The simple answer for “Why do churches of Christ not use musical instruments in worship?” is that the Bible instructs churches to sing as a congregation to praise God and edify one another (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). When a congregation sings together, musical instruments become irrelevant as the New Testament makes no mention of Christians worshipping with musical instruments in assembly. The instrument cannot speak, teach, or thank God and so cannot praise God with meaningful words.
The churches in the New Testament never used musical instruments when they worshiped in song for good reason. Christ, His apostles, and His prophets only commanded singing for worship in the New Testament. As New Testament Christians, the churches of Christ see the blessings of praising God by their lips, and they plead with all who rely on Christ’s words to consider congregational singing as essential to true worship by speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Here are 4 reasons why churches do not use musical instruments:
1. The NT (New Testament) commands congregation singing and does not mention the playing of instruments for spiritual teaching, praise, and thanksgiving (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).
2. The Bible forbids anyone adding or annulling God’s commands (1 Cor 11:2; Gal 3:15; Rev 22:18–19). Furthermore, Jesus is sinless and His words are without error, so no one should change His words (John 6:63; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22).
3. The NT teaches that words are essential to worshiping in song and that unknown languages and nonverbal sounds are excluded (1 Cor 14:9–19).
4. Jesus established worship in spirit and truth changing the OT physical worship including musical instruments to NT spiritual worship with singing meaningful words for teaching, praise, and thanksgiving (John 4:21–24; Heb 13:15–16; 1 Pet 2:9).
Worship with Words
The Bible contains commands from God for the order of the assembly in 1 Corinthians 14 (cf. 11:17–34). In the Bible, words are essential to making melody to worship God. In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul emphasized understandable words as he explained that words build up worshipers gathered in the assembly. Because words are essential to edification and the assembly of Christians, the New Testament Scriptures describe musical instruments as “lifeless” meaning “without soul” (1 Cor 14:7). Paul noted this description of lifeless instruments as greater than speaking in unknown languages in assembly.
In 1 Corinthians 14:15, the apostle Paul used the Greek word psallo meaning “to make melody” to describe how words are essential to singing and praying to God with the spirit and mind. These scriptures explain that meaningful music in worship consists of understandable words (1 Cor 14:7–19). Furthermore, Paul also instructed Christians to complete the act of psallo by making melody in the heart (Eph 5:18–19). Musical instruments are an irrelevant addition to the purpose and heart of singing praises to God. Lifeless instruments cannot produce words for meaningful worship and making melody in the heart.
No Changing Jesus’s Words
Believers find that Christ is perfect and complete, and so are His words (John 6:63; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22). The Bible reveals that adding to the words of Christ and His Spirit is wrong (1 Cor 4:6; Gal 1:6–9; 3:15; 2 John 9; Rev 22:18–19). Do Christians have liberty to express worship in any way other than true worship in the New Testament? Christians can neither change Christ nor alter the gospel. Christ is infallible and so are His words (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:14–15; 1 John 3:5; 1 Pet 2:22). Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). Therefore, Jesus’s words are constant and unchanging and that is true for His teaching about true worship.
When believers consider the complete perfection of Christ’s words, then Christ’s institutions of the Lord’s Supper, baptism, prayer, music, and the like are complete in presenting His ideal conduct for the Christian faith. Few people would consider adding lamb’s meat to the Lord’s Supper even for the purpose of presenting Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Some may consider adding incense to prayers and ashes to the waters of baptism because of passages in the Old Testament. However, such additions are contrary to Jesus’s infallibility. A true worshiper must not add to true worship.
Churches can no more change the fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper than change the fruit of the lips in praise to God (Heb 13:15; cf. Matt 26:29; Mark 14:25). The Letter to the Hebrews declares, “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” (Heb 13:15). God specified the true worship that is best for believers. Christians can no more change the music that Christ commanded than change the elements of the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26–29; 1 Cor 11:17–34). God created humanity with the ability to use their voices to sing praises to Him. Singing in worship is the most beautiful, pure, and sublime form of music.
Jesus Established True Worship
As most Christians realize, worship has changed from physical to spiritual. Jesus revealed that worship is now in spirit and truth, and no longer “in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21–24). David brought the temple worship to Jerusalem and enhanced this worship with musical instruments. Jesus professed, “believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. […] But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:21–24). The churches of Christ see that Jesus set true worship apart from the worship that David established in Jerusalem. True worship is with the right spirit and by the truth of God’s Word (cf. John 1:17; 17:17).
Jesus taught that God seeks true worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24). For that reason, Jesus distinguished true worship apart from temple worship in Jerusalem (John 4:21–24). The temple of God changed from that physical building to the spiritual church (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:21), and worship also changed from the physical symbolism of the Old Testament to the spiritual reality of the New Testament (1 Pet 2:5). According to Scripture, Christ became the atoning sacrifice for sin (Heb 9:22–26). All Christians are now the priests of God’s spiritual temple, the church. Christians are the ones for whom God blessed to make melody in the heart and upon the lips. Thereby, true worshipers offer spiritual offerings of praise unto God (Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5). The Scriptures reveal that the priesthood of Levites and their physical worship with David’s instruments have ceased (Heb 7:12).
No More Shadows of Worship
Old Testament worship foreshadowed and symbolized true worship, but the substance has always been Christ (Col 2:16–17; Heb 8:5; 10:1). Christ fulfilled the Law, so that Christ has led believers to true worship (Heb 9:9–10; 1 Pet 2:5). Revelation’s symbolic references to worship on an altar with sacrifices, use of incense, and the holding of harps are all Old Testament symbols. These physical symbols foreshadowed true worship in the New Testament. Scripture says that incense symbolizes prayers and the harps symbolize praise (Rev 5:8–14). John described the praises of the faithful sounding like thunders, many waters, and harps (Rev 14:1–3; 15:1–3). While holding harps, no one played these harps in Revelation, but they did praise God with singing.
The New Testament describes the ordinances of Old Testament worship as obsolete, carnal, and fleshly (Rom 7:1–7; Gal 3–5; 2 Cor 3:7–18; Eph 2:14–22; Heb 8:13). This is why the churches of Christ believe in observing all of Christ’s commands — unaltered, because Christ’s words are perfect and greater than the Law of Moses. The churches of Christ refrain from musical instruments in worship because these are contrary to the Spirit of the New Covenant (cf. 2 Cor 3:1–6). If God wanted Christians to worship with instruments as the music of the church, God would have commanded instruments for Christians to worship God. However, the New Testament specifies that Christians praise God in song with their hearts and lips (Eph 5:19; Heb 13:15).
Worship throughout History
The word acapella refers to non-instrumental singing and means “of the chapel” in Latin. The word comes from the ancient form of Christian praise when early churches worshiped by singing without instrumental music. For fourteen centuries following Christ, most churches sang and opposed the use of musical instruments in worship and assembly. During the Reformation, the reformers led believers in France and England to remove the additions of musical instruments that the Roman church added in the fourteenth century. This effort to reform Christian worship according to “the regulative principle” continued among many churches through the nineteenth century. Through the Reformation until today, “nonconformist” churches find that true worship is free of innovations and amusements. In the Restoration Movement, the restorers made the same stand for true worship and still do among churches of Christ.
God Judges Hearts
True worshipers will not add or annul from true worship. As far as true worship being a matter of salvation, God judges the hearts of those who worship for whether they love God and keep His commands (John 14:21–24). Some Christians in ancient Corinth received condemnation for not discerning the Lord’s Supper. Some also misused the gifts of languages in the assembly while corrected they were not overtly condemned (1 Cor 11:17–34; 14). Christians must defer to God who judges on these matters, so the faithful urge that all follow Christ to worship as God has revealed in the Scriptures.
The churches of Christ do not use musical instruments to worship God, because Christ commanded congregations to sing in the New Testament. Churches in the New Testament sang together with one voice and never used instruments. The New Testament writers affirm that singing is the most edifying, meaningful, and spiritual form of music. Because the New Testament Scriptures command music consisting of words for praise and spiritual teaching, the church of Christ will not add musical instruments to the singing of a congregation in worship to God (1 Cor 14:9–19).
The words of Jesus compel churches of Christ to maintain the purity of true worship. Neither Christ, his apostles, nor his prophets used or commanded musical instruments for worshiping God. Therefore, many Christians conclude that no one should add to Christ’s perfect words or change true worship as Jesus established. Because God specified singing in the New Testament Scriptures, alterations are contrary to the heart of meaningful worship. By the Holy Spirit, the apostle taught that every Scripture is God’s breath to make the person of God complete and fully equipped unto every good work (2 Tim 3:16–17). Christians are not lacking any teaching or any good work in the Scriptures. The faithful listen to Christ’s Spirit and His words in the Scriptures, and by loving Christ, they see the holiness of singing meaningful words over all other musical forms. This is why the churches of Christ do not use musical instruments.
May God bless all to consider sincerely the music that God desires for believers to worship in spirit and truth. To understand true worship, a believer must think spiritually (1 Cor 2:14). A person must also have an honest and good heart who does not dismiss Christ’s teachings (Luke 8:15). Furthermore, churches of Christ urge repentant believers to receive salvation by the gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1–5). Jesus rose bodily from the dead so that His followers will rise bodily from the dead on the last day (Rom 6:5; 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14). God saves believers by raising them from burial with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12–13). The believer must die with Christ to one’s sins to rise with Christ from baptism (Rom 6:1–7; Col 2:12–13). In this way, the Scriptures teach that God saves believers by grace raising them to new life in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4–7).
- Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 4:24; 16:25; Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Heb 2:12, 13:15; Jas 5:13; Rev 15:3–4.
- Scott J. Shifferd, “Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in True Worship?,” <https://Godsbreath.net/2014/03/04/davids-instruments-for-worship/> (2014).
- John Price, Old Light on New Worship: Musical Instruments and the Worship of God, a Theological, Historical, and Psychological Study, (Avinger, TX: Simpson Publishing, 2005).
All of the sects of Christendom claim to be “the” or a “part of the” Church of Christ. “Church of Christ” is not a denomination (name) denoting a particular sect of the Church of Christ.
Denominationalists occasionally refer to a “Church of Christ Church” or to “Church of Christ Churches” trying to force the Church into being merely a sect of the Church of Christ.
What sect goes by the name that Jesus gave to His Church: “My Church”? In the third person, “His Church.” “My” and “His” being pronouns whose antecedent is “Jesus Christ,” the name Jesus Christ gave to His Church is “Jesus Christ’s Church” or, more formally, “Church of Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus” being a common name, “Y’shuah,” “Yehoshuah,” “Joshua,” the emphasis is placed not on His personym but on His title, His office, “ha-Mashiach,” “the Messiah,” “the Anointed One (of God),” “the Christ”: “Church of Christ.”
What denomination goes by the unadorned name, “Church of Christ”? No, they all add some distinctive denominator to distinguish themselves from other sects. I have seen a “Baptist Church of Christ.” Most relegate”Church of Christ” to a position in one of their creeds. Some used to have “of Christ” in their titles but have eliminated the words:
“Sixteenth Avenue South Church of Christ” →”Belmont Avenue Church of Christ” →”Belmont Church of Christ” →”Belmont Church.”
“Otter Creek Church of Christ” →”Otter Creek Church.” Some haven’t been Churches of Christ for years before they got around to getting rid of “Christ” from their titles. Guess they don’t want to offend anyone, put off anyone, with the title of Jesus Christ, the stumbling-stone, the rock of offense to those who disbelieve on Him.
The joke goes, “A man once offered to a Baptist Church $10,000 (back when $10,000 was a lot of money, enough to build a nice meeting-house) if they would allow him to place a large sign at their meeting-house reading, “This Is a Church of Christ.”
He was refused.
Then, it goes, he offered them $10,000 if they would allow him to place a large sign at their meeting-house reading, “This Is Not a Church of Christ.”
He was refused.
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Thank you for your clarifications. Just a few more questions:
What is the church discipline taken for violating commands and regulations for Church of Christ or Reformed Churches in other countries pastors or members who use musical instruments in worship?
Has there every been a church trial in your denomination or church history for violators?
Did John Calvin every punish anyone for this?
I don’t know of any occasion of discipline. Elders usually take the stand for congregational singing. Other doctrines of salvation especially the gospel are often compromised before congregational singing is challenged.
1 Cor 14:9–19 is speaking about Tounges, not musical Instruments. Ephesians 5:19 There is no mention of Musical Instruments not being used. Don’t read into what is not there. “The churches in the New Testament never used musical instruments” Where does it indicate that? So what do I do with my Shofar? What do I do where the NEW TESTAMENT Scriptures indicate “The Trump of God” ( Instrument) “The Seven Trumpets” ( Instruments) In the NEW TESTAMENT the Angels even sound Instruments proclaiming GOD. You cannot pick and choose a whole Doctrine based on Scriptures that you pick and choose without a Background in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Mainly HEBREW because ALL of the Disciples spoke Hebrew. They were in Israel a Hebrew Culture. Yet all you SCHOLARS want to interpret from the Greek and Latin. The writers were not GREEK or LATIN. All the Scriptures you chose have nothing to do with Music in Worship. Nothing! So, even giving you opinion on Scripture, nullifies the exact passages you picked saying musical instruments are not to be used in Worship. Anything you say in a church service beyond Scripture is Adding to the Scripture. So your shallow Doctrine is just that. Shallow. Show me a Verse!!!!! Where does it say you should not use instruments in Worship? Show me where it changed. ( without, reading your own teaching into it)
Dear J. Michael Wells. I totally agree with you. I am writing a book addressing Calvin’s prohibition of musical instruments I would love to share with you. Can you email me via my website at Eaglemasterworksproductions.com
Lucifers body was made out of instruments. HE PRAISED GOD DIRECTLY IN PRESENCE AS THE LEAD OF THE CHOIR. My goodness. The blazing ignorance while desperately trying to find truth. Whos truth? Yours? – Im speaking undirected and openly. I cant beleive this is even a debate between self proclaimed earnest truth seekers.
My understanding is that the apostles and culture at the time spoke primarily Aramaic. The priests, Pharisees and Sadducees primarily spoke Hebrew. And everyone spoke at least some Greek since the Romans were in charge. Is this correct ?
Christ’s words on the cross “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” are Aramaic – and were misunderstood by those who heard them. He probably had a Gallilean accent.
The sign on the cross of Christ proclaiming him “King of the Jews” was in Greek, Aramaic, and Latin.
Not in Hebrew.
If I have misunderstood any of this please let me know.
Your post frames the question of instruments in Christian worship in the negative.
“Show me a Verse!!!!! Where does it say you should not use instruments in Worship?”
If this is the standard, to show a verse that prohibits the use of instruments, then almost any or everything could be introduced as worship.
There is no verse that prohibits use of interpretive dancing, incense, burned animal sacrifices, or even belly dancing etc. We believe that worship to God the Father should be what HE wants and what HE authorizes in the New Testament. Nothing more and nothing less.
During the time of the New Testament :
Was there preaching ? Yes
Was there praying ? Yes
Was there Scripture reading ? Yes
Was there a time of the Lords Supper ? Yes
Was there singing ? Yes
Was there a time of giving? Yes
Did they use a Shofar in New Testament, Christian worship ? Not that the Bible authorizes, and not that any of the early church leaders referenced – except to speak against it.
No one is condemning anyone “to hell” for adding to the Bible and using instruments in worship.
But we do urge UNITY around simple New Testament Christianity.
Am One Who Needs Bible Knowledge, For Am Blessed In Dip Need Study Of The Bible, Am A Preacher In Lords Church Here In “Kenya”.Welcome.
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Yes. All evangelical churches once rejected musical instruments in worship of God.
Please give your source for this all inclusive statement.
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Consider Charles Spurgeon’s position in the matter: https://Godsbreath.net/2008/03/17/charles-spurgeon-about-church-music/
See John Price’s book, “Old Light on New Worship” (Simpson Publishing: Avinger, Texas, 2005).
See also the subject of music in McClintock and Strong, “Encyclopedia of Biblical Literature.”
Here’s a quick link to some quotes from Calvin, Clark, etc:
I read the few quotes you’ve given. While I appreciate the preaching of Spurgeon and others you’ve listed, I don’t think they are sufficient to rule out musical instruments in worship. As I have read on earlier responses to your posts, there has been noted much scriptural support of musical instruments used from the Old Testament into the new. There is nothing in scripture that specially states not to use them. Be careful of the biblical warning in Revelation not to take away or add to scripture.
How did you arrive at that conclusion?
Will and Denominations like Church of Christ restore use of musical instruments when Christ returns at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb? Thanks James
No. The church of Christ is not a denomination. We’re independent churches striving to be the church that Christ promised to build.
We’re not going to restore the instruments of David under the Old Covenant. We will act under the new eternal covenant of Christ.
Furthermore, I think that you are referring to the singing that sounded like many waters, thunders, and harps in Revelation 14. That is what our singing sounds like now when you get hundreds of us singing together. For example of such singing, you can check out the singing of the Exposure youth gathering on Youtube. :-)
but the psalms state to praise with ithe psalmtry and harp… I believe that if God did not want us to use in struments towards his praise, He would not have allowed them in the old testament. while I agree that instruments are not mandatory I wish that your churches would stop teaching that all of the rest of the denominations that use instruments are going to hell because that is not true and it is extremely judgmental. The bible states to jjudge not that ye be not judged!!
I hope that you read the whole article. You should be concerned about the effects of musical instruments of men within the church. These are not commanded by God or Christ. Hebrews 8–10 teaches that the worship of the OT was carnal and physical foreshadowing the better worship to come in Jesus Christ. The faithful no longer burn incense or offer sacrifices. Why go back to David for instruments that no church actually uses?
Furthermore, this article was not judgmental, although Christ commands that we judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). We plead with all churches to give up on pleasing people with what they want for worship and edification in the assembly. As a church of Jesus Christ, we must stand against divisiveness of denominations and unite in God’s Word, because we can as Christ prayed that we would (John 17:20–21; 1 Cor 1:10; Gal 5:19–21).
God bless your reading of His Word.
Here are 4 reasons why churches do not use musical instruments: