Immediately striking many visitors to the Lord’s church is the absence of any musical instruments. Some have mistakenly supposed that it may be because an individual congregation cannot afford an organ, or maybe that there is no one who can play, or yet it’s just a quirky thing about the church. However the reason the church does not use instrumental accompaniments is based on none of the preceding, but rather they are not used for doctrinal reasons.
As we go to our Bibles we notice that when God gives a command, He will either give it as a general command or as a specific command. An example of a general command is the command to assemble together (Hebrews 10:25). There is no mention that we should meet on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon. Likewise we are free to meet in a dedicated church building, rented hall, or even in a house.
An example of a specific command is God’s command to Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood (Genesis 6:14). God was particular about the building material used in the ark. He did not have to say He did not want the ark to be built out of cedar, blackwood, pine, oak or any other kind of wood. By specifying He had ruled out any other kind of wood but gopher wood. The example of the deaths of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3 soberly reminds us that God does not want His commands to be varied (Proverbs 30:6).
Now as we turn our attention to what kind of music God wants in worship, we find in Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”. Had God simply said “Make melody”, He would have made a general command and we would be free to sing with or without a musical accompaniment.
However God specified where He wanted the music to come from - the heart. In doing so, He ruled out the melody coming from any other source. What God is interested in is not how good our organist is, or how great the piano may sound, but how sincere we are in our worship to Him. In addition we are in our singing to teach and admonish one another - things which a musical instrument cannot do!
And so as we go to the few New Testament passages mentioning music in worship (Matt. 26:30; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; James 5:13) there is the noticeable absence of any reference to the use of musical instruments. This is particularly noticeable when contrasted with worship in the Old Testament (eg. Psalm 150:3-5).
Our simple conclusion then is that to have any other music in New Testament worship other than what comes from a sincere heart is to add to what God has commanded. Unfortunately many today want to vary what the scriptures say - not in order to be pleasing to God, but rather to please and entertain themselves! Jesus however warns that those who do render their worship vain (Matthew 15:9).
Let us be content to worship according to God’s will - and with a sincere and joyful heart, this will indeed be music in the ears of God. In doing so we can know that we are pleasing to the Lord and that's what really counts!
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