Willing to Reconsider Worshiping with Musical Instruments

I thought it good to speak straight from my convictions. I have no reservations in reconsidering my greatest convictions. We all must realize that we can be wrong and yet always be willing challenge ourselves. One of my greatest stands in the Christian faith that is contrary to the majority of believers. I am persuaded by the divine words that praising God necessitates words and the fruit of the lips (1 Cor. 14:9-15, Heb. 13:15). This is meaningful worship. Musical instruments communicate no intelligible words and to try to worship God is sinful and contrary to the music, the worship, and the Assembly established by Jesus Christ.

I am willing to give up my convictions regarding the use of musical instruments in worship for a broader fellowship among believers if I could be persuaded otherwise. I am not so convicted that I am prejudice, stubborn, or arrogant. I find it strange that many detest such a lack of fellowship with other believers when these convictions are for the purity of meaningful worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:20-24). Numerous conjectures have not convinced me. I will not be persuaded without the words revealed by the Spirit of Christ, since these words are the basis for my spiritual life (John 6:63).

Therefore, I am not convinced by symbolic references to incense and musical instruments, which signify prayers and vocal praise. These allusions to Old Testament worship cannot justify the use of either instruments or incense in New Testament worship (Rev. 5:8ff, 14, 15). No, I am not convinced by the Old Testament form of worship, which is shadow of true worship (Heb. 8:510:1, Col. 2:17). I am not convinced that Christian worship should follow David’s example or words of worshiping with instruments since neither his polygamy for marriage nor his Old Testament offerings are in accordance with New Testament life and worship (2 Sam. 6:5, 1 Chron. 15:16, Psalm 150). In light of the words revealed from Christ’s Spirit, I find musical instruments to be contrary to the very heart of meaningful worship (John 4:24, 1 Cor. 14:9-15).

When I consider the principle of observing Christ’s instructions as Christ has given these to us, I am persuaded by the Lord’s Supper, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the specifics of every instruction of Christ that God made these things as He intended them in His perfection. When Jesus said, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29), I find the “fruit of the vine” to be essential to the Lord’s Supper and the bread too. Still, it is pride that would change the bread and the cup of Christ’s Supper into anything else. For Paul delivered the Supper to be practiced in the way Christ instituted the meal saying, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you” (1 Cor. 11:23) and Paul said “keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). Therefore, I must be consistent in respect toward God’s instructions for music. Since the music instituted by the Spirit of Christ consists of only singing, then I am compelled by my love for Jesus Christ to observe music as God has revealed (Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26, Acts 4:24, 16:25, 1 Cor. 14:15, Rom. 15:6, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Heb. 2:12, 13:15, Jam. 5:13, Rev. 15:3-4).

I am convinced that Jesus gave perfect and specific instructions to the kind of worship that Christians, His Church, are to practice. The simple truth is that musical instruments like many other additional forms of worship are far from the meaningful worship that Christ intended for us, His Church. Now many skeptically ask, “Where is the Scripture that says, ‘You shall not use musical instruments in worship’?” My answer is “1 Corinthians 14:15”. Christ’s Spirit instructed that words, which are to be used in worship, must be understandable. Christians are not to speak, pray, or make melody without understandable and meaningful words (1 Cor. 14:9-11). The Spirit of Jesus revealed that worship in the Assembly must edify the mind, and so speaking in foreign languages without understanding in the Assembly is condemned by Christ’s Spirit (1 Cor. 14:1-19). Therefore, Paul sets the precedent in 1 Corinthians 14:15 that speaking, praying, and making music must be with understandable words to the point of excluding every meaningless language and noise. Only the blind and dull of heart would exclude applying this principle throughout their life. No lesson can be taught, no prayer can request, and no song can praise by a machine void of meaningful words nor by any foreign unknown language.

Yes, I believe worshiping God in ways in which He has not instructed is sinful. The sin is to disregard God’s instructions as incomplete and imperfect. Yet, God has breathed His words into the Scriptures to the completion and perfection for all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). To worship without full regard for the words of Christ is to do evil for which God will judge those who practice such evil (Matt. 28:20). Sure, many may deride the words of Christ and the convictions of those Christians who believe so strongly. They may scoff at the fact that we cannot worship with other believers, who so feel themselves at liberty to add to what God has made perfect, but this won’t move our convictions. They may defame us with prejudice calling us “legalists”, “traditionalists”, “Pharisees”, and the like. They may call our Christian liberty “legalism”. Yet, only a discussion of the words of Jesus Christ can change our minds.

Despite the effort of many to polarize us for our loyalty to the doctrine of Christ, I am not convinced to bend to the misuse of Romans 14 to condemn us for standing upon the doctrines of Christ. Romans 14 does not refer to peace and leniency toward differences over God’s instructions. Romans 14 does specifically refer to an individual’s speculative inferences (from the Greek dialogismos and diakrisis). Romans 14 addresses individual convictions rather than the doctrines of Christ. Congregational customs that are man-made are to be disregarded if such become contentious (1 Cor 11:16). Many misuse Romans 14 applying this to churches who do not conform to their liberties (or restrictions), and so these believers look down on those, who they perceive as “weak” in explicit opposition to “Receive one who is weak in the faith” (Rom. 14:1).

Add to this the general neglect of instructions to the “strong” in Romans 14, which includes, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” (Rom. 14:4), “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?” (Rom. 14:10), “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13), “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19), and “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Rom. 14:22). If Romans 14 could be applied to churches and their positions on Christ’s doctrines, then the use of musical instruments would have to be refrained from in worship, so not to cause those who are as weak as us to stumble.

Yet, if you continue to feel that it is too hard to draw near to God in the Assembly, there are plenty of options for a more engaging worship by turning to scriptural liberties without neglecting God’s commands to introduce amusements. Consider these: teaching from readings (rather than giving advice with some mention of scripture), arrangement of seating where Christians can face one another, the Lord’s table in the center of the meeting, prayers for specific purposes, cheerful singing, more prayers, more readings, and two or three lessons. The Assembly that Christ established in Scripture has every practice of worship that one needs to draw close to God. Let us respect Christ, His music, His Church, and His Assembly. God bless.

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 Christian, churches of Christ and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Willing to Reconsider Worshiping with Musical Instruments

  1. Phil says:

    I think that the principles that are expressed in Romans 14 makes it totally acceptable to use musical instruments in worship. Those who cannot accept this do not understand the message that Romans 14 is trying to convey. This message is not just about meat,

    Romans: 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.


  2. Charlie says:

    Exod. 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. . . . 19When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.”

    You have logical referencing but your becoming a radical in some ways. First of all no one is without sin. And God gave people gifts. They sing in Church. What is more important to be a loving forgiving human being that sees & hearing the talents God gave human beings or to be judgmental. Remember the Commandment” THOU SHALL NOT JUDGE”

    When you worship God in Church and you pray you don’t need an instrument. When you walk and pray you don’t need an instrument. The instrument is NO part of worship. It’s just an expression of art. It’s a testimony to Talent and art. There are great Gospel Groups out there that raise money and give to Charity more than others. Sin is Sin. You could say collection of money in Church is SIN. Why do it in church. You cannot worship money or God. Ho many men of Gos have worshiped and than what they they do to children??? So the preacher is with sin. It’s not the preaching, it’s not the music… it’s the SIN!! it’s the lack of passion and love.. Worship is right. People doing it with MUSIC – ARE PRAISING GOD in their own ways. But they are not worshiping God. Worshiping God is done in Church. The people attending Church don’t bring instruments unless thy are part of the quire.

    You are judgmental. If your not convinced of that because you choose not to be. You can take anything and say it’s not wrong and out of context . When you take out any good you only have the bad left. To much racialism. To much judgement and how can you reach out to people like that???



  3. Charlie says:

    Music fills the courts of heaven as heavenly beings praise our Lord and Creator. When God created the world, the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:7). God created man in His own image, to be a instrument of praise. He gave humans the ability to sing and to make music with musical instruments to complement the voice.


  4. Scott,

    Great article and observations are usual.

    I really like this quote I ran across recently:

    “God will not condemn us in the great day of judgment for a failure to do that which He has nowhere commanded; but there may be danger in performing a thing in the sacred name of His Son for which we can not find authority in the Book by which we are to be judged.” — T. W. Brents (1874) THE GOSPEL PLAN OF SALVATION, pg. 321

    By the way I was wondering have you been following the recent teachings and things being promoted regarding baptism by Al Maxey and Jay Guin at their websites? They are openly advocating God willl without question save and forgive those who not just haven’t been immersed for the purpose of forgiveness of sins, but those who have been sprinkled either as infants and adults or those who in fact have not been immersed at all.

    Jay says in his recent posting regarding baptism and salvation: http://oneinjesus.info/2011/02/baptism-an-exploration-titus-3-2/

    “The fact is that the question of when someone is saved is hardly central to the gospel.”

    Huh? Say what? I guess Romans 6:1-3 and Colossians 2:11-13 doesn’t make any such connections, right?

    Jay continues, “Should we treat as saved someone baptized imperfectly — by the wrong mode or as an infant. Of course.”

    Jay further observes: “Will God save someone who dies after coming to faith but before baptism? Answer: Of course.”

    Who cares what Jesus, Paul and Peter says right? (cf. Mark 16:16; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pt. 3:21)

    Al Maxey says the same thing.

    In his January 2011 issue of reflections he comes to the observation:http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx470.htm

    Al says:

    “I do not believe that we can dogmatically affirm that one’s baptism is the precise point in time when God imparts eternal salvation to a believing, penitent disciple of Christ.”

    It seems their push to promote instrumental music is really at times just a stepping stone or smoke screen to cover up their real agenda to remake churches of Christ and the real battle or “last Alamo” for us will be baptism – it’s purpose, mode and essentality.

    I fear many too many conservative and moderate preachers are sitting on the sidelines on this debate.

    What are you thoughts about this new push regarding baptism? Do you think is where the real fight is headed to ultimately get us to expand the borders of the kingdom of God to accept those in denominations who have not just be immersed lacking the proper understanding, but thsoe sprinkled and even unimmersed?

    I’ve noticed these guys like Jay and Al Maxey, Bobby Valentine, Tim Archer, etc. are beginning to be featured more at lectureships, Tulsa Workshop as well as their books.

    Anyway, I am deeply disturbed and discouraged about this trend and where it is headed and how they are branding those who us in the middle as “extreminst.”

    I’ve never been assoicated with any congregations except conservative moderate churches. I did my undergrad work at Harding and I’m currently in my 13th year of fulltime ministry and I’m currently working towards my Master’s degree at OC.

    I am thankful for the seminar Affirming the Faith hosted by the North Macarthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, OK. http://www.affirmingthefaithok.com/

    Phil Sanders and Dan Chambers did an awesome job last year addressing some of these issues and direction some are wanting to take us.

    Anway, in meanntime I’ve been trying to comment some on this over at oneinjesus but seem to be fallign on deaf ears. NOBODY hardly who reads his website will challenge a word about what Jay is promoting. Of course, I get the impression many of these are upset “former CofC’s” who are venting about us.

    Well, I’ll stop there.

    Keep up the good work brother. You’re an encouragment to me.

    Robert Prater
    Pulpit Minister
    Central Church of Christ
    Shawnee, OK


    • Hey Robert,

      I’ve seen your comments over on Jay Guin’s site. Keep up the good work. You’ve done good to get written up by him. This will help those doubting his character to move away from him. I comment occasionally on Jay Guin’s site and others. They usually ignore opposing views. They’re not about discussion when it doesn’t serve their agenda. Yes, Jay’s followers are wayward Christians filled with contempt, which clearly comes from their guilty consciences. This is what I expect from those with callous hearts. Once God’s Word pierces, they’ll either repent (Acts 2) or lash out (Acts 7). May God bless them all to come to repentance. My heart breaks for those led astray by these blind guides.

      I’ve heard “progressives” teaching that salvation was not the moment of salvation for almost a decade. I have had some of our sound brethren, who continue to reach out to bring the “progressives” back, respond with skepticism when I told them that these “grace-centered” teachers disregard baptism as the moment of salvation. I have told them to just ask them what they believe and teach. I’ve seen these “progressive” leaders neglect teaching baptism and hint at that the baptism, which Jesus instituted, has little to do with salvation since I was a teen. The push against baptism is really going to expose these “savage wolves” in snuggies. Yet, this is a good thing that can happen for the unity of the churches of Christ. Let them put down baptism and polarize themselves. Also, we have to have just as loud a voice proclaiming baptism as essential and as the point of salvation. I expect that this will eventually cause them to distinguish themselves apart from the churches of Christ. Sadly, they have already accomplished their mission “to draw away the disciples after themselves”. This all goes to show that once you compromise the words of Christ concerning worship then you compromise the Christ’s word for everything.

      May God bless you in getting your Masters Degree. I wish I could get mine. If you need to get linked here to your articles or site, then just let me know. Thanks for the excellent quote from TW Brents.


      • DW says:

        Some are still seeking. Many CofCs set themselves in God’s place of judgment contrary to Matt. 7:1, James 3, et. al. I know many who have dropped the man-made dogma. But the damage was done. Each of us will stand to our own Lord, yes, but there are still too many who place man made doctrine above the truth. They circle the wagons and the controversy rages. Where does one attend? Who has all doctrine down pat? Jot, tittle, I’s dotted and t’s crossed. Most of those whose feet I sat at while growing up have never yet rightly divided 1 Cor. 13:8 nor Acts 2:36ff. And they’re lives show it. So again who is wayward and whose interpretation is the final judgment?I would lean against use of the musical instrument based on ancient writings, but I will study. I’m not willing to throw out the baby with the bath water, but know many who claim to have a lock will probably hear depart from me as they choose to spread strife and place self and church dogma above unity(Gal 3:1) They claim liberty in opinion as long as it is theirs which is espoused. Talked to a well known minister who claimed one could not be saved if the foot came out of the water during immersion. If it went in first was the person not fully immersed? Again it may sound petty, but it can tear a person’s faith in the blood to shreds. Preacher worship is wrong, but especially in the young of faith it is easy. I write much of what I do from first hand knowledge and to point out the “good ole boy system is still intact. God’s 1st and second commandment’s are plain. The apostles sent Paul and Silas out in Acts with a minor burden. 1 Cor. 6 and Revelation 21 have God’s list of those who will not inherit His kingdom. Attempts to add to the list should probably not happen. But they do. Hence much fear, but also much searching. I’ve found many who claim others to be wayward to be in the position themselves. But the Pharisees couldn’t see either.


        • It is still true that Jesus said that making disciples meant, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”. Observing all commands can be done and taught while there are many who are still learning. We can be united in Christ. I have no doubt. There should be no question of what Christ instructed whether in flesh or His Spirit. There are no other interpretations from Christ.

          This is not a demand for perfection in knowledge of every detail, but submission to every command through our love for Christ (John 14:23).

          Christ’s Spirit speaking through Paul said, “For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things” (2 Cor. 2:9). The Corinthian church wasn’t perfect or lost yet, but they had to repent to not be lost (2 Cor. 7:9-10).

          I don’t what is so hard about this. Yes, I’m tired of the politics and power-plays, but that can’t stop us from pursuing Christ and observe all things that He has instructed.

          Take care.


  5. Andre says:

    The only reservation I would have is the message conveyed by the music and the associations it creates.
    Music can have two messages -one conveyed by the music itself and one by the words- and they can be contradictory.
    If music is associated with rebellion, sexual promiscuity etc, I believe one should have nothing to do with it.
    If music is used to “entertain” then we miss the point I think. If it contributes towards reverence and fear for the Lord, then music and specific instruments should not be “disqualified”.
    The tone of the musical instrument carries a message. Consider when Moses came down with the tables of stone from the mountain.
    It is my belief that music is presently being used by Satan. Would he not, knowing that is an enormously effective tool and him being gifted in that area?


    • Likewise 1 Corinthians 14 presents God’s gift of speaking in another tongue, which purpose was to evangelize outside of the Assembly (1 Cor. 14). Yet, the tongue without being understood is condemned. First Corinthians 14 also presents musical instruments and the extent that these can communicate and these are void of meaningful words too. First Corinthians 14:7-8 show that instruments show only melody and signal with no teaching, prayer, or praise. A foreign language can signal, communicate melody, be from God, and is yet wrong.

      Take care.


      • Ken Sublett says:

        1Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
        and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

        Paul uses SPEAKING in two senses: speak from LOGOS is the opposite of poetry or music. However, speak connected to this passage uses the Greek:

        La^l-eō ,Mark of the Locusts
        II. chatter, Opposite. articulate speech, as of locusts, chirp, Theoc.5.34; mesēmbrias lalein tettix (sc. eimi), a very grasshopper to chirp at midday, [This is the LOCUST message used by John which in the classics defines the Muses also in Rev 18:22]
        III. of musical sounds, “aulō [flute] laleō” Theoc.20.29; of trees, v.supr.1.2; “di’aulou [flute] ē salpiggos l.”[trumpet] Arist. Aud.801a29; of Echo, D.C.74.14: also c.acc. cogn., magadin lalein sound the magadis, Anaxandr.35. [double flute]

        When this word is used to convey truth–teach and admonish using one mind and one mouth to speak that which is written for our learning (Rom 15)– the context would not allow any of the musical terms. Paul even explains tongues by the use of “lifeless instruments.” The sounding brass and tinkling cymbals is documented in many Greek texts identifying priestess or oracles meaning “can’t stop talking.”

        It is true that you cannot “speak” with an instrument and music is connected to mystery which is used “to make the lambs dumb before the slaughter.” That certainly seems to work for those probably “having some unresolved conflict with their mother.”

        It is also true that Paul outlawed “doubtful disputations” which would exclude any personal opinion or preference when the group assembles in what Paul often defines with “synagogue words.” Romans 14 flies in their face if they could define words.


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