Vol.XII No.V Pg.7
July 1975

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Please give a simple direct answer for why churches of Christ do not use mechanical instruments of music when they worship. Give scriptures.


Brethren who are content to do Bible things in Bible ways do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship because the New Testament gives no authority for such. Passages which relate to the subject are: Acts 16:25, Rom. 15:9, 1 Cor. 14:15, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Heb. 2:12 and Jas. 5:13. By no means do all of these bear directly on public worship; but all of them authorize singing, none of them authorize playing an instrument. The piano is not a subordinate to singing (as glasses to seeing), but is a tool for playing, a type of music unauthorized. It is not, therefore, expedient.

Matt. 26:30 and Mk. 14:26, although teaching singing, are not given above because they refer to a time before the church was established. The Apocalypse uses harps of God in its figurative language (Rev. 15:2; Cf. 5:8-9, 14:2). There are white robes, incense burners and candlesticks in the apocalypse — even the temple with the ark of Gods covenant — but these things do not belong in N.T. church worship. The simple direct scriptural reason for our singing, and not playing, is that the scriptures relating to the subject authorize singing, and do not authorize playing instrumental music. For exactly the same reason, i.e., no authority, we do not sprinkle water (baptize?) infants. Scriptures authorize the burial (Rom. 6:4) of a believer (Mk. 16:16). They do not say we must NOT sprinkle water upon unbelievers; but we respect Gods silence. The scriptures do not expressly FORBID a third or different element in the Lords supper; but they only authorize bread and fruit of the vine. Isnt that clear enough?

Some try to find the mechanical instrument in psallo, a word used in Eph. 5:19 --- making melody in your heart. The word once meant to pluck or twang, and was used in the O.T. in connection with playing the harp. But here the instrument is the heart, and the parallel passage (Col. 3:16) has singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. The pluck or twang is metaphorical. Others say psalms were sung with an instrument in O.T. times, so we must use an instrument to sing psalms today. With such reasoning we would have to reinstate all accompaniments of O.T. worship. If psallo includes an instrument we would have no choice — all would have to play.

Historically, instruments of music were brought into church worship by an apostate church. Many protestant reformers took them out, only to have them returned when the reform spirit was less active. Churches of the restoration faced the problem when the progressive elements (who had accepted missionary societies without Bible authority) brought the piano in by the same opening.

Today the digressive spirit that argues no pattern or authority necessary for institutions and the social gospel need not be surprised if the piano uses that same open door.