Immutability and Instruments

There is much confusion over God’s “immutability,” His changeless nature. The aged prophet footnotes Old Testament revelation with a bold, unswerving punctuation mark: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6, KJV). The faulty assumption that results from verse-twisting this text is that: (1) if God does not change, (2) then what He was happy with in, say, the time of the Mosaic dispensation, (3) He will be happy with in the Christian era. Now, don’t kid yourself; the purpose in this poor line of reasoning is to slide self-serving preference under divine doctrine’s door. So, some argue: if God was happy with David using instrumental music in worship, surely, God will be happy with it in today’s worship. Of course, such is not the case.

In the first place, what God desires in worship is always revealed either specifically or by implication (Colossians 3:17); it is never left to fickle, capricious human preference. Further, what pleases God can be well understood and obeyed. When one tampers with clearly-stated and divinely-authorized directives, whether it applies to worship (Leviticus 10:1-2) or doctrine (Matthew 15:8-9), one crosses the line from acceptable and unacceptable. If one cannot find authorization to use instruments (e.g., “play,” as we find “sing”), then their use is not authorized (Hebrews 7:14).

In the second place, because God cannot change, it does not follow that His commands cannot change. He instructed Moses to strike the rock in Rephidim (Exodus 17:5-6) yet in Kadesh, God told Moses to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8). Therefore, at Kadesh, unlike Rephidim, striking the rock was not authorized and to do so did not glorify God. As Moses missed the boat to Promised Land (Deuteronomy 32:51), those who praise God with instruments in worship today will, too (Matthew 15:9). Because Israelites gave glory to God on instruments does not mean Christians are authorized to do the same, no more than having multiple wives, burning incense or sacrificing a sheep on Saturday.

Fashionable arguments are being paraded down religious runways as if they are the newest and latest in theological window dressing but, in truth, they are merely a regurgitation of moldy oldies, vain defenses for the instrument in worship that were burned and buried years ago. Were any person to read the body of New Testament instruction, untainted by the bias of “organ” donors (the instrument, not the kidney), the logical, intelligent, reasonable consensus would be that praising God with instruments in worship in the Christian era is of late invention and unauthorized.

Jeff Sweeten