Instrumental music in worship to God has occasioned the gathering of soldiers, both to champion its existence and use in the churches, and to oppose its use in praise to God as lacking New Testament authority. Such battles have not always been. It is our conviction that apostolic authority was preached and respected by the early church and that such authority granted only the right to “sing” which, being respected, limited the worshipers to vocal music. There is no evidence that any early church of the New Testament ever used instrumental music in its worship. No apostle of Christ ever taught any church to use it in worship. Yet, all the discord over this question does not mean that God did not clearly express His will in this matter. The problem is not over what God says, but the difficulties are occasioned over what God has not said (authorized).
What The New Testament Says
The church of Christ is a New Testament institution. Therefore, it must be circumscribed by New Testament authority (Col. 3:16). The church was built by Christ (Matt. 16:18); He is its foundation (1 Cor. 3:10-11), head (Eph. 1:22,23 f; Col. 1:18), and Savior (Eph. 5:23-24). Being “of” Christ, it must move or act only by his direction. This is the real issue involved in this study. Must we have God’s authority for what we do in worship and service to God? Jesus says, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28, 29). The Father had said, ” . . . This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5). All who do not hear Jesus shall be utterly destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:23). Jesus said, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:9). We must learn from the apostles “not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Remember what the Paul wrote to the Colossians: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17). All churches of Christ must subscribe to and act wholly within the revealed authority of Christ and His apostles as they expressed it (Matt. 19:28 ff; Acts 2:42; 2 Jn 9).
“And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name” (Rom. 15:9). This is a quotation and application of Ps. 18:49. Christ did not come in person and do this, rather, it finds fulfillment in congregational singing. Eph. 5:19 reads, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” A parallel passage to this reads, “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” (Col. 3:16). Heb. 2:12 reads, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” There are additional passages, like 1 Cor. 14:15, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” These tell what kind of music the early churches offered as worship to God. Additional passages tell us: “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matt. 26:30), when the Lord instituted His supper. Paul and Silas “At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25). Heb. 13:15 and James 5:13 instruct in the matter of one feeling disposed to praise the Lord, saying, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”
Conclusion: Now, this is the sum of what the New Testament says about the kind of music both commanded and offered by the people of God both in a collective capacity and on an individual basis. The scriptures authorized vocal music and record that the early Christians only sang. Their practice agreed with New Testament doctrine. Instrumental music does not agree with New Testament doctrine, for such goes beyond God’s Word and adds to it! (1 Pet 4:11)