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Musical Instruments in the Local Church


(Note:  The following is a reply to an inquiry regarding the subject by a supporter of the website from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  This reply is by no means meant to be all-inclusive regarding the subject.)


The inquiry 


Dear Charles,


In our church, worship order includes songs & praises and singing the hymnal songs with accompaniment of guitars, electric organ and drums.  Question: Is it proper to use these instruments during worship?  Please enlighten us on this issue for some of our members are questioning the use of drums, thank you.


In Christ Alone,

Leo (last name blotted out)


My reply




The apostle Paul stipulated that Christians are to communicate with one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [their] heart(s) to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).  The same is mentioned by Paul in Colossians 3:16, a companion passage to Ephesians 5:18-20; showing that to be “filled with the Spirit” is the equivalent of “the Word dwelling richly” within a Christian.  So there is no doubt that singing by Christians is established in the New Testament.  Furthermore, Jesus Christ sang a hymn along with His disciples in Matthew 26:30.


The origin of vocal music may be unknown, but the use of musical instruments (e.g., the harp and flute) was first documented in the Bible in Genesis 4:21.  God also commanded Moses to make two silver trumpets for “calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps” (Numbers 10:2).  After God delivered the Israelites through the Red Sea, Moses and Miriam led the children of Israel in song, employing musical instruments (Exodus 15:1-20).  Some have called the period from Samuel through Solomon the “golden age of Hebrew music.”  During this time King David contributed more than any other individual to raising music to an exalted position in Israel.  David was both a musician and a poet.  Upon taking the reign as king, he brought music to the highest place of honor in the service of worship (1 Chronicles 15:16-28; 25).  David was also an inventor of musical instruments (1 Chronicles 23:5; Nehemiah 12:36).  Musical instruments (trumpets) and singing were used at the dedication of the new walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:31, 40-42).


Musical instruments (e.g., strings, wind, and percussion) are mentioned throughout the Word of God:  (1)  Old Testament:  Genesis 4:21; 31:27; Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34;  1 Samuel 10:5; 16:16, 23; 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:5Jeremiah 31:4;  Psalm 33:2; 92:3; 98:6; 137:1-4144:9; 150:4;  Ecclesiastes 2:8; Isaiah 5:12; 23:16; 24:8; 30:29; 38:20; Daniel 3:5, 7; 6:18; Amos 6:5; 1 Kings 1:40; 10:12; 1 Chronicles 15: 16, 19, 28; 16:5; 2 Chronicles 15:14; 20:27, 28; Job 21:12; 30:31; Hosea 5:8; Ezekiel 33:32, etc.; and (2) New Testament:  Matthew 11:17; Luke 7:32; 1 Corinthians 14:7; Revelation 5:8; 14:2; and 15:2.


It appears to me that those within your local church have a tendency toward legalism, a problem that existed within local churches from the very beginning of Christianity.  At that time it was the effort of some to keep the “letter” requirements of traditional law, while missing out on its “spirit” altogether (Romans 14:4-6; Galatians 4:9-11, Colossians 2:16).


It is clear in the Word that God does not condemn the use of song or musical instruments with respect to man’s efforts in serving Him.  Just because we now have more advanced instruments over the harp, pipe, trumpet, and cymbal as seen in the Bible should have no bearing in the matter.  If these more advanced instruments are non-biblical, then I suppose the telephone, radio, television, the Internet, and a whole host of other modern advancements would be non-biblical in service to our Lord.


I can only suggest to those in your congregation that God looks at the heart, not the form (1 Kings 8:39; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Acts 1:24).  If they who use such musical instruments do so in sincerity to honor and praise our Lord, that is what counts.