Have I been worshiping in vain all these years by using instrumental music in worship?


I have enjoyed your questions and answers on your web site. Thank you for your time in addressing matters that concern people.

Now I would like to ask you, as many others have asked, about the restriction that your church has placed upon "instrumental music" in the worship of the Lord. This is an area that is near and dear to my heart as I have been a Christian musician for almost 25 years and have lead worship in various churches and gospel events. I agree that many of today's "worship" songs do not follow Scripture and are very flesh-based. Playing an instrument in service can tend to focus the attention of the congregation on to the musician rather than to Jesus to Whom all worship should be directed. Major contemporary Christian artists can sometimes sing and dance in a very sexy way, which does not honor God but calls attention to themselves.

Now my point is this: you have used the phrase, "God has not authorized instruments in the New Testament." I have noticed this many times in your previous answers to people. I agree that there is no more complex and wonderful instrument in this world beyond the human voice. However, the most powerful man-made tool that a person can use in a worship service is a sound amplification system. If the use of musical instruments does not appear to be authorized in the New Testament, then one also must conclude that the use of any man-made thing used to amplify the voice in a church must also be forbidden. Remember that Jesus used natural acoustic geographical locations to help to acoustically amplify His voice. (I do not believe that the New Testament contains any mention of a transistor or vacuum tube, both of which are essential to an electronic power amplifier). So can we then say that God has not "authorized" the use of power amplifiers in a service? (I do not think most pastors would like that!)

Forgive me for splitting hairs here. I guess that I am trying to re-evaluate my work in the ministry for all these years. Has my instrumental work for the Lord all been "unauthorized" and in been in vain?

Thanks again for your time in responding to this. At almost 60 years old I would like to know what direction I should follow if everything that I have done up until now is vanity.


"Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression" (Psalm 19:13).

The only thing that is important at this point in anyone's life is understanding and doing what the Lord commanded. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). What is past doesn't matter nearly as much as what you do now and in the future. "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'" (Ezekiel 18:21-23).

There are several flaws in your argument. In regards to instrumental music, it isn't true that musical instruments were unknown in the days of Jesus and the Apostles. Instrumental music is mentioned as far back as Genesis in the days before the flood. Instrumental music was also commanded to be used as a part of Israel's worship of God. See "Did God command the use of instrumental music under the Old Law?" for details. Therefore, the argument that there is a parallel between electronics and instrumental music doesn't exist. The point is that despite the fact that instrumental music did exist and was commanded in the Old Law, the absence of a command to use it in the New Law is noteworthy because we are not allowed to alter God's law by adding or subtracting from it (Galatians 1:6-10).

An amplification system does not create sound, it only copies sounds that already exist. Instruments, however, create sound. To compare the two is not logical as they are different kinds of things.

The argument against instrumental music is not that instruments are man-made. After all, God did accept and command instruments under the Old Testament, so the fact that men made the instruments is not the problem. The core is understanding the nature of commands.

Let's suppose your boss realized that the office was out of paper for the copier, so he hands you $50 and tells you to run down to the local office supply place and get some paper. The command both authorizes and limits you at the same time. If you came back with staplers for the office, the boss would be upset because you changed what he authorized you to get. If you came back with paper and doughnuts for the whole office, he would still be upset because you added something that he didn't authorize. It doesn't matter that you and everyone else in the office like doughnuts. But he didn't say what kind of paper to get, so you have flexibility within that command as far as the choice of paper.

The command that the Lord gave Christians was to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That command was further limited to what is to be sung: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Within that command is quite a bit of flexibility, so long as everyone sings these types of songs. However, instrumental music doesn't fall under the category of singing. It is a different type of music. If we are to use it we would need to find a command that authorizes it. The fact that you like instruments and want to use them doesn't give you permission to add this to God's worship service. The service is for God so He is the one who tells us what He wants; man doesn't tell God what He must accept.

The purpose of songs, we are told, is to teach: "Speaking to one another" (Ephesians 5:19) and "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another" (Colossians 3:16). Singing accomplishes these tasks through the words of the song. Instruments do not accomplish this. They have no words, so they are not helping to fulfill this command. But notice there are aids that do accomplish this task. Songbooks are not specifically mentioned, but they help us fulfill the command to sing by letting everyone sing the same words together. Sure, there are other ways to also accomplish this, but the point is that the net result is that everyone is still singing and doing nothing else. For the same reason, if a sound system is needed, the result is that it doesn't change the fact that what is being done is singing.

I notice how your preferences color your wording. You talk about the church placing restrictions on instrumental music. From my point of view, and from history, denominations have added instrumental music to what God said He wanted. Instrumental music was rarely used until about 150 years ago. For the first 700 years of Christian worship, it was completely and strongly rejected.

But there is another thing coloring your view as well. Read the commands again in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 and ask yourself, "Who is supposed to sing?" The Greek is probably clearer than the English, but it still comes across. The command is for all Christians to sing to one another. The concept of a select few standing up to entertain the rest is not found in the New Testament -- i.e. it is not authorized. Unless the acoustics are really bad, you will not find much in the way of amplification in most churches following the New Testament pattern -- there isn't a need for it when everyone is singing. Sure, the song leader might use the microphone to announce the number and get everyone started on the pitch, but most song leaders try hard not to dominate the congregation who are lifting their voices in praise. We understand the emphasis is one each Christians singing and not on the song leader entertaining the group.

What has happened over the years in the denominations is a shift from Christians worshiping to Christians being entertained and calling that entertainment "worship." By the way, you won't find dancing as part of New Testament worship either.

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