Why Do Churches of Christ Not Use Musical Instruments?

churches-of-christ-true-worship

“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 created humanity with the ability to use their voices to sing praises to Him.

The simple answer to: “Why do churches of Christ not use musical instruments in worship?” is that the churches in the New Testament never used musical instruments when they worshiped in song. Christ, His apostles, and His prophets only commanded singing for worship in the New Testament.[1] This is why the churches of Christ practice singing only. The New Testament Scriptures instruct singing for the church to make melody together by teaching one another and thanking God. This article will present further why the first churches did not use musical instruments to worship God and will challenge the reader to reconsider worship.

Jesus and True Worship

As most Christians realize, worship 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 old 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.[2] True worship is with the right spirit and by the Truth of God’s Word (cf. John 1:17; 17:17).

The Change to True Worship

Jesus taught that God seeks true worshipers, and Jesus revealed that true worship is in spirit and 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 edifice to the spiritual church (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:21), and worship also changed fromthe 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 priesthood of Levites and their physical worship with David’s instruments have ceased (Heb 7:12).

Shadows of True 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 Old Testament worship on an altar with sacrifices, using incense, and holding harps are all symbols in Revelation. These physical symbols foreshadow true worship in the New Testament. The Scripture says that incense symbolize prayers, and the harps symbolize praise (Rev 5:8–14). While holding harps, no one played harps in Revelation, but they did praise God. However, John described the praises of the faithful sounding like thunders, many waters, and harps (Rev 14:1–3; 15:1–3). 

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 (Matt 28:18–20). 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 in the music of the church, God would have commanded instruments for Christians to worship God in song. However, the New Testament specifies that Christians praise God in song with their hearts and lips (Eph 5:19; Heb 13:15).

The Substance of Worship

Jesus’s words are perfect, and no one should add or annul His teachings about worship. Do Christians have liberty to express worship in any different way from true worship in the New Testament? 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). Christ specified “the fruit of the grapevine” for the Lord’s Supper, and His Spirit specified “the fruit of the lips” for praise (Heb 13:15). The church of Jesus Christ can no more change “the fruit of the grapevine” in the Lord’s Supper than change “the fruit of the lips” in praise to God (Matt 26:29). Christians cannot change anything that Jesus commanded regarding marriage, baptism, and church elders. Christians cannot change Christ and 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, no one can change Jesus’s words.

Jesus declared about the Lord’s Supper, “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the grapevine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). The cup of the Lord’s Supper is “the fruit of the grapevine.” Who can change “the fruit of the grapevine” into anything else? Who can add anything to the Lord’s Supper that Christ established? Likewise, who can change Christ’s music and Christian praise? The apostolic writer expressed in Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” As New Testament Christians, the churches of Christ see the blessings of praising God only by lips, and they plead with all to reconsider the simple beauty of speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Vocal Worship

Words are the most important part of singing to worship. Christ’s music is vocal and verbal for the church, and singing in worship is the most beautiful, pure, and sublime form of music. The apostolic Scriptures describe musical instruments as “lifeless” and “without soul” (1 Cor 14:7). The description of lifeless instruments are very much in contrast to one being filled with the Spirit. However, the apostle Paul exhorted, “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:18–19). The Scriptures depict meaningful and spiritual worship where Christians gather together singing to God and to one another without relying on a select group to enhance worship. Worship in spirit and truth is God-enhanced worship because God has instructed and guides such worship (John 4:23–24).

Meaningful Praise

In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul explained that verbal worship edifies worshipers in the assembly. In 1 Corinthians 14:15, Christ’s Spirit uses the Greek word psallo to describe how making melody with the spirit and the mind requires words. The Scripture explains that meaningful music in worship relies upon understandable words (1 Cor 14:7–19). Furthermore, Christians complete the act of psallo by making melody in the heart (Eph 5:19). Music consisting of anything other than verbal singing is an addition to God’s Word and contrary to the heart of meaningful worship.

By seeking to worship in spirit and truth, Christians can find that singing is the only form and the highest form of musical worship in the New Testament. Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a God-given way for Christians to teach and admonish one another (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). For this reason, thousands of churches follow the Scriptures to merely sing. They avoid musical instruments including body percussion such as foot-stomping and hand-clapping, because these are additions to Christ’s words. These additions are not useful for meaningful worship to God. Worship invented by people apart from God’s Word can only hinder Christians from drawing near to God.

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 apostolic churches worshiped by singing without instrumental music. For fourteen centuries following Christ, almost all churches sang and opposed the use of musical instruments. During the Reformation, the reformers led believers in France and England to remove the recent additions of musical instruments that the Roman church added in the fifteenth century.[3] This effort to reform Christian worship continued through the nineteenth century among many of these churches. Throughout these times, “nonconformist” churches found that true worship is free of the innovations and amusements of society. In the Restoration Movement, the restorers made the same stand for true worship and still do.

Christ’s Perfection of True Worship

True worshipers find that Christ is perfect and complete, and so are His words (John 6:63; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22). Adding to the words of Christ and His Spirit is wrong (Gal 1:6–9; 3:15; 1 Cor 4:6; 2 John 9; Rev 22:18–19). 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 ideals. 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 will not add to true worship.

Because God specified only singing in the New Testament Scriptures, alterations are contrary to the heart of meaningful worship. For Christ’s Spirit teaches 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 good work in the Scriptures. True worshipers listen to Christ’s Spirit and His words in the Scriptures, and by loving Christ, they see the complete purity of singing over all other musical forms. This is why the churches of Christ do not use musical instruments.

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, yet some also misused the gifts of tongues and there is no mention of condemnation (1 Cor 11:17–34; 14). This writer must defer for God to judge on these matters, yet urge that all follow Christ to worship as God has revealed in the Scriptures.

Churches for True Worship

The churches of Christ do not use musical instruments to worship God, because Christ commanded singing for worship in the New Testament and the New Testament churches sang and never used instruments. 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. The New Testament writers affirm that singing is the most edifying, meaningful, and spiritual form of music. Because the New Testament commands verbal music for praise and spiritual teaching, the church of Christ will not add musical instruments to singing in worship of God (1 Cor 14:9–19).

Understanding Hearts

May God bless all to sincerely consider the music that God desires for believers to worship in spirit and truth. To understand true worship, a believer must think spiritually and not carnally (1 Cor 2:14). A person must also have an honest and good heart who does not dismiss Christ’s teachings (Luke 8:15). Therefore, a believer needs to receive salvation by the Gospel (1 Cor 15:1–5). God saves believers who have risen with Christ from burial in baptism (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). 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 alive in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4–7).


  1. 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.
  2. Scott J. Shifferd, “Do David’s Instruments Have a Place in True Worship?,” <https://Godsbreath.net/2014/03/04/davids-instruments-for-worship/> (2014).
  3. 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).

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Church of Christ, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Why Do Churches of Christ Not Use Musical Instruments?

  1. Flaminio Caal says:

    If we say that instruments is not part of worship because Jesus and Paul said that we should worship with our heart and spirit, we would be affirming that David did not worship God appropriately. However, God never judged David because of his worship. Jesus did not come to change the way of worship. :) In my opinion, it depends on each one of us, how much we love God, as the king David, both his heart and spirit motivated him to worship God in a creative way. Blessings.

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    • Flaminio,

      I appreciate your response. Your perspective is very common, but I have thought about it. However, there is too much to demonstrate that Jesus did bring in true worship apart from the carnal OT worship. I find that we missing out on what God gave us when we prefer OT worship over NT worship.

      I have recently taken the scriptures from this article and formed a list for the purpose of seeing that I could see another way of inclusion. I hope you will consider the scriptures and do the same if only for the sake of studying God’s Word.

      Here is another article about David’s instruments and today’s worship:
      https://Godsbreath.net/2014/03/04/davids-instruments-for-worship

      God bless your studies.

      Like

  2. ozanark says:

    Making the blanket statement that silence does not exclude would make a lot of things not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures acceptable unto God. Compare Acts 15:24 as an example. Peter said “no commandment” was given (silence) concerning the binding of physical circumcision under the law of Christ for spiritual purposes. Was Peter in error for teaching this truth, or was he reinforcing teaching in the Bible that was positively taught elsewhere?

    Perhaps the area on the east coast where Cyndi now lives has a problem with instrumental music, so the church puts more emphasis on that topic. I suggest studying what the Scriptures do teach regarding any particular topic, rather that what’s allegedly not there. What the scriptures do say will give the reader positive instruction on what is not specifically mentioned, or “silent” about (necessary inference). Regarding music, God taught that singing is acceptable form of praise unto Him, so to add what He said about it is sinful unless authority can be found elsewhere (2 John 9-11).

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  3. slave2christ says:

    While I understand that some choose to find disharmony in more things related to Christianity than agreement, I have always wondered what it is about Christians that drive them to always want to be the “right” ones and all others to be wrong?
    The truth of the matter is that in the New Testament, we don’t find a “Church building” or what we refer to as Gods House anywhere in the New Testament at all. What we do see are that the believers are called the “church” the word ekklēsia meaning “called out” so to me if we choose to say we should not praise God with instruments inside the Santuary of a building we call the church, we are in fact doing the same thing we are accusing others of doing when using instruments in their worship services. Is it not a fact that CoC allow musical instruments on their campus as long as it is not in the sanctuary?
    I also find it interesting that we state the harpists in Revelation are of many voices sounding like a harp, when in actuality, that’s not what the verse says at all. If we are to remain true to the scriptures, we should say what the scriptures say, not how our latest versions more fitting our language says. The word for voices is phōnē, which simply means “sounds” not “voices” the KJV actually affirms this at the end of the text.
    “and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:” if read with the meaning of the word phōnē, it reads “and I heard the sound of harpers harping with their harps”
    Actually the entire verse makes more sense when the proper definition of the word is used.
    And I heard a voice from heaven, ( a sound from heaven)
    as the voice of many waters? Water has no voice, it can speak. So why would John use this terminology?
    Nore does thunder! Again, that’s because voice is not the word John penned. John said I heard the sound!
    I say all this not to change the minds of an entire church denomination but instead for the edification of those who are wrestling with the issue. Personally I don’t care how people choose to worship their creator and King. Their worship is not for man’s benefit but for their offering to their Lord and Savior.
    No matter how you choose to worship Him who is worthy, may you worship Him always!
    Blessings,
    Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

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    • Hello,

      Imagine the assembly in the first century. Christians gathered encouraging one another, devoted to the apostles’ doctrine, praying together, and praising Godwin the fruit of their lips.

      I hope you read the article carefully. Many today worship with instruments contrary to most Christians in they 20 centuries. The disagreement is not with everyone else, but agreement with the Scriptures for principles and precedents of true worship. No historian thinks that the early Christians worshiped with instruments. The early Christian writers opposed the use of instruments.

      If the first Christians did not assemble the whole congregation in homes, then where did they meet (1 Cor 11:22)? Many people have come to think that the first Christians only and strictly meet in homes. Did the NT church met in synagogues aa “church buildings” (Jas 2:2)? The Greek definition of “synagogue” is a building as a place of gathering. There are passages that also note Christians meeting not in homes but upper rooms and synagogues. I have posted an article on this. The churches of Christ do not keep instruments “on campus.”

      There are numerous passages of phonie referring to voices throughout the NT. Revelation 14:2 clearly notes in Greek that the voices or sounds were “as” harpists harping.

      God does not need us to worship Him (Acts 17:24–25). Humanity needs to worship God. This is why everyone needs to understand Jesus’s point in that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). What Jesus had instructed about true worship is for man’s own good.

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  4. Baraka says:

    christel! what an amazing view i never expected that there could be a person like you “..according to my knowledgy..” we do not argue you how you know but what the scriptures have said and the worst thing you said “these are just words of paul” then do you realy read holy scriptures? what 2peter 1:21 says? almost it says that all what prophets said came from GOD how dare do you come and give out your evil motives?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christel Harden says:

    If you rely on what Jesus said about music in worship, you would not have ANY music in worship services, because Jesus did not address this issue at all to my knowledge. All of your references on this topic are from the writings of Paul, not statements that Jesus made. If you do not add nor subtract from Jesus’ teachings, you would not allow singing in your worship services, either.

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    • I think we should willing consider either side and willingly accept the truth. You bring up an interesting and important point.

      In the article, Jesus is the primary source from John 4. Furthermore, Jesus did sing with His disciples after instituting the communion meal (Matt 26:26–30). Lastly, Jesus sang praises to God in the midst of the congregation (Heb 2:12). This is a quote from a prophecy of Jesus. My conclusion is that Jesus does set a precedent by singing. The apostles’ words come from Christ’s Spirit and always teach singing (John 16:12–13; 1 Cor 2:13).

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