Instrumental Music in Worship to God

One of the things that sets the Lord’s church apart from most denominations has to do with the music used in worship. Most denominations use instruments in their music for worship. Faithful brethren have rightly opposed this for years. The practice, however, is certainly not going away. There seems to be more and more in the church who see nothing wrong with the use of instruments in worship. Every so often it is necessary to remind brethren why we do not use instruments. To stop teaching on a topic can eventually lead to apostasy. So let us briefly examine why we do not use instrumental music in worship to God.

Before we begin this study though, I believe a point needs to be made. The issue of instrumental music in worship is important, but there is a much larger issue that is at the heart of this. It has to do with Bible authority. What has God authorized us to do? It is important to understand the issue over instrumental music – not just for this one issue, but because the principles we use to determine God’s will on the topic are what we need to use to determine God’s will in so many of the things that we do. With that in mind, let us consider this subject.

The Silence of the Scriptures

There is a debate in the religious world over the silence of the Scriptures. Does silence authorize or prohibit? Many believe God’s silence is permissive, meaning that as long as there is not a specific prohibition against something it is acceptable. They argue that since there is no specific prohibition against using instrumental music in worship, then we are free to use them.

However, the Hebrew writer showed us the correct hermeneutic approach. In making the point that the Law had to change in order for Jesus to be our high priest (Hebrews 7:11-12), he argued from the silence of the Scriptures: “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests” (Hebrews 7:14). Jesus could not be a priest under the Old Law. Why not? The Law did not specifically say that priests could not come from the tribe of Judah; but by saying nothing about it (silence), it was prohibited. The rule could not even be bent to allow the Son of God to be priest.

When God specifies something, everything else is excluded. When the tribe of Levi was specified as the tribe from which priests were to come, every other tribe was automatically excluded even without a specific prohibition. In the New Testament, the only music we read of the early Christians using was singing. Instrumental music, because it is not mentioned, is excluded. It is unauthorized.

Proper Use of the Old Testament

Some will point out the use of instruments in the Old Testament – particularly in the psalms – and say that since God allowed them then, He will allow them today. They also sometimes point out that we are to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) and since instruments were used in the psalms, we can use them as well.

Instruments were certainly used under the Old Law. One passage to show this is in the last psalm: “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud symbols; praise Him with resounding cymbals” (Psalm 150:3-5). Instruments were used here and many use this as justification for using them today. Notice though that this passage also mentions dancing, but no one seems to be trying to bring dancing into worship (yet?). No one wants to carry over the whole Old Law, but many want to bring small parts of it into the gospel.

The Old Law has been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). It has been replaced with the new covenant – the gospel (Hebrews 8:8-13). Therefore, we cannot go to the Old Testament for our law or our authority for a practice. If we want to show that something is authorized (like instrumental music), we must use the New Testament to demonstrate it.

Considering the Context

Some will say that we do have authority in the New Testament for instrumental music. They cite the passages from the book of Revelation that speak of instruments in heaven and say that since there are instruments in heaven, we can have them today in the church. Of course, that book also talks about angels, a sea of glass, and four living creatures with six wings and full of eyes; yet we do not have any of these things in the church today.

We need to keep in mind the context of the passages we study. The book of Revelation is a highly symbolic book. In the passages that mention certain ones holding harps (Revelation 5:8; 15:2), there is no mention of them ever playing the harps. We do read of “the sound of harpists playing on their harps” (Revelation 14:2), but this was not talking about instruments. It was used to describe the beautiful sound of the “voice” of those who “sang a new song” (Revelation 14:2-3). We must respect the context when we study the Bible. These passages do not authorize the use of instruments in our worship.

Acting by Christ’s Authority

Paul told the Colossians, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). This means we must do those things that have been authorized by Christ in His word. We cannot simply claim that something is “in the name of the Lord” and it automatically be allowed. Jesus spoke of some who would do things in His name, but would be condemned because what they were doing was actually lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23).

Instrumental music is common in religion. Those who use it claim to be praising God while they play. But because we have no authority in the New Testament for using instruments in worship, then to use them is to be engaged in lawlessness. God has specified singing as the music we are to use. We should be content with what God has authorized and praise Him in a way that will please Him.

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