Church of Christ Music: What’s the Big Deal About a Piano Anyway?

by Bryant Evans on September 28, 2010

(This article is available for download in pdf format. Please click here for Church of Christ Music.)

“Why don’t the churches of Christ use musical instruments?”

“The Church of Christ doesn’t have music. Why not?”

These are excellent and fair questions which deserve an answer. One of the things many people know about the churches of Christ is our insistence on Acapella music, that is, simple vocal music without a mechanical instrument.(1)

Now I know that some of you reading this will be surprised to learn that there is a church which does not use instruments in worship. You may be tempted to roll your eyes and think “that’s crazy.” Can I just ask for your open minded reading for a few minutes?

I am only talking about music in the worship to God. This isn’t about any other kind of music. Just music in the Christian worship. Most everyone I know enjoys music of some kind, from country to opera. It’s not about music generally but just about worship music.

Church of Christ Music: The Principle of Bible Authority

The churches of Christ strive to follow a Biblical model for worship. In other words, we look to the Scriptures to try and understand how God wants us to worship him. Jesus said that God wants people to worship him in “in truth” (). Our desire is to do just that. Since God’s word is truth () it makes sense to look to his word for any direction or guidance on how God desires to be worshiped.

That’s an easy concept to state but quite difficult to put into practice sometimes. We tend to want to do things our way and chaff against authority. But if we are going to worship God we should worship him in a way that he desires, not what we desire.

In the 18th century a religious movement began to coalesce around the churches of Christ. Men and women began to leave denominations and sought to be added, by God only, to the church (). This movement, known as the American Restoration Movement, developed an informal slogan that we should “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This is still an excellent foundation.

So, as it relates to music in worship, we ask, “what does the Bible say?”

The Old Testament and Church Music

Mechanical music is found throughout the Old Testament. It’s on page, after page, after page. Trumpets. Cymbals. Harps. Lyres. The worship of God in the Tabernacle and Temple was full of instruments. They were there because God ordered their use.

“And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.”()

“Sing unto him a new song;
Play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” ()
“Praise him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise him with the psaltery and harp;
Praise him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise him with stringed instruments and organs;
Praise him upon the loud cymbals;
Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals” ()

There is no question that instruments were used, to worship God, in the Old Testament. They were used with the approval of God. Temple worship in Jesus’ time used instruments. Edershem speaks of the Temple services,

“It was the duty of the priests, who stood on the right and the left of the marble table on which the fat of the sacrifices was laid, at the proper time, to blow the blasts on their silver trumpets…On a signal given by the president, the priests moved forward to each side of him who struck the cymbals. Immediately the choir of the Levites, accompanied by instrumental music, began the Psalm of the day.(2)

Any Jewish person, from youth to old age, was accustomed to seeing and hearing the playing of instrumental music in service to God. Despite all these mentions we no longer live under the law of Moses or Old Testament.

The New Testament and Church Music

Despite the many Old Testament references to worship music, there are precious few mentions in the New Testament and none of them mention instruments. There are some references in Revelation but these are clearly not references to the church but to Heaven and these are obviously not material, physical instruments.

“and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”

“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. “ ()

“addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” ()

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” ()

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” ()

That’s it. Again, there are a few verses in Revelation which speak of music but not in the church. The Revelation passages are of a new place and new time far different from the world and covenant under which we live now.

Notice that every occurrence of music is of singing, not playing. Just make that note for now, I will come back to it shortly.

Church of Christ Music & Worship

Remember, our purpose is to stimulate your thinking and Bible study.

Consider our worship. The target or object is God. God has always told people how he desires to be worshiped. Even as early as Cain and Abel () God had specified what he expected. When men went their own way they were punished (; ).

When the worship services in Corinth became self-centered and chaotic Paul rebuked them (; ). My point is that we should worship according to God’s plan. God seeks those who worship in truth ().

Likewise, we want to worship God His way.

Church of Christ Music & Silence

We conclude that there is no example of the New Testament church worshiping with an instrument. There is no command to do so nor is there any inference that such was used. But is that sufficient to say that we should not use the instrument?

At the very least, if there is no authorization to use instrumental music then it must be affirmed that we must presume that it is acceptable if we wish to play. Presumptuousness is not good (; ; ). It puts us in the position of assuming a thing is good even though we have no such word from God.

The lack of any endorsement of instrumental music in the church is a deafening silence. Many would say that an argument from silence is weak. But if we expect some comment or endorsement and yet do not find it that silence becomes very loud. Dozens and dozens of time we read of the instrument in worship in the Old Testament but not one single occasion in the New. Doesn’t that strike you as strange? If we open our worship to anything not specifically prohibited then we have services that serve the creature and not the Creator.

Personally, I love music. Music has been a major part of my life from a very young age. I have studied trombone, baritone, piano and guitar and I am an excellent “shower singer.” Music is a gift from God. It was God who created the laws of physics which govern things like frequency waveforms which give us music. I cannot imagine what life would be like without it. But worship to God is not about what I like  it is about what God desires.

The Old Testament was about things. The Temple/Tabernacle, sacrifices, altars and such. But in Christ it is about the inner man. It is about the heart. And it is with the heart that we make our music (, et al).


I am certainly not your judge. But I would ask you to consider prayerfully what the Scriptures say and what they do not say. As for me, the lack of any mention or authority in the New Testament, even though expected, is enough for me to sing only with my mouth and heart.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, this is new to some people. I suspect that many readers will disagree or have questions. I certainly welcome those questions. I would ask that you make your comments here on  the blog itself so that all people can read and evaluate our thinking._____

  1. I am being very broad in describing what the churches of Christ do. I am well aware that some do in fact use the instrument. I disagree with them but am nonetheless aware of their thinking. While the churches of Christ do not have any earthly headquarters and there is no official book of doctrine other than the Bible, I do think I am making case that those within the “mainline” churches of Christ would agree.()
  2. Alfred Edershem, The Temple: It’s Ministry and Services, Hendrickson, 1994, pg. 131()
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23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (ESV)

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (ESV)

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:47

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. (ESV)

Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. (ESV)

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals! (ESV)

and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.” (ESV)

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. (ESV)

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (ESV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (ESV)

12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (ESV)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (ESV)

4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. (ESV)

but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (ESV)

10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace. (ESV)

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— (ESV)

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

1 Corinthians 14:40

40 But all things should be done decently and in order. (ESV)

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, (ESV)

13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression. (ESV)

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.

Nehemiah 9:29

29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. (ESV)

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (ESV)


Gary Simmons January 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Jesus went to the temple for the festivals. The apostles went to the temple during the time of prayer. Are we to presume that even though the temple had instruments, they were not used during worship?

It seems like it was OK with Jesus and the apostles, really. Perhaps early Christians did not adopt the practice of instruments simply because they were small house churches and musical aptitude was hard to find in so small a group (not to mention the funds to buy an instrument and proper instruction on its use).

Bryant Evans January 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hi Gary, thanks for your visit here. I would appreciate it if you come again and often. Please spread the word.

Please remember that God has allowed and commanded different things at different times. Jewish worship, under the Levitical system given at Sinai, included mechanical instruments. In that context they would have been appropriate. Jesus was born and died under the Levitical system. Instruments were absolutely used in the Temple. That is not questioned. The question concerns worship in the Christian churches and for that there is no evidence that instruments were used.

I do not think you can support the idea that there was a lack of musical talent. Remember there were Levites who became Christians and there were large groups too. My point is that there is no evidence that there was any use of mechanical instruments in the original church. They were added later.

Confused January 24, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’ve joined Church of Christ for 7 yrs now because of my husband’s religion, I was a Pentecost. I accept all their teaching but the instrumental music. My personal opinion about intrumental music is that it is not a command or condemnation to use it or not. And I believe that we should use our talent to worship God and there are people with a tremendous talent in instumental music that can not do it. I learnt that in the old testament was the peak era of the Jewish Nation (under David) and the can express their culture freely. But in the new testament they were under proscecution, so using the instrumental music or anything noisy can call the “old Saul/Paul” to drag them to jail and be killed. I learnt that Paul’s letter to certain church has its own reason why he said what he said to them. I just need to know if this church use this passage as a principle or as a law. They’re ok to do multiple cups instead of one, building, no holly kiss, wash feet, etc, The verse said sing, you can sing with or without music, Lord Supper, to remember him, you can drink with one cup or multiple cups, wine or juice, bread or crackers. So why not let people use their talent and sing together ? Instead of using it for the world including you, and you enjoy it there, even clap with them but not in God’s house to praise and worship Him (I don’t agree with loud/overwhelmed music by the way) ? So what grace is for and all about if we still limit our selves to worship Him ? I’m just confused :) (sorry for my grammar/spelling)

Ed January 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Dear Confused.

May I suggest you study the subject of “OBEDIENCE” and how the Jews were punished when they disobeyed. We are not less subject punishment when we disobey. Further I would suggest you study “AUTHORITY” in both the old and new Testaments. A thorough understanding of those subjects will lead to you understanding that we can worship only as God authorized.
Worship is not about entertaining oneself but rather a quite, humble worship doing the things according to what has been directed and authorized. My God bless you in yourarnest study of the Word.

Confused January 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Thank you, Ed.

I am sorry that I am not a bible genius, but I simply understand that Obedience and Authority both directly coming from and for Jesus/God. But about singing in the new testament and instrumental music was a suggestion from Paul. There are alot more commands coming from Jesus himself that we changed. So, am I lost for using my talent to worship and praise God, Am I lost for not using one cup, or for not kissing you with the holy kiss or wash your feet ? I’m not asking for a complete rock n roll band, but just a simple instrument, piano, guitar, cello or harp, to me they sound up lifting, it is not for entertaining but to up lift our spirit when we worship. I think I am obedience for using my talent to praise and worship God instead of the world, I think I have the authority thru His grace and that I am not condemned anymore. Again, I am not a bible genius but I know that I’m saved by grace thru faith not from the work of law but by dedication.

I appreciate all input with open mind, coming from different culture and believe, I have to learn to find my own faith, not my parent’s or others.

unconfused January 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I appreciate your desire to use your talents, and have others use theirs. True enough, in the Old Testament, they used instruments freely. It seems there are only three possible positions on the use of instruments. 1. God commands it. 2. God forbids it. 3. God is indifferent to it. I think the strongest case is found on #3. There is no command to use them, nor is there scripture forbidding… He is indifferent to it, he just says sing.God’s concern is for the heart… ie being real, genuine, and sincere. There are passages that indicate indifference to instruments though… Acts 3 where Peter and John went to the temple about the 9th hour, instruments were used there, but not condemned by the apostles.Revelation speaks (figuratively) of harps being used in heaven, (5:8) and in the next verse, they sang a new song. Revelation 14:2 again harps are mentioned… So why would God forbid something in the church (bride of Christ) on earth and then use them (figuratively) in connection with praising God and the Lamb on the throne in heaven. Remember, there is no command to play instruments, and none forbidding it… Paul just says sing… and yes when Paul writes it is the same as if Jesus says it, since he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Instrumental music is really a non-issue… seems people did/did not use them… True, early Christians were being persecuted and it seems logical that they would worship quietly.
Olan Hicks wrote a book, THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT SIDETRACKED… In this book he mentions some things about what has happened since the Restoration Movement and present day Church of Christ. It seems to be that there was a change in interpreting scriptures… from respecting the PRINCIPLE OF SILENCE in scripture, to the absolute unbending, LAW OF SILENCE which when pushed far enough can force one to foot washing (Jno. 13), one cup for Lord’s Supper(Mtt. 26:26-28), and total absolute silence of women in the assembly (I Cor. 14:34-end). There are other examples but you have to read the scriptures. I would also recommend that you get the book, “THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT SIDETRACKED” by Olan Hicks.

Bryant Evans January 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

First of all, this is not about the Restoration Movement. Whatever was done then is history and I reject any authority that arises from the personalities of that time. The RM is used as a distraction by those who wish to ignore the Biblical authority inherent in worship. It’s not about me. It’s about God and what he has specifically declared he wanted. As Ed said – it is about the authority of the Scriptures and about being obedient to that authority.

Instrumental music is an issue because it relates to what is offered God in worship. The idea that the first century Christians did not use instruments because they were trying to be secretive is unsustainable from the New Testament. They met publicly and they were often assaulted because of that. Quiet worship? I don’t think we can entertain that thought.

Why not worship the way we know the first Christians did? After generations of worship with the instrument in the Jewish/Levitical economy, there is suddenly a massive silence in the New Testament. There is simply no authorization for the instrument in New Testament worship. It is an inescapable fact. I would no more add the instrument than I would add incense or animal sacrifices and yet the justification would remain the same.

Your listing of three possibilities is fine – as far as it goes. There is a 4th…God does not want it.

To all of you I would say thank you for the conversation. My duties have kept me away but you all acted wonderfully in discussing this point.

Confused January 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Thank you, Unconfused :)

Your explanation is very simple and much easier for me to understand and accept. Yes, I agree that what Paul said/wrote is also a command from Jesus/God, inspired by the holy spirit, not just as suggestions, thank you for pointing that.

My opinion and conclusion is that worship is anytime and anywhere because God is omnipresent not just in the building. So if they want to do it they ought to be consistent with it outside the “building”.

I will look for that book. Thank you.

I will continously pray for our church to open their heart and mind more about grace rather than law/traditions and grow more in faith.

God Bless You, Unconfused !!!

Removed January 26, 2012 at 12:59 am

This message was removed at the request of the poster. – PSB

doug January 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

First of all, temple worship was carried on by the priests and Levites, NOT by the congregation. Temple worship was not a congregational assembly. The folks gathered in the courts at the time of sacrifice BUT it was only the Levites who sang. Instruments were used to drown out the squealing of the animals being sacrificed. Of course, there was also synagogue worship where vocal music only was used – not instrumental music. In Christian worship, however, there is only one imperative when it comes to singing and that imperative is to sing and play (psallo) the heart. Therefore, there is a SPECIFIC command to play (psallo) the heart. This is the instrument God chose for “true worshipers of God” to worship Him (John 4:23-24). Evidently, this instrument is not good enough for men today, even though it was the instrument of God’s choosing! This would be like adding to the imperative of taking the Lord’s Supper – unleavened bread, fruit of the vine, and yams. In this case however, it is sing and play the heart, and another instrument. By the way, everyone is commanded to sing and play, not just a few chosen people. The singing and playing cannot be done by proxy!

unconfused January 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

When studying the scriptures, the basic rule of thumb is context is king. Most accept this as fact. When looking at Ephesians 5:19, we must consider the context, which includes verses above and below, as well as the chapter and entire book. The immediate context gives me the idea that Paul is dealing with the Christian’s life in general, and how Christians should treat each other.
Eph. 5:15-21
15 “Be very careful, then, how you live not was unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is 18 Do not be drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery! Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make melody in your heartt to the Lord, 20 al;ways giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Context suggests that Paul is addressing the life of the Christian. I am quite confident that these things here cannot be simply confined to the assembly, implying the opposite can be done when not in the assembly. Law/Works pushes us into some difficult positions which are hard to defend.

Some Christians who will listen to spiritual songs accompanied by music in the car going to work, and or at church fellowship times, and say, “Well, it’s not the assembly.” The LAW of silence, if applied to this subject would mean no instrumental music at all, at anytime.

This LAW OF SILENCE has been a major cause for the church being divided over one cup, Bible classes, and many other things. The LAW OF SILENCE has caused us to be distracted from our primary purpose of saving the lost, and turned Christian against Christian over non salvation issues. It has encouraged ‘in-fighting’, and attitudes of intollerence over things that should not be barriers of fellowship, and should never have split the church. If some brethren want to use instruments, or one cup, or many cups, or not …. fine…. just don’t push your opinion on others and make it a binding law. If God says sing…. sing. Re: What people use to help in this, is in the realm of opinion. The Lord’s Supper speaks of using the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. Jesus speaks of just one cup (MAtt. 26:26-28). If we are going to push ‘law’, then we should be using one cup. However, we don’t. We use many cups, as a way to do this quickly for large congregations. I would think the Supper is equal in importance to singing… So it would make sense that we need to be very accurate with this. Yet we understand the PRINCIPLE OF SILENCE to mean that it is the contents of the cup that is important. Push come to shove, Christ could be saying here, use one cup because as you partake of it, you are showing unity and oneness.
Anyway…. bottom line…. we need to be open to re-examining things we have come to just accept as settled. Things which have divided so many brethren, are surely worthy of a very close look to see if it has really been worth the pain caused to the body of Christ. I for one don’t think it was worth it.
By the way I know of no congregation, where all the members agree on every thing, including this subject. So it makes sense not to make laws where God has made no law. He says sing…. that is as far as we can go in binding…. but how? (four part harmony or chanting) what with? videos with accompaniments/ microphones/ praise teams etc… is in the opinion area, and is up to the individuals and congregation. Focus on winning the lost. Tell them of His saving grace.

doug January 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

No new arguments exist with regards to the use of instrumental music in worship. And, there the matter still sits. The New Testament, especially Ephesians, addresses both one’s individual and congregational life. The letter certainly does not exclude congregational life. I have no idea what you mean by “Law/works.” We are not dealing with the law of silence in this matter. We are dealing with a specific command and therefore the law of inclusion and exclusion. The Holy Spirit specifically says to sing (aido) and play (literally “pluck the strings of”) your heart to the Lord. We God has said for us to do is SING and PLAY our heart. God is not SILENT as to what HE desires here. Moreover, this is reflexive in that we are to do so one to another (plurality of people) and each person is required to do the same. Now, no one is making any law here BUT God. This is EXACTLY what He says, yet it seems some folks are not happy or not satisfied with what God actually said!! SAD!!! In fact, those who disagree with the clear statements made by the Holy Spirit are the ones guilty of making laws, much like the serpent did in the Garden with Eve – “Of course not, God did no say what He said, He meant to say this instead.” Saving grace is only found when one actually abides in Christ’s Word (John 8:31), not by telling people to live outside of what Christ actually said, through His Spirit. If one will not confine ones self to the Scripture in the easily discernible matter, then neither will he confine himself to Christ’s Word in other matters. We win souls by teaching the truth (all of it) in love.

Olan Hicks January 31, 2012 at 9:08 am

My purpose is not to defend either the use or non use of instruments in worship. It is rather to show that one’s choice in that issue does not qualify as a matter of fellowship.

I believe the pioneers of the restoration movement were right in declaring that only express Bible statements constitute God’s laws and that inferences and deductions are private property and cannot logically be bound as “terms of communion.” Decl. & Address, prop. 6 & 3

The movement followed this course for about 80 years. But in 1889 Daniel Sommer put forth very powerfully a different idea and the movement began to turn sharply in that direction. It was his idea that anything the Bible is silent about is forbidden and that the choice in that is a fellowship matter. His list of things he thus pronounced wrong to practice included a church treasury, Sunday school classes, a located preacher, and instrumental music in worship. At Sand Creek, Illinois he presented this premise before several thousand brethren and concluded by saying of those who practiced such things, “We cannot and will not regard them as brethren.”

Division with the Christian church was the immediate result and over the next 75 years division after division developed over everything from church buildings to care of orphans to the number of cups for communion, to projectors for preaching etc. The “express scripture statements only” premise had faded from use and in its place was the “law of silence” premise. Where as the pioneers said “Where the Bible is silent we are silent” churches of Christ began to say “Where the Bible is silent we place a law of prohibition.”

In the New Testament we have no express statement concerning instrumental music in worship.
In the Old Testament it was lavishly prescribed but the New Testament does not say “Use instruments of music” and it does not say “Do not use instruments of music.” Therefore God has not issued a ruling on it in regard to the church age. This is a fact of scripture. So we have to look at other considerations such as what may be implied in scripture, whether such music harmonizes with what God has said, and especially whether anything God has instituted might be affected.

In checking this out we find Jesus rejecting the “law of silence” idea. In Mat. 12:3-4 He reminded the Jews that David and his men entered the temple and ate of the shewbread “which was lawful only for the priests.” He recognized the principle of exclusion but he rejected the idea of an absolute law of exclusion.

Our New Testament does specify “psalms” as one kind of church music. (Eph.5 & Col.3) Instruments were used in singing the psalms and Paul did not say they must be excluded in the use of psalms in the church. This is one of many implications that might be considered. Another is the fact that in Revelations 5 there is worship at the throne of God Himself and the worshipers each had a harp. We know this was during the Christian age because “the lamb” is there and the song they sang was praise to Him because of His sacrifice for our redemption. Whether the “harps” were literal or not is irrrelevant. It is a Biblically stated fact that worship at the throne of God in heaven during the Christian age, is said to have employed musical instruments. Another implication is the fact that God has never said anything negative about instruments. Every time they are mentioned in the Old Testament it is with lavish approval.

I think instruments are to our singing what the plate is to communion bread, equivalent to song books, tuning forks etc. Many arguments pro and con can be made and have been made. The bottom line is as Paul said in Rom. 14:5, “Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.” Singing with instruments is not a sin and singing acappella is not a sin. Dividing over “doubtful matters” is forbidden. (Rom. 14:1-6)

If we went back to the “explicit scriptures only” idea unity would be restored with conservative Christian churches and we would double our size and greatly increase our outreach. Make your own choice about instruments and allow everyone else to do the same. Olan Hicks

Ewell January 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm

More New Hermeneutic comes forthe with the “expicit scriptures only” idea. God gave us a mind to reason, commands us to reason, and explained very plainly by John’s gospel why an EXPLICIT scripture is NOT possible on every given subject or situation.
John 21:25, 2nd Tim. 2:15
The NT is not a doctrine of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” – it is a guide for reason and logic, and proper application. Unity is NOT possible with those of doctrinal error.

doug January 31, 2012 at 9:21 am

The use of Romans 14 has absolutely no bearing on the matter of worship. Paul specifically said that “eating and drinking” or those “doubtful things” have nothing whatever to do with the kingdom (Rom.14:17). However, worship to God is in the kingdom and it is a kingdom matter. Therefore, worshiping God properly (John 4:23-24; Col.3:17; Col.2:23) is a kingdom matter not to be taken lightly. Olan Hicks speaks of “Explicit Scripture.” How more explicit can a passage get which specifically, and literally, says to “sing and pluck the strings of your heart to the Lord”? This explicit statement destroys the argument which says God is silent as to what we are to do, or that God did not say anything about it. God said sing and play your heart to the Lord. Evidently, Olan is not happy with that and wants there to be some other avenue of bringing in the use of the mechanical instruments. Perhaps he should heed his own advice: “If we went back to the explicit scriptures only idea unity would be restored…”

Bryant Evans January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

Thank you all for your approach and comments.

I agree with Doug here. This is not about silence but about substitution of human judgement for what God has clearly said. Singing along with the instrument is not the same as simply singing. Indeed, even the non-religious branches of music understand there is a difference, hence the term A Capella.

Had God instead said simply make music we might then be free to make any kind of music. But is specified singing which is a form of music.

The Restoration Movement remains irrelevant here. I appreciate their courage and studies but do not base my faith upon them. Olan, you are left with the fact that you must assume it is acceptable to go beyond what is clearly written. That is far more than I will support.

Ewell January 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Doug and Bryant are absolutely correct.

Olan Hicks February 1, 2012 at 8:41 am


Error #1: To declare that Romans 14 has no bearing on worship is to veto what God said. Verses 3 and 4 say that what a child of God does he does to God. Verse 6 says that if he does not do a certain thing he “gives God thanks” and if he does do a certain thing he does it “and gives God thanks.” The very point of the chapter is liberty in things we do toward God.

Error #2: When one sings without an instrument he is singing. When one sings with an instrument he is singing. It is not reasonable to think of musical instruments as a substitute for the act of singing. An instrument does not displace singing it complements it.

Error#3: It is not responsible exegesis to interpret Paul as saying that “the heart is a form of instrument with which to accompany singing.” The part played by the heart is clearly stated by Paul in Col. 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” The point is we should put our heart into our singing. But the heart makes no sound. It does not accompany in that sense.

The bottom line: I said that in the New Testament we have no specific legislation ordering us to play instrumens or not to play instruments. No one has disputed that. This then is a disputable matter, something not divinely legislated. Many arguments are offered pro and con. But they are just that, arguments, not God given statutes. When you argue for making it a law you are arguing for division over a disputable matter, the very thing Romans 14 forbids. Also you make a law where God has not given one. It might be wise to remember that Jesus said “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” constitutes vain worship. I would say that is a serious error.
Olan Hicks

Doug February 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

Your error #1: Paul specifically says those disputable things are not of the kingdom, so again you are wrong by trying to force the disputable matters of eating and drinking as kingdom issues, like trying to square peg in a round hole. Again, you reject the very clear statement made by brother Paul (Rom.14:17).
Your error #2: We are not talking about singing without an instrument. We are talking about singing with the heart – a figurative instrument.
Your error #3: Sorry, there is specific legislation to sing and pluck the strings of your heart to the Lord. There is nothing else to say on the matter. I am not making my argument, I’m merely repeating what Paul said to do BUT you don’t like that! You desire to go beyond what is written (1 Cor.4:6; Acts 15:24) and that, my brother, is playing the Pharisee (Matthew 15:9).

Bryant Evans February 1, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thanks to all for the discussion. I think it is clear that to use the instrument requires one to move beyond what God has clearly said. At the very best such an attitude places on on thin ice. At its worst it is presumptuous sin. Would it not be more glorifying to give God precisely what he directs? When we add our earthly opinions would it not remove some of God’s glory and give it man instead? I am not willing to do so.

As the administrator of this blog I am closing comments on this post. We have reached a point of recycling comments and I doubt little is left to say. I do wish to thank you all for your thoughts and the kind way you have participated. Please continue to visit the blog here often and comment on the other articles.

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