Can we use musical instruments in church?The history of instrument use in churches is interesting. The Jews used instruments widely in their praise of God (1 Chronicles 23:5; 2 Chronicles 29:26-27; Isaiah 38:20; Habakkuk 3:19). The Christian church did not. In fact, the New Testament doesn't authorize, condemn, or even mention instrument use in church. Many churches today still cite the lack of instruments in the New Testament as "proof" that Jesus doesn't want accompanied singing. There are several verses describing believers singing, but they all seem to be unaccompanied (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13).
But the rejection of musical instruments by the New Testament church may have been more cultural than spiritual. Many church members came from pagan religions, and broke away from cultural practices that reminded them of their ungodly past. For instance, in order to show that they believed in the resurrection, Christians buried their dead instead of cremating them. Another way to break from the past was to concentrate on worshiping God with words and abandon the instrumental music that accompanied pagan rites.
Gradually, most churches grew to realize that the absence of mention of musical instruments in the early church does not indicate an outright ban. Organs started appearing in some churches in the 7th century and were a staple by the 13th century. Still, many respected theologians, including John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon, disapproved of instruments in services, and the Greek Orthodox Church still does not use instruments.
Churches who believe instruments should not be used point to several scriptures in the New Testament that mention singing without instruments, but there is no specific edict against instruments in church. As with any tool, instrument use should glorify God, help others in worshiping God, and not draw undue attention to itself. The early church may have been prudent to reject a worship tool that was identified with idolatry, but we should use our freedom in Christ responsibly and worship as the Holy Spirit leads us to. If instruments add value to the church service, we should feel free to use them.
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