Article - Is Instrumental Music Acceptable to God?

The famous Baptist Preacher Charles Spurgeon made a fantastic point when he said, "I would as soon attempt to pray to God with machinery as to sing to Him with machinery." Spurgeon understood the New Testament authorizes a person to pray using a mechanical instrument just as much as it authorizes a person to sing using an instrument. Neither is authorized by God. Why then is there so much confusion in the religious world over instrumental music? Just what does the New Testament say about singing? Let us see what the New Testament teaches on this very important subject.

The premiere passages in the New Testament on singing are Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16. Paul commands us to, “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). The emphasis in this verse is the speaking and singing to one another. Can an instrument speak? Absolutely not! Where is the mention of an instrument in this verse? There is none. In the letter to the Colossians 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” (Colossians 3:16). From this passage we learn that our singing is also a teaching event. Again, can an instrument teach anyone anything? Absolutely not! There is no mention in the New Testament of mechanical instruments of music. Christians are to make melody in their heart! We make melody in our heart when we “sing with the spirit and the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Every New Testament passage on music teaches that it is accomplished with the voice and without the addition of instrumental music (see Matthew 26:30, 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13; Revelation 15:3; Acts 16:25). Dear friend, there is no authority in the New Testament for the use of instrumental music.

While the New Testament does not authorize instrumental music in worship, there are many who still use it. Why is this? Many will say, “The New Testament doesn’t say we can’t use it.” This statement gets to the heart and core of the problem with modern religion. The Bible teaches we can only do that which we are told to do. Paul said, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). To do something in the name of another means that we do it by their authority (Acts 4:7). The Bible teaches that we must not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19). Too many people have their argument backwards. Just imagine how big the Bible would be if God had to tell us not only what to do but everything we are not to do. Biblically speaking, Christians only do what they are authorized to do (Proverbs 30:6). Then there are those who will say, “They had Instruments in the Old Testament, therefore we can have them today.” The problem with this argument is that we are not under the Old Law. It is evident from the Scriptures that the Old Law was nailed to the cross (Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 8:11-13). How many of us would offer animal sacrifices, or go to Jerusalem every year? No Christian would do that. Why? Because that is the way they did it under the Old Law and we are not under it today. Exactly the point! We must realize that we do not worship the same way they did under the Old Law. Therefore, we cannot appeal to the Old Law as an example of authority for instrumental music.

Today, there are many people in our religious world who use instruments of music in worship. We must realize this is sinful because God has not authorized it in the Bible. Do you remember the example of Nadab & Abihu. These men were priests in the worship of God. The Bible tells us that these men offered an unauthorized fire to the Lord in worship which He had not commanded them. It was really a small thing. Maybe they started the fire a different way. We don’t know. All we know is that they did something they were not authorized to do. How serious was this to God? So serious that they were lost because of it (Read Leviticus 10:1-2). From this lesson we learn that if we do anything in worship that is not authorized God will not be pleased with us. May God help each of us to only do what we are commanded in the New Testament.

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