Arguments used to Justify Mechanical Music in Worship


     In all fairness, there are a number of arguments that are advanced in an effort to demonstrate authority and divine approval for mechanical instruments being used to worship God today. In this material, we shall mention and examine the most often used rationale behind the employment of instrumental music in worship.

     "Mechanical music was used under the Old Law." As "Music in Worship of God" freely admits, mechanical music was commonly used in the worship of God under the Jewish Economy (Ps. 150). Also in the Psalms and under the same system, we read of incense and animal sacrifice (Ps. 51: 19). The Old Law, as such, was "nailed to the cross" (Col. 2: 14). The Law, as a system, was given to the Jewish Nation and was never, in the main, designed for Gentiles (Deut. 5: 1-3). To seek justification by the Law of Moses is to be "fallen from grace," according to the inspired apostle Paul (Gal. 5: 4, 1-3). One matter that is striking is the frequency of mention of mechanical music in praise of God in the Hebrew scriptures and the absence of instrumental music in the New Testament.

     "Mechanical music is not expressly forbidden." As "Music in Worship of God" points out, there are two recognized kinds of music, vocal and mechanical. Vocal music in worship is the only music observed in the New Testament (cp. Acts 16: 25, I Cor. 14: 15, Eph. 5: 19, Col. 3: 16, Jas. 5: 13, Heb. 13: 15). When a specific is commanded, any other specific of a different sort is excluded. God commanded Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood (Gen. 6: 14). Hence, all other wood was understood as forbidden. God commands that Christians offer vocal music in praise; therefore, all other kinds of music are excluded. When God requires a certain matter, he does not enumerate all other matters. It is understood that the specific is exclusive.

     "There will be mechanical music in heaven." Revelation 14: 2 is quoted to prove there will be mechanical music in the worship of God in heaven. It reads, "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps." I believe it is apparent that John is not saying that the voice he heard was many waters, thunder, or harpers harping with their harps. The voice was as…. The American Standard Version attempts to convey this analogy to the reader. They render the verse, "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps." "Harps" in Revelation are symbolic for praise, just as golden vials full of odors are symbolic of prayer (Rev. 5: 8). Besides, it is certain that no material thing will be in heaven. We must remember that mechanical music as used under the Jewish system was not sinful within itself. As a type, though, the antitype replaced it. We are to pluck the strings of the human heart. We should not, then, imagine that the type, mechanical music, will be in heaven no more than the typical burning of incense will be restored.

     "Mechanical music is just an aid to the specified vocal music." Beloved, the problem with this argument is that mechanical music is another kind of music. An aid cannot be another kind. When the introduced is a different kind than the authorized, it becomes a perversion (Gal. 1: 6-9). A song leader and songbooks would constitute true aids.

     "Psallo means accompanied with mechanical instruments." The Greek psallo is the word rendered "making melody" in Ephesians 5: 19. Let me say this, if psallo is teaching the accompaniment of mechanical music, mechanical music would not be an option but a requirement. I say this because the language, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" is a commandment. Also, the Greek grammar of the pronouns and participles in Ephesians 5: 19 and Colossians 3: 16 requires that every Christian in the assembly reciprocally and simultaneously sing one to another. Therefore, if psallo means sing and play on an instrument such as a harp, trumpet, etc., then each Christian would have to sing and pray. (Read "Music, Congregational or Choirs?") Those who argue that psallo justifies the mechanical instrument in worship do not want to contend that each Christian is required to in addition to sing, play on a mechanical instrument. In other words, instead of a single piano in the assembly, you would have to have one hundred to accommodate the one hundred in attendance. Of course, if psallo is requiring each to play on a piano, etc., then we would simply have to do so.

     The truth of the matter is psallo does not necessarily mean "sing with musical accompaniment." Psallo conveys the action of twitching or twanging. However, the instrument when intended was specified. The instrument is specified in Ephesians 5: 19. The stated instrument is the human heart, "…making melody in your heart to the Lord." The heart is the antitype to the material harp (compare Ps. 33: 2 with Eph. 5: 19). Notice W. E. Vine's comments on psallo:

     "…primarily to twitch, twang, then, to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and hence, in the Sept., to sing with a harp, sing psalms, denotes in the N. T., to sing a hymn, sing praise…." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Vine's work is highly respected in general. Notice again Vine's comment on psallo as used in the New Testament: "denotes in the N. T., to sing a hymn, sing praise…." The literal and technical meaning of psallo in such verses as Ephesians 5: 19 is to vibrate the cords of the human heart (cf. Thayer, Liddell and Scott, and other Greek authorities).

     Beloved, the foregoing are the main arguments that are used in an attempt to authorize mechanical music in worship in this dispensation. As you can see, they are not tenable. In order to use mechanical music today in worship, one must add to the New Testament (Rev. 22: 18, 19, cp. Deut. 4: 2, Prov. 30: 6). Mechanical music is not part of the "doctrine of Christ" (2 Jn. 9). Therefore, to insist on the introduction of musical instruments into the worship of God has attendant consequences that are serious and undesirable (2 Jn. 9-11). If God had wanted to be praised today by mechanical devices of music, why did he not simply say so? God's silence speaks loudly (in prohibiting, Heb. 7: 14). Intelligent reader, the only conclusion is the Christian individually and in the assembly is to worship God with vocal music and not with mechanical music (Jas. 5: 13; Eph. 5: 19).

     "Praise the Lord with harp. Israel was a school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes….We do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice" (Charles Spurgeon, Baptist preacher and scholar, his commentary on Psalms 42).

     (Be sure to read, "Music in Worship of God" and "Choirs, Solos, and Vocal Bands in Worship," click on to visit the material.)