What Does The New Testament Teach About Music In The Public Worship Of The Church?

(More Bible Studies Available At www.marktabata.com)

It is written:

John 4:24-God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Many people are surprised to learn that the New Testament church did not use instrumental music in their worship services (even though instruments were available and commonly used by both the Jews and the pagans).

Here is every reference in the New Testament to worship in the church on Earth:

Matthew 26:30-And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:26-And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Acts 16:25-But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Romans 15:9-and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “FOR THIS REASON I WILL CONFESS TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND SING TO YOUR NAME.”

1 Corinthians 14:15-What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.

Ephesians 5:19-speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Colossians 3:16-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


Hebrews 13:15-Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

James 5:13-Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

It is interesting to notice that instrumental music was not introduced into the worship of the church for several hundred years aftr the death of the Apostles of Jesus.

“It is helpful to trace the history of instrumental music in so-called Christian worship century by century. No one affirms that instrumental music was used by the apostles or Christians in the New Testament. Passing into secular history, instruments weren’t used in the second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth centuries….The Greek church disapproved the use of organs. The Latin church introduced it pretty generally, but not without the protest of eminent men, so that even in the Council of Trent a motion was made, though not carried, to prohibit the organ at least in the mass….Secular history is silent as to the instrument’s use through the thirteenth century, except that in 1250 A.D., Thomas Aquinas objected to its use by Catholics, lest they “seem to Judaize,” i.e., seem like the Jews: Our church does not use musical instruments as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize. (Joseph Bingham, The Antiquities of the Christian Church, II [London: Reeves & Turner, 1878], p. 483.)…Long after Thomas Aquinas, a sixteenth century Catholic scholar named Erasmus, said: We have brought into our churches certain operatic and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words as I hardly think was ever in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes, and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time learning these whining tones. (John L. Girardeau, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church [Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson, Printers, 1888], p. 166.)…John Girardeau, Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary (Presbyterian), said It has thus been proved, by an appeal to historical facts, that the church, although lapsing more and more into defection from the truth and into a corruption of apostolic practice, had no instrumental music for twelve hundred years; and that the Calvinistic Reformed Church ejected it from its services as an element of Popery, even the Church of England having come very nigh to its extrusion from her worship. The historical argument, therefore, combines with the Scriptural and the confessional to raise a solemn and powerful protest against its employment by the Presbyterian Church. It is heresy in the sphere of worship. (Ibid, p. 179.) James Pierce, a Presbyterian scholar of the eighteenth century, said: I come now to say somewhat of the antiquity of musical instruments. But that these were not used in the Christian Church in the primitive times is attested by all the ancient writers with one consent. Hence, they figuratively explain all the places of the Old Testament which speak of musical instruments, as I might easily show by a thousand testimonies out of Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and many others… From what has been said, it appears no musical instruments were used in the pure time of the church. (Ibid., pp. 157-158.) John Calvin, a founder of Presbyterianism, wrote: Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. (John Calvin, Commentary on Ps. 33 and on I Sam. 18.1-9, cited by M. C. Kurfees, Instrumental Music in the Worship [Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co., 1969], p. 191.) David Benedict, the Baptist historian, said: In my earliest intercourse among this people, congregational singing generally prevailed among them… The Introduction of the Organ among the Baptists… This instrument, which from time immemorial has been associated with cathedral pomp and prelatical power, and has always been the peculiar favorite of the great national churches, at length found its way into Baptist sanctuaries, and the first one ever employed by the denomination in this country, and probably in any other, might have been standing in the singing gallery of the Old Baptist meeting house in Pawtucket, about forty years ago, when I then officiated as pastor (1840)… Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them… How far this modern organ fever will extend among our people, and whether it will on the whole work a de-formation or re-formation in their singing service, time will more fully develop. (David Benedict, Fifty Years Among the Baptists [Glen Rose, TX: Newman & Collins, 1913], pp. 204-207.) John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was quoted to say: I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen. (John Wesley, cited by Adam Clarke, Commentary, IV [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, n.d.], p. 686.) Adam Clarke, a famous Methodist commentator, said of musical instruments: I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity. (Adam Clarke, Commentary, IV [Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, n.d.], p. 686.).” (Samuel G. Dawson, Denominational Doctrines: Explained, Examined, Exposed, 6432-6500 (Kindle Edition); Bowie, TX; SGD Press)

The fact that the New Testament Scriptures do not authorize instrumental music in worship is the primary reason churches of Christ generally do not use them in our services (Colossians 3:16-17).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑