A gracEmail subscriber heard a sermon condemning instrumental music in Christian worship based on John 14:31, in which Jesus says that he does just as his Father commands. The preacher said that if we do just as God commands we cannot have instrumental music since the New Testament does not specifically command it. He called this “the law of silence.” What should we make of this?
* * *
I appreciate your preacher’s desire to obey God exactly, just as Jesus did. When it comes to the subject of instrumental music, however, exact obedience leaves the door wide open. God does not require us to use it and he does not prohibit us from using it. It seems clear to me that God approves of instruments since Paul tells believers to be Psalm-singers (Eph. 5:19) and several of the Psalms specifically call on God’s people to praise him with instruments (Psalm 150 is a notable example). Further, the word “psalm” itself includes a song sung to musical accompaniment. The Temple, which early Jewish believers (including the Apostles) frequented, used musical instruments, and Revelation freely harps in heaven.
The “law of silence” approach, which assumes that anything is wrong unless it is specifically authorized, is itself not stated in the Bible. I suppose that means that the person who truly tries to follow that approach should reject it. Even if it is followed, that approach does not forbid instruments for all the reasons set out above. Finally, nobody consistently follows that approach, since to do so would require the Lord’s Supper meetings to be held at night and upstairs, those details having been specifically noted by Scripture with no alternative examples given.
Most of all, the gospel and the New Testament are not about some pattern of external worship details, as Jesus makes clear in visiting with the Samaritan woman in John 4. What is important is that we worship truly from the heart, motivated by the Holy Spirit and with faith in Jesus Christ (“in spirit/Spirit” and “in truth”). The Mosaic covenant included Leviticus, a book of detailed regulations for worship. The new covenant under Jesus contains nothing like that, a contrast implied by the author of Hebrews (9:1).