Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1949

Importance Of The Instrumental Music Question

Stanley J. Lovett, Kilgore, Texas

The question of the use of instrumental music is of more importance than is generally recognized. Large numbers of those who use instrumental music in their worship have never had any reason to question the right or the wrong of its use. They have used it so long on the assumption that its use is acceptable to God it has never entered their minds to inquire as to its status in God's sight.

Instrumental music in worship is more recent than many people know. Most, if not all, churches that constituted the beginnings of the Reformation did not use instrumental music. Such outstanding lights of the Reformation as Luther and Calvin; and later on such men as Wesley and Clarke, are on record as opposed to its use in worship. As a matter of fact, in the Christian era, it was first introduced into worship by the Roman Catholic Church. Even there, it was not introduced until the seventh century and it was some time after that before it came into general use in that church. Others in time borrowed it from Rome. The characteristic history of its introduction into religious bodies has been one of opposition, strife, and oftentimes of division. But because of its widespread use today, most people do not know of its unsavory past.

Our Attitude Toward Authority

This question is of much deeper significance than of mere whim or taste respecting those who use or do not use it. Inextricably bound up with its use is an attitude respecting the authority and completeness of the New Testament. Hence, it has to do with one's respect for the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ. This will be especially apparent to those who hold the New Testament to be the sole rule of faith and practice for God's people. It can be stated this way: If the New Testament commands its use, not only is it good and right to use it but it must be used; its use is mandatory, obligatory, and without the exercise of man's choice in the matter. If the New Testament does not command its use, then, it is an act for which there is no authority and contradicts that fundamental principle of Christian procedure as enunciated by Paul, "For we walk by faith, not by sight," 2 Cor. 5:7. If the New Testament does not teach its use, man can never know that it will be acceptable to God; for God's thoughts are not man's thoughts, and that which is exalted among men may be an abomination to God. In the absence of positive New Testament teaching on the subject, it would have to be a matter of presumption that its use is approved of God. To people of humble and strong faith, who respect God through the proper respect for his word, presumption is not enough.

Because it is considered by some an unimportant or trivial matter does not relegate it to that class at all. The Lord Jesus Christ established the principle that in the kingdom of heaven, one's attitude toward "little things" is a true index of character and indicates what one's attitude will be toward "big things." See Luke 16:10. So, regardless of what one thinks of its importance, the man of honest heart will want to have the correct attitude and practice toward this because like so many other things it reflects a condition of heart.

The New Testament Alone

Thus, it is apparent that any proper conception of this subject will include an investigation of what the New Testament has to say about the matter. Then, if it is not authorized by the New Testament, all other proposed justifications outside of the New Testament for its use must be investigated and weighed to see if they are valuable. If not, honesty of heart and a determination to please God will force one to abandon its use in worship to God. The path of investigation is clear. First, search the pages of the New Testament and see if they command or in any way authorize the use of instrumental music in worship. If authority for its use may be found that will settle the matter. If such authority is wanting in the New Testament its use cannot be practiced nor approved by people of humble respect for God's will. Second, all other claims outside of the New Testament justifying its use must be carefully examined and weighed to see if they are valid. If these fail to carry with them soundness of logic, they too must be rejected.

May the Lord grant us honesty of purpose and wisdom in seeking to determine the truth in this matter.


"All Authority Hath Been Given Unto Me ---"