Lesson 3 - Why do you not use pianos and organs in church?

The topic of what is acceptable to God in the realm of music in the worship service is a hotly debated topic.  We should be truly concerned about what God wants from His children and not what we want.

New Testament teaching
In order to study a topic entirely it is necessary to look at EVERY verse that mentions the subject.  The New Testament verses below contain references to sing, song, singing, sung, harp or play (the words instrument, piano, guitar, solo, and choir do not appear in the New Testament).  Read each of these passages and ask the questions who was undertaking the activity listed and why.  This will give us a clear view of the meaning of these verses and how they apply to us today.

Matthew 26:30
Colossians 3:16
Mark 14:26
Hebrews 2:12
Romans 15:9
James 5:13
1 Corinthians 14:7
Revelation 5:9-10
1 Corinthians 14:15
Revelation 14:3
Ephesians 5:19
Revelation 15:3

Absence of teaching
God tells us in his word what we must do to be pleasing to him then He hushed Himself.  Through biblical study we find the complete plan of salvation and worship practices.  When we, however, attempt to reopen the mouth of God and add words or ideas to His teaching we are transgressing His law.

Where God has given instructions on a matter we are to follow ONLY his instruction, not add to or take way even if we feel the additions would further enhance our worship.  To do so will cause our worship to no longer be pleasing to God (2 John 1:9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. (NASB)).  Keep in mind, our worship to God is to Him and not for ourselves, even though we receive direct and indirect benefits from it.

In the matter of music in worship, God has given His will to us.  We should do as he commands because we love and respect him.  Like many things religious, we must put aside what we think is best and follow God's instructions.  Any music other than the vocal worship in the New Testament is not pleasing to God and therefore is in vain.  Question: Is instrumental music used to worship God a sin?  Answer that question with this one; any addition to God's instructions are sinful.

Food for thought
During the first century, as the church was being established, the apostles were available to provide guidance on the structure and manner of worship used.  This guidance was giving through the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.  A look into history reveals that the early church sang without instruments.
The word we use today for singing with instrumental accompaniment has its roots in the manner of first century worship:

A Cappella
-adverb, adjectiveMusic.
1.without instrumental accompaniment.
2.in the style of church or chapel music.

It wasn't until several hundred years after the apostles' deaths that instruments were introduced into worship (and it was an extremely divisive issue then).

What do "others" have to say?
Consider these quotes and the person/writing quoted:
John Calvin, Reformation Leader, Founder of Reformed & Presbyterian denominations: "Musical Instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. " Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 33, see also commentary on 1 Samuel 18:1-9

John Wesley, Founder of Methodist Denomination: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen." Cited by Methodist commentator Adam Clarke; Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 4, p.684

Catholic Encyclopedia: "Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets." Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 652

Martin Luther, Reformation Leader: "The organ in the worship service is a sign of Baal." Realencyklopadie Fur Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, Bd, 14, s.433 cited in Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship, James D. Bales, p. 130.

Charles Spurgeon, Baptist Author/Pastor: "We might as well pray by machinery as sing by it" and "Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes... we do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto Him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice." Charles Spurgeon, Commentary on Psalm 42

AUGUSTINE "musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship." (Augustine 354 A.D., describing the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius)

Why sing?
The act of singing is undertaken for several reasons.

1)    First, and foremost, we are directly commanded to sing.  Second, we sing to for one another's benefit.

Colossians 3:16 commands us to sing so we may teach and uplift one another.  When we sing as a group of Christians we emphasize our unity for and dedication to the cause of the church.

1 Corinthians 1:10 tells us to speak the same thing, be unified and perfectly joined together.  Never is this truer than when we sing together.  Our collective voices lifted to God serve as a strengthener to our fellow Christians.  To willfully choose not to participate in the song worship is to arrogantly disobey God's direct commandment, and purposely separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters ignoring their needs for encouragement and uplifting.

The verse in Colossians goes on to let us know exactly to whom we are singing, "with grace in your hearts to the Lord."  We sing to God because he has been so good to us.  We sing to God to praise him, to exalt him and to declare our love for him.  

2)    Singing shows humility.  Surveys have revealed that people fear singing in public more than death.  Singing exposes a person's inner feelings and abilities.  When a person refuses to sing, they display a lack of humility toward God and their fellow Christians.

Think About It
-Why do some Christians not sing?
-What can be done to encourage those who choose not to sign to do so?
-What if my parents, bible class teacher, etc does not sing?  Why should I?
-What if my friends don't sing?  I feel awkward being the only one singing in my area.
-I can carry a tune and my singing makes everyone else's worse.  Should I still sing?
-I'll sing when I am older (or I sang when I was younger) I'll let others do it now.
-The song leader can't carry a tune and I can't follow him so I won't sing.

Is it necessity
Just as prayer, study, gathering on Sunday, partaking of the Lord's Supper; singing is portion of our worship.  God is very specific on what is required of us to please him and singing most certainly falls within those requirements.  Hebrew 2:12 states that singing is part of our praise and a declaration of faith toward God.  1 Corinthians 14:15 shows us that we should sing with the spirit and with understanding, or knowledge, about what we sing (notice too that verse 1 Corinthians 14:7 says instruments have no "life").  This "understanding" is the affirmation of our faith in God.

Think About It
-At what point in my life is my singing to God necessary?
-I pray, study and try to be a good Christian everyday, but I can't bring myself to sing in "public." Am I wrong?
-What impression do visitors get about the seriousness of our song service?

When/where should we sing?
The public worship services are to be decent and orderly, 1 Corinthians 14:40.  The only way this can be accomplished is for everyone to follow the set order of the service, which includes singing.  By not singing, one is expressing disinterest in the worship's order.

We can also sing, even if we are alone, just because we are happy.  James 5:13 shows us that singing is a way to express joy.  Although this would not be covered under the definition of worship, it is certainly and way to thank and ponder on God.

Think About It
-I don't mind singing in worship, but I don't like to in devotional settings (or vise versa).
-When I learn a new song from the hymnal, I like to play it on my piano at home to get the tune.  Is this wrong?
-Instead of listening to popular rock bands or popular singers, I prefer to listen to "Christian" artists.  Is this Ok?
-What about Christians choirs from colleges.  They come into churches after the services are over (after the closing prayer) and sing to the members of the congregation.  If they can do it then, why not before the closing prayer?

Psalms 150
Well meaning people will often point to this passage as justification for using instruments in worship. However there are two reasons this verse cannot be used to justify using instruments. First, the verse is from the Old Testament and therefore has no authority over a Christian's manner or worship. Second, David wrote this Psalm and it seems as if the prophet Amos issued a "woe" to him for using instruments in Amos 6:5. There two points of reason elimiante this passage from consideration in how a New Testament Christian should worship in song.

Singing is a powerful tool we use to combat Satan, uplift one another and praise God.  Failure to sing is not only disobeying biblical teaching, but leaves the Christian void of some of the most wonderful experiences of being a child of God.  When we sing it should be from the heart and with the knowledge of God's love and plan for us.

"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
"And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."
"And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?"
"What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
"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."
"Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
"And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth."
"And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints."
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."
"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." "And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house." "Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul." "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." "And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants." "And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music." "And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." "And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?" And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
"Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."
Let all things be done decently and in order.
"That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;"
"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;" And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.