Instrumental Music in Worship (IV)

By Earl E. Robertson

Defense of Mechanical Instruments

While space in this work will not permit a consideration of all defenses of instrumental music in worship to God, we will hear the efforts most commonly offered for apology.

Inherent. O. E. Payne, a champion for the instrument, says, “Henceforth we must unite in agreeing that if we forego musical instruments we cannot , conform to the divine injunction to psallein” (Instrumental Music Is Scriptural, p. 172). Payne is saying the divine command to “sing and make melody in your heart” cannot be done without mechanical instruments; that the verb “make melody” includes such an instrument as the organ. Having already shown that the object of the verb is not named within the verb (psallo, make melody) itself, but is specifically named in addition to it, we are, therefore, forced to reject Payne’s assertion. If the object of the verb is at times “to pluck the hair,” or “twang the bowstring,” or “vibrate the carpenter’s line,” or the human “heart” (Eph. 5:19), how is it possible for the verb to specify (inhere) only an instrument such as the organ? What proves too much proves nothing! The object of the verb psallo is no more inherent in it than the object of the verb inheres in baptizo. The element is not specified in the word baptizo. Additional passages tell one that baptism is in water. When Jesus gave the great commission promising salvation to the one that believes and is baptized (Mark 16:15, 16), He did not use a word (baptizo) that has the element or object built within it. Additional statements do, however, tell us it is water (Acts 8:36-39). Likewise it is true that the object of make melody is specified in addition to it-the heart (Eph. 5:19). Since the heart is named it will not permit another instrument!

Music in Heaven. The passage usually offered to teach that there is instrumental music in heaven and that it is therefore, scriptural to have such in the church is Revelation 14:2. The passage says: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” The passage says nothing about music in heaven, the church, or worship! John said, “I heard a voice.” The voice he heard he describes: it was as waters, as thunder, as harpers harping with their harps. John heard no water, thunder, or harps; John said he heard a voice!

Aids. Some affirm that instrumental music aids the singing, that the organ as an auxiliary device assists and expedites. But as earlier shown, instrumental music is another kind than that which God specified when he said “sing.” It being, therefore, another kind of music makes it, not a mere aid, but an addition. It being added makes two kinds of music; God specified only one; so, the kind added allegedly as a mere aid, has actually become an addition to what God authorizes!

The Prodigal Son. R. M. Bell, late president of Johnson Bible College said, “Jesus indicated that instrumental music would be used in the church” (What The Bible Teaches Concerning Instrumental Music In Worship, p. 11). When the straying profligate returned from a life of dissipation and licentiousness he was greeted by his father. They all began to be merry. When the elder brother returned from the field he “heard music and dancing” (Lk. 15:25). Bell tells us, “The Greek word here used is the one from which we get our word `symphony.’ The music, of course, was instrumental music.” It is true this word means “symphony;” it also means “harmony of sounds” (Harper’s Lexicon. p. 384). Vine said, “Literally, a sounding together.” The consonance of sounds is not limited to instrumental music; human voices have harmony or agreement among their components! To force a word or passage to teach something it does not necessarily teach is violence. But even if we grant this was instrumental music, how does such authorize churches of Christ to use such in their assemblies of worship? But we are told the Father’s house here in Luke 15 represents the church, and if it does not represent the church it then represents heaven! And Bell said, “In either case, the use of instrumental music in praise and thanksgiving is approved by both God and Christ.” Why does the language here merely represent (being figurative) when music is literal and actual? The lesson simply states the joy of a sinful child of God returning to God and right. If we shall literalize the music and make it an organ and put it in the church, we will then be forced to do the same with the dancing, the robe, the ring, the shoes, and the killing of the fatted calf! What proves too much doesn’t prove anything.

Didn’t Say Not To. One is often heard to say, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say, ‘Thou shalt not play.’ ” But, do all these negatives authorize the playing of the organ in worship? Earlier, we have shown that God’s people “walk by faith” and that “faith comes by hearing the word of God.” If God is silent in His word about playing the organ in worship, then to play it would be without faith. God’s people live by what God says, not presumptuously acting in His silence. When God does not include something in His word that something can never be done with God’s blessings. It is “at thy word” that God’s people serve him. If we offered unto God any worship we might wish simply upon the basis that we could not find a passage that specifically says, “thou shalt not offer” this or that, we could sacrifice a Cat! Let us get back to the Bible-back to Bible authority for all we do before God.

David Played Instrumental Music. Advocates of instrumental music in worship to God in Christ’s church smilingly say “David had it.” So, this is to mean that we today can use it too! Grant that David played before the Lord and was right in doing it. But how does that prove that it is scriptural today to play it as worship to God? David had many wives and concubines; he “shamelessly uncovered himself” before women and declared such “was before the Lord.” Suppose the Lord accepted it, does this prove it would be right to do such today?

David did not live under the law of Christ; we do. David enjoyed the benefit of animal sacrifice for sin, but we have the blood of Chris. The covenant of Christ does not authorize instrumental music; therefore, instrumental music in worship to God today is not dedicated with the blood of Christ. Any act not under his blood is without sanctification.


Satisfaction with God’s decisions is imperative for all God’s children. God knows best, and he has told us what he wants as worship. If we are not satisfied with what He says, immediately we should begin to change our attitude and convictions. When life for us in this world is all over, really all that will amount to anything is whether we have respected what God says. Make a determined effort to “seek the old paths and walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). Any action outside the teaching of Jesus is fatal. The early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”,and so must every church of Christ today. Do not be a party to apostasy. Do not be a party to the dividing of the people of God by the introduction of unauthorized things. God will not hold you guiltless! The joy of walking in the truth not only gives present blessings and eternal life, but also has apostolic sanction (3 John 3, 4).

Truth Magazine XXI: 10, pp. 151-152
March 10, 1977