Are Instruments in Worship Biblical?

untitledA friend of mine, who belongs to a non-instrumental church of Christ, asked me to make a case for mechanical instruments in worship–you know, the use of guitars, pianos, and the like.  Here is my brief reply.

1. In the Old Testament, we find the people of God using instrumental music to praise God in worship. For example, in 2 Chronicles 29:25-28, we find not only singing but the use of all kinds of mechanical instruments in worship to God (Psalm 150:1-6).

2. Some churches have argued that this is the Old Testament and therefore not relevant and applicable to the New Testament Church. This, however, is a failure to understand the broader scope of Scripture and the move of redemptive history.

3. While it is true that we do not find the NT Church using mechanical instruments in worship, we also need to keep in mind how and where the NT Church was birth. For Jesus and his early followers, Judaism was their religion. Judaism was the established religion. The Church was birth out of this. It was new and in its infant stage and expanding to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). So all the details of how to worship and what to use in worship were not at the forefront. A person only needs to read the Letters of Paul to discover what were the issues confronting the early church at the time.

4. The New Testament does not forbid the use of mechanical use of instruments in worship. Rather, what we find is the New Testament saying, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 ESV). The Old Testament is therefore for “our instruction.” It can instruct us in the finer details of how to worship. Let us not forget that the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus and the early church.

5. Note also, that if the use of mechanical instruments in worship were strictly forbidden, WHY do we find them in heaven being used in praise and worship before Almighty God (Rev. 5:8; 14:2-3; 15:2-3)? Someone might object and say that the book of Revelation is symbolic and therefore not a good reference point to justify the use of mechanical instruments in worship. REALLY? Symbolic or not, the very fact that they are mentioned is instructive in itself. WHY? Because in Old Testament worship, they were used in worship to God and as such, honored God. Now at the other end of the spectrum, we find them being used to praise and worship God in heaven.

What do you think?

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11 Responses to Are Instruments in Worship Biblical?

  1. David Beirne says:

    Good points.On a similar note, I would like to understand the justification for spending lots of money on light shows (colored lights, etc;), smoke machines, and such in worship.

    • TC says:

      A local church is free to do all that stuff. But I do agree with you that such some justification is needed. But neither do I want to nitpick. 😉

  2. Jim K says:

    I agree with Shakespeare – it’s “much ado about nothing.” Some folks like guitars, some like organs and yet still others prefer a capella. There is no proscription in the scripture for modern day church service.

    Now, let’s go out and feed the hungry and free the oppressed.

    Soli Deo Gloria

    • TC says:

      Jim, I quite agree, but if you’re familiar with some churches of Christ, it’s a big deal. We’re talking heaven or hell and test of fellowship here. Unfortunately

  3. Simon says:

    Seems to me that there is no probs using instruments in worship. Some people get their knickers in a knot about this stuff (including some Orthodox). The Western Church has a wonderful history of great music accompanied by instruments. Handel’s Messiah is an awesome example of this.

  4. Jon Hughes says:

    Instruments in worship should definitely be allowed. Only someone who thinks too much would suggest otherwise! But it should be done in a way that all age groups can comfortably participate, and (as has been mentioned above) should not be a big budget affair. Keep it simple. And try to keep the worship leader off center stage. Don’t some churches have the band off to the side in order to avoid the performers becoming the center of attention? That seems like a pretty good idea.

  5. Lon says:

    If we followed your friend’s hermeneutic, we wouldn’t sing in church at all, since the only the instruction we have about NT worship regards teaching/prophecy, order, the Lord’s Supper, and men’s/women’s roles. There is NO mention of singing as part of corporate worship at all. The psalms, hymns, spiritual songs passage does not specify public or private.

    I think the hermeneutical issues–this one in particular–should be considered by anti-intrumentalists, as well as psalm-only singers.

  6. Colin says:

    I have never seen a basis for the so called “Regulative Principle”, as opposed to a Permissive Principle, except as a matter of personal (or congregation/denomination?) preference. It is said worship should be from the heart. Yes indeed. What expresses what is on our hearts? for some it will be instrumental, for some silence, for others libretto/lyrics written in response to God’s glory etc. Is the start point in John 4 – “spirit and truth”?

    Some Regulative followers tell us that the psalms only approach is about singing only inspired scriptural songs. But in that case why not also the songs of Moses, Miriam, Zechariah, Mary, Simeon etc? And in any case are the metrical settings used by some – such as the glorious Old 100th? and the beautiful “Crimmond” setting of Psalm 23 – really the inspired words, rather than a good setting drawn on those words? What have I missed in understanding the position?

    I like Jon’s comments.

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