Our practice is different from most churches in town in that we do not use instrumental music in our worship. It is, therefore, not uncommon for people to ask, Why? Sometimes the question is put stronger: “Do you think that instrumental music is a sin?” Or “Do you think people will be lost for using instrumental music?”
So how do I answer such questions? It’s not my call – I’ll leave that up to God. However, this is what I do know. I do know that in the Old Testament when King David introduced instrumental music into temple worship he did not do so on his own authority but rather at God’s instruction through Nathan the prophet. (2 Chronicles 29:25) What I also know is that in the New Testament there is no authority from God for instrumental music in Christian worship.
Why do we not use instrumental music in our worship? Simply put: God didn’t tell us to; so, we don’t. God said, “Singing” – so we sing. (Ephesians 5:19) God said, “Making melody in your heart” – so we do. (Ephesians 5:19) God said, “Offer…the fruit of our lips” – so we do. (Hebrews 13:15) But God did not say for us to praise Him with an organ, so we don’t.
One practice that distinguishes us from other churches is the fact that we do not use an instrument of music in our worship services. Often times in a discussion of this point King David’s use of the harp is brought up. How should we answer?
Question: Didn’t David play the harp?
Answer: He sure did – God authorized it under the Old Testament system
(2 Chronicles 29:25). But we follow Christ and His apostles – not King David.
Jesus claimed all authority for Himself and authorized the apostles to be His official spokesmen under the New Testament system. (Matthew 28:18-20) The New Testament is clear – We sing. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) In the Old Testament there is frequent mention of the use of musical instruments in worship, but in the New Testament it is not mentioned even once. Rather in the New Testament it is the “fruit of our lips” that we offer as praise to God.
While we learn through preaching and teaching, singing in a unique way drives the gospel message into the human heart. The singing of sacred songs helps make spiritual truths a part of our emotional makeup.
As we are “singing and making melody” in our hearts to the Lord, we are at the same time speaking to ourselves “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19) In congregational singing we teach and admonish one another and thereby allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. (Colossians 3:16)
Although instruments of music such as the organ were widely used in the Jewish worship of the Old Testament, in original Christian worship it is the “fruit of the lips” that is an acceptable “sacrifice of praise” to God.
People often wonder why we sing a cappella, that is, without an instrumental accompaniment. Has anyone every said to you, “But didn’t David play the harp?” He certainly did – God told him to. But God has not told Christians to – so we don’t.
King David is the one who arranged for the use of instruments of music in the temple worship of the Old Testament. 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.” (2 Chronicles 29:25) So David really did inaugurate the use of musical instruments in temple worship but he did so at God’s command.
Christians, however, have not been authorized to use instruments of music in church worship. We have been instructed to sing and make melody in our heart. The scriptures say: “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19; see also Colossians 3:16) Furthermore, the scriptures say that the “sacrifice of praise” that we are to offer to God is “the fruit of our lips.”