to reach people from all of those subcultures. This means, practically, that we can’t just solely cater to one subgroup. Pastor Hendrix employed the term “bland” in his recommendation for church culture. I prefer the concept of “blended.” Ideally, I’d like to see my congregational demographics reflect the multifaceted cultural demographics of the community in which I minister.

    But this still doesn’t mean that every church in America should reflect the same degree of multicultural diversity as, say, a church in Manhattan or Seattle or Los Angeles. Some of us minister in parts of the country that are relatively more traditional and conservative. For example, I presently pastor in Greenville, South Carolina, which some folks refer to as the buckle of the Bible-belt. Being from California, it’s been a bit of a challenge for me to accommodate to this more traditional environment. But I think to some degree it’s been necessary.

    That’s why if some of you visited my church on a Sunday morning, you’d find a worship service that is pretty traditional in flavor. We meet in an old church building with wooden pews. The preacher usually wears a necktie and suit. We sing 75% or more of our songs from the Trinity Hymnbook with an occasional modern Getty hymn like “In Christ Alone.” We only use a piano. We don’t project our song lyrics on a screen during worship services. Etc.

    In my opinion, I think we’re actually a little behind the times even here in Bible-belt country. There are presently thriving and large Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches that are preaching a more God-centered gospel message and that have begun to incorporate more up-to-date facets of culture into their worship like modern language Bible versions, a blend of contemporary and traditional hymnody, the use of PowerPoint for projecting lyrics and sermon outlines (and texts of Scripture), multiple instruments, modern but tasteful (rather than trendy) websites, etc.

    I’ve attempted over the years, along with my fellow pastor who’s now laboring in another place, to nudge our congregation toward what I think are modest changes. We’ve managed to get our congregation to update from the King James Version to the New King James Version (which was kind of a half-way step between the KJV and the NAS or ESV). We’ve also managed to introduce occasional modern hymns with sound lyrics, as I alluded to above.

    But a little over a year ago, we suggested to the congregation some further changes in a church vision statement. Two-thirds of the vision was devoted to areas we believed we shouldn’t change but maintain. One-third of the vision, however, suggested changes in areas that we believed were circumstantial to church life and worship. We suggested, for example, the occasional use of instruments other than or in addition to the piano like the violin, the flute, and, possibly, the acoustic guitar. We also suggested that it might be appropriate to employ a projector in a worship service for song lyrics or sermon outlines. In addition, I recommended that we consider removing “Reformed” from our name not because I’m ashamed of the Reformed faith. (After all, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with R. Scott Clark in arguing for the propriety of nomenclature “Reformed Baptist.”) But I’ve found that the term “Reformed” in our name sometimes serves as an unnecessary barrier to people we’re trying to reach. They either have prejudice against the term (i.e., “Reformed” = hyper-Calvinist) or they have no idea what it means and require a 30 minute history lesson about Martin Luther (no, not the 20th century civil rights leader), John Calvin, the Reformation, the Puritans, C. H. Spurgeon, etc.). The effort and time it takes to correct misconceptions or to inform understandings, I see as unnecessary–at least at the point of initial contacts. If I have to correct misconceptions or inform understandings, I’d rather do so with Bible in hand rather than a history book.

    Nevertheless, some in our church are not ready for these kinds of changes. This I learned through taking a congregational survey. I tried to teach on the subject and give a biblical rationale for why I think we should implement moderate updates to our church life and worship while still remaining basically or predominantly traditional. But the church as a whole is not ready. So I’ve backed off and have not tried to implement any of these changes. And I still love the all flock and believe they–even the ones who don’t see eye-to-eye with me–love the Lord Jesus and are zealous for his kingdom.

    What I have hopefully accomplished, though, is to change attitudes if not practice. I hope I’ve helped our congregation see that there are some RB distinctives that are vital and essential and for which we ought to be willing to die. But there are other distinctives that are less important and not essential and related more to tradition than to any black-and-white precept in the Bible. Even if I can’t get folks to see the wisdom in making occasional changes in areas of circumstance, at least I hope I’ve encouraged my flock to be less judgmental toward other RB churches that are less traditional than we are in practice.

    That has been the aim of my comments on this post and in other venues I’ve discussed this subject. Of course, it’s possible that I’ve overstated my case and given the impression that I’m opposed to everything traditional. That’s certainly a possibility, and I want to take Paul’s words of caution and concern to heart.

    Well, enough said. I think this is a good note on which I should end my part in this discussion.

    Blessings to you all!
    Bob Gonzales

  54. I believe the point of the original blog was that in endeavoring to contextualize our evangelistic efforts (including the evangelistic emphasis given within our public meetings) we must take care not to please ourselves. This can happen when we specialize in reaching a segment of society that we particularly “like” and therefore forge our outreach efforts to that people thereby supposing that we are fulfilling the mandate of 1Cor.9:22. Insofar as that text might be applied to our public meetings (and I suspect all RBs do so at least in subtle ways), the call is to be all things to all men. The burden is to have a public ethos that is very broad and not shaped to appeal to one kind of people to the exclusion of others. Some how that point became lost.

    No church is capable of being above any and all cultural motifs. Our words, order, musical styles, dress, arrangement of seats, approach to preaching takes it shape from something in culture past or present. The question maybe: do we give serious (painful) thought to those matters with an eye toward being as winsome and genuine and non-offensive as possible to as many people as possible, or do we ignore all such matters and do what is comfortable and familiar to ourselves? If churches choose to maintain the forms to which they are accustomed, they should be respected for that decision. The autonomy of the local Baptist church demands that we respect that. However, if a congregation decides to make an attempt at becoming less stereotypical and to be more generic to age groups and societal groups within their church family and community–and does so without compromising either reverence or Biblical content in praying, singing, preaching, and the practice of the sacraments, it seems to me that that congregation should not be the target of suspicion or accusation (as in the conclusion that deciding to sing some contemporary hymns to a varied instrumental accompaniment equates with compromise with carnality). It is only as RBs are willing to grant that kind of mutual respect and love, that meaningful unity will be sustained (or perhaps regained).

  55. Paul

    I am glad that I am not reading those blogs. I do believe this will only divide where men let it and it behooves us to hold the line and seek to deal with the extremes on either side of the fence and seek to be peace-makers whenever arrogance is manifested either way.

    Not sure how else to face up to the reality you describe.

    Warmest regards


  56. Robert, Paul, Brethren.
    It seems to me that the way to “face up to the reality” of the lurking divisions mentioned is found in the very text under consideration. V22 lies toward the end of an explanation of how Paul exercises his liberty in his interactions with those who otherwise differ from him. The assertion of his modus operandi which he then explains in v20-23 is articulated in v19: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.” I see Paul describing, not “worship,” but “winning” men who differ from him for the sake of the gospel. Had we more of the disposition and manner of servants (voluntarily exercising the liberty of our sonship) in our relationships with others, we’d improve in “doing all things for the sake of the gospel” and be “partakers” of gospel peace (v23). Were gospel peace to characterize our dealings with others (and ourselves) our worship certainly would be affected in a derivative sense in that the climate of our dealings with each other would be conditioned by gospel dynamics. Paul later tells these prone to division Corinthians, “that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh” (2 Cor 5:15b,16a). Cultural distinctions, personal preferences, such identifiers and differentiators no longer pertain to a people who have denied themselves, have died and risen in Christ and, in the freedom and dignity of their kingdom sonship, have made themselves servants of one another for the higher purpose of advancing the gospel. Had we more of the disposition and manner of servant-sons, we’d be better positioned (lowly) to navigate through the white-water rapids of the crisscrossing currents of concern for worship issues, without capsizing the boat of our essential unity in Christ. I’m not diminishing the importance of those concerns, but it seems to me that Paul’s exhortation to us in 1 Cor 9:19-23 is for us to cultivate the disposition and manner of servant-sons whose citizenship is in the transcultural kingdom, who yet live in the midst of our cultural diversity (1 Cor 10). Then he’ll instruct us, who are partakers of the gospel and sons of God Most High, more specifically on matters of our corporate gatherings in 1 Cor 11:17 – 14:40, all the while reminding us of the “more excellent way” of gospel love.

  57. I said I was going to bow out of this discussion (see above). But I couldn’t help jumping in one more time and saying “Amen” to Alan’s helpful (and convicting!) exhortation.

    I’m afraid that I’m one of those guys who loses sight of the “gospel dynamic” (which really is the big issue!) when engaging in debates with my brethren over the finer points of exegesis, theology, and/or application, etc. Just when I think I’m acting out of zeal for the truth, there’s pride lurking in my heart and tainting my attitudes and actions.

    I do believe there’s a winsome and gospel-oriented way in which we as brothers can discuss and even debate some of these matters. And I think some of these matters should be discussed in our day. But I fear that my manner of debate and argumentation has not always been seasoned with grace and the fragrance of brotherly love.

    I ask David, Richard, and Paul to forgive me for failing to show them greater respect and self-denying love in the manner in which I communicated in some of the comments above. And I appreciate the patience and grace you all have shown toward me.

    Humbly yours,
    Bob Gonzales

  58. Bob – you are a man of the Spirit, evidencing genuine grace. We need you and your gifts. Don’t stop being strident for the truth as is it in Jesus. Don’t stop prodding us to love the Lord our God with all our minds. Don’t stop urging us to think biblically, to think clearly, and to be relevant and effective in our generation. And – don’t stop working out your salvation with fear and trembling, for is the God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. We are all unworthy servants, attempting to serve King Jesus the best we can with the light we have contending with our remaining sins, limitations and weaknesses in a very difficult time and place in history. I know I’m striving. I know you’re striving. Jesus knows we’re striving. Let’s press on hard and push this gospel plow and never release it. Our confidence is in the Lord concerning each other (2 Thes 3:5). He is faithful and will strengthen us and protect us from the evil one (v3). I deeply appreciate you and your ministry, Bob – as I do all you brothers who are standing firm for Christ amidst the gathering storm. “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (v5).

  59. Bob,

    Forgiven! This venue gets the worst of me at times. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen!

    Rich B.

  60. Amen Alan, good word brother…..Let us truly learn to love one another and all the church of God….

    Warmest regards


  61. Alan (and others) thanks for your comments. I wonder at times if the love and graciousness that you are rightly calling for will be within reach if discussions of this nature are framed in ultimate terms that feel so close to accusations of compromising the truth or “selling out” to the culture (not necessarily in this interchange but I have heard severe language in others). I believe it may also be a challenge for us to have a gracious level of discernment in listening to what others are saying and not unnecessarily grouping people with others who are outside the camp. I know that language like that certainly puts me on the defensive. And from what I have seen these issues are a cause of consistent division among RB’s.

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