(“Weighed and found wanting.”)






a.      “God authorized “singing,” which therefore excludes any other type of music.”



That argument is not found in scripture.  It is open to question both as to substance and application.  For instance, what is meant by “author­ized”?  The word is not even found in the Bible.  It appears that we have been authorized to do that which does not violate God’s law. 


-1John 3:4.  “sin is the transgression of law

-Rom. 4:15. “where no law is, there is no transgression.”

-Rom. 5:13.  “sin is not imputed where there is no law


b.      What is the validity of “approved precedent”?


Must we do everything the apostles did? Are we prohibited from doing what they did not?  They met in an upper room (Acts 1:3), a school building (Acts 19:9), and most often in homes (Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:9; Col. 4:15; Ph’m 1:2).  Nothing is said of them meeting in church-owned buildings.  Nothing is said of baptisteries. We only have specific approved precedent for baptizing in rivers (Mark 1:5; Acts 16:13). 

We have the “precedent” of laying the contribution at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2) Where is the precedent for passing a collection basket?

Indeed, we have approved precedent for individuals singing, but not of congregational singing.


In 1Cor. 14:15, it says, “When you come together, each one of you has a psalm....”  In verse 15, it twice uses the Greek word, “psallō” to describe what Paul would do in the church service. Heb. 2:12 says, “in the midst of the congregation will I sing [humneō] thy praise.”  These are the only three scriptures that specif­ically indicate the nature of music in the congregation, and none of them speak of congregational singing.


Since congregational singing is nowhere specified (except before the cross and in the Book of Revelation), does this  “approved precedent” preclude congregational singing in church?  Indeed, using the parameters in 1Corinthians 14:23, 27, 28 in the manner of anti-instrumentalists, one could make a strong argument that they were no more authorized to sing together than to talk in tongues or prophecy at the same time.


To prove Congregational singing is authorized it is argued that Col. 3:16 says we are to teach and admonish each other in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  However, this does not say they sang together congregationally.  The singing could be individually as in 1Cor. 14:15 just as teaching, prophesying and speaking in tongues.  Indeed, the passages in Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 cannot be proven to refer to the assembly of the church.


How do we resolve inconsistency in application to other areas such as church buildings, Sunday schools, communion trays etc?


Does use of an instrument to aid in helping correctly maintain the melody and harmony violate “authority” any more than using a pitch-pipe to get the pitch of the first note?  




The command to “Sing” does not preclude instrumental accompaniment.  If someone is asked to “sing” for a wedding, no one is surprised if they are instrumentally accompanied, unless some additional specification requires it to be a-cappella.  In fact, it is unusual for singing not to be accompanied.  Only if they failed to sing would we con­sider that they defaulted on their responsibility. 


Because, “sing” is not exclusive, if I want no instrumental accompani­ment, I must either specify it as a-cappella, or limit it by some clear specification.


Anti-instrumentalists insist that the mere admonition to “sing” excludes accompaniment yet, in order for readers to understand what they are talking about, they expend considerable effort in their book titles, chapter headings and general discussion, specifying that they mean “a-cappella.”  This in itself indicates “sing” is not exclusive.


English grammarians concur that “sing” is not exclusive. (See Documents on Instrumental Music, by Tom Burgess).  “Sing” may even be used of instrumental sounds (“singing strings”).  “Sing,” tells us to do something but without further restrictions it does not tell us we may not accompany it with instruments.




1)      In the Old Testament scriptures “singing” was commonly with instruments.

-Ex. 15:20-21. Miriam the prophetess “sang” with instruments.

(Note: Many authorities regard “dances” as referring to a kind of instrument.)

-1Chron. 13:8. David, brought the ark from Kiriath-jearim singing, and with harps, psalteries, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets (2Sam. 6:5).

-1Chron. 15:16, 27, 28. The ark was brought to Jerusalem lifting up their voices with psalteries, harps, cymbals, and trumpets.

-1Chron. 16:5-42. When the tabernacle was set up at Jerusalem by David it was done with singing, harps, cymbals and trumpets.

-1Chron. 23:5. Four thousand chosen by David to praise Jehovah with instruments.

-1Chron. 25:1-7. David’s orders of priests were designated to use harps, psalteries, cymbals in prophesying.

-2Chron. 5:12-14. Dedication of the temple by Solomon they lifted up their voices with instruments.

-2Chron. 23:13. Under Jehoiada, the temple singers sang as they played on instruments.

-2Chron. 29:25-28; 30:21. Under the restoration of Hezekiah the singers sang as instruments were played.


2)      Instrumentation is shown in the ancient headings of the Psalms (53, 61, 67, 76, 81, 84)


3)      Instruments were commonly used with singing in the Psalms.

-Ps. 33:2, 3.  With harp and psaltery

-Ps. 57:7-9.  “Awake, psaltery and harp.”

-Ps. 68:25.   With timbrels

-Ps. 71:22.   With the psaltery and harp.

-Ps. 81:1-3.  Harp, psaltery and trumpet

-Ps. 92:1-3.  Instrument of ten strings, psaltery and harp. -Ps. 98:5, 6.  With harp, trumpets and cornet.

-Ps. 108:1-3. “Awake, psaltery and harp

-Ps. 137:2-4. It was expected that harps went with singing.

-Ps. 144:9.   Upon a psaltery.

-Ps. 147:7.   Sing praises upon the harp  

-Ps. 149:3.   Sing praises unto him with  timbrel and harp.

-Ps. 150:1-6. Praise with trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, dance, stringed instruments, pipe, loud cymbals and high sounding cymbals.


4)      Sing,” without mention of instruments, does not mean there were none. A number of times it only says, “sing” but further evidence shows instruments were used. 

-1Sam. 21:10, 11. They “sang” about David in their dances.  No instrument is mentioned.  However, in 1Sam. 18:6-7 it says the singing and dancing was with joyful songs and with tambourines and flutes. 

-1Chron. 6:31-48. Heman, the singer, is listed, with others such as Asaph, appointed over the service of song in the house of Jehovah, after the ark had rest. No instruments are mentioned here, but, in 1Chron. 13:8; 15:16, 17--16:43, when they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, they were using instruments.  Note especially 15:16-17 where Heman is again mentioned.  In verse 19 it says, “So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan were appointed, with cymbals of brass to sound aloud....”  It continues to cite others who partic­ipated with their instruments and in verse 22 calls this a “song.” 

Again, in 2Chron. 5:12-13, when the temple was built, these men not only sang but used musical instruments.  Obviously, “sing,” even when an instrument was not specified, was not understood as a-cappella.

-2Chron. 20:18-19, 21-22. Jehoshaphat appointed the Kohathites (Levites) to “sing.”  In 20:28 we find instruments were played. 

-2Chron. 23:18.  The Levites had been given assignments in the temple by David to present the burnt offerings with rejoicing and singing. No instruments are here mentioned.  However, in 1Chron. 29:25, 26 we are told that David had stationed the Levites in the temple with cymbals, harps, and lyres.


5)      Sing” did not mean a-cappella in the book of Revelation, --revealed by God to the apostle, John.

-Rev. 5:8-9.  The 24 elders each had a harp and “sang.”

-Rev. 15:2-3. The victorious had harps of God and “sang.”


The “sing only” position is no more scriptural than “faith only.”  The rationale is fundamentally the same. “God said we are saved by faith so that excludes anything else being involved in our salvation.”  In fact, in some ways the “faith only” people have a stronger case.  At least they can cite Romans 4:5-6 which says, “he that worketh not but believes, his faith is counted for right­eousness.”  Where does the Bible ever say, “he that plays not but sings...”?  Again, it says that faith is “apart from works.” Where does it say singing is, “apart from instrumental music”?







This is not a command, though it is linked with the command to “do all things unto edifying” (1Cor 14:26).  Does this mean, I will sing only mentally? Cannot one sing with the lips while using the mind?  Cannot one play with the fingers while singing with the mind?  Verse seven plainly indicates the possibility of instruments being used to convey a message.  Instruments do not prevent the message nor substitute for it. 




This passage provides an excellent test of the anti-instrumental hermeneutic. 


13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:


      Here we have three situations with commands (?) as to how to comply with them.


Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. [ONLY?]


Is any merry? let him sing psalms. [ONLY?]


Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: [ONLY?]


Dare we add "only" to any or all of these?  Is that any more authorized than adding "only" to faith?  It is risky to add "only" where the scriptures did not add it.  Is that not speaking where the Bible is silent?


Is praying when I am afflicted the only thing I am permitted to do? 


If I am sick, may I call a doctor? What is wrong with calling both the elders and a doctor?  If I call the elders AND the doctor, have I not done what God commanded?


Likewise, if I sing AND make melody with a musical instrument, have I not done what was commanded?  How would the command to "sing" exclude playing an instrument any more than the command to call the elders exclude calling a doctor? 


Now let us examine this passage more closely.  Note that the context is not speaking of the worship service of the church.  Neither suffering nor cheerfulness is confined to church worship.  Certainly we are not afflicted only in church.  Nor are we only sick in church.  If we were we would not need to "call" for the elders. 


Thus, if we maintain that the command to “sing” excludes accompaniment in the worship service, we are compelled by the same logic to exclude it when outside of church. 


Now, let us note that Eph 5:19 and Col. 3:16 likewise are not directed to the liturgy of the church assembly.  Keep in mind that along with James 5:13, these three scriptures are the only "commands" to "sing" in the New Testament!  Get that, The New Testament never commands us to sing in the church!  It is authorized by example, not by command.  However, authorizing us to do something does not make it a command.




Ephesians is not prescribing the liturgical elements of public wor­ship.


-Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15.  It speaks of the Christian “walk” -- (only in church?).


5:15  15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise;


-Eph. 5:1-14. Living lives separate from certain sins -- (in church?)


-Eph. 5:16, 17. Warns to “redeem the time” --(in church?)


-Eph. 5:17-20. Do not to be filled with wine but to be filled with the Spirit, --(only in church?) expressing it with six participles:


Speaking [only?]to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,

Singing and making melody [only?] with your heart

Speaking  [only?] one to another to the Lord;

Giving thanks [only?] always for all things

      in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

      to God, even the Father;

subjecting yourselves [only?]one to another in the fear of Christ.


-Eph. 5:22, 25; 6:1, 4, 5, 9 specifies behavior for wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants and masters. Conduct in the assembly is not the focus.


The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. “Psalms In Christian Liturgy” p.2494A


“Their contexts do not teach that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 relate to public worship, but to daily life... Not liturgically enjoined”


Anti-instrumentalists ignore the obvious context and focus on an imposed inference.  The contrast in Eph. 5:19 is not between instrumentally accompanied music and a-cappella, but between being filled with wine and filled with the SpiritThe passage rather suggests exclusion of drunken music than instrumental music.  Strange how a hallowed tradi­tion can distort vision to see so much in what is not specified and so little of that which is. 


If Eph. 5:19 is to be used to preclude instrumental music it must be excluded from all use everywhere, not just in worship services


Playing an instrument at home would be as much prohibited as at church.  Record­ed or radio music is purely instrumental and must also be excluded.  Likewise, humming, whistling, tapping the foot, snapping fingers and clapping hands must be excluded.  This raises problems for the popular group, “A cappella,” which presents an inter­esting musical presentation using vocal and other sounds imitating musical instru­ments.


It is perplexing how anti-instrumentalists can “practice” singing religious songs with an instrument without seeing the obvious inconsistency.  By this reasoning, singing or listening to instrumental accompaniment of religious music requires that they must be careful not mean the words they say.  When practicing they must not do it “with the mind, and with the understanding” (1Cor. 14:15) or “with the heart to God” (Eph. 5:19).


How, while playing instruments, either as practice or for pleasure, do we obey the admonition of Col. 3:17, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus...”?  Since everything must be done in the name of the Lord, and according to them, instrumental music cannot, it follows that ALL use of instrumental music must be regarded as sinful. 


I must confess that there have been times when practicing songs on my accordion, that I have been so touched by the thoughts expressed that I could not even sing.  If you know and care about the message of the song it is nearly impossible to sing or play such songs as, “How Great Thou Art,” “Does Jesus Care?” or, “If I have wound­ed some soul today, forgive,” without being deeply moved.  To do so re­quires emotions colder than a butcher’s heart in mid-winter at the South Pole.     


With your heart,” does not exclude instrumental accompaniment.  It simply means to do it with true heart-felt meaning.  It involves the purpose or motivation.  Unless something in the sentence or setting indicates an exclusively internal act, the exter­nal function of singing or plucking is in no way precluded.


Is James 5:13 saying that when we are happy we must only make melody in our hearts?  Psallo is used there without the phrase "with your hearts" and without "ado" ("sing"). 


If we tell an audience to “sing with your heart,” unless we say, “only” or give some other clear indication of exclusively figurative intent, we would not expect them to suddenly fall into a period of silent meditation.  “Psallō with your heart,” does not mean the melody is exclusively a symbolic plucking of figurative strings.  In fact, all service to God should be done with the heart.


1Cor. 14:15  “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the Spirit, I will sing with the understanding also.”


The fact that, “With your heart” cannot be shown to exclusively modify “psallō,” makes it impossible to prove that the melody is restricted to the heart.  It does not say, “sing ONLY, and ONLY with your heart make melody....” It says, “Singing and making melody with your heart.”


Anti-instrumentalists generally must concede that in Eph 5:19, “making melody” is not identical to “singing.”  It is obviously not saying, “singing and singing.”  Therefore, they contend that this is saying the heart is the exclusive instrument commanded to produce the melody.  This requires them to contend that “with your heart” refers exclusively to “making melody,” rather than to both singing and making melody  However Col. 3:16 also says that the singing is “in your heart.” Consistency therefore requires that the singing also to be exclusively in the heart. 


There is absolutely no grammatical rule that requires “with your heart” to refer exclusively to “making melody.”  “And,” is a coordinate conjunction. Unless the context indi­cates otherwise, the two dependent clauses equally modify both of the linked words.  Both “singing” and “making melody” are "in" or "with" the heart.


Compare Eph. 5:19 with Mark 16:16. Consider the parallel use of the conjunction.  Salvation refers to both belief and baptism.


Forcing it read, “singing, and with your heart make melody,” is no better than the Baptist version of Mark 16:16, “He that believes and is saved should be baptized,” or, Acts 2:38, “Repent for the remis­sion of sins and be baptized.”  Both singing and making melody are to be with the heart just as salvation is conditioned upon both belief and baptism.  We have always recognized the fallacy of using such “double think” concepts on baptism. Why not here? 


Such an arbitrary construction of this passage is, to say the least, a questionable basis to divide God’s people. It is impos­sible to prove by this text that the “melody” is exclusively plucking the strings of the heart.  The burden of proof requires clear evidence which the passage fails to provide. 


A Comparison of Eph. 5:19 with Col. 3:16 conclusively shows both adō (sing) and psallō (make melody) are  “with the heart.” 


Psallō” cannot be exclusively “in the heart” any more than can “adō.”  Below, in English lettering, is the comparison.  Note that in Col. 3:16, “and making melody” is omitted, requiring “in the hearts” to refer to “adō” (“singing”).  Thus, the same thing is said of “singing” as is said of “psallō” (“making melody”)  in Eph. 5:19.  Both are “in” or “with” the heart. If “with,” or “in the heart” excludes the literal plucking from “melody,” then it must also exclude literal singing. 


Ephesians and Colossians compared:

Eph. 5:19
















of you



Col. 3:16
















of you



*Included in some manuscripts


1Co. 14:15 Use of the dative is grammatically similar to Eph. 5:19.

1Co. 14:15








I will sing

with the


I will sing



with the



Does, “I will sing with the spirit, I will also sing with the mind” mean, “I will sing ONLY with the spirit, I will sing ONLY with the mind”?  Does “with the mind” or “with the Spirit” exclude vocal melody?  If not, then how can “with the heart” exclude a melody plucked with the fingers? 


Note that in Col. 3:16 it says, “in the hearts of you.”   The “in” (Greek: “en”) is the usual way to indicate the thing used (Septuagint: 1Sam. 16:16-18, 23; Ps. 71:22-23; 92:2; 98:4, 5 etc.). When “en” is omitted, the usage is broader.  In Eph. 5:19, “en” is in brackets, showing that manuscript evidence indicates it is questionable.


These facts are so conclusive that Neil Lightfoot in the 1988 A.C.V. Lectures finds it necessary to say that the singing is in the heart.  However, if “adō” can be “in the heart” without excluding melody made by the voice, then “psallō” can be “in the heart” without precluding the melody made with the fingers.


      But some may object that the dative case is not proper to express the idea of singing with the heart (“heartily” – See Moffatt translation).  It seems that the inspired writers were not so picayune about the choice of case.  Consider the following comparison:


Mk. 12:30       ex holēs tēs kardias (genitive) sou

                        “out of all the heart of you”


Mt. 22:37        en holē kardia (dative) sou

                “in/with all the heart of you”


The fact is that even with “en” modifying the heart, it does not exclude the accompanying plucking of an instrument. 


Septuagint translations into Greek

1Sam. 12:20.















(your) heart


Ps. 119:34.










I will keep

it (the law)





of me


Even in the New Testament, “en” does not indicate an exclusion of the associated action.


Eph. 5:26.









by the


of the






Does, “with [“en”] [the] word” exclude water?  Some main­tain this. If not, how does, “in” or “with” (“en”) the heart, exclude the melody produced by the fingers?  Adding “only” to “sing” is just as unjustified as adding “only” to faith.


Even the word, “adō,” translated “singing” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) does not mean “a-cappella.”  In Rev. 5:8-9. 14:2-3; 15:2-3 it is accompanied with harps.



“If psallō means to pluck strings then is not everyone required to play stringed instruments?  How can one person obey the command to “play” for every­one?



In the first place, according to 1Cor. 14:26 when they came together, each one had something to individually share.  If different ones had a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation, it is clear that each could edify the whole church though not all had the same gift (1Cor 12:30).


Secondly, this is no valid objection against the truth that the word, “psalō” indicated making music in general.  When the Psalms were performed in the Old Testament some played and some sang. The result was “one sound” (2Chron. 5:12, 13).  The New Testament provides three differ­ent words to express our music, “psalmos” (songs with accompaniment), “hymnos” (songs of praise to God) and “ōdē” (songs in general, with or without accompaniment).  By this we have been given great latitude in the choice of music.  We can do one or all three.




“I now believe the use of the word psallo provides an explicit condemnation of instrumental music. This is because the word does not just mean "sing." It means "sing without instrumental music." So the N.T. commands Christians to "sing without instrumental music."[1]


This is a radical departure from the overwhelming mass of scholarship.  It contradicts usage in the Septuagint (1Sam. 16:16; Amos 5:23; Ps. 149:3 etc.). It conflicts with the writers in New Testament times and beyond (Josephus, Plutarch, Lucian etc). It conflicts with the Ecclesiastical definitions (Clement, Hippolytus, Basil, Gregory.  It even makes Ephesians 5:19 nonsense.  Imagine Paul, in Eph. 5:19, commanding them, “...singing and singing a-cappella with your heart”!


For a full discussion of the evidence against this, see “PART II, THE CASE IN FAVOR OF INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC”






1.      “We must have scriptural authorization for everything we do.” 

(“Where there is no law, there IS sin.”)



1 John 3:4   “…sin is the transgression of the law.” (cf. Jn 9:41; James 4:17)

Romans 4:15 “…Where there is no law, there is no sin.”

Romans 5:13  “…sin is not imputed when there is no law.”


The scriptures authorize freedom where there is no law. There is no law requiring explicit authorization for everything we do or say.  Those who are against individual communion cups, separate classes, and church-owned buildings, use the same arguments as those against instrumental music. 


2.      “We must speak only where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.”



This slogan is not in the Bible.  While it can be used in a good way, it has been seriously abused and used misleadingly.  If we mean we command what God has commanded and do not command what He has not, that can be scripturally supported.  But if we mean that we must do nothing except what is taught in the New Testament, that is not. 


We are not required to find a command for songbooks, tuning forks, communion trays, church-owned buildings, baptisteries, collection trays, congregational singing, a piano and many other things.  Everything we do must edify but they do not have to be commanded.


3.      “Instrumental music is an addition to worship.”



      Actually, instrumental music is an aid to worship.  The cup used to serve communion is not worship.  The collection basket is not worship.  The song book is not worship.  These are not worship but aids to worship.


Psalm 95:6   6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.


Notice that “worship” is distinguished from bowing and kneeling. Likewise in Jer. 13:10 “worship” is distinguished from serving.


Acts 17:24-25  24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;  25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;


4.      “Instrumental music does not aid. One can sing without an instrument.”



One can also sing without a song leader and be baptized without a baptistery. That does not make them sinful. Must we not have church-owned buildings, song books, pulpits, collection plates or com­munion trays because one can do what God commands without them?  They can also be helpful. They can aid people to do what God wants done.  It certainly aids me.


If it does not “aid” then why do many use it outside the church service to learn new songs or perfect old ones?  Why is vocal training almost always done with some instrument? It can aid singing in many ways.  It is especially versatile in helping to maintain accuracy.  It is difficult to view any fair-minded person as disputing this.


Last evening we had a new song leader.  He was very grateful for the instrumental help on timing, pitch, melody and harmony.  Those who are skilled may need instrumental accompaniment less, but for unskilled singers and song leaders, especially in learning new songs, it can be most helpful. 


Pitch pipes and tuning forks are proof that it can aid. Indeed, the basic standards of pitch and notation are indebted to instruments.  Modern complex music was primarily produced with the aid of instruments, either directly or indirectly. We may compose a song without using an instrument but our knowledge and skill is very much indebted to its use, especially in its more complex forms.  Without its support, at least outside the church services, we would soon begin the slide towards Calvin’s “Plain Song,” and back to primitive chanting.  All of us, whether directly or indirectly, largely owe our knowledge of music to instruments.


5.      “It will open the flood-gates to liberalism, apostasy and endless inno­vations.”



The “slippery slope” argument is probably the foremost underlying concern.  It is based upon fear, and certainly can be valid under some circumstances.  However, multitudes of problems have also resulted from its misuse.  Instrumental music is no more a turning point to liberalism than many unscriptural tests that have been arbitrarily established by anti-instrumentalists.  The Amish make a strong case that using modern clothing and vehicles is a step on the road to liberalism, and they still have problems.


If not authorized by God, the restriction itself may be an innovation.  True Bible-believing Chris­tians may object to these impositions just as did Jesus to the tests of orthodoxy imposed by the Pharisees.  The mere fact that liberals object does not make the prohi­bition authorized. Establishing unscriptural tests of orthodoxy is not the solution. 


There is also the danger of opening the floodgates to division over non-scriptural precepts.  How many divisions are there among anti-instrumentalists?  God specifically condemns division of the body of Christ.


Nor is it any panacea against liberalism.  Anti-instrumental churches also have apostates and liberals. 


Extremes beget extremes.  Extremism itself results in reactions that push people into liberalism. On the other hand, many instrumental churches are very fundamental in teaching.


No matter what we imagine may be the consequences, that cannot be justification for imposing an unauthorized command.  God knows better than we what is best overall.  Our tinkering with His ways may seem best but in the end cause serious damage.  He chose not to prohibit instrumental music.  What He has not prohibited, we should not prohibit.


6.      Attacks against the expediency of instrumental music


(Only their preference is “expedient”!)



This squabble has been about as inexpedient as anything could be.  It resulted in great loss to a movement that had potential of turning this nation to New Testament Christianity.


Poor singing was itself so inexpedient that instrumental music was introduced.


The same arguments against instrumental music are used by those who oppose Sunday-schools, church buildings etc.


7.      Calling for indulgence as the “weaker brother(Rom. 14:21, 13--15:3)

(“You weak brothers must avoid offending us strong brothers!”)



This is not a matter of the strong versus the weak.  This is a long-standing family squabble between strong-headed brothers. 


The argument is merely exploitative. It seeks to take advantage when the evidence is otherwise unconvincing.  The weakest thing here is their case. Are they willing to give up communion trays, Sunday schools and church buildings for the “weaker brothers” in their own house? 


We certainly should take care that a brother is not caused to stumble, but is it legitimate to use this to impose unscriptural requirements and control others?  Paul taught respect for the weak (Rom 14:12; 1Cor 8:11) and even circumcised Timothy to avoid offense to the Jews (Acts 16:3) but did not allow those in the church who insisted on circumcision to impose it upon others, “No, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:5).  To do so is to impose upon the weak an unscriptural teaching that offends their conscience and robs them of their freedom. 


I have never heard of anyone turned away from becoming a Christian because we sing with an instrument.  However, I have known those who were turned off to “Churches of Christ” because teaching instrumental music was a sin, was so ridiculous.  Which position is the most likely to offend the weak?  That is the very reason why so many anti-instrumental churches have tuned down the subject.


On the contrary, Rom. 14:1--15:7, teaches the very things that anti-instrumentalists have so often ignored.  It says not to receive him that is weak to doubtful disputations (debates?).  Whether a day is kept is up to the individual (Christmas?).  He is not to be judged.  He is still the Lord’s.  He is to be received as Christ receives us.


8.      Claiming privilege as an “offended brother” (Rom. 14:21).



It is amazing how offensive some brothers can be while imposing their demands under threat of becoming offended!  This scripture was never intended for such a use.  Those who depend on God to receive them must receive their brother on the same basis (Rom. 15:7).  Are they willing to give up their cups, classes, church buildings etc. to avoid “offending” their brothers?


The Jews also were offended when Jesus refused to bind their tradi­tions upon his disciples (Mat. 15:12). 


Why must I be offended by being required to subject the whole body of Christ to this false teaching.


9.      Copping a one-sided “unity” plea.  (John 17:21)

(Unconditionally surrender instrumental accompaniment to show you believe in unity.)



This is too much like the fellow who demands the girl “prove your love” before marriage.  But who has the baby?  We do not insist on them using an instrument for us to have fellowship.  Why is it any less fair for them to give up a position that offends our conscience?


Should Paul have circumcised Titus in order to have unity with the Judaizers?  He refused “even for an hour,” to permit an unscriptural requirement to be bound upon the brethren (Gal. 2:3-6)


Are they willing to give up communion trays, Sunday schools and church buildings in order to have “unity”?  Why do they not live by their own rules? 


If I am to give up my practice of freedom to sing with instrumental accompaniment in order to have unity, why should they not give up their practice insisting that no one else sing with it?  When we meet we do not ask them to play.  In fact, most of us do not play.  If they sang with us the only thing they would be doing is the same thing they do in their own churches--sing.  God told them to, “sing” but if someone is playing, they refuse to do so.  Even if someone else is doing someth­ing “unauthorized,” how does that relieve them from doing what God commanded them?


They try to get around this by claiming that singing with an in­strument “endorses” our unscriptural practice.  However, that is a two-edged sword.  If their participation with us condones our prac­tice of using an organ, then does not our participation with them condone their practice of imposing their unauthorized command prohib­iting it?


Was Paul endorsing all of the falsehoods of the Jews when he worshipped in the temple where instrumental music was used? (Ac. 21:20-26) Anti-instrumentalists make much of “approved precedent” and the need to follow apostolic example.  Why do they not follow this example of Paul and James?


10.  Exploiting the need to be “safe.” 

(Confusing “safety first” with “ME first”)



Is it “safe” to bind an unscriptural commandment upon God’s chil­dren? (Mark 7:7)  Is it “safe” to misuse scripture? (2Pe. 3:16)  Is it “safe” to divide the body of Christ over something God did not forbid? (1Cor. 16, 17)  Is it any more “safe” to add, “only” to Eph. 5:19 (“singing only”), than to add “only” to Eph 2:1 (“faith only”)?


Putting safety above the welfare of expanding the kingdom was decidedly unsafe for the man who buried his talent. (Matt. 25:25)  Is it “safe” to impose an unscriptural prohibition that discourages the weak? Are they willing to give up communion trays, Sunday schools and church buildings, as demanded by some, in order to be “safe”?


11.  “If you can play while singing, why not put chicken, sweet potatoes and roast beef on the Lord’s table?”



Because God specified the loaf and cup, and, with regard to every­thing else, said, “eat at home” (1Cor. 11:34).  Where can anti-instrumentalists find a passage that says, “play your instruments at home”?


OBJECTION: “Why not just a little peanut butter on the loaf to improve the flavor?” 


Is a little peanut butter the problem?  This sounds more like just a way to appeal to prejudice when nothing else supports the case.  If playing while singing is the same as peanut butter on the loaf, then is not playing the first note on a pitch pipe before singing, the same as eating a spoon-full of peanut butter before eating the loaf?


Frankly, if someone put peanut butter in his mouth in order to help him eat the Lord’s supper, I would not kick him out of the church, and I certainly would not refuse to eat the Lord’s supper with him. That is between him and his lord.  Nor would I fault him for taking an antihistamine to avoid an allergic reaction to wheat flour.  Why should I refuse to eat with him because of what he ate?  Where is my problem? 


When non-instrumentalists visit our churches we do not expect them to play.  They do the same thing with us as they do in their own -- “sing” -- nothing more.


It troubles me when people go to such nit-pickin’ ends to excuse the horrid state of division that has resulted.  Brethren need to get more concerned about beams and camels than gnats and motes. (Mat. 23:24) Instru­mental music is not scripturally prohibited but division over non-essentials is! (1Cor 3:3)


12.  “Instrumental music is unsuitable for Christian worship.” 

Alexander Campbell said instrumental music was like, “a cowbell in a concert”



Campbell wrote only one short article on the subject giving his opinion with no substantive scriptural arguments nor any suggestion that it should be made a test of fellowship. 

What brother Campbell felt was esthetically appealing is scripturally irrele­vant.  Most concerts are with musical instruments.  Cowbells have been used in concerts. Even Mr. Campbell’s choice of a “concert” as contrasted to a cowbell indicates that instrumental music can be beautiful. 

However, anti-instrumentalists are not content to just exclude cowbells.  In any case, whether or not Mr. Campbell would include instruments in his concert, God included them in His (2Chron. 29:25; Rev. 5:8-9; 15:2-3).


13.  “It appeals to animal instincts”


This has been probably the oldest and most common objection to instrumental music.  It was a major accusation by the Patristic writers, the reformers, such as Calvin,  and Alexander Campbell. 

The problem is that no such connection is made in Scripture.  It was used by God’s prophets, in the temple worship, and was even pictured in worship around God’s throne in heaven. 

Furthermore, singing likewise appeals to something deep within the nature of man.  Is that evil? Many of the same objectors against harmonies of parts-singing cited this argument.  Anti-instruments make a distinction that singing appeals to the spiritual man but instrumental music appeals to the carnal.  But where is their scriptural authority for this claim? 


14.  “It appeals to carnal pride”



Have you ever seen any carnal pride in song leaders, teachers and preachers?  God did not eliminate these works because they would be abused by some people.  Amish do not drive cars for the same kind of reasons.  If the argument is so good, why do anti-instrumentalists drive classy cars?


15.  “Vocal music is the most beautiful.”



God seemed to think instrumental music is also beautiful.  He ordained it in worship throughout the Old Testament and said, “it is good” (Ps. 92:1-3) and “comely” (Ps 33:1-3). In the Book of Revelation He likened heavenly praise to “harpers harping with their harps” (Rev. 14:2).  The fact is that both instrumental and vocal music can be beautiful.  Which one is “most” beautiful depends to a great extent upon the preferences of the listener, the instrument used, and the ability of the musician. God has left room for our varied tastes. Some music may be more beau­tiful to our ear, but that does not make the less “beautiful” music sinful.


16.  “Instrumental music drowns out the singers.” 



It can.  So can some bellowing off-key vocalist.  Indeed, sometimes song leaders can be very detracting to the worship service.  However, instrumental music can also inspire people to sing and help many to more accurately follow the melody and harmony, especially in learning new songs.  This objection has to do judgment of expediency and applies only to some situations.  The fact is that they will not even sing with an instrument when it is not overpowering the singers.


17.  “A woman playing an organ or piano is leading men” (1Tim. 2:11, 12)



A strong woman singer can do the same.  Indeed do not, women usually sing the “lead part”?  Do not women tend to dominate the singing by virtue of numbers?  Perhaps women should not sing at all! Again, the argument is spurious because even when a man plays, anti-instrumentalists still will not sing. 


18.  “It is sometimes out of tune and discordant.”



So is a lot of singing, usually more often than when using instruments.  That is one reason why it was introduced. In fact, arguing over the instrument is even more “discordant,” whether or not one sings.  The objection is false and inconsistent.  They will not accept it even when it is in tune.


19.  “It causes confusion.” (1Cor. 14:33)



On the other hand, I have seen it stop a lot of confusion in the song service.  What about the problem of incompetent song leading and untrained singers?  That was one of the problems that caused people to want instrumental accompaniment in the first place.


Hardly anything has caused more “confusion” than battles over instrumental music. (James 3:16)




Genesis 4:1-5

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.



God rejected Cain’s substitution of a vegetable sacrifice.



This has nothing to do with instrumental music.  Was it meat, or “faith” that God said made Abel’s offering acceptable? 


Heb. 11:4. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”


Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).  Concerning prayer, James 1:5-7 says that lack of faith will keep us from receiv­ing.   His offering, like the Lord’s supper (1Cor. 11:29), may have lacked the required discernment.  Without faith, baptism is invalid (Mark. 16:16; 1Pe. 3:21; Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:17).  The same is true of giving (2Cor. 9:7).  All service to God, is void unless done in faith.


Genesis does not say there was any command to bring an animal sacri­fice, and God’s warning to Cain fails to make any such specifi­cation.  How do we know the issue was that God commanded an animal and Cain failed to respect silence?  In fact, under the law we find vegetable offerings accepted.  (Ex. 29:23-25, 40-42; Lev. 2:1-16; Num. 15:4, 9 etc.)


It does not say that God commanded an animal sacrifice, but even if He had, the problem would have been that Cain failed to do what he was told.  That is substitution, not accompaniment.


We do what God said.  He said, “sing” and we sing.  To be parallel, Cain would have had to get into trouble for offering vegetables along with an animal. 


If it is assumed that “faith” means that Cain had been commanded to sacrifice animals, may we not equally assume that vegetables had been specifically prohibited?  This whole argument is speculation.  We do not know that God was displeased because he did not offer an animal, and we do not know that vegetables had not been prohibited. And, finally, the argument assumes that instrumental music is a substitution for what God commanded.


Genesis 6:14

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.



Specification of “gopher wood” for the ark excludes all other kinds of wood.



Here again, the issue is not whether Noah could have used something as an aid in doing what God commanded.  Had he used another kind of wood for the ark he would have failed to do what he was told.  That would have been substitution, not an aid.


We do not substitute.  We were told to sing and we sing.  We aid our singing with instruments.


Noah was free to build as many boats as he pleased out of anything he pleased so long as he built one of gopher wood.


He was not restricted from using tools made of other things to help do the job.  He could have used an oak axe handle.  He could have used a fir ladder. He could have used scaffolding of some other wood to help in the construction. 


He may have used some brass spikes.  Ropes may have been used to bind the inner structure together as was an ancient shipbuilding technique.  Various fibers may have been used with the pitch for caulking.  He may have furnished the galley with a cedar table or made beds out of fir.  He may have used some birch corrals to “aid” containing the animals. 


Would it have been sinful to have played some religious music to encourage the workers?


Gopher” itself seems to have been a generic term, meaning “pitch wood.”  If “make melody” (“psallō” -Eph. 5:19) indicates music in general, then the “pitch” of a psaltery is as acceptable as the “pitch” of the pitch-pipe or voice.


In fact, the specifications given are pretty general. If I contracted with someone to build me a pine boat, unless otherwise specified, they would be free to use whatever kinds of pine they deemed best for the various parts.  Indeed, unless there were some specific restrictions, a boat-builder would think I was crazy if I became upset because he used nails or screws to hold it together.  A fiberglass or aluminum boat does not necessarily exclusively contain fiberglass or aluminum.  The fact is that the passage provides far too little information to support the extent of assumptions made, much less to actually justify prohibiting instrumental music.  “Sing” is a translation and even in English it does not exclude instruments. 


Leviticus 10:1-2

1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.



Nadab & Abihu died for offering what was “not commanded.”



This argument is based on conjecture as to what they did not know and is far removed from the idea that silence prohibits instrumental music.


It was not until later that the fire was specified to be taken from the altar (Lev. 16:11-13). 


Was the error, their use of fire from a different place (the altar), or was it that they made fire from a different substance (strange incense)? (Ex 30:9)


They had already been prohibited from burning any other incense (Ex. 30:9, cf. 30:34-38).  Strange incense produces strange fire.  Instead of finding evidence from the New Testament, anti-instrumentalists, are using strange arguments!


Even the statement that they “did that which was not commanded,” does not prove that they were required to follow an unspecified principle to not to use fire from any other place unless commanded.  How would they have known where to get the fire if they were not told?  They may have been specifically told not to get it from any other place.


Again, had they been told to get the fire from a particular place, if they did not, they would have failed to do what was commanded. That is substitution.  When we sing with instruments we do not fail to do what was commanded.  It says to “sing” and we do.


As for the tabernacle, they had plain statements that nothing be added or taken from the pattern (Deut. 4:2; 12:32).  Where in the New Testament is a detailed liturgy with a similar restriction? 


Anti-instrumentalists object to any use of the Old Testament to support instrumental music.  Interesting how they go to the Old Testament to find their principle for condemnation by silence?  If they can go to the Old Testament for this, why may we not go to the Psalms for understanding of scriptural use of instrumental music?  If the New Testament teaching is so plain then why must they get their rule from the Old? This seems to be a concession of the weakness of their case. 


Numbers 20:2-13


Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land be­cause he struck the rock instead of speaking to it.



Here again we have a simple case of failure to do what God said. Moses was commanded to speak to the rock.  He substituted striking the rock and speaking to the people.  But per­haps the real error was what he said.  “Hear now, ye rebels; shall WE bring you forth water out of this rock?”  God said to Moses and Aaron that the problem was, “Because ye believed not in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel....” He did not say it was because they added to the command to “speak.” We believe in God and we sanctify him before others.  Again, as the scriptures admonish, we sing.


1Chron. 13:7, 10; 15:13-15


Uzza died for touching the ark without authorization.



They did not obey the law requiring the ark to be carried on poles (Ex. 25:14; 1Chron. 15:2, 13; Num 4:15).  That was substitution and death was warned as the consequence. 


We are not substituting for what God said to do.  He said “sing” and we sing with the aid of instruments.  There is no command against aiding with instrumental music


1 Samuel 13:12-13

12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.



Saul offered unauthorized sacrifice.



It plainly says that Saul had “not kept the commandment of the Lord.”  In 10:8 he was told to wait seven days until Samuel came to tell him what to do.  Saul did not wait but offered a sacrifice which was clearly restricted to the time of Samuel’s coming. 


This is a far cry from any restriction on Instrumental music.


We find others offering sacrifices on occasion.  David offered a sacrifice (2Sam. 6:17-18) which does not appear to have been commanded. 


Hebrews 7:12-14

12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.



“Here is manifested the principle of silence of the scriptures concerning others than a descendent of Levi entering the priesthood.”



This was not silence.  This was said in view of the fact that anyone other than descendents of Aaron were prohibited from serving at the altar (Num. 3:10; 18:1-7).  Thus, unless the law was changed, no one from another tribe could serve.  Under the Law, Jesus could not because He was of the tribe of Judah.


Where is the law that prohibits instrumental music or states that singing must be a-cappella?


Luke 20:2-4

2 And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?3 And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?



Authority to do anything must come from heaven.



What authority from heaven is against instruments?


Note that the chief priests, scribes and elders, not Jesus, were pushing the idea of requiring authority to do miracles (20:2, 7, 8).  Jesus turned the tables and challenged their authority. 


We call for anti-instrumentalists to produce their authority to prohibit instrumental accompaniment.  


When John got all shook up about a man casting out devils without authority, the Lord said not to forbid him (Luke 9:49, 50).  No such command had been given.


Colossians 3:17

17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.



Everything done must be, “in the name” (meaning it must be authorized)


ANSWER: In what “name” is a pitch pipe, song leader or communion tray authorized?


In my name,” does not mean, “commanded by scripture.”  Jesus said that many impostors would come “in my name” (Lk. 21:8).  It simply means representing or professing his name.  Everything we do in word or deed is to be done in his name (Col. 3:17), but everything we are to do in word or deed is not specified in the New Testament.


Gal 1:6-9 


All other doctrines are to be rejected.



--Including unscriptural doctrines against instruments?  This passage has no relation to musical instruments.  We teach no doctrine requiring instrumental accompaniment.


Deuteronomy 12:32

32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.



Nothing is to be added or diminished.



Deut 12:22 deals with the directions for the tabernacle.  Where does the New Testament specify a church service liturgy, including a-cappella music, and command that we must not add or diminish from it?  It is interesting how those who reject instruments because they are in the Old Testament have no problem going to the Old Testament to try to find some authority for their case! 


Revelations 22:18



Nothing is to be added or diminished



Rev 22:18 is speaking of adding to or taking away from the revealed word.  Here they go to Revelation for their proof-text while excluding use of instrumental music taught in the same book. 


May we “add” a church building, baptistery, communion cups, classes, song lead­er, etc.?


1 Corinthians 4:6

Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. -ASV



We must not go “beyond what is written.”



Is what is written here speaking of instrumental music, or of divisions caused by disputes over which leader to follow? (1Cor. 1:10-12; 3:1-4, 21-23; 4:6)


Where is it “written” that we are to use communion cups, uninspired song books, song leaders, church owned buildings, baptisteries, tuning forks etc?  Where is it “written” that we should not sing with instrumental accompaniment?  Where is it “written” that our singing must be a-cappella?  They need to stick to what Paul was writing about rather than going beyond that to command exclusively a-cappella music.


2 John 9

9 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.



Anyone going beyond the doctrine has not God and is to be reject­ed.



What “doctrine”? –-“that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (verse 7).


Christ never spoke against instruments, even when he mentioned them (Mat 11:17).  Nor did Paul (1Cor. 14:7).  Prohibiting them goes beyond what Christ taught.


Where are we told that church buildings, baptisteries, communion cups, Sunday school classes etc. are a part of the “doctrine of Christ?”


John 8:31

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;



We must abide in the word.  Instrumental music is not in the word.



Where are church buildings, baptisteries, song leaders, pitch pipes and bap­tisteries found in the word?  That which proves too much proves nothing.


Matthew 28:18-20

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.



Instrumental music was not a part of what Jesus commanded.  Therefore instrumental music should not be practiced.



Where are church buildings, song leaders, pitch pipes and bap­tisteries found in what Jesus commanded?  In fact, Jesus participated in the temple worship where instruments of music were used.  We teach all that Jesus commanded but Jesus did not command us to “sing a-cappella.” However, Jesus did speak against binding traditions which had not been commanded (Mat. 15:2-6).  We are against binding the anti-instrumental tradition of men.


1 Timothy 1:3

3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,



We must teach no other doctrine than what we find in the New Testament.



Timothy was to warn against people teaching another doctrine than that of “Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” (verse 2)


I don’t teach any doctrine that requires instrumental music.  Where in the New Testament did God teach the doctrine that we should not use instrumental music?


John 14:26

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.



The Spirit was to guide the apostles into all truth.  The church was never guided to use instrumental music.



The Spirit told us to speak to each other in Psalms.  One of the most outstanding features of Psalms is instrumental music, both in its teaching and in the etymology of the word.


Furthermore, did the Spirit guide them to use church owned buildings, baptisteries, communion cups, Sunday Schools, automobiles, tuning forks and radios?


John 4:24

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.



Worship must be “in truth.”  “Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).  The word does not teach us to use instrumental music.



The woman at the well asked Jesus whether they should worship in Samaria or Jerusalem.  Jesus answered, 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)   He was talking about a place, not an instrument.


Philippians 3:3   3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.


This has to do with truly worshipping the true God, not a list of things done in a worship service.


Where do we find offering plates, church buildings, baptisteries, etc. listed as “in truth”?


John 16:13

13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.



All truth was revealed by the apostles.  They did not reveal that we should use instrumental music.



Where is a law revealed against instrumental accompaniment?


Where did the apostles reveal that we are to use pitch pipes, church buildings, baptisteries, etc.?


2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.



The scriptures contain everything to make us complete.  Instrumental music was not included.   



--Were radios, tape recorders and televisions for preaching included?


The scriptures deal with our spiritual needs.  It makes no attempt to list everything we can do.


2 Peter 1:2-3

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:



Everything pertaining to life and godliness has been revealed.  Instrumental music was not.



--Including public address systems, riding in automobiles and using tape recorders?


God granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness but this does not teach that God revealed in scripture everything we are permitted to do.


Matthew 15:6

6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.



Instrumental music makes void the word of God.



Nothing here is said of instrumental music.  However, the problems to which Jesus did object fit anti-instrumentalists.  It is they who insist on binding their archaic old Calvinistic tradition upon others in direct conflict with God’s teaching.


2 Corinthians 5:7

7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Hebrews 10:38

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Hebrews 11:6

6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.



We must walk by faith.  If it cannot be found in the word, it is not of faith and therefore sin (Rom. 10:17).



This kind of argument is right from the “Faith Only” handbook.  Find a lot of scriptures that mention faith, assume that “faith” is qualified by  “only” and pit those against scriptures that indicate the need for obedience.


The anti-instrumentalist version is, to insist that the New Testament only says, “sing.”  Therefore, “faith,” with regard to music, must be, “sing only.”  From there on, just count the scriptures that teach we must have faith.  Anything other than singing is “not of faith,” and there­fore, sin.  Neat, huh?


Clever but full of holes.  The same “logic” would require us to conclude that since nothing is said of riding in automobiles, owning church buildings, baptisteries, using a communion set, passing the offering plate or calling a doctor, they are sinful because not specifically approved.  The same arguments that put these things into faith will put in a harp.


They do not live by their own rule.  They do many things not found in the Bible.  By their same “logic” they are in “sin.”


Furthermore, “sing” is not the only thing we are told to do.  We are also to “make melody” (psallō) which in its proper usage suggests plucking with the fin­gers.  Even when this word is translated “sing” its root meaning suggests it may be done with an instrument.


We walk by “faith” but we do not live by “faith only.” “Faith” does not mean that we only do things we find approved in the New Testament.  Anti-instrumentalists do many things that cannot be found in the Bible.


The scriptures have authorized our freedom where there is no law.  Since there is no law against instrumental accompaniment, we have scriptural authority for this freedom.  Even stronger yet, we have scriptural teaching authorizing it.


Romans 14:23

23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.



Romans 10:17. Faith comes by hearing the word.  If not found in scripture it cannot be of faith.



Does this passage teach that it is sin because not commanded, or because not done with a clear conscience?  This has nothing to do with whether we must find a command in order to do something.  This is speaking of a person doing something that his conscience feels is wrong.  It is totally inexcusable that such an obvious meaning of the text should be so distorted (2Pet. 3:16). 


The same argument has been used against church buildings, baptisteries, communion cups, Sunday school classes etc.  Are they sin because not specified in scripture?




(“It was good for our fathers so it’s s good enough for thee.”)


Anti-instrumentalists usually rest a major portion of their case here. Everett Ferguson spends 37 out of 99 pages on this alone, plus much historical allu­sion in the remainder.   Unfortunately, so do many others who fail to be able to find their case in the scriptures.  The Jews appealed to the traditions of the Rabbis.  Rome has always justified whatever they please on the basis of tradition. Both those who sprinkle and those who baptize babies appeal to the “fathers.”  Mormons appeal to them for baptism for the dead.  It seems that if the case is weak, somewhere in history one can find support for almost anything.  I even knew a fellow who insisted that baptism should be nude because some early writers seem to support the case.  The fragmentary and contradictory nature of ancient history is a convenient place to play religious “hide and seek” in the bone yards of antiquity.


The anti-instrumental case professes to be built upon the silence of scrip­ture.  If there is anything worse than having to build a case on the silence of scripture it is to construct it on the confusion of history.  If we are not bound to do everything the apostles did and to not do everything they did not, how can we be bound by what the “fathers” did or did not do?  If we are not bound to do everything the apostles did, how can what they did not do be binding?  If what is not found in the Bible cannot be bound, then how can the silence of history be bound?


It is argued that, “Early Christians, with background in both pagan and Jewish instrumental usage, would surely have used it unless constrained by a strong conviction that it was sinful.  The fact that they did not use instru­ments demonstrates that they saw it as being sinful under New Testament.  The more evidence presented in favor of instrumental music the more powerful is this argument against it.”


That approach sounds much like the story of the king who’s tailors claimed to have made him an invisible suit of clothes.  When he said he saw no such suit he was told that if he could see it then it would not be invisible.  The more people who could not see it the stronger the proof that he had an invisible suit.  Of course, while the whole country laughed, he paraded the streets showing off his invisible suit!  I am afraid that I need a little more evi­dence than silence to know that the apostles were teaching early Christians that instrumental music is sinful.


The same arguments may be made against church buildings.  In the Bible and for many years afterwards they met in homes (Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon 1:2).  Surely, based on their long experience with temples and synagogues, they would have built them if they had been authorized. Therefore, the fact that no mention is made of them having church owned buildings indicates they rejected them as unauthorized.  The body is said to be the temple of God, thus all other buildings are excluded.  The Bible says that worship was not to be in a place (John 2:20) but in “spirit and in truth.”  The Old Testament re­quired a physical house but in the new, none was authorized.  Ergo!  Church buildings must have been viewed as sinful or they would have had them.  In fact, some anti-church building people have argued just that way.


See how simple it is to build on suppositions?  Instead of the more evi­dence in favor of instrumental music, the stronger the case, --they claim that the stronger the evidence for instrumental music, the more it must be wrong!  You just can’t beat that kind of “logic.”


I must confess to being impressed.  However, if the stronger the evidence the weaker our case, then the less the evidence the stronger our case.   Since anti-instrumentalists insist we have no evidence, then logical­ly, they concede that we have won our case!  In fact, we need no evidence at all to prove instrumental music is authorized. I wonder that the great divines of jurisprudence have not heretofore hit upon such a profound concept. Had they done so we might have dis­pensed with law entirely!!!




It is possible that at the beginning of the church they may have used little or no instrumental music.  This may be indicated by the following. 


First, the lack of any New Testament mention of instruments in the assemblies.  That does not prove they did not but if they were using them it seems likely they would have been mentioned.  


That might not be correct since musical instruments were mentioned in discussing the activities in the church at Corinth (1Cor. 14:7), though not specified as being used in the church.  However, one of those instruments, the harp, would have been the very kind of instrument used to make a melody (“psallō”) in 1Cor 14:15 and a psalm (“psalmos”) in 1Cor. 14:26.  Plucking with fingers suggested by those words may be ample to indicate instrumental melody. 


Secondly, unless there was strong influence requiring it, the difficult circumstances in the beginning of the church could have discouraged the use of instruments.  We see exactly the same thing in the belated introduction of church-owned buildings and baptisteries.


Thirdly, had the church began with strong instrumental use it seems likely there would have been resistance to removing them and changing to the later opposition.  Of course, there may have been other factors that made that change easy, such as we see in the little opposition to the introduction of infant baptism and sprinkling in place of immersion. 


Understand that I did not say that the apostolic church was anti-instrumental.  For various reasons, the early church may simply have not used it in the beginning.  In time, the tradition became fixed and their introduction opposed.  If this is the case then the objections raised by anti-instrumentalists appear to be quite fairly disposed of.  However, the very fact of the later polemics against instruments suggests that it was by no means unanimous consent.


Just as the church at first began meeting in homes and other temporary shelters, so their early music may have been unaccompanied.  Even today, in starting churches in homes, we sometimes begin non-instrumental.  Having an instrument of appropriate quality and someone skilled in playing is often not convenient.  That would have been a good reason why under the New Testament, it was not commanded as it was in the temple. Indeed, without permanent church buildings, there was no real place for instruments.  Their cost, and potential difficulty to use under persecution, could discourage use. 


Furthermore, the Synagogues, where they were accustomed to meet, seem not to have used instruments.  (Though this may not to have been until after the prohibition following the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. –see Jewish Worship by Abraham Millgram[2]). Thus there was strong traditional influence before the early churches began.  Tradition is powerful.  Jesus and the apostles were repeatedly faced with this problem.  Until instruments were introduced, there would have been no opposition.


Later arguments against instrumental music reveal a number of other influences on the issue.  One was the association with pagan and worldly practices.  Another was that they would not seem to Judaize.[3]  Others were that they felt instruments stirred up animal instincts[4] or were merely empty entertainment.  These are matters of personal feelings and expediency, not scriptural teaching, in either the Old Testament or the New.  We do not know at what stage these feelings arose, nevertheless in time it seems to have became set in tradition.


The lack of indications of conflict may only show that the change from synagogue[5] to churches in home meetings was not a change of tradition.  Had there been any real pressure to use instrumental music, restrained by a law against it, it seems there would have been strong resistance, as in the case of circumcision, days, food laws, etc.  The most that silence can show is either, (1) There was no issue, or (2) We do not have enough historical evidence to know what took place.  In either case it proves nothing concerning its sinful nature.  We must not put words in God’s mouth.  


Evaluating the validity and significance of their failure to use it is really not my greatest concern.  Suffice it that, in view of what we do know of the situation, we need be no more surprised that it was not used than that they did not build church buildings[6]


Of much greater significance, in view of the obvious approval of instrumental music in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation, is God’s use of the words, “psallō” and “psalm,” to describe one form of Christian music.  Both of these words had, in their root meaning, the suggestion of plucking strings, and in the language of the day, both were used of playing music.  In view of all of this, how could God be displeased with it when he said nothing against it?  With such a background it was inevitable that such use would eventually be introduced, as indeed it was.  If God were opposed to instrumental accompaniment it is makes no sense that He would have failed to anticipate this and address it.  Here is a real problem for anti-instrumentalists and all the rationalizations in the world about silence only makes it more glaring.






Mark 7:1-13.  Jesus was criticized for not conforming to the tradition of the Elders (7:3).  In verse 7 he says that in doing this, their worship was “in vain.”  They were teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.  In verse 13 he accuses them of voiding the word of God by their tradition. 




It is a undeniable fact that the information we have on what early churches did and why they did it is sketchy.  Indeed, as we shall see, historians are divided as to the role instrumental music played in the early church.




a.      The reasons suggested by historians for why the “fathers” did not use instruments are not scriptural reasons.


1)      Synagogue tradition.



This has some probability but is certainly not scriptural authority against instrumental music.  The synagogue was never commanded or the service prescribed by God.  It seems to have developed naturally from the captivity in Babylon after the first temple was destroyed.


Psalm 137 says,

“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion. 2.Upon the willows in the midst thereof We hanged up our harps.” 


We know that the early Christians were familiar with Synagogue worship.  There were synagogues in Jerusalem (Ac. 6:9; 26:10-11; 24:11, 12; 22:19) and throughout Palestine.  Many churches began from preaching in the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire.  At this time, building churches was out of the question.  It was natural to transfer from synagogues to house-churches using the same format.[7]  Singing without instruments was a part of that format.  It had nothing to do with whether use of instruments was sinful.


2)      Rabbinic Influence   


ANSWER: This is not inspired authority.


-Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians,

“How far Judaism’s prohibition of all instrumental music (issued shortly after the destruction of the Temple) had influenced the course of events is hard to determine.  It seems, though, that up to the 3rd century Judeo-Christian opinions were still heeded by the Church.” [8]


3)      Reactions against seeming to Judaize.


Thomas Aquinas (Roman Catholic 13th century)

“Our Church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.” --Bingham’s “Antiquities of the Christian Church” Vol. II, p. 483, London Edition, or Vol. 3, p. 137 of a different edition.


ANSWER:  As a choice this would be fine.  However, Paul did not regard it as sin to do things done by the Jews. (1Cor. 9:20; Acts 21:20-27) 


4)      Economic circumstances.



This is not a scriptural reason.  They had no church buildings either.


5)      Persecution pressures.



They met in secret, even in tombs.  Carrying instruments to such places would have posed a problem.  However, this does not make it sinful.


6)      Reaction to pagan abuses.



Chuck that pagan calendar with pagan names for months and days of the week!  Again, such reactions may relate to the expediency of a situation but that does not make them a scriptural prohibition.


-Reese, Gustave. Music In The Middle Ages. p. 61

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150, at Athens-c. 220), was, as his works show, a cultivated man, interested in music and poetry, and unlikely to have been preju­dice against instruments merely on principle.  Yet, while he tolerated the lyre and kithara because King David had allegedly used them, he disapproved of most other instruments, doubtless fearing that they might carry to the ears of Chris­tian listeners echoes of pagan festivities and of the obscene stage...”


7)      Ascetic concepts.


ANSWER:  This is a miserable reason at best.  We are not required to avoid everything that is enjoyable.


8)      Mechanical music viewed as empty of spirituality.


ANSWER:  Is the sound of either singing or playing what is “spiritual”? Is the loaf and cup  “spiritual”?  Or, is it the heart that worships “in spirit”? (1Cor 14:15; John 4:24)


9)      Allegorical interpretations. 

(“Trust me.  I know you think you know what it means when you read what it says but, what it means is not what you think it says but what it does not say!”) 


ANSWER:  The allegorical method of interpretation, was by some of the early church “Fathers,” used to define different instruments mentioned in Psalms 150 as parts of the body.  However, there is no scriptural basis for those explana­tions.  Anti-instrumentalists themselves repudiate such a system yet they insist on citing them against instrumental music.

See: Music in Early Christian Literature by James McKinnon, [9] p. 6-7, Introduction.


10)  Personal preference.


ANSWER:  Their preference does not deprive us of ours.


b.      Historic unreliability of the “Fathers.”


1)      Post-apostolic period.


Even during the apostolic period we find false teaching creeping in which the apostles had to oppose.  Without those problems being specifi­cally addressed in scripture, we would have the same difficulties trying to determine what is right.  How much greater the problem after the apostles were gone! (Ac. 20:29; 1Tim. 4:1-4; 2Tim. 3:13; 4:3-4)


Pouring, for baptism, baptism of infants, elevation of the “Bishop” above the elders, and many other errors came in quite early. 


The Didache, or “Teaching Of The Twelve Apostles” (Late first century or early second century)


“But concerning baptism, thus shall ye running water.  But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water...But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 


There is evidence that some Christians were permitted limited worship with instruments.


Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220) with regard to Col. 3:16 said:

“In the present instance He is a guest with us.  For the apostle adds again, `Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to God.’  This is our thankful revelry.  And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, there is no blame.  Thou shalt imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksgiving to God. `Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; praise is comely to the upright,’ says the prophecy.  Confess to the Lord on the harp; play to Him on the psaltery of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song.’“ (Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2,p. 249)


Much confusion of the issue has come from trying to confine this to the “agape”--the Christian love feast.  Whether or not that is the case, the statements of Clement are clearly in reference to Col. 3:16 and concerned with praising God.  This would apply to all situations where God was being worshipped.


However, it is argued that Clement said, “We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute...” Yes, in the previous paragraph he says that some instruments commonly associated with war and other excesses were no longer used. Howev­er, that does not conflict with his statement that, just like King David, they could use the lyre with “no blame.”


When it comes to Clement’s interpretation of Psalms 150 to allegorically make those instruments mean parts of the human body, we fully repudiate that as a valid interpretation.  He calls the psaltery the tongue.  He represents the lyre to mean the mouth struck by the Spirit.  The body is the organ with the nerves meaning the strings.  The clashing cymbal is the tongue.  That is unsound interpretation of scripture.


Before we rely too heavily on early writers such as Clement we might also read what they said about such things as eating delicacies, (Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol 1, p. 237) drinking too much water (p. 243), choice of cups (p. 246), restraint from laughter (p. 250), use of perfumes and scents (p. 254), dying of the hair (p. 255), use of soft mat­tresses (p. 257), clothing (p. 265), shoes (p. 267) etc.  Are those rules our authority?


2)      Later writers

      Like the Post-apostolic writers, later writers did not use the anti-instrumental argument that the command to "sing" excluded accompaniment.


Thomas Aquinas (13th century)  is often cited.  His reasons reflected views of instruments not stated in the New Testament.


“Instrumental music as well as singing is mentioned in the Old Testament, but the Church has accepted only singing on account of its ethical values: instruments were rejected because they have a bodily shape (figuralia sunt) and keep the mind too busy, induce it even to carnal pleasure (ad corporalem delectionem).  Therefore their use is unwise, and consequently the Church refrains from music instruments in order that by the praise of God the congregation may be distracted from concern with bodily matters.” [10]


3)      The practice of the Greek Church


Greek Church usage is often cited because they do not use instruments and because, in disputes concerning the meaning of psallō, it is argued that “they should know their own language.”


In response, it may be observed that while they are correct on immersion, they also baptize infants. Indeed, they also teach and practice many other things that are not scrip­tural.


The question is not whether they do not use instruments but whether by not using them they show that instrumental music is scripturally sinful.  Even today, the Greek word, “psallo” does not exclude instruments.


The issue is not at all a “given” in favor of anti-instrumentalism.  Even among the Greek Fathers, while they allegorized instruments, they conceded that the proper meaning of “psalm” was a song accompanied by an instrument.


Also, their attitude towards Instrumental music was not as restrictive as the position of modern anti-instrumentalists.  NEW OXFORD HISTORY OF MUSIC, VOL. II, pp. 33, 34 “Music Of The Eastern Churches” says, 


“On Christmas Eve[11] the singing of the two groups in church was accompanied by instruments, one of the rare occasions when instrumental music was admitted to the church.  The imperial band consisted of trumpeters [salpigktai], horn-players [boukkinatores], cymbal players [anakaristai], and pipers [souroulistai].  None of the ‘weak sounding’ instruments [tōn leptōn organōn] were used.[12]  To the Western mind it seems strange that the organ was forbidden in the church.[13]  The Byzantines had a portable pneumatic organ which was played in processions but had to be left in the porch when the procession entered the church.  It was also played in the Hippodrome and during banquets at the Imperial Palace.[14]  Organs were used in pairs, one accompanying the choir of the Greens, another that of the Blues, the two leading factions.  The Emperor had his own organs which were covered with gold.  Those of the Greens and Blues were covered with silver.”


It may be pointed out that “worship” is not confined to a building.  On these occasions they did worship with instruments.


4)      The Reformers and outstanding religious leaders


The reformers and others are often cited against instruments. However, too much of this is “pickie/choosie.”  They cite what they like and discard what they don’t.


Calvin not only prohibited instrumental music but also harmony and the use of any other music than the Psalms. Calvin, Luther and the Church of England all baptized infants.


Luther spoke of the organ as an, “ensign of Baal,” but introduced the custom of having chorales executed by instruments (McClintock & Strong, Vol.VI, p. 761, “Music”).


He also wrote in a Bible he presented to the organist, Wolf Heinz,

“Music of every kind should praise God... Musicians should let their singing and playing to the praise of the Father of all grace sound forth with joy from their organs and whatever other musical instruments there are...”

--What Luther Says -Ewald M. Plass  #3100 p. 982


      Spurgeon is often cited by anti-instrumentalists, yet he rejected the claim that instruments are unlawful and cited expediency for not using them.


We who do not believe these things to be expedient in worship, lest they should mar its simplicity, do not affirm them to be unlawful, and if any George Herbert or Martin Luther can worship God better by the aid of well-tuned instruments who shall gainsay their right?  We do not need them, they would hinder than help our praise, but if others are otherwise minded, are they not living in gospel liberty?[15]


5)      The Restoration Movement.


The same arguments were used against Sunday Schools, communion cups, baptisteries, standing for prayer, etc. as against instrumental music.  Changes from the status quo have always been greeted with accusation of  “digression.”  The repeated charge is that those who change are guilty of division.  However, those who prohibit change can also be the ones who insist on division.


Indeed, Alexander Campbell and many leading men of the Restora­tion Movement said things that we would repudiate. Campbell certain­ly worked to create and maintain the American Christian Missionary Society, which many opposed.  Likewise, few of us would agree with his statement in the Lunenberg letter, Millennial Harbinger in 1837, p. 411-414  (Also quoted in “Christians Only” by Murch)


“But he that thence infers that none are Christians but the immersed, as greatly errs as he who affirms that none are alive but those of clear and full vision.”


There were also many good brethren who accepted instruments.  J. B. Briney at first fought it but in time determined that psalms did infer playing with the hand. He became one of the main champions of the right to use it.  Likewise did others such as Isaac Errett, editor of The Christian Standard.


c.       The perception that the “Fathers” were unanimously anti-instrumental is disputed.


-Edward J. Hopkins   in his book on THE ORGAN, p. 13, 4. “It’s Introduc­tion into the Church.”

“The organ was early used in the public service of the church. Platina tells us that it was first employed  for religious worship by Pope Vitalian I, A.D. 666; but, according to Julianus (a Spanish bishop, who flourished A.D. 450), it was in common use in the churches of Spain at least 200 years before Vitalian’s time.  The use of instruments in churches was much earlier; for we are told that St. Ambrose joined instruments of music with the public service in the cathedral church of Milan; which example of his was so well approved of, that, by degrees, it became the general practice of other churches.  Nay, the antiquity of instru­mental church-music is still higher, if we may credit the testimony of Justin Martyr* and Eusebius, the latter of whom lived fifty, and the former two hundred, years before the time of St. Ambrose**.

* Note that he does not say that Justin agreed with it.  But Jus­tin’s objection to instrumental music may be an indication that others did.

**  Hawkins, bk. iv, chap 32, p. 147


-Chambers Ency. 1894, Vol IV, p. 372.

“HARP, ...The harp was used as an accompaniment to the psalms sung by the early congregations of Christians.


-Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Vol.II, “Praise”

“Music... Our study of the ideal of praise in the Apostolic Church would be incomplete without some reference to the music both vocal and instrumental.... There was a certain prejudice against the music of flutes, but they seem to have been used at Alexandria to accompany the hymns at the Agape until Clement of Alexandria substituted harps about A.D. 190”


-Hastings, James, editor. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Vol. IX, p. 19.

“.Justin Martyr (103-167  Quaest. a Gent. Christian. propositarum) argues against it.  On the other hand, Clemens Alexandrinus, also in the 2nd cent., quoting the Psalmist in favor of instrumental  music says: `If you are able to accompany your voices with the lyre or cithara, you will incur no censure!’”

“St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) likewise encourages the singing of psalms to the lyre or psaltery.  This regulation or partial allowance of instrumental music in the service of the Church seems not to have affected the Eastern branch since in the Greek church instrumental accompaniment has never been allowed, probably from its proximity to the pagan East...”


-The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. “PSALMS IN CHRISTIAN LITURGY” (Supplement 1929). 2. p. 2494A

In competition with pagan musical art, congregational singing began to wane.  Basil states that he had `the Psalms rendered by skilled precentors after the manner of the triumphal Odes of Pindar, the congregation joining at the closing verse, with the accompaniment of lyres’ (Epist. [p.207] CCVII,[16] 3 [17]; Eng. Translation in NPNF [18], 2 Ser. VIII, 24.  Compare Selah Higgaion in Ps 9 and Peters op cit [19]).


(Note: The reference to the quotation by Basil is not found in the American Reprint of the A.N.F. at the citation specified.  On p. 247 (not 24) it does speak of singing psalms antiphonally, but does not specify the congregation joining at the closing verse with accompaniment of lyres.  The A.N.F. had earlier editions which in later reprints trimmed back some of the material.  It may have been that this reference was omitted from the later “Selected Works,” or may have been by someone else.  It is also cited in The New Schaff--Herzog Ency. Vol. II (or III) p.1702)


-Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. II, p. 283, “INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN THE EARLY CHURCH,” “The Question of Instrumental Music.”

“It is much more difficult for us to appreciate fully the controversy that raged between the 2nd and the 6th centuries concerning the use of musical instru­ments in worship... In the development of early Christianity one may discern two antithetic trends: one that tended to remain in close contact with the outside world... Hence the book of Revelation presupposes instrumental music; so does the (probably spurious) Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians.  The same holds true of Ps.-Justin, Clement of Alexandria and numerous other Church fathers.  Even certain epitaphs seem to bear witness to the use of instruments in worship, as Leclercq tries to demonstrate in his interpretation of an Egyptian Christian inscription from El Doukeileh.

“On the other hand sharply disapproving voices are not lacking either. Ps.- Cyprian, St. Augustine, Gregory Naziazenus, Diordor of Tarsus and Theodoret of Cyprus were the leaders of the anti- instrumental group.  The result is known: with the victory of the monastic-ascetic trend instrumental music was prohibited until near the end of the first millennium.  Formally the prohibition, as ex­pressed in the anonymous `Quaestions et Responsiones ad Orthodoxos’ and the Apos­tolic Constitutions, became legal.  Was it really enforced?  We constantly hear of violations of these laws, certainly more than of obedience to them.  Nevertheless from official worship instruments were excluded...”


This matter of appealing to the fathers is really a diversion from the issue.  The fathers are no authority and the reasons they gave for not using instruments were invalid and do not fit our situation.  Furthermore, they did not include the modern anti-instrumental argument that silence proves it was “not authorized.”  It really makes no difference why they failed to use instruments, since their use of scripture on the subject was invalid.  The anti-instrumental brethren themselves refuse to accept historical references as authorita­tive and it ill behooves them to insist that we must do so (Mt. 23:4; Ac. 15:10).


M. C. Kurfees, the classical writer of anti-instrumentalists, wrote, with regard to claims concerning the support of instrumental music by Clement and Ambrose as early as the second century:


“Be it remembered, first of all, that even were this claim established by clear and indisputable facts, it would prove nothing at all, so far as divine authority is concerned, which is the point at issue.  It would only prove that this innova­tion was introduced at an earlier date than is usually assigned to it; only this, and nothing more.  In fact, so far as the real issue is concerned, whether it was introduced by Ambrose in the fourth century or by Clement in the second century; or, indeed, whether it was introduced in the first century or the twentieth cen­tury, makes no difference whatever in principle, so long as it was introduced after the days of Inspiration.”          

-Instrumental Music Is Scriptural, p. 118-119.      



This is often the “hidden agenda” in discussions of the subject. The person feels that “mechanical music” cannot be spiritual.


  1. “Instrumental music was the invention of evil men.” (Gen. 4:21)


ANSWER:  So were cities, dwelling in tents, making cutting instruments of brass and iron, etc (Gen. 4:17-22).  Is it sinful if I go camp out in my Seattle back-yard and use a knife to cut my steak?


  1. “Mechanical instruments are incompatible with spiritual worship.” (Jn. 4:24)


ANSWER: Why so, any more than passing a communion tray or an offering plate?  Why is what is done with the voice any more spiritual than what is done with the fingers?  Why is plucking the first note with a tuning fork any more spiritual than plucking every note?  Can we not teach with the fingers, as in talking to the deaf, or can a person who has no voice box use mechanical sound to sing? 


  1. 1Corinthians 13:1.  Paul disparaged instruments —I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”


ANSWER:  Instruments do not praise God.  People do.  Instruments are only an aid to people. 


  1. “God does not want service by mechanical devices.”

“Our BODIES replaced the temple and its instruments as the place and means of worship” (1Co. 6:19; 1Pe. 2:5). 



Our BODIES (hands) pluck the strings just as they also pass communion trays and take up collections.  Praise must come from the heart.

Does our body being a “temple” make houses of worship sinful?  Is not tape-recorded or sound of a public address system just as mechanical as an organ?


  1. “Our bodies are God’s instruments.” (Rom. 12:1; 6:13)



Is this speaking of MUSICAL instruments?  Our bodies pluck the strings just as they are used to pass a communion tray or a collection plate.


  1. “God wants only fruit of the lips.” (Heb. 13:15)



The passage is talking about praise in general, not contrasting singing and instrumental praise.  It says nothing about God wanting “only” fruit of the lips.                     


God also wants us to use our hands (1Tim. 2:8).


How about a harmonica or flute played with the lips?


  1. “God is not worshiped with men’s hands.” (Ac. 17:25)



It defines this, “as though he needed any thing.” The Greek word translated, “worshipped,” has the idea of being cared for.  Pagan Gods were dependent on the care of men’s hands.  The true God is not.


There is no better basis for this than use of the statement in the previous verse to argue that God doesn’t like church buildings.


Acts 17:24-25  24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;


Christians were told to use their hands to serve God (1Tim. 2:8)


Anti-instrumentalists use their hands to pass communion, hold song books, write sermons etc.


  1. “Sounds of brass and cymbals are empty.” (1Co. 13:1)


ANSWER: So are communion trays, offering plates and song books without the hearts of people being right (1Cor. 11:27-31)


  1. “Instruments are lifeless.” (1Co. 14:7)


ANSWER: So are songbooks, communion trays and church buildings.


  1. “Rome introduced instrumental music.” (Rev. 18:4)


ANSWER: Rome also introduced our song book notation and the calendar. Things are not sinful merely because sinful men have done them.


  1. “God never approved of instrumental music.”



God commanded instrumental music (Num. 10:2, 10; 2Chron. 29:25).


God said it is “a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High;...with an instrument of ten strings and with the psaltery: With a solemn sound upon the harps” (Ps. 92:1-3).  


  1. “It was tolerated temporarily like divorce, polygamy and a king.”



Unfounded assumption.  The same could be said against houses of worship (1Co. 6:19; 1Pe. 2:5). Having a king over the church would have violated the clear teaching of Jesus in Matt. 23:8-12. 


Divorce and polygamy were plainly dealt with in the New Testament.  Romans 7:3 and Matt. 19:3-9; indicate marriage can only be to one person while the mate lives, except in the case of fornication. Elders (1Tim. 3:2), deacons (1Tim. 3:12) were to be the husband of one wife.  Widows were to have been the wife of one man (1Tim. 5:9). These ideals were for all.  Where does it indicate people should be chosen only if they sing vocally?   


Even in the Old Testament, the problems of Abraham and Solomon showed the mischief of polygamy while the Law specifically prohibited kings from engaging in it (Deut. 17:17).  With polygamy, God manifested disapproval.  He did not manifest disapproval of instrumental music. 


Concerning Israel having a king, when Samuel was given the command to choose a king God revealed his feelings in the matter (1Sam. 8:7). 


Where did He indi­cate that instrumental music was reluctantly given?


  1. “God said he hates instrumental music.” (Amos 5:21-23)

ANSWER: He did not say he hated instrumental music.  He said he despised their feasts.


Their assemblies, offerings, and music (including both “songs” and “melody of viols”), were commanded as a part of the temple worship.  However, after the division of the Kingdom, the northern kings substituted their own imitation worship to keep the people from going to Judah to the temple (Amos 5:25-27; 6:5; cf. 1Kings 12:26-33).  Besides this, their unholy lives discredited any worship they might perform (read chapters 3-6). God hates anything done hypocritically.


Note that Amos was written in the days of Jeroboam before the cap­tivity and destruction of the temple.  If God hated instrumental music so much, why was it re-instituted with His approval when the temple was rebuilt? (Ezra 3:10, 11; Neh. 12:27, 45-47)


  1. “Instrumental music was repealed with the Law.” 


ANSWER: “Repealing” the Law did not make it sinful (Rom. 7:7).  It merely made it no longer required.  Circumcision was part of the law but Paul cir­cumcised Timothy (Acts. 16:3).  Paul kept the law along with “many thousands” among the Jews who were “all zealously keeping the law” (Ac. 21:17-26).


The Law was designed for a special people in a special situation.  The Law was “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3) and could not make one righteous (Heb. 10:1).  However, it was not evil.  It was, “holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12).  Because of its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb 7:18) it was removed through the sacrifice of Christ.  We are now under grace.  The new “Law of Liberty” (James 2:12) is formulated to meet the needs of Christ’s universal kingdom.  Some of the things of the old were re-instituted into the new, often in a more magnified concept.  Others were omitted as unnecessary.  However, many of those things are still good and useful.  Why must we conclude that removing them from being binding necessarily makes them sinful?


      Instrumental Music was not nailed to the cross.  Instrumental music antedated the Mosaic code and was even before the Law used by God’s people in singing praise. (Ex. 15:20-21)

[1] Letter from Milo Hadwin to Ray Downen, August 10, 1993.

[2] Also see “The Music of the Jews,” by Aron Mark Rothmiller- ML 166 R84, U. of Lit. Ed

[3] Bingham,  “Antiquities of the Christian Church” Vol. II, p. 483, London Edition


[5]Footnote 1  “On the Christian opposition to instrumental music and exceptions to its disuse see J. Quasten, `Musik und Gesang in den Kulten der heidnischen Antike und der christlichen Fruhzeit’, Liturgiegeschichtliche Quellen und Forschungen 25 (Munster, 1930), pp.  81-83, 103-10.


[6] “It is important even in this context to realize that the earliest places of specifically Christian worship were the `house churches’ (Philemon 2) as the earlier synagogues were `house synagogues’. (Location?


[7] Rothmiller, Aron Mark, The Music of the Jews, p. 70, ML 166 R84, U. of Lit. Ed.

[8] “Instrumental Music In The Early Church” Volume II, p. 283. See also: Rothmiller, Aron Mark, The Music of the Jews, p. 72, ML 166 R84, U. of Lit. Ed.

[9] Music In Early Christian Literature, James McKinnon

[10] Suma theological, Quaestio 91, Articulus II


[11] Codinus Curopalata, De officiis, in Corpus scriptorum historiae byzantinae, pp.33-55.


[12] Cf. Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, p.93.


[13] Cf. Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, pp.94-98.


[14] Cf. J. Marquart, Osteuropaische und ostasiatische Streifuge (Leipzig, 1903, pp. 217 sqq.


[15] Spurgeon on Psalms 33, Vol. II. p.115


[16] CCVII  = Harvard Press numbering. Translation by Roy J. Deferrari


[17] 3 = The older numbering method.


[18] “Nicene, Post Nicene Fathers

[19] op. Cit = in the work quoted”