We believe that instrumental music in worship is sinful and unscriptural, and that one may be lost for so sinning.
Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16, 17; Matt. 15:9; 1 Thess. 5:21
A Cappella singing is probably one of the most well known and distinctive marks of the New Testament church of Christ. Many times when we talk to people about the church they will respond, “Oh, yea. Y’all are the ones that don’t use instruments.” The reason it stands out to visitors and those familiar with the church is that the use of mechanical instruments is almost universal in the denominational world, and nearly the entire religious world. It is unheard of that some would “think” that the use of mechanical instruments in worship would be wrong and actually constitute a sin. Sadly, this thinking has caused many in the church to shy away from taking a stand in this very important issue. Where, in years past, debates on the use of mechanical instruments in worship were common among brethren, now it is almost more common to hear a well-meaning member of the church refer to a cappella congregational singing as a matter of tradition or preference and not really a matter of doctrine. Just recently, in talking with a principle of a so-called “Church of Christ School” I asked about their use of mechanical instruments in chapel and/or music classes where religious songs were taught. His reply was that they had to cater to their denominational students and it was really just a matter of tradition anyway. How sad!
At the Bawcomville church of Christ, we stand for the truth of God’s word. We will do whatever we are authorized to do by the word of God and we will oppose whatever is not authorized by the word of God. With the firm conviction that we must “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21), we will turn to the word of God to answer every question regarding our work and worship as Christians.
We cannot begin to cover all of the relevant issues involved with this question in a short bulletin article. But, we can demonstrate, without doubt, that there is no biblical authority for the use of mechanical instruments in worship to God. Actually, we can do that in one single sentence. Here it is. There are zero verses in the New Testament that refer to the New Testament church; either in explicit statement, necessary inference, or approved example; worshiping God with the use of mechanical instruments of music. That is really all that should need to be said on the issue. “Oh, its not in the Bible. OK, then we can’t do it.” Unfortunately, people love to have their way and to have those things that appeal to them. So, we must say more on the issue.
In regards to the above statement about there being no reference in the Bible showing the New Testament church using mechanical instruments, some my respond, “so what?” In the religious world at large, there is a nearly complete lack of understanding of the need for biblical authority in our actions. So, they don’t understand why it makes any difference whether it is in the Bible or not. We must humbly direct them to such passages as Hebrews 7:12-14. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the alter. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” Notice that the Hebrews writer is making his case based on what the Bible doesn’t say. This shows that there is prohibitive authority in the silence of the Scriptures. That is, if the Bible doesn’t say that we can do something then that thing is prohibited. The number one reason we do not use mechanical music in worship is because the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can.
I have people say things like, “well it doesn’t say that we can’t,” all the time. Hebrews 7:12-14 shows beyond any doubt that the Bible doesn’t have to say that we can’t, it has to say that we can. Other verses that show the same thing about the prohibitive authority of silence are 1 Thess. 5:21 and 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. We are supposed to prove, or test, all things and hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). But by what are we supposed to do the testing and determine whether something is good or not? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). It is the Scriptures, the word of God, that furnishes us unto every good work! If we cannot find authority for it in the word of God then it is not a good work. Colossians 3:17 also tells us to do all things (“in word or deed”) in the name of (i.e. by the authority of) the Lord Jesus. So, there can be no question that we need the authority of Scripture for whatever we do; and, we simply do not have scriptural authority to use mechanical instruments of music in worship.
If the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can, and it doesn’t, then the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship must be the doctrine of men. There are only two options. Something is either biblical doctrine or it is not. Since we cannot find one single verse showing the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church, it must, by definition, be the doctrine of men. Jesus said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). What made their worship vain? “Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Another reason we do not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship is that we don’t want to offer God vain worship.
Two of the most common verses we use to show that the New Testament church offered their praise to God in a cappella singing are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. In these passages, the phrase “Speaking to yourselves” and “one another” literally mean “each one speaking to each other one.” It is a term referring to congregational singing. One of my favorite passages regarding the worship of the New Testament church is Hebrews 2:12. “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” This passages refers to Jesus, our Lord, worshipping God with us when we sing praises to Him. What a wonderful thing to know about our worship! And, what a striking contrast to worship offered up contrary to the word of God. The one is done in fellowship with God where the other is an exercise in futility (i.e. vain, Matt. 15:9). We do not use mechanical instruments in worship to God because we do not want to loose our fellowship with Christ.
There are several verses we could use to show that the New Testament church praises God in congregational singing. However, there is not one single verse in the Bible referring to the New Testament church using mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. Please do not believe that this is simply a matter of tradition, choice or preference. We do not simply “think” that it is wrong. It is a matter of doctrine! To do contrary to that which we find in Scripture is to sin against God (1 Jn. 3:4). It is not something that we can compromise on simply to appease those who disagree. The most loving thing we could do for those who are not worshipping God Scripturally, or who think it is just a matter of tradition, is to tell them the danger of eternal condemnation that they are in because of their error.