I will never forget the first time I passed by a church marquee where they advertised TWO CHURCH SERVICES (at two different times): 1) TRADITIONAL service, and 2) CONTEMPORARY service. I later learned that the “traditional service” featured the singing of older, well-known hymns and the “contemporary service” featured mostly present-day songs accompanied by a band of some sort. Later I actually saw the new contemporary service on a television church service and I was disappointed by the use of electric guitars, drums and other musical instruments that sounded like rock music. Having said that, I do NOT want to give my “personal judgment” in my answer, but rather give scriptures to answer your very good question, “What is the standard of God concerning the music a church must use?”

The New Testament is absolutely silent regarding the use of musical instruments in meetings of the church. When I say “meetings of the church” I am referring, primarily, to “worship meetings” where believers will pour out their hearts to God for who He is and for what He has done for us by providing salvation from sin and for providing grace for meeting our needs in everyday life while we make our way home to heaven. Perhaps the most well-known scripture that speaks of how to worship the Lord musically is Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, SINGING and MAKING MELODY IN YOUR HEART to the Lord” (NKJV). I had said that we never read of using musical instruments in New Testament worship and here we learn that the main “instruments” we use in worship are our VOICES and our HEARTS. The Lord surely wants us to sing to Him! As I noted, we should be “pouring out our hearts to God for WHO HE IS and for WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US and these thoughts are conveyed in “hymns and spiritual songs.” A “hymn” is a song that has been composed to express the truth as to who God is. For example, when we sing the precious hymn, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” we are praising God for His HOLINESS. A “spiritual song” is a song that been written to convey the spiritual experiences we have had based on the truth of God’s Word. In “Amazing Grace” we sing, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved: How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” The heart is moved to worship God in singing these words, for they express to God the gratitude we have for His AMAZING GRACE that worked in our hearts to fear Him because of our lost, sinful condition, and how that same grace relieved our fears when we saw the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1st Timothy 1:15).

When we do sing songs of worship we are indeed “making MELODY in our hearts to the Lord.” It is MUSIC TO HIS EARS! He does not need to hear guitars, drums, pianos, harps, flutes, etc. to appreciate our worship. Now you may be thinking, “But didn’t the Jewish people use all kinds of musical instruments when they worshiped the Lord?” Yes, they did; in fact we read in 1st Chronicles 15:16, “Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the SINGERS ACCOMPANIED BY INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC, stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, by raising the voice with resounding joy.” You can read 2nd Chronicles 29:26-27 to see this command was carried out.

This surely begs the question, “Why did God command the use of musical instruments for worship in Judaism and not in Christianity?” To answer this I will quote the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman in John 4:21-24, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when you will neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will your WORSHIP THE FATHER. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when THE TRUE WORSHIPERS WILL WORSHIP THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH” (NASB). The Lord Jesus was teaching her (and us!) that the worship He 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.” The Jews had worshiped Him in a beautiful temple in Jerusalem and it was done with musical instruments, a choir, incense, and host of other THINGS that appealed to their FIVE SENSES. It was “an earthly form of worship ordained for an earthly people.” But in Christianity there would be no earthly temple or other physical objects to aid believers in their worship of the Father (and the Son). The worship God has ordained for the CHURCH, His “heavenly people,” is SPIRITUAL in nature, not PHYSICAL, and thus it is referred to as a worship “in SPIRIT and in truth.” We enter the very presence of God in spirit, as we see in Hebrews 10:19, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” We worship the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, as we see in Philippians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, who WORSHP by the SPIRIT of God” (DARBY version). The Spirit draws out our HEARTS in worship by reminding us of who God is and what He has done for us and then we find ourselves “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.”  (438.5)  (DO)