Restoring New Testament Christianity: Mechanical Instruments not Authorized
“And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord.” -Ephesians 5:18-19
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We’re still talking about restoring New Testament Christianity. Let’s discuss mechanical instruments in worship and whether or not they belong. Notice Colossians 3:18: “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
Singing is part of our worship to God. I don’t think that anyone will disagree with that. The scripture explicitly states to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. A piano cannot sing. A guitar does not sing – neither does an organ. Drums and keyboards do not sing either.
And none of those have hearts for which to have gratitude towards God, as the Scripture commands. The verse above says to teach and encourage one another with your singing. We teach with our words. A drum can’t teach; an organ can’t teach; a saxophone can’t teach; cymbals can’t teach either. I think you get the point.
I submit that the use of mechanical instruments in worship is not authorized by the New Testament. I also submit that people using mechanical instruments in worship are engaging in a direct violation of the commands of Christ.
Recall Ephesians 5:19 which commands the believer to make music from your hearts to the Lord in speaking to one another through singing. Some argue that the Scripture doesn’t say not to use mechanical instruments.
But if a parent tells a child specifically what they want them to do (go study), then that rules out the child doing anything else. If the child goes outside to play instead, he violates the specific instructions given to him by his parent. The parent didn’t say not to go outside and play but in saying exactly what she wanted the child to do excluded all other possibilities.
The same is true with God. If He gives us a specific command, it rules out what He did not say to do. So God has told us specifically to sing and make melody in our hearts, which rules out making melody with anything else and doing anything that’s not singing.
The first century Christians of the New Testament did not use mechanical instruments in their worship to God. You won’t find it anywhere in the New Testament. (Note: you also won’t find miming, praise dancing, or anyone doing skits.) Mechanical instruments weren’t introduced into any worship until hundreds of years later by a Catholic pope Vitalia around 660 AD in the Catholic Church.
The reformers who protested the Catholic church and its practices by breaking off into different denominations didn’t believe that the use of instruments in worship was authorized by God. So the founders of many prominent denominations that use various kinds of mechanical instruments today did not use mechanical instruments in worship and were vehemently against it.
Notice what John Calvin¹ said:
“Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable that the burning of incense, the lighting 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.“
Martin Luther, who’s considered to be the Father of the Protestant Reformation Movement¹ had this to say:
“The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal; a sign of the devil…the Roman Catholics borrowed it from the Jews.”
John Wesley the founder of American Methodism¹ said:
“I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard.”
Mechanical instruments have no place in worship. Some argue that they have a gift from God to play an instrument. While that may be true, it’s not true that God authorized the use of mechanical instruments in worship. Those instruments can be played elsewhere.
It really comes down to whether we want to obey God or not. He’s commanded us to sing. We see that that’s what the church of the first century did, and we can be restored back to that state.
And the singing doesn’t have to be rigid, note-for-note singing. It’s pure, from-the-heart worship to God, as He’s commanded. And it’s some of the most beautiful sounds you will ever hear.
Besides, we don’t want to be like Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire to the Lord that was unauthorized (Lev. 10:1-2). Remember, God had told them exactly what he wanted in an offering, but they offered up something God did not tell them to and they were struck down and died immediately. Let’s not be like Nadab and Abihu.
Let’s be united in our pursuit of New Testament Christianity. If you are using mechanical instruments in worship, stop doing so. Let’s do what the early Christians did, so we can be like the early Christians were – pure and simple Christians, singing, making melody from our hearts, to the Lord.
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¹ Shank, Michael (2011). Muscle and a Shovel. p. 248-249