Copyright © 2000, by John Lankford, Fort Smith, Arkansas

      Here are just the facts on the topic of the use of instrumental music in Old Testament and Christian worship. It will be seen that just the facts alone make a compelling case for the non-use of instrumental music in Christian worship.

      The primary and derived facts are listed (hopefully) without commentary.

      Fact #1 -- In the Old Testament, God asked for singing + instrumental music for use in worship (2 Chronicles 29:25-26; Psalm 150). It was something they could be sure about.

      Fact #2 -- In the New Testament, God just asks for singing (Ephesians 5:19) or the "fruit of lips" (Hebrews 13:15). Hence, singing was something that the worshiper could absolutely be sure about.
      But because there is no clear directive from God on the use of instrumental music (as contrasted with the Old Testament), it is something that one can not absolutely be sure about.

      Fact #3 -- After the church came into being and for at least 400 or so years, God was given just what he asked for (singing). As a result, the word "a cappella" came into being and was the term for "music in the church style." The use of this term is the musical history of Christian worship in a nut-shell. ("A Cappella Singing," by Dr. William M. Green, Professor of classical languages, University of California, Berkeley; Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, by E. Ferguson, p629ff)

      Fact #4 -- Before the New Testament was completed, the church used the Old Testament scriptures as their primary source (Acts 17:11; 18:28, etc.). They had the very scriptures before them that approved and encouraged the use of instruments right down to the naming of specific types (2 Chronicles 29:25-26; Psalm 150). And at the time of the early church, instruments were available and many Christians had the talent to play them ... yet this talent was not exercised in worship! The Old Testament scripture was not followed.

      Fact #5 -- That instrumental music was absent from Christian worship during the days of the inspired Apostolic teaching (John 14:26; Acts 2: 42) proves that the Apostles, who were very familiar with the use of instruments in Temple worship, never encouraged churches to use them.
      The above also means that the Holy Spirit never encouraged churches to use instruments (John 14:26) in spite of the fact that it once did so in a direct way (2 Chronicles 29:25ff).

     Fact #6 -- Ephesians 5:19 has two parts: Singing + Making Melody. The "making melody" is translated from the Greek word "psallo." It means to "pluck or twang." The adverbial phrase that follows tells where this action takes place. It is "in the heart" and not on a harp. This fixes the locus of the "plucking" in a figurative sense. Note the contrast with the physical, Old Testament worship (McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, p739; Thayer's Greek Lexicon on "psallo"; personal discussion with Dr. Adrian Herren).

     Fact #7 -- The design of the New Covenant worship will be different than that of the Old Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31; John 4:23; Hebrews 7:12; 10:1,10; 9:1). Many physical things of the Old pointed to their true substance in the New. For example, in the Old it was the priests that offered physical sacrifices to God, but in the New everyone is a priest with spiritual sacrifices to offer (1 Peter 2:5). It is specifically the "fruit of lips" that is the sacrifice of praise asked for (Hebrews 13:15) and not the sounds from man-made devices. (See Things Old and New in Religion, by Hoyt Bailey, for more examples.)


      Before doing a thing, it is proper to ask "Can we be sure that this is approved by God?"

  1. The facts show that we cannot be sure that God approves the use of instrumental music in worship. This makes it a "questionable" and "unsure" matter.

  2. However, the facts show that we can be absolutely sure that just singing has God's approval. All can agree upon this.

  3. The total context argues strongly that the non-use of the instrument is a matter of design (i.e., it was no accident that it was left out).


      Since God has had something to say in both Covenants about music in worship ...

  1. Unity, peace, and assurance are by-products when we practice just what God has asked for (singing).

  2. Division, debate, and torn conscience are the by-products of introducing things into worship that are "questionable" and "uncertain" (e.g., instrumental music).

     Therefore, common sense tells us that the use of instrumental music in worship is inadvisable in the least.

     An Example: The Restoration Movement was a unity effort. The plea was to limit teaching and practices to just what all could agree was a God-given directive and be silent about (not teach or practice) those things that were without direct evidence. For example, individuals may have an opinion that instrumental music would be accepted by God, but for the sake of unity would limit their practice to just doing what God clearly asked for--singing. And this worked until some began to push their opinion and division resulted. Usually most churches in the southern United States going by the name "Church of Christ" are still a cappella in practice while "Christian Churches" use the instrument.

     The above has not sought to pronounce any judgement upon those who use instrumental music, but instead to see if the total evidence for its use in Christian worship is positive or negative. It will be left to one's own conscience as to what to do in the face of the evidence.

     It is well to remember that when God specifies a path to follow, we should follow it with full faith in the superiority of God (Isaiah 55:8) ... for it is not in man to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23).


Copyright © 2001, by John Lankford, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Here are the facts of the case:

  1. The scriptures of the very early church were the Old Testament. The New Testament writings were not in existence from the start. (example: Acts 17: 2,3 + 2 Timothy 3:15)

  2. Psalm 150, by inspiration, encourages and names instruments of music to be used in praising God. Yet, the early church under the guidance of the Apostles--having these very scriptures before their eyes--did not use them to worship God but just simply sang instead.

  3. The acappella practice was so standard that it took about 400 years for someone to change it ("A Cappella Singing" by Dr. William M. Green, Professor of classical languages, University of California, Berkeley, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, by E. Ferguson)
The above facts prove beyond reasonable doubt that :
  1. The Psalms are not a "worship manual" for specifics about New Covenant worship.
  2. New Covenant worship has its own design for music (see: Ephesians 5:19, Hebrews 13:15) and it is acappella music.
***To counter the above, one would have to negate the 3 facts (which cannot be done). Hence, to use instrumental music in spite of the facts would be equivalent to being guided by our wants and desires rather than hard evidence.

  Read Why Do Churches of Christ "Just Sing"?

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