Is it wrong to use musical instruments in Christian worship services?
by Robert Randle
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The worship of God could not be experienced more profoundly without offering up to Him songs of praise, devotion, love, thankfulness, and reverence for all the many blessings which has been bestowed upon those who are His children. Many Christian Churches have choirs who edify the flock with special renditions of praise through songs they have rehearsed and dedicate to the glory of God, while a few others offer praises to God through songs sung by the entire congregation of worshippers. Yet within the body of Christ there are a small minority who take a theological position that it is “sinful” or without Biblical authority to use mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the Lord God. To these strict interpreters of the Bible, acappela singing is the only acceptable manner that is pleasing in the sight of God. It is prudent therefore to examine the Holy Scriptures to determine the proper guidance in this matter of faith practice.
I Chronicles 13: 8
Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and on trumpets.
I Chronicles 15: 16
Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy.
I Chronicles 16: 5b, 7
Jeiel with stringed instruments and harps, but Asaph made music with cymbals. On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren to thank the Lord (Cp. verses 8-36).
Psalms 150: 1-6
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with the stringed instruments and flute! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with the clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
Ephesians 5: 19
Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
This last reference is used to strengthen the position supporting the unauthorized use of musical instruments because these proponents say that the passage does not say, “play and sing.” Keeping that point in mind, it is necessary to look at I Corinthians 13: 1, where the Apostle writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I have become sounding brass [gong] or a clanging symbol. Additionally, I Corinthians 14: 26a mentions about those coming together in the Church and one has a psalm, teaching, revelation, etc.
NOTE: These Churches in Ephesus and Corinth were started from within Jewish synagogues (Cp. Acts 18: 8-11, 18; 19: 8-10).
In fact, Sosthenes the leader of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth was baptized and his entire household (Acts 18: 8a). Since it seems that the Christian community grew out from the synagogues, it stands to reason that the Church would have continued to use musical instruments in the worship of God just like it was practiced in the Old Testament. Certainly it cannot be argued against that ‘psalms’ were specifically composed to be accompanied with a musical backdrop.
Lastly, here’s the scare tactic that is used in the pronouncement of a “woe” to those who would use musical instruments in their worship services, as found in
Amos 6: 5, which says, “[Woe to them] Who improvise to the sound of the harp, and like David have composed songs for themselves.
NOTE: There are a couple of things to consider when reading this passage, and that is, the context; reading further in verses 7 and 14, Amos declares, “Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, and the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away. “For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord of Hosts, and they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of the Arabah.”
The prophecy of Amos 6 is also mentioned in Jeremiah 52 and II Chronicles 24 and 25. Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon took Jehoiachin King of Judah into captivity and later laid siege against the city of Jerusalem, taking King Zedekiah bound into Babylon plus thousands of Jewish captives from the region. The people suffered this fate because like in times past, they had forgotten about the Lord God, worshipped idol gods and were comfortable with their lives for the moment; until disaster came upon them. The religious songs they composed would certainly not be acceptable under their false worship, no matter if accompanied by musical instruments or sung acappela style.
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Thank you for this study into the use of instruments. It is well thought out and presented.