Instruments of Music in Worship – Part 1

From God or elsewhere?

One of the most problematic questions in the Restoration Movement churches has been the use of instrumental music in worship.  Through the years I’ve read many articles defending or condemning the practice.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it discussed in the way I am about to discuss it.

I want to approach the subject respecting the time, setting and context of when the “church” began.  During the time that Christ and the Apostles, lived on earth, they were subject to the “Theocracy” of the “Law of Moses.”  Yes, all the land was under Roman rule, but for daily life, social life, and religious ceremony, they operated under the “Old Covenant Law.”  Even the “scriptures” of the time, that “are able to make one wise for salvation” (2Tim 3:15) were what we now call, “Old Testament” scriptures!

Music under that system was prescribed in:

1 Chronicles 15:16
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.

1 Chronicles 16:42
42 and with them Heman and Jeduthun, to sound aloud with trumpets and cymbals and the musical instruments of God. Now the sons of Jeduthun were gatekeepers.

The Psalms are closely associated with instruments of music.  No less than 8 Psalms are addressed with this heading “To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments.”  They are found in Psalms 4:1, 6:1, 12:1, 54:1, 55:1, 61:1, 67:1, 76:1.  (The phrase is not shown in all modern translations.)  But, here are some other Psalms that confirm the use of instruments in conjunction with the singing of the Psalms:

Psalm 33:2 
2 Praise the LORD with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.

Psalm 144:9
9 I will sing a new song to You, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,

Psalm 150:3
3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!

I don’t think it can be proved that musical instruments ever left the temple worship system.  After all, they were approved by God, and practiced in the temple for hundreds of years.  Consider this verse by the prophet Habakkuk:

Habakkuk 3:19 (NKJV)
19 The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. To the Chief Musician. With my stringed instruments.

You may say; well, that is all “Old Testament” stuff, it doesn’t apply to Christians today.

But, consider this:  Paul, who was at that time, a long term Christian, participated in the “Temple rituals” of that day. Acts 21:24, 26

Acts 21:24
24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. ……….. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

Paul “kept the law,” he paid the expenses of those who had performed vows, he participated in ritual purification, temple offerings/sacrifice, music and worship!  We today, have wondered how, or why, he would do such a thing!  How could he allow such an example to be given to all those who knew him? 1Cor 9:22.

In Revelation 5:8 (the Revelation of Christ) , we see that an instrument of music was involved in the “last days” of God’s plan to bring in the “Kingdom” and the “New Jerusalem.”  Acknowledging that there is great disagreement on the “Last Days” (Eschatology), I will word the argument below in alignment with at least one of the various interpretations.

Revelation 5:8
8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

We see that “instruments of music” have been an integral part of service and worship to God throughout the Bible, even to the point of being revealed in Revelation as accompanying theprayers of the Saints”  Are we to believe that in the time in-between “Pentecost,” and our final home in Heaven (what many call the “church age”), that Christians are forbidden their use, under penalty of “Hell?”

We have been very strong on using Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 to promote congregational use of “… psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”   May I suggest one?

Psalm 150:1-6
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp!
4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

How can we encourage anyone today to sing a “Psalm” and then completely remove what was “part and parcel” of how they were written?

Imagine for a moment, Christians meeting in the 1st century, and in accordance with 1Cor 14:26, a brother begins singing Psalm 33:2, while strumming a harp, as had been practiced for hundreds of years.  Will another brother jump up and throw him out?


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One Response to Instruments of Music in Worship – Part 1

  1. Ozarkharleyguy says:

    Good article. Those that advocate the use of instruments is wrong would also insist in the Bible as the sole guide but what individual that had only the Bible as their guide reading from Genesis to Revelation would be convinced to lay down those instruments in the NT? You can’t have it both ways. Which are you going to give up; the Bible as the sole guide or your hypocritical, Pharisee ways of legalism? That favorite little phrase of “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent” is a good one till it catches you within its net. I think this article does a good job of exposing this kind of legalism. Sadly I doubt those that need it most will recognize how it relates to them.

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