Is Instrumental Music In Worship Assemblies Scriptural?

It is common practice today for people to use mechanical instruments of music in their worship to God. However, churches of Christ generally do not employ their use. This is strange to many people and may seem strange to you. Because people don t understand our opposition to such practices, we are often ridiculed and belittled for our convictions on this matter. Is such criticism in order? Or is there a real, biblical basis for the opposition of using instruments of music in worship to God?

Before we discuss this specific aspect of our worship to God, more needs to be said about worship in general. God is particular about the way He is worshipped. We are not at liberty to offer God any manner of service we choose. He has set forth a pattern for worship in His word, and it is our responsibility to follow this pattern.

To illustrate that God is concerned with the way we worship Him, consider the story of Nadab and Abihu. In Leviticus 10:1-2 the Bible says, "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord" They were offering worship to God by burning incense. But they did not do it in the manner that God required.

Rather than using the holy fire of the altar, they used strange fire which the Lord had not commanded them to use. Their sin was offering a form of worship that 1) was not according to the pattern set forth by God, 2) was more than God had commanded them to do. In doing more than God had commanded them, they had violated plain statements in the law of Moses. (Exodus 30:9) God punished them for these violations.

Therefore, if we offer worship which 1) is not according to the pattern God has set forth or 2) is a form He has not commanded us to do, creating a violation of scripture, we are committing essentially the same sin as Nadab and Abihu. Since God punished them, why should we think he would be any different with us?

The fact is, God is just as particular about the way we worship Him today as he was under the law of Moses. In Matt 15:7-9 Jesus said, "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you saying: These people draw near to Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men". To render acceptable worship to God, we must worship in a way that is consistent with His truth! And just like Nadab s and Abihu s was not accepted, our worship will not be accepted if it is not done in accordance with the revealed will of God.

Having established that God is particular regarding the way He is worshipped, this brings us to the question; "Has God established any specific pattern for our musical worship to Him?"

Actually, under the Law of Moses, they were required to use instruments of music. In 2 Chronicles 29:25 the Bible says, "And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king s seer, and Nathan the prophet for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets."

However, it is important to remember that we are not living under the law of Moses today. In Galatians 3:24-25 Paul says, ". ..the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Though the law of Moses provides for our learning (Romans 15:4), we are not bound to keep it today. There were many things required under the law of Moses that we no longer do.

They were required to offer animal sacrifice (Leviticus 4:27-32), restricted in eating certain things (Leviticus 11:13-19), given special holy days (Leviticus 23:1-44), etc.. None of which is considered binding on Christians today. As a matter of fact, to bind these things from the law of Moses today is sin and will cause us to fall from grace. (Galatians 5:1-4, Colossians 2:14-17) If it is wrong to bring over these observances from the law, then why should we think it is right to bring over the use of instrumental music?

As said earlier, the things in the Old Testament were written for our learning (Romans 15:4) but our binding law now is contained in the New Testament. There are many things we do today that were done in Old Testament times, but they are done because the New Testament instructs us to do so.

Therefore, to settle the question regarding instrumental music, we must establish what the New Testament says about our musical worship to God. In Colossians 3:16 Paul said, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." He clearly instructed the church to sing, not play. Lifting our voices in praise to God is the pattern set forth.

It is noteworthy that in every New Testament passage where we are instructed how to offer musical praise to God, we are always told to sing and never told to play instruments. For example; 1 Corinthians 14:15 says, "...I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Ephesians 5:19 says, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" There are other New Testament passages that instruct the church similarly.

We have learned that God wants us to worship Him in the way He has directed. He has said that in our musical worship we are to sing, teach and admonish. The use of instrumental music violates these requirements given by God and as such, they are wrong! Our opposition to their use is sincere and biblically based. Will you join us in standing firm on God s Word?