While we should glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:13), worship is not governed by human abilities but by the revealed will of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A person may be a gifted athlete or a talented chef, but dunking a basketball or baking a cake while the church is assembled for worship is not a biblically sanctioned form of worship. We should be thankful for our talents, but when it comes to offering worship to God, we must do so in a manner that He prescribes (John 4:23-24). God is not particularly interested in our physical abilities, but He is concerned about the condition of our hearts. Not everyone has musical talent, but the beauty of Christianity is that everyone does have a heart that can and should be offered to God. The Bible never tells us to sing good, but it does tell us to sing from the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15). God is not worshiped with human hands (Acts 17:25), but He is worshiped with human hearts. The purpose of worship is not to entertain ourselves or to give a few talented people an opportunity to perform, but for all worshipers to offer praise to the Lord that is acceptable to Him (1 Pet. 2:5; cf. Gal. 1:10).
Q: Since the Bible doesn’t directly forbid the use of mechanical instruments in Christian worship, why wouldn’t it be permissible?
One of the primary reasons there is so much confusion and division in the religious world is because so many people feel free to do whatever is not explicitly condemned in the Bible. The Bible does not specifically prohibit cake and coffee in the Lord’s Supper, or sprinkling infants, or having a pope, or smoking marijuana to "heighten spirituality," or a host of other things people may want to do. But the issue is not what the Bible explicitly forbids, but rather what the Bible authorizes as legitimate (and consequently what it implicitly forbids). We know what the will of God is by what is revealed in the Bible (Eph. 3:3-5; 5:17), not by what is left unsaid. How did Noah understand that pine, oak, and cedar were not to be used in building the ark? God did not explicitly prohibit these types of wood, but when He specified “gopher wood” (Gen. 6:14), all other kinds were excluded. How did the Israelites know not to appoint men of Reuben, Judah or Ephraim to the priesthood? Simply because the law specifically named the tribe of Levi and was silent concerning the other tribes (Heb. 7:13-14). When the NT specifies “singing” as the kind of music to be offered in Christian worship, what human being has the right to add juggling, dancing, fireworks, guitars or pianos to it simply because the Lord has not provided a comprehensive list of prohibitions? God will hold accountable those who presumptuously add to His revealed will (1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19; cf. Lev. 10:1-2; Deut. 18:20).
Q: Isn’t instrumental music just an aid to singing, since it helps with the pitch, tempo, and tune, it makes the singing sound better, and one is still obeying God’s instructions to “sing” even though it happens to be with musical accompaniment?
There are essentially only two types of music: vocal and instrumental. If God had given the generic command to simply “make music,” any type of music would be in accordance with this instruction. However, instead of a generic command, the Lord specified the kind of music He desires -- namely volitional singing. Therefore, any other kind of music is an addition to what the Lord has authorized. For example, the elements of the Lord’s Supper are unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. Things such as plates, cups, and communion trays are aids which help us observe this memorial, but they do not add additional elements to the Lord’s Supper. However, even though one may reason that jam or peanut butter or syrup or lemonade would make communion taste better, these are different kinds of food, additions to the specified elements, and are therefore unacceptable. Legitimate aids to singing are those things which help to carry out the directive to sing, such as a tuning fork (for the right pitch), or a song book (for the right words), or a song leader (for the right tempo and tune). However, a mechanical instrument supplies an entirely different kind of music and is therefore more than an aid to singing -- it is an addition. Making the singing “sound better” is a subjective opinion, and many would argue that musical instruments actually detract from the singing. The bottom line, however, is not what I like or what sounds good to me, but what God has plainly stated is acceptable to Him.--Kevin L. Moore
Related posts: Music & the Bible History, Questions About Music 1, Questions About Music 3
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