Korah and the Instrumental Music Question

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11).

Whatever may be said of the three particulars given as warnings to these readers, such needs exploring by Christians since this is written in the New Testament for the “beloved” (Jude 3, 17, 20).  This article will explore the last of the three in the “gainsaying” (Jude 3, KJV) or “rebellion” (Jude 3, ESV) of Korah, particularly as it relates to the question “What is to be believed about the adding of instrumental music with the singing in worship today?”

  1. The Dissatisfaction with God’s Divine Arrangement. Moses wrote of the words of Korah and his associates, “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him” (Num. 16:3-5).  While they challenged the authoritative positions of Moses and Aaron, Moses declares that God would show “whom he hath chosen” (Num. 16:5).  This is a clear indication that God had authorized whom he had authorized and Korah and his companions were dissatisfied with it.  Whenever anyone becomes dissatisfied with what God has chosen and revealed, the path down the road likened to the rebellion of Korah lies ahead.
  2. The Decision to Add Thus Challenging God’s Arrangement. Moses further explains their rebellion, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?” (Num. 16:9).  Notice again the despising or taking lightly of what God had given them in the service.  Again, “And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Num. 16:10).  Herein is the heart of the problem.  They were safe in what God had authorized for them, but they wanted to add the priesthood as well.  Here is a classic example of the warning, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2).  Going above that which is written (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6) is precisely the objection to adding instrumental music with the authorized music of singing (cf. Heb. 2:12).
  3. The Determination to Follow Through While Having Been Warned.  In spite of the warning, Moses was going to let God do the showing of who are holy and authorized to serve in the burning of incense (cf. Num. 16:6-19).  God’s destruction of this rebellious group was a clear message “that these men have provoked the Lord” (Num. 16:30).  Where is the Biblical authority for adding instrumental music to the singing (cf. Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16-17)?  To add such without Biblical authority, being determined to have it anyway, is to equally provoke the Lord.  Jude’s warning holds true to all generations.     

Jimmy Clark