Against Instrumental Music in Worship or an Advocate for Singing Only?

Instrumental music as worship to God is against the very heart principles of New Testament worship. For the most part, many have made Christ’s words about worship in the assembly into a minor matter. Many have diminished acts of worship. Many Christians would avoid following the letter to ignore the heart of Christian worship. Thereby, they overlook the specifics of the Lord’s Supper. Why do so many over look these things? Are they seeking cultural relevance as a missional approach? May God forbid. Yes, many professing believers neglect the detailed instructions of God for praying and singing. Teaching in assembly rarely consists of simply speaking the oracles of God. Very few professing believers desire to write the laws of God for the assembly on their hearts.

As for instrumental music in worship, Christians must ally with Christ’s words that He gave to the His apostles and prophets (John 15:20; 17:8; 1 Cor. 2:13). Christians must defend the instructions for Christian worship in music to be singing only. Christian worship by music is only singing in the New Testament. Rather than now going through a concordance’s list of Scriptures for only singing, someone could simply look at one section of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 14:40, the apostle Paul commanded Christians to conduct the assembly decently and in order. First Corinthians 14 gives instruction for Christian worship. First Corinthians 14:10-15 reveal that teaching, prayers, and music without understandable words are against the heart of Christian worship in the assembly, because these are non-intelligible, contrary to edification, and lack the understanding that is essential to worship. This is why so many Christians advocate for singing only. The only benefits of instrumental music to Christians is in 1 Corinthians 14:7–8 where instruments like the flute, harp, and trumpet are addressed as “lifeless” and limited in communicating anything and give no verbally understandable edification. Musical machines certainly do not communicate praise anymore than instruments can pray to God or teach the Gospel.

The churches of Christ are not as much anti-instrumental worship, but advocates for singing only. All resolutions are quicker with positive instructions rather than a debate over every legal detail of what the specifics of the Bible exclude. This is what those promoting instrumental worship want to decry a legal debate by engaging in legalism, which is to hide the words of Christ in a cloud of doubtful opinions. This discussion is exactly like adding incense to prayer, flower pedals to baptism, or lamb to the Lord’s Supper. Why is there even a discussion of instrumental music anyway? There is no command for such. Instruments are contrary to God’s instructions for New Testament music in worship. This is only man’s invention and tradition. If Christians would simply just teach and defend singing only, then there would be less hunger over instrumental music and an affirmation of the purity of Christian music being singing in worship.

Christians can address specific inventions of men, but this cannot become one’s focus in discussing worship. Why not teach scriptural baptism in Jesus’s name more so than focusing on possible perversions of baptism by sprinkling, for infants, in rays of light, through a mist, in bubbles, in flower pedals, and so on? Why not teach about prayer that pleases God and with understanding more so than focusing against praying in so-called tongues of angels and teaching against incense?

These inventions and traditions of men are contradictions to New Testament worship, and these are contradictions to the specifics of the heart of worship. Christians can first focus on the truth and ideal of Christ’s words rather than the perversions of men. The light can expose all the traditions of men. May true worshipers worship in spirit and truth.

About Scott J. Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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4 Responses to Against Instrumental Music in Worship or an Advocate for Singing Only?

  1. David says:

    How is it that the authority of silence works sometimes and not others. We are told exactly what to do when someone is sick: call for the elders… (James 5). Would not the law of silence forbid doctors, medicines, etc.? There are several such examples in the NT (holy kiss, praying with hands raised…). How do we know when silence is authoritative and when it isn’t? And how did we chose music as the place to fight the battle for this authoritative silence?

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    • David,

      Great question and one that must and should be addressed. When I examined the “law of silence”, I concluded that this “law” made no sense, then I found baptism, even marriage, and many of God’s instructions were left wide open to alterations if there was no “law of silence”. I had to pay more careful attention to Scripture and what others were saying about this so-called “law of silence”.

      First of all, silence does not forbid. That is a strawman drawn from the teachings of immature Christians, and it is easy to defeat as you did simply by your question concerning elders. If silence forbids, then types of church buildings, powerpoint lessons, computers, cell phones, cars, this blog, and so on would violate God’s Word. Now, silence would also exclude aids like pitch pipes, song books, and so forth. Silence does not forbid. Those mature teachers who teach that silence forbid also specifically teach that silence forbids when God have given specific and positive instructions. This is true of all instructions in our life. Any teacher or employer who gives specific instructions is forbidding all alterations especially if they exclude further discussion and consideration. Rationally speaking, all specific instructions are forbidding alternatives, and in Christ, there are no alternatives..

      See, it is specifics of positive instructions that exclude alterations to God’s perfect instructions (1 Cor. 4:6, Gal. 3:15, 2 John 9, Rev. 22:18-19). Music is not the place to fight the battle any more than the specifics of marriage exclude polygamy and the specifics of baptism exclude sprinkling and immersion in mist or flower pedals. The specifics of the Lord’s Supper exclude lamb’s meat to represent Christ as our Passover. Prayers to God in the Bible show that prayers to passed relatives and prayers to Mary and Peter are excluded. Every single specific instruction or examples illustrating an instruction exclude all alterations. All kisses must be holy, but not all greetings must be kisses since there are other greetings.

      “And how did we chose music as the place to fight the battle for this authoritative silence?” I don’t think music is the place for such a battle (debate), because both sides are biased especially those supporting the instrument. With exception to Mormons and some strange “Christians”, all professing to be Christian agree that the specifics of God’s instructions of marriage exclude polygamy and polyandry. This is one of the preferable points to discuss the respect for God’s instructions. At the same time, I will never keep from discussing Christ’s ideals for Christian worship.

      I hope you’ll consider and be challenged by these words in all honesty, test them to be true, present your premises for conclusion in truth, and show me if I err.

      May God bless you.

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  2. Not in the New Testament. and some argue otherwise that God enjoyed the instruments. He also instructed offerings in the Old Testament and that worship is gone.

    I hope you’ll reconsider these points.

    God bless.

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  3. Hi there.

    Singing only as a instrument for Worshipping God. Hmmm….

    Thats an odd idea particularly when God created music for his pleasure and for his creation to worship him.

    A brief examination using the NIV study Bible shows that there are mutliple scriptures that include both vocals and instruments.

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