A fairly common question asked by those first encountering our worship services is: Why do you sing without instruments? Perhaps a more interesting question would be: why did early Christians insist on going against the prevailing pagan culture and Jewish temple worship to deliberately exclude instruments? Scripture seems to provide a rather straightforward answer.
Both Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 reveal that while our worship should contain an instructive and encouraging aspect toward one another, our worship is supposed to be directed “unto the Lord.” We are worshipping God, not serving ourselves.
Accordingly, God has the right to tell us what He wants. We must never lose sight of the fact that the fruit of our lips is one of the sacrifices God has requested from us. Hebrews 13:15 Our Creator and Savior has the right to describe the sacrifice He wants from us. The only descriptions or teachings we have in scripture for Christian worship involves a cappella worship.
Someone might ask, “but if what drives how we worship is determined by God’s requests, has not God through the Old Testament already shown that He wanted instrumental music as a means to praise Him?” Psalms 150:3-5; 98:5-6
It is true that David’s use of instruments in worshipping the LORD was commanded by God (2 Chronicles 29:25) and God did give regulations for instruments (Psalms 81:2-5). These verses also indicate that the use of instruments was not merely an aid for worshipping, but were used to worship God!
Nevertheless, Israelite worship is not our guide for worshipping God today. Why? Because that former mode of worship which included external regulations was to be in effect until the time of the new order! Hebrews 9:1,10 The incense, the physical layout of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant and yes, the use of instruments are characteristic of the external directions under the Law. The Law with its regulations for worship were only a shadow of the reality which was coming. Hebrews 10:1
In contrast to a set of regulations dictating the type of incense which had to be offered, instructions about where to sacrifice, and the instruments which should be played, the new order of worship is characterized by being in spirit. John 4:20-24; Deuteronomy 12:13-15 The stone altar with its sacrifices of atonement has been replaced by Christ’s sacrifice; the sacrifices thanking God for his provisions have been replaced by our lips exalting him; God’s people are now His temple and the instruments making music to praise God have become the instrument of our hearts. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16
Without even weighing in on what God has done in the past when His people deviated from offering the worship He commanded, my question is simply this: “why would anyone want to take a step backwards to a worship built upon external things?” The old has passed, we have the new order! Let’s worship God in spirit and in truth!