Summary: This is an examination of the kind of music that God deems acceptable in the worship of the Lord’s Church.
From the earliest days, music has played an important element in the worship of God. In both the Old and New Testaments, one can read of the use of music in worship. During the last 1600-1700 years, there has been much controversy as to the nature of acceptable music in Christian worship. The controversy simply entails determining whether or not instrumental music is acceptable worship in the Lord‘s Church.
We believe that an honest examination of the Scriptures can resolve the controversy for all those who wish to submit themselves to the Lord’s wishes rather than bow to personal preference or popular demand.
The first point to be understood is that the New Testament is without any command to use instrumental music and does not provide any example of the early Church employing musical instruments in worship. If instrumental music was desired by the Lord, one would certainly find references to it within the teachings and examples of Christ Jesus and His apostles. In stead, the only references to music in Christian worship are purely vocal.
Romans 15:9, “For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.”
1 Corinthians 14:15, 26, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also….What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up. ”
Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves 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 2:12, “In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
James 5:13, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
One may search the New Testament in vain for either command or example for the use of musical instruments in worship services. Since instrumental music cannot be found in the New Testament Scriptures, we must conclude that such music -
2. Violates the law of worship. The Lord taught that we must worship God in truth (John 4:24). God’s word is truth (John 17:17). We must only worship in a manner consistent with the truth of God’s word.
Meanings of Greek Terms
Some modern religionists have claimed that instrumental music is inferred by the New Testament’s usage of the Greek verb psallo and its noun form psalmos. They claim that psallo means to sing a psalm or hymn with the accompaniment of musical instruments, and that psalmos refers to a composition to be sung in such manner.
These certainly were correct definitions in earlier (i.e., late classical) forms of Greek, but they were not the primary definitions in the common (koine) Greek of New Testament times. Greek scholars affirm that the intimate connection to musical instrumentation had been dropped in the New Testament period, so that the word psallo simply meant ‘to sing praises’ or ‘to sing a hymn’ and psalmos simply referred to a sacred hymn or ode to be sung -
Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: psallo -"Abs. sing praise, James 5:13.”
Bagster’s Analytical Greek Lexicon - psallo - "in N.T. to sing praises."
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: "In the New Testament, the literal sense ‘by or with the playing of strings’ still found in the LXX, is now employed figuratively. There is nothing to suggest that psalmos and humnos relate to texts of different genres. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, psalmos means a Christian song in general. There is no distinction [of adein] from psallein in Ephesians 5:19. In the LXX what is meant by "song" (ode) is almost always, though not fundamentally, a ’religious song’ . Hence the very free alternation between ode, psalmos, and humnos. In the NT, there is still no precise differentiation between ode, psalmos, and humnos, e.g., in Col.3:16 or Eph.5:19.
A.T. Robertson’s A Grammar of the Greek New Testament - 1 Corinthians 14:15 - “psallo: to sing without regard to an instrument.”
Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament - “psallo - in the NT, as in Jas. 5:13, ’sing a hymn’. Modern Greek psallo, pselno, ‘sing’.” psalmos - "In N.T. a sacred song, psalm, 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19 et al."
Abbott Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament - psallo - "in the N.T., to sing a hymn, sing praises."