What was missing

by Stan Mitchell

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16, ESV).

I read an article the other day where the author declared that one could not read the New Testament on the subject of worship in song and get that instrumental music was not authorized.

He seemed to be implying that those who urge that singing be vocal only had to add this element to the text.

On the contrary, I thought, how can someone read these passages and get that musical instruments were included? A careful look at the text will reveal the word “singing.” The word “playing” or any synonym is simply not present.

As one writer put it, the ones adding elements that are not already present in the text are those who want to add the instrument to worship:

“If instrumental music was not commanded in the New Testament, then it must have been entered by human tradition and human choices.”/1

If I tell students that tests will be on Mondays, they don’t assume tests will also be on Fridays. If I order a cup of coffee at a restaurant, I assume I won’t also be given a glass of ice tea.

If Christ is declared the “head of the church” (Colossians 1:18), that naturally excludes any alternative. This is not tricky theology, this is common sense.

The Bible is not silent on the subject of what we are to do in worship. We are commanded to sing (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13). The principle of silence is evident when we observe that the Bible is silent on the alternatives.

There is nothing so sweet, so compelling, so rewarding in worship as the voices of God’s people raised in unison of word and harmony of heart to God.


1/ Perry C. Cotham, Ceasefire: Ending Worship Wars Through Sound Theology and Plain Common Sense, 137

Share your thoughts: