Alan Highers writes, “There is no divine authority for instrumental music in New Testament worship. There is no command for it, no example of it, no record of it in scripture, no support for it in history, and no mention of it in religious service for hundreds of years after the New Testament era. If we believe in the authority principle then there simply is no place for the use of instrumental music in sacred worship” /1
People counter by saying that “it doesn’t say we can’t use them.” This claim cannot withstand scrutiny.
Very few practice this principle in daily life. When we send someone to the grocery store with a list, we do not have to enumerate all the things we do not want them to buy. /2 We will inevitably forget some items. No, we specify what they are to buy and they understand that anything not on the list is not to be purchased.
When we go to a car dealership and sign the paperwork for a new red sports car and leave instructions for the installation of a new sound system, we expect to come back in a few days to pick up the car we specified. Instead, they try to give us a yellow minivan. After all, we did not tell them we didn’t want a yellow minivan.
If this theory were true, then the New Testament would have to be thousands of pages long. When Jesus began the Lord’s Supper, he specified the fruit of the vine was to be used (Luke 22:14-20). He didn’t have to list the untold number of things that were not to be used. If he had, then they would have been there for days and the apostles would have had no idea what Jesus was talking about as he named all the liquids of the languages and cultures of the world, most of which had not been invented. The list would have been in the millions. Instead, Jesus specified one item, the fruit of the vine.
If this theory were true, then all we have in the New Testament are suggestions that can be ignored if we can think of anything else we would rather do. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul tells the Corinthians to give of their means on the “first day of the week.” Therefore, we do so on the first day of the week. Yet, if we say that he didn’t say we couldn?t do it any other day of the week, then we have diluted his command until it is meaningless.
We cannot be like the man who was caught reading the Bible. Asked why, he replied that he was looking for a loophole. Instead, we should “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord” and let his way be our way (James 4:10; Philippians 2:5).
Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17, NKJV). This means we do what we have the authority to do. God specified singing, so we sing. Instrumental music is nowhere mentioned in the worship of the church, therefore, we simply have no authority for it.
Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The emphasis is on the singing of songs that will enrich us spiritually and be a sweet smelling savor to the Lord. The melody is to be in our hearts and not in some mechanical instrument. The voice is the most powerful and moving instrument and God wants us to worship him in song. And God has the right to make that decision without consulting anyone on earth.
1/ Spiritual Sword Vol. 30:3, p. 25.
Are the New Testament Commands Suggestions?