Yes! In fact, we have a divine obligation to use instrumental music in worship! Perhaps you are wondering at this point if this writer is the same Kevin Cauley who preaches for the Berryville church of Christ in Berryville, Arkansas. You know, the church that doesn’t believe in “instrumental music.” Well, it is the same one. Some of you have probably already caught on as to what is coming in the article. To the rest I say, read on dear friend!
Many people today use pianos, guitars, and other similar instruments in their worship. This is NOT the kind of instrument of which I am speaking. But the Bible does teach us to use an instrument to accompany our singing in worship to God. In Ephesians 5:19 we read, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Notice the phrase “in your heart” in this passage. The instrument upon which God expects the Christian to “play” is the heart. Colossians 3:16 states this principle in similar words, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” In both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 instrumental accompaniment is commanded. Singing is to be accompanied with a specific instrument-the heart. Please note that when God specifies something, we must respect God’s instructions. Let’s look at several Bible examples that illustrate this principle.
One great example where God specifies the use of a particular item is Noah and the ark. If we look back at Genesis 6:14, God tells Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” We don’t know what gopher wood was, but Noah knew! God specified this type of wood for a reason and Noah was expected to respect God’s specific instructions in that regard. In Genesis 6:22, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Noah built the ark out of gopher wood because God told him to do it that way and was saved from the flood.
Another great example is found in Exodus 12, where God gives Moses specific instructions for how to avoid the tenth plague-the death of the firstborn. Part of the instructions were to kill a lamb, take the blood and put it on the doorposts and lintel with a bunch of hyssop twigs (Exodus 12:7, 22). The Bible says that when God saw the blood, He would pass over the house and spare the firstborn. God specified a lamb’s blood. Those who followed God’s specific instructions were spared the life of their firstborn. Those who used anything but the blood of a lamb lost their firstborn that night.
We read of a man named Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5. Naaman had leprosy, a deadly disease, but through the prophet Elisha, God gave Naaman the opportunity to be healed. God gave Naaman a specific condition. Naaman had to immerse himself in the Jordan river seven times. Naaman was angry because he didn’t want to get into that nasty, muddy, dirty Jordan River, but God had specified THAT river. Naaman wanted to go back to his homeland and immerse himself in one of the rivers of Damascas. He said, “Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel” Could I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage? (2 Kings 5:12). But those rivers could not have cleansed him. Only after washing seven times in the Jordan did Naaman’s leprosy go away.
As a last example, many in the religious world today observe the Lord’s supper. Paul tells us that this holy meal is to be observed in remembrance of the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24). Both Jesus body and His blood are represented in this supper. No doubt everyone in the religious world who observes the Lord’s supper can tell you the elements used within it. These elements are the bread and the fruit of the vine. These things were specifically mentioned by Jesus as items that were to be used to in this supper (Matthew 26:26-29). Now ask one who observes this religious practice if Jesus would be happy if we substituted a McDonald’s hamburger for the bread and Coca Cola for the fruit of the vine. The predominant response you would receive would be, “Of course not. Jesus said to use bread and fruit of the vine and that settles that.” To which we reply, Amen.
In each of these Bible examples God specified something and those who wanted to receive the blessings of God were expected to do as God had specified. Noah was to build the ark of gopher wood because that was what God specified. Moses was to use the blood of a lamb because that was what God specified. Naaman was to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan river because that is what God specified. Christians are expected to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine in the Lord’s supper because that is what God specifies. In each of these instances to abandon, substitute, or add something different for what God specified would have lead to disaster. Noah’s ark would have sunk. Moses would have lost his firstborn son. Naaman would have died of leprosy. Christians would have observed “in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:29). The principle in each of these examples is the same. When God specifies how He wants something done, we must do it the way God says to do it without deletion, substitution, or addition.
Let me refine my question in the title of this article. What instrument should the Christian use to worship God in song? The heart-God has specified the heart as the instrument the Christian is to accompany song in worship to Him. If we delete the heart, substitute some other instrument for the heart or add some other instrument to the heart, then we worship in vain. Should we accompany our worship to God in song with any other instrument of music than the heart? No, we should not. To do such would be to abandon the blessings that God says we have through worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Our worship to God must be done as God has specified. To worship God in any other way than the way God has specified is to place our own righteousness above the righteousness of God. Let us humbly submit to God’s will in our songs of worship.