Dear Aebi: "Is instrumental music in the public worship of the church a salvation issue?"
First, look at the matter of "a salvation issue." God tells us many things to do; which of them are "salvation issues," and which are optional? And how can one tell the difference? God's word to us in the Christian era is the New Testament. May we disregard part of it as optional? Which part? All of these questions point to the fact that men at times usurp the prerogatives that belong to God alone. Who do we think we are to say in the absence of divine directive what God will or will not overlook, or when God means what He says and when He is kidding? Or when He is requiring and when He is just suggesting an option? Some years ago the author of a book insisted that the only things that really mattered were the seven "ones" of Ephesians 4. In similar vein, some declared that teaching topics should be taken mainly from the four Gospels rather than from Acts or the Epistles.
A careful reading of God's word shows that God expects us to take it seriously. The New Testament is the word of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and the standard of judgment (John 12:48). God expects obedience, not lip service (Matthew 7:21). We cannot be selective about which part of the gospel we will obey and what we will by-pass, because God warns against adding to or taking from it (Revelation 22:18-19) and pronounces a curse on any who would change His word (Galatians 1:7-9). It has always been so; Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:32 required one not to add to or take away from God's commands through Moses, nor to veer either to the right or to the left of them.
The idea that some of God's will is optional and not a "salvation issue" is put forth by those who want to do what pleases them, not what pleases God. They are not in a position to know what pleases God apart from what God has said pleases Him, but they do what they like and declare that it does not matter because "it is not a salvation issue." Entire libraries could be filled with books describing the many things men have invented because it pleased them and the many things they have rejected because those did not please them.
A student in a Bible class I taught several years ago insisted that instrumental music in the worship of the church is "not a salvation issue," meaning that it does not matter whether or not we use it. I challenged his conclusion, and he said the only reason I did was because I had grown up in a church that never used it. He was surprised to learn that in fact I had grown up in a church which did use instrumental music and that I had done a lot of study on the issue before I learned that it is not the Lord's way. I recently heard that this former student has left the Lord's church and is now leading a denominational group who are like-minded with him in thinking that the additions and subtractions they have made to the Lord's way are ''not salvation issues.
Salvation is being saved from our sins, and eternal salvation is getting to heaven. Both require us to submit to God's will, not our own, whether it is in regard to faith, repentance, baptism, worship, or morality. Fanciful theories have been concocted to eliminate some acts of worship as "not salvation issues" and to justify unauthorized worship practices as "holy" even though God did not give them. The same has been done with baptism, Christian living, and other things. If it is part of God's new covenant for us, it is a salvation issue, for salvation is what it is all about. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730. firstname.lastname@example.org
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