Sunday, January 7, 2018 am

Worshipping God (5)
Can We Use Instrumental Music?

         The past few weeks, we have been studying our worship.  We have addressed what worship is and noted our need to worship with a godly attitude and in truth (John 4:24).  We have examined the 5 acts of worship and noted God’s pattern for each.  Last week we discussed singing as an act of worship and noted that it is vocal singing.  Today, we want to explore why we don’t use instrumental music in our worship.

 I.                     The NT and singing

a.       Singing is commanded and authorized – 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16

b.       Last week we noted the parameters.  We are teaching and admonishing one another – thus singing is about God, as well as teaching one another.  It is reciprocal and not about entertainment.  There is a variety of types of songs (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs).
ALL of these can be fulfilled and describe the elements of vocal singing.

c.        9 NT passages address Christians and music in the NT.  In addition to the three above there is:

                                                   i.      Matthew 26:30 (Mark 14:26) – Jesus and the apostles, “When they had sung a hymn”

                                                 ii.      Acts 16:25 – Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi at Midnight – they were singing and praying

                                                iii.      Romans 15:9 – (2 Samuel 22:50, Psalm 18:49) – a passage proclaiming Gentiles will glorify God (along with the Jews)

                                                iv.      Hebrews 2:12 – Psalm 22:22 – a Messianic psalm where David describe deliverance.

                                                  v.      James 5:13 – Is any cheerful, let him sing psalms

                                                vi.      Hebrews 13:15 – while not mentioning music specifically, it speaks of offering praise to God with “the fruit of our lips”

                                              vii.      NOTICE how each mention singing.  2 of them are quoting psalms and David praising God in his later life.  YET, of all the OT verses that mention instrumental music (about 36 times), the one’s quoted in the NT mention singing ONLY. 

d.       When we consider these things, it is WITHOUT question that vocal singing is acceptable worship.

 II.                   Where’s the authority for instrumental music?

a.       The NT gives no command, example or necessary inference (conclusion) that instrumental music is acceptable or needed.

b.       We have shown in our study about the church that God says what He means and means what He says.  A study of authority shows that when God is specific about how to worship Him, He means it.  Consider Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6), etc.   as examples of this. 

c.        Specific vs. generic authority.  Remember that there are two types of authority – specific and generic.
Specific authority means that something is specified.  WHEN a command or details are specified, they become part of the command.
Generic authority means that something is not specified.  Typically, this deals with general instructions that leave the details to our discretion.  The command to “go” in the great commission (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19) is general as to HOW we are to go.
The OT gives us many concrete examples of specific and generic authority. 

                                                   i.      When God told Noah to use gopher wood (Genesis 6:14), whatever type of wood that was, all other types were excluded.

                                                 ii.      When God specified that the ark was to be transported by Levites using poles, that excluded every other mode of transportation (Exodus 25:14-15, Numbers 4:15, 7:9, etc.).  That is a factor as to why Uzzah was struck dead when he touched the ark which was being transported in a wrong way (2 Samuel 6). 

They are two different, specific types of music.  When we consider types of music, singing is SPECIFIC in contrast to instrumental music.  While they can be combined, they are distinct.
God SPECIFIES that we sing.  That excludes every other type of music which is why we cannot use instrumental music and be pleasing to Him.

d.       Some argue that instrumental music is simply an aid to singing. 

                                                   i.      No, it is an addition.  An aid does not change the nature of something, it simply expedites doing something.  An addition, ADDS to the element thus making it different than what it originally was. 
Song books, song leaders and pitch pipes simply aid us in singing.  Instrumental music ADDS another element to our singing that is foreign to the authority of scripture. 

                                                 ii.      Furthermore, if honest, instrumental music in worship is more about what people want and enjoy than simply an aid to singing.  OFTEN, the instrument is playing even when there is no singing (prelude in a song, or in some places during acts of worship such as giving or the passing of the Lord’s Supper for mood enhancement, during the sermon, etc.).  It is NOT being done because they find authority for it.

                                                iii.      HOW does an instrument aid us in the purpose of our singing – to teach and admonish one another, singing with the spirit and with the understanding, to praise God, etc.?

e.       “But God didn’t say we could not use it.”

                                                   i.      Many justify instrumental music based upon the silence of the NT.  Far too many believe that as long as God doesn’t specifically forbid something then it is acceptable.

                                                 ii.      Silence is NOT consent.  

 III.                 The word psallo

a.       Some appeal to the word psallo in Ephesians 5:19.   A word whose origin means to pluck or twang, as you would a harp or other stringed instrument.  It was used that way in the Old Testament.  Therefore, some advocate that the word translated, “making melody” authorizes the accompaniment of instrumental music.

b.       There are many flaws to this argument, most of them technical and scholarly.  Including the evolving of its usage during NT times, where it did NOT have to include an accompanied instrument.  The emphasis was on the action – plucking.  The word could simply mean to pluck something, such as a hair or bow string.
Many NT scholars (Vine’s, Thayer, etc.) acknowledge the word referring to singing as opposed to using the harp.  That is why, virtually every translation translates the word, “making melody” and avoids mentioning accompanied with an instrument. 

Observation: Does one need to know Greek to be able to understand the Bible?  NO! We know better.  The Bible is written so that the average person can understand what he needs to do.  Paul wrote so that the average member could understand him (Eph. 3:3-4).  He even wrote that we understand the will of the Lord (Ephesians 5:17). 
While study the original languages can be very helpful, (and I often appeal to original word meanings without apology), most do not have the ability to do so properly, which is why we rely on honest scholars to be truthful. 

c.        The word is found 5 times in the NT.  The other texts are: Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthian 14:15 – 2x, and James 5:13 all of which translate the word sing and an examination of the text explains why.
There is a REASON why virtually all translations use the wording they do – and it does NOT require instrumental accompaniment.

d.       Furthermore, consider the elements of our singing: 

                                                   i.      Ephesians 5:19 tells us what we are plucking – “In your heart”.  NOTE that this is consistent with the change of tone from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  Again consider John 4:23-24 – the time is coming…  We are under a spiritual law.  Our worship MUST be from the heart.  Singing can do that.  An instrument has no heart.

                                                 ii.      With our singing we are speaking to one another

                                                iii.      1 Corinthians 14:15 – our worship in song is with the spirit and with understanding. 

e.       Also, consider if psallo means accompanied, can we properly sing WITHOUT an instrument?  And does it have to be a stringed instrument?  Very few honestly make this argument.

 IV.                 What about OT instrumental music? 

a.       Some contend that David used instruments of music in worship to God, which he did.   Further, one might argue that the Old Testament gives examples and even commands to worship God with instrumental music (cf. Psalm 150,  

b.       That may be so, but we are not under the Old Testament anymore.  It was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).  Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24 that the way Jews (and Samaritans) worshipped was going to change. 

c.        We cannot use the Old Testament to justify instrumental music any more today, than we can to justify animal sacrifices, priestly garments, the burning of incense, or the Sabbath day, etc. (some do justify some of these by appealing to the Old Testament)

d.       We will address this in greater detail in a few months (when we study Psalm 150). 

 V.                   Brief history of Instrumental music.

a.       Historical accounts show that first century Christians did NOT use instruments of music.   They simply sang. 

b.       Quotes [1]from early sources include:

                                                   i.      EUSEBIUS (263-339 AD) "Of old at the time those of the circumcision were worshipping with symbols and types it was not inappropriate to send up hymns to God with the psalterion and cithara and to do this on Sabbath days... We render our hymn with a living psalterion and a living cithara with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument. Accordingly in all the churches of God, united in soul and attitude, with one mind and in agreement of faith and piety we send up a unison melody in the words of the Psalms." (commentary on Psalms 91:2-3)

                                                 ii.      AUGUSTINE (354-430 AC)"musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship." (Augustine 354 A.D., describing the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius)

                                                iii.      CHRYSOSTOM (349-407 AD)  "David formerly sang songs, also today we sing hymns. He had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed but much more in accordance with piety. Here there is no need for the cithara, or for stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the members of the flesh and making a full harmony of mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts against the Spirit, but has submitted to its orders and has been led at length into the best and most admirable path, then will you create a spiritual melody." (Chrysostom, 347-407, Exposition of Psalms 41, (381-398 A.D.) Source Readings in Music History, ed. O. Strunk, W. W. Norton and Co.: New York, 1950, pg. 70.)

                                                iv.      NOTE: While not inspired men, they observe early on that instrumental music was not used.

c.        While we do not know the exact date, the early clear records of instrumental music being introduced into the church would be the 7th century (600s) and then only sparsely, by Pope Vitalian I.  And it was divisive.  It was centuries later, around the 10th or 11th centuries that they became more common with the introduction of the organ.  Again, these were a source of division (not unity). 

d.       When the reformation music began, there was not universal acceptance of instrumental music.

                                                   i.      JOHN CALVIN "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints, only in a known tongue (I Cor. 14:16) What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?" (John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms 33)

                                                 ii.      LUTHER "The organ in the worship Is the insignia of Baal… The Roman Catholic borrowed it from the Jews." (Martin Luther, Mcclintock & Strong's Encyclopedia Volume VI, page 762)

e.       The point of these quotes is to show that instrumental music was NOT found in the NT as a part of our worship, nor was it universally accepted when it occurred.  Instead, almost always, the instrument of music divides us.  The solution is to simply appeal to what the Bible teaches.  That is the safe course.


Thus, instrumental music is not the pattern we find for our music in worshipping God.  If we want to ensure that He is pleased with our efforts, we will respect His limitations, even in this, and even if it is not the poplar thing to do.  Let us seek to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

[1] All quotes above found at: with many others.

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