TGOC Bible Curricula - The Church of Christ - Lesson 12 - God's Pattern For Worship (Part 4): Instrumental Music Arguments Answered

Lesson 12

God's Pattern For Worship (Part 4): Instrumental Music Arguments Answered


It never ceases to amaze me to what extent we will go in justifying something we have done or want to do when we cannot find Bible support for it. Why can we not just accept God’s will in all matters? Why would we ever think that we have the right to circumvent His will? We may persuade men that our arguments, our analysis, our excuses are grounded, but God will still be God; His word will still be His word; His intent will still be His intent, and we will still be in violation of all three.


I.“The Bible does not say NOT to use it!” This statement is absolutely true! I cannot argue with it. However, the silence of the Scriptures does not represent authorization/permission. Some often use the silence of the Scriptures as an authorization for many changes they wish to make when they cannot find authority for it in His Word. God’s silence does not equate to His approval. If this were true it would open the door for almost anything!

If we are going to use this argument as our authority for the use of instrumental music in the church, then by the same argument we could offer animal sacrifices, worship on Saturday, have cake and orange juice at communion and dance up and down the aisles. Would you use this argument on your “job”? If your boss gave you instructions, would you take his silence as an authorization for you to use your own judgment? If he sent you to the office supply store to buy a pack of white inkjet paper, would you buy pink, because you like that color better? After all, he did not say not to buy pink. You wouldn’t dare. You would follow his instructions to the letter, and if they did not have white, you would call him to find out what other color to buy. God has given us specific instructions to sing and make melody in our hearts to Him. And, as we have already seen, when God is specific in His commands, this excludes all other choices. If we can understand and accept this on our job, why can’t we understand and accept it in the church?


II. “They used musical instru­ments in worship in the Old Testa­ment.” Many people argue that if God accepted musical instruments in worship then, He will accept them now. It is true that instruments were used in the Old Testament period. However, the fact that God allowed this to happen at that time does not equate to authority for their use now. God commanded the offering of animal sacrifices, to keep the Sabbath; to tithe a tenth of all our possessions. Should we also do these things now?

What this argument fails to take into consideration/chooses to overlook is that it does not matter what God allowed under the Law of Moses. It does not matter what God required under that Law. He has given us a new covenant and put to rest the old. Notice the following if you will.

A. God removed the old covenant to make way for the new. (Hebrews 8:7-9; 10:9-10)

Hebrews 8:7-10, “7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: ‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”

Hebrews 10:9-10,“9 Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

B. The new covenant is a better covenant. (Hebrews 8:6)

Hebrews 8:6, “6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.”

C. A change in High Priest requires a change in the Law. God gave us the new High Priest; Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14; 6:20; 9:11) and God gave us a new Law.

Hebrews 7:12 “12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”

Hebrews 9:11-12 “11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”

D. The Old Law was imperfect. It had no provision for the forgiveness of sin.

Hebrews 10:1-4, “1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

E. The Old Law was nailed to the cross. When Jesus died, He completed the Old Law and He began the New.

Colossians 2:14, “14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

When Jesus nailed the Old Law to the cross, it was no longer active. Paul said Jesus “wiped out”. (NKJV) He erased it. It is no more! Further, “He has taken it out of the way”. (NKJV) Jesus replaced the Old Law with a new and better Law.

F. Christians who try to follow the Old Law have separated themselves from Christ. (Galatians 5:4)

Galatians 5:4, “4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

If we follow any part of the Old Law we must follow it all. If we follow it all, Paul says we are estranged from Christ, and we are “fallen away from grace”. 

A person would have to have help,” (as Marshal Keeble used to say,) “to misunderstand that.” You cannot use a dead law to justify a living principle.


III. “What about the Greek word PSALLO?” They ask, “Doesn’t it mean to ‘pluck the strings of an instrument’? If this is the meaning of the words ‘making melody’ in Ephesians 5:19, does this not give us all the authorization we need for its use?” Well, let us see. Strong’s Greek Dictionary reads:


Probably strengthened fromψάωpsaō (to rub or touch the surface; compare G5597); to twitch or twang, that is, to play on a stringed instru­ment (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes):—make melody, sing (psalms).”

PSALLO in one of its forms is found a total of five times in the following passages: Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15 (2x); James 5:13; Ephesians 5:19. In every passage, the word is translated "sing," or “sing psalms” except Ephesians 5:19, which translates it "make melody." The reason why the translators chose “make melody” in Ephesians 5:19 is because another Greek word for “sing” (ADO) was already used and in order to show the reader the original writer’s emphasis on the idea of “sing”, and in order to not sound redundant in the English language, they translated psallo “make melody”. The better translation (to eliminate the confusion over this controversial translation) is “singing even singing in your heart to the Lord.” 

Henry Thayer's Greek Lexicon is one of the most classical works on the sub­ject. Mr. Thayer says that “in the New Testament” the word PSALLO means “to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song.” (Thayer's Lexicon, p. 675)

The use of the word PSALLO necessarily implies an object or an instrument PSALLO-ed. But, the object, or instrument has to be named! One would PSALLO a harp or a piano, or an organ. But inherent in the word is the necessity of naming the instrument to be PSALLO-ed. The instrument is named in Ephesians 5: 19. The instrument to be PSALLO-ed is the “heart”. Furthermore, by the time of the first century A.D., the meaning of the word “psallo” evolved from the literal idea of “plucking” (whether plucking the hair with a comb or plucking an instrument with fingers) to “singing” (the words of a song). Compare the evolving of the word “lyre” (which originally meant an instrument only) to “lyric” (which came to mean the words of a song only). For further study, do a search on on instrumental music and read Wayne Jackson (

IV. “There is a difference in worship and praise.” They say, “I don’t think we should use instrumental music in worship, but it is ok to use it when we praise God.” Worship and praise go together. One of the reasons we come together to worship is to give praise to God. You cannot worship without praising God and you cannot praise God without worshipping Him.

The word “praise” is from the Greek word ADO which means “to the praise of anyone: to sing”. If singing is praising God, and singing is a requirement of worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) then praise is also a part of worship. You cannot separate the two.


V. “It improves our singing.” This is another, often used, excuse for adding the instrument of music to the worship. My first response is, “improves for whom?’ Are we deciding for God whether or not our singing is acceptable? I do not read anywhere where God ever required us to sing well. Of all the millions of Christians in the world today, surely some of them are bound to sing poorly. Will God punish them for that?They say, “It helps the congregation sing on key”. The early church did not have four-part harmony like we have today. They most likely chanted (monotone) the Psalms of David and other spiritual songs. Do you suppose that is why they did not have musical instruments in worship? Their music, so far as we know, was not keyed. Does that mean God will not accept it?

God doesn’t concern Himself with how well or how poorly we sing. He doesn’t grade us on our musical ability. His only concern is that our music comes from the heart and is according to His word. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)


VI. “What about choirs and singing groups?”

Does God approve the use of choirs and singing groups in our worship?

First, let’s bear in mind: Worship is an individual act. When God judges our worship, He doesn’t judge the church as a whole, but each individual sepa­rately. Worship is a one-to-one fellow­ship in which we, as individu­als, render our praise and adoration to God. When God, through Paul, com­manded us to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) - that command was di­rected at every Christian. When God commanded us to partake of the Lord’s Supper, pray, and give of our means. Not only did He commanded the churches to do so, but He also commanded each individual Christian to do so acceptably to Him. Every Christian is expected by God to sing praises from the heart to God. No one can do our singing for us, take the Lord’s Supper for us, pray for us or give for us. We must do it ourselves.

Since choirs are not found in the New Testament church, and since God has not authorized them, then they fall under the cate­gory of entertainment, not worship.

Let’s be honest! If we want them it’s because we like them. It’s beautiful and it moves us. We may even think it puts us into a better mood of worship. However, that kind of thinking is nothing more than satisfying the desires of the heart and presuming the mind of God. It is deciding for God what is better in our worship. The desire of our heart should be to please the Lord and follow His simple will – not our will but God’s will be done! (Luke 6:46; Hebrews 11:5-6)

Below is a summary of refutations to some arguments brethren (and others) have put forth to try to justify using an unauthorized form of music, namely, instrumental music, in church worship:

  1. Instrumental music was employed in Old Testament worship. It was commanded by David, and tolerated by God. (2 Chronicles) However, indications are that its usage was restricted to the “outer courts” and was not allowed in the "sanctuary".

  2. We cannot use the Law and practices of the Old Testament as authority for what the church can or should do because we are no longer bound to that Law.

  3. Instrumental music was not present in the worship of the synagogue in the first century, and still is not allowed today.

  4. Instrumental music was not present in the worship of the first century church.

  5. Even though the church went through some very serious changes through the centuries, instrumental music was not successfully and formally introduced until the 600’s by Catholicism.

  6. Protestant denominational founders, and leaders objected (without success) to the use of the instrument in the worship of their religious groups.

  7. Inclusion of instruments into the worship of the church can only be done WITHOUT the command and/or approval of God, for nowhere in the New Testament does God authorize its use.

  8. Since God does not command it or approve of it, then instrumental music must be listed among those things referred to as the “traditions of men.” These are the very things that, Jesus said, cause our worship to be meaningless (vain) and unacceptable.

  9. Bible “scholars,” “Church fathers,” and “Church historians” as a whole lifted their voices in one accord to oppose its inclusion.


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