Let me begin by saying that the New Testament is silent on this issue. God neither commends nor condemns the use of musical instruments in meetings of the church. Some have taken this to mean that we DO have liberty to use them, but we must be careful to assume we have God’s approval to do something based on the lack of a direct command against it. One thing we do know; there is not one instance of Christians using musical instruments in their meetings throughout the New Testament.

By contrast, we do KNOW that the Jews used instruments in their worship of God; in fact, God commanded them to use them. 1 Chronicles 15:16 says, “Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy” (NASB). In 2 Chronicles 29:26-27 we see this carried out, “The Levites stood with musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel” (NASB). We could cite dozens of scriptures like this that prove that God did indeed command the use of musical instruments and that it was an integral part of Jewish worship. Because of this, many Christians believe we not only have the liberty to use them in our worship, but that God desires us to worship Him in this way.

There are a few New Testament scriptures which some use to justify the use of musical instruments in the church. The one most used is Ephesians 5:19 which states, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The words “making melody” is the Greek word psallo which can mean “to rub, touch or pluck with the fingers” and is commonly used to refer to playing a stringed instrument. But there are many Greek lexicons that define this word as “singing praise” and in every other verse where this word is used it has been translated simply as “sing” or “sing psalms.” Notice too that this verse is speaking of “making melody in your heart,” so the MELODY is not to be done on a harp or other stringed instrument, but IN YOUR HEART. It is “the chords of our heart” that need to be plucked as we worship God the Father and His beloved Son!

Why would God command the use of musical instruments in Judaism and not in Christianity? To answer this let’s read what the Lord said to the Samaritan woman on the subject of worship. John 4:21-24 reads, “Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jersusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” The Lord Jesus is telling her that the worship that God had ordained for His earthly people, the Jews, was to give way to a new form of worship; a worship “in spirit and in truth.” They had worshipped Him in a beautiful and ornate temple in Jerusalem, and it was done with musical instruments, a choir, incense, and a host of other THINGS that appealed to their FIVE SENSES. It was “an earthly form of worship ordained for God’s earthly people.” But in Christianity there would be no earthly temple or other physical objects to aid us in our worship of the Father and the Son. The worship God has ordained for the church, His “heavenly people,” is “spiritual” in nature, NOT “physical.” In Hebrews 10:19 we see WHERE we worship, for it says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” We enter, in spirit, into the very presence of God to worship Him! In Matthew 18:20 the Lord Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The Lord Jesus is seen, by faith, in our very midst when we are gathered to worship. And in Philippians 3:3 we learn that we “worship by the Spirit of God” (DARBY). The Holy Spirit leads us in our worship. Are you worshipping God “in spirit and in truth?”  (186.10)  (DO)