Why Not Instrumental Music?

By Wayne Burger

One of the most oft asked questions by those who visit our service is, ” Why do you not use instrumental music in your worship?” That is a good question – one that is worthy a biblical answer. It can be answered in just a few words, “Wd do not use it because God,has not authorized the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to him.” All that one does is to be done “in his name” (or by his authority, Col. 3:17). Since he has not told us to use instrumental music, we do not have the right to assume that it is alright to worship him by means of the instrument.

That answers the question but below is more information to help one understand why we do not use instrumental music in our worship services.

It Is Not Because

1. We do not like instrumental music. Members of churches of Christ like instrumental music as well as anyone else. Often musical instruments are owned and played at home or in situations other than worship services.

2. We cannot afford them. When we were in the mission field, often people suggested that we did not have mechanical inst ruments of music in our services because we were few in number and the church was just getting started. No, we could have afforded them then and could afford them now – that is not the reason.

3. We do not have anyone to play them. Some of the most musically talented people in the world worship with the church of Christ. Many members play the piano and other instruments. Some even make their living teaching instrumental music. But, they do not. play,these instruments when they gather to worship God.

4. We just want to be different. Not using instrumental music makes us different from most religious groups, but that is not the reason we do not use them. We do not mind being different but we do not refrain just to be different or difficult.

There are other religious groups who do not use mechanical instruments in their services. The Greek Orthodox Church does not use instrumental music and it is for the same reason which we do not. They say that they are not authorized in the New Testament. Remember also that they study from the Greek New Testament – in which the Bible was first written.

In fact most denominational groups did not use instrumental music until about 100 years ago. Leading authorities in many denominations can be quoted as to why they oppose their denomination using instruments of music.

5. It is just our personal preference. It is not a matter of us choosing the opinion of acapella. music over instrumental music. It is a matter of faith. That is, it is a matter of what God has authorized. What one does in worship must be according to what God has authorized. God has not left the acts of worship to the opinion of men. It is a matter of faith (legislation from God) not opinion of man.

Whether or not something is right or wrong is not determined by opinion. Different people may have different opinions as to what the speed limit ought to be but the laws of the land determine what it will be. When one violates that law his opinion about what the speed limit ought to be will not satisfy the courts of the land.

The same principle is true with regard to one’s relationship to God, even to the worship of God. There may be a variety of ideas as to what will make God happy, but the only way that one can know what he desires is to read what God has written on the subject.

The New Testament is our authority for what God desires in worship. The New Testament does not authorize instrumental music in worship. Even though the Jews used instrumental music to worship God in the Old Testament, they did not when they became Christians.

There are several passages in the New Testament which tell about the worship of the church and all of them authorize singing – none authorizes using instrumental music. Note the passages below which speak of singing.

Ephesians 5:19: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16: “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.”

James 5:13: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”

See also Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Hebrews 2:12; 13:15.

Can you find a passage which gives us the right to use instrumental music? Let us know if you have in mind a passage.

Why not instrumental music? Because it is not authorized by God. We are to walk by faith – which means we walk by the instructions which God gives (Rom. 10:17). Where God has not spoken we do not have the authority to do. (Reprinted from The Word of Life, 2 Apr. 1989, published by Wylie Church of Christ, Wylie, TX.)

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 21, p. 654
November 2, 1989