Authorized Music in Worship (Part One)

Jesus commanded us to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). We must seek to please God in all things because of our love for him. In our worship, we please the Father by connecting with him spiritually and worshiping in truth. Worship demands we submit ourselves to him completely as we bow before the mighty throne of God.
“Deep respect and adoration of God will alter our attitudes, because our worship will be directed toward God and not toward men. Reverence will prevent us from turning our worship into a production designed to please men. We will, instead, see ourselves at the feet of the Almighty God in Heaven.” /1
Prostrating ourselves before God will allow us to follow his word rather than our own. We will be more pliable as we seek to please him above everything.
What kind of music does God authorize in worship to him? Should it include mechanical instruments?
We live under the New Testament and it alone is our authority. The Old Testament was written for our learning but it no longer serves as our authority (Romans 15:4). We live under a new and “better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
In the Old Testament, instrumental music was indeed used in worship to God (1 Chronicles 23:5; 2 Chronicles 7:6). David invented these instruments to worship the Father (1 Chronicles 23:5; Amos 6:5). However, once the Old Testament ended, we were no longer under the Old Covenant. The worship of animal sacrifices, musical instruments, Levitical priesthood and festivals passed into history. When the New Covenant was established, we were then under its teachings, exclusively.
Instrumental music is never mentioned in the New Testament in the context of the worship of the church. Every time music is mentioned, it is vocal and without instrumental accompaniment (Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13).
Whether we should utilize instrumental music in worship to God becomes an authority issue. Shall we practice something that the New Testament never authorizes? /2 If God said to sing, then why go beyond what he has given us? Should we practice God’s will or our will?
Often the argument is used that instrumental music is pleasant to the human ear. Human pleasure, as we have established, is not the authority for New Testament worship. /3
Biblical authority is all that is under consideration in this issue. Whether we like music or whether it makes worship more exciting or soothing is immaterial. When we bow for worship at the feet of God, the only thing that matters is what pleases the Father on the throne. The worship of God is not about the worshipers but about the source of the worship.
The picture becomes clearer when we look at authority in light of parenting children. The parent tells the child what they will allow their child to do and that it is non-negotiable. The child then continues to plead with them because they want their way. The parent stands firm and tells the child the consequences of rebellion. We say these are good parents.
Why would this not also be true of God, the Father? Will not God also be firm in what he wants no matter how much we demand our way? God’s authority supersedes any and all desires of men, even in worship.
God loves us and through him we have spiritual life through his graceful blessing. Yet, he has certain things he has asked of us. That is his right as Creator. Because of this grace and love we seek to please him however we can. Worship is no exception.

What Kind of Music does the New Testament Call for in Worship?

6 Replies to “Authorized Music in Worship (Part One)”

  1. Perhaps you have missed the point of Scripture. We are called to worship and to serve, not to come under man-made laws such as this one you have devised. I have heard there are two rules for discerning what is right and what is wrong based on Scripture. One is only do what it says to do (which is what you have suggested) and the other is that unless it is forbidden it is OK. Musical instruments are not forbidden, and surely if they are played as worship to the Lord (and not to please human ears as you mentioned) that certainly would be pleasing to God. So I will “enter His gates with thanksgiving and enter His courts with praise” with or without instruments. If offered for an audience of One, it is not wrong.
    Your message is heavy handed and unnecessary, causing division where none exists.
    I do not play an instrument, but if I did, I would play it unto the Lord.
    Larry Maupin

  2. Thank you for reading my article. Thanks for your comments. I will have an article on this question over the next few weeks.
    The argument that we can worship with instrumental music because God didn’t tell us not to, is an old and disproven argument. You don’t believe this in secular life so why should it be true of the Bible? You tell your son to go to the store. You tell him what to buy and write it on a list. You don’t have to write down everything in the store that you DON’T want him to buy. No one does that. If the New Testament had to tell us everything NOT to do, it would have to be 5,000 pages long. Instead He tells us what to do and that excludes everything else.
    By the way, how are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 “man-made laws?”
    Richard Mansel

  3. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for your column. It is a great inspiration to me. I find this piece very interesting and true, and I agree fully with respecting God in worship, but please explain one thing concerning Col 3:16. When the Psalms and hymns were written , were they not written with the use of instuments, because most of the time a song writer, writes music to the tune of his instrument.

  4. Maybe they were but that doesn’t change the authority issue in the New Testament. The fact that David used instruments while, for example, writing the 100 Psalm does not mean that the authority of the New Testament is suddenly meaningless. I would say that any doctrine that involves the necessity of a loophole has no credibility. Thank you very much for reading Forthright. Your kind words are very much appreciated.

  5. i have many friends who practice this same tradition but while i believe there is nothing wrong with worshiping without instruments i also believe its just the same to worship with you said john 4:24 does command us to worship in spirit and in truth but how does playing an instrument restrict the worshiping of your spirit? i play guitar and some of my best times alone with god have been singing praises to him while playing my guitar. if your playing the instrument for human means and it is false worship yes it isn’t worship but if the music and praise you are putting forth are genuine i see no wrong in this. you worship god not only with your praise but also with the way you live your life and how you conduct it.

  6. T.J.,
    Thanks for reading my articles. I am honored.
    While we are to worship in Spirit, we cannot separate it from the accompanying command to worship in truth.
    And we have zero New Testament authority for using instrumental music in the worship of the Church.
    Whether we are sincere doesn’t matter. Do you think the pagans in Corinth were sincere when they worshiped Diana through fornicating with the temple prostitutes? Absolutely, they were sincere. But, God obviously didn’t approve of their worship.
    Richard Mansel

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