Musical Instruments in Worship

"I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also"  [1 Corinthians 14:15]How are we to praise our Savior through song? Let's study the beginning, use, and ending of musical instruments in praising our Lord.   

David, around 970 BC, making Solomon his son King over Israel, "gathered together all the princes of Israel with the priests and Levites. Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward:  and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand. Of which twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the Lord; and six thousand were officers and judges:  Moreover, four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which I made, said David to praise therewith"  [1 Chronicles 12:2-5]

Throughout the Psalms, David instructs praise to the Lord with the instruments which he had made. 

How were they used?  Hezekiah provides detail.  "And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priest with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with instruments ordained by David King of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished." [Notice that the musical instruments began playing when the burnt offering began and stopped when the offering was finished.]           

"And when they had made an end of offering, the King and all that were present with him bowed themselves and worshipped. Moreover, Hezekiah the King and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words [not instruments - the offering was finished] of David and Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped."  [2  Chronicles 29:26-30]          

Remember the words of Christ while upon the cross, "It is finished" [John 19:30]. The perfect sacrifice is finished. The perfect offering: "Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God"  [Hebrews 9:14]. We have an altar - which is Christ. "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"  [Hebrews 13:10-14].          

The prophet Amos, preaching 785-740 BC, speaking of this better time "though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offering of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols"   [Amos 5:22-23]. No burnt offerings, no meat offerings, no peace offering of fat beast, and no instruments for melody with the songs. Not only are we instructed to take those instruments away, the Lord does not hear the melody made by them.           

Further, "Woe to them...that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick like David."  [Amos 6:1,5] - we are instructed not to sing to instruments or invent new instruments to praise using David to justify their use. If melody is not to be made with instruments, then how?             

The Apostle Paul to the church at Ephesus; "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."  [Ephesians 5:19]  The Lord Himself sang without instruments; "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives." [Matthew 26:30]           

God's children should not sit quietly during the song service because we are afraid someone will hear our imperfect singing voice. We are not singing to those around us, but to the Lord.  Let us raise our voices, the harps the Lord has made, in singing to Him. 

"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."  [Colossians 3:16]

Elder Don Watson

Are Musical Instruments Authorized for New Testament Worship?

Primitive Baptist hold to the belief that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our only rule of faith and practice. This is certainly a proper scriptural position. When looking at what God has authorized as proper worship there are certain basic scriptural tenets to which we must adhere.

First, the scriptures furnish us everything that we need to know how to worship and serve the Lord. This principle is set forth in 2 Tim. 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."  Thus, I need not look outside the scriptures for authority or instruction about how to worship or serve God. Furthermore, I have no authority to look outside the scriptures for authority or instruction about how to worship or serve God.

Second, the worship of God must be according to truth. This principle is set forth in John 4:21 "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. True worship of God is according to truth. The Lord rebuked some for vain worship: Mark 7:7 "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Third, the Old Testament does not authorize Old Testament practices for New Testament worship. This principle is set forth in Gal. 5:2 "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."  Circumcision was required under the Old Testament economy for those men who took part or observed the ordinances of the Old Testament. However, natural circumcision is not an authorized part of New Testament worship. This same principle would apply to other Old Testament practices such as tithing and the use of musical instruments. The fact that those things were used in the Old Testament does not authorize them in the New Testament. New Testament practices are authorized in the New Testament.

Fourth, if something is not specifically authorized for worship, then we have no authority to add it to our worship service. Some have held that if something is not specifically prohibited then it is okay to use in worship. However, the case of Nadab and Abihu speak volumes to this issue: Lev. 10:1 "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD."

The Lord neither commanded them to offer strange fire, nor did he specifically prohibit them from offering strange fire. Thus, where the scriptures are silent, we have no authority to add. In the book of Revelation, God warns us against adding to God's word. Rev. 22:18 "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

Historically, no form of musical instrument was used in worship services by any who claimed to be a part of the Christian church until the 7th century. Furthermore, no form of musical instrument was used in worship services by any who claimed to be Baptist until the late 18th century. Secular history, however, is not our rule of faith and practice, but the scriptures.

Examples of New Testament singing were without the accompaniment of musical instruments:

1. Matt. 26:30 "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
2. Acts 16:25 "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."

The primary Greek word translated sing is "psallo." Psallo means to twitch or twang, i.e. to play on a stringed instrument. Please note that the scriptures where singing is commanded give the location of the singing, i.e., "psallo," as being theheart:

1. Eph. 5:19 "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
2. Col. 3:16 "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."

Therefore, this "stringed instrument" is to be played in the heart! It would definitely be difficult to get a piano or organ or some other musical instrument in the heart! The obvious lesson is that our singing is to come from the heart. Since we are to sing praises, then we know that we are to sing praises from the heart. Our melody (psallo) is to sound forth from the heart. Furthermore, our singing is to be directed to the Lord. A musical instrument is for the benefits (?) of man's ears. It is lifeless and therefore can give no praise to God. What pleases God is praise from the heart not the phonetic quality of the sound of our voices or the sound of musical instruments.

Some have taken the use of the harp in the book of Revelation as giving authority for using musical instruments in the worship service. First, we would point out that the book of Revelation is written in sign or figurative language. The harp is an instrument of ten strings or a stringed instrument. Isn't it interesting that the ones who want to use the harp as authority to use musical instruments, don't use the harp, but use pianos, organs, or wind or percussion instruments. Thus, the harp, even if taken literally, would not authorize pianos, organs, or wind or percussion instruments. The harp in Revelation is used as a figure of the regenerated heart which has the laws of God (the number 10 is associated with the laws of God) written on it. Thus, an instrument of ten strings represents the regenerated heart, on which we sing praises to God. Every one of those mentioned in Revelation had a harp, not just one individual who played and everyone else or a choir sang! Literally, we are to sing praises on the strings of our heart unto the Lord.

In conclusion, the only musical instruments authorized for use in the New Testament Church worship are the heartstrings of a regenerated heart. From these heartstrings sound forth the praise of our lips to the honor and glory of God.

Elder Vernon Johnson