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What about instrumental music in worship?

One of the first things that someone visiting the church of Christ notices is the beauty of the congregational singing and the absence of a piano, organ or some other type of instrument.  The question is often asked, “Where is the piano?” or “Why do you not have instrumental music in your worship?” The answer is quite simple—we do not have the authority for it.

We may not immediately recognize it, but we rely on authority in all aspects of our lives. From the football field to the scales at the supermarket to the safety on our busy streets, we acknowledge, respect and even depend on having proper authority.  The same must also be true in the worship of the church.  We must have authority for everything that we do in worship to God.

From beginning to end, the New Testament makes it very clear that not only did God create worship but He is the only One to whom our worship is to be directed. Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10).  On the last page of the Bible, it is stated very simply, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9).

Having God as the only object of our worship demands at least two responses: (1) that we seek to “always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29), and (2) that we accept that He is the only One who has the authority to regulate worship today.

What kind of music did God authorize in New Testament worship? It should not surprise us that God was very specific.  He could have spoken in general terms and said, “make music,” but instead He specified the exact music He wanted in worship.

When one compiles a list of every New Testament passage that pertains to music in the worship of the church, he will find that every one of them specifies singing and the use of instruments in worship is not found at all. Read Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13.  Upon reading these passages, you will have read everything that God says about the music He wants in worship to Him.  Ephesians 5:19 makes it abundantly clear, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

God, the real audience of Christian worship, asked for and authorized singing. His silence regarding using instrumental music in worship is not permissive, any more than His silence about using steak, potatoes and iced tea in the Lord’s Supper would make those things acceptable.

Let us go back to the Bible and worship God in the way that He desires to be worshiped, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), with “the fruit of our lips” (Hebrews 13:15).