I will attempt to give a rational and Biblical explanation of acappella singing in worship. When was the last time you heard a sermon or read an article on the use of instruments in worship? The mere discussion by some is too low or base to even hold on any serious level, yet the very practice of the use of instruments in worship split the church. Some general acceptance of instruments began at or around 1200 AD while others contend that the large push for instrumental music began around the 1850s. Regardless of the exact moment it began to gain acceptance among God’s people as an acceptable practice in worship, it is impossible to miss its conspicuous absence for nearly 1200 years as practice among God’s people. (Paul Henry Lang, MUSIC IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION, pp. 53,54; Hugo Leichtentritt, MUSIC, HISTORY AND IDEAS, p. 34; mil Nauman, THE HISTORY OF MUSIC, Vol. 1, p. 177; Dr. Frederick Louis Ritter, HISTORY OF MUSIC FROM THE CHRISTIAN ERA TO THE PRESENT TIME, p. 28; THE APOSTOLIC AND PRIMITIVE CHURCH, pp. 368-369)
The reasons for the use of instruments in worship have varied over time. Some have assumed the use of instruments have always been the practice of the Church. The truth is, that is not true. This is proven in simple historical study. It has mostly grown in practice over the last two hundred years. The use of this rationality exposes this mindset as one of vain worship. (Matthew 15:9) Another reason that seems to be presented is that many do not find any problem with its use. We live in a world where worship practice has become populace driven. Whatever pleases the ear, the eye, or the heart are dominant over Biblical command. I would caution anyone who proposes to set the standards for righteous worship of the Righteous God to please rethink that pattern of logic. Popular secular worship will never comport with the established and true worship given to us in scripture. (Acts 17:22-23) Man’s voting practices, as they pertain to God, have failed every Biblical example. Man struggles to see God, much less to know how to worship Him without specific and direct guidance. The greatest attempt one makes is when the Bible is used to justify musical instruments in worship. At least here we can have an actual Scriptural discussion. Does the Bible ever command the use of instruments in worship, and if so does it continue into the New Testament?
We do find the use of instruments in the Old Testament. While instruments were used in the Old Testament, their use is never commanded in the New Testament. In fact, the only mention of them in the NT is in Revelation where spiritual entities are described as being with them, or the sounds of some voices are compared to loud instruments. Nowhere do we find instrumentation directed, commanded, or practiced by the New Testament Church in spite of the fact that instruments were readily available to the early Christians. Some might be inclined to argue that the absence of a prohibition is an argument for the use. Many things are not specifically prohibited by command that would be wrong in practice from the Old Testament to the New. An example would be the use of incense as a matter of actual practice in worship. It, also, is used in the Old Testament, and found in Revelation. We never find its use in the New Testament in regard to worship. Since our pattern for authentic Christian worship is the righteous practice of the New Testament Church, we are confined to the Biblically commanded practices, Biblically observed practices of our Christian forefathers, or inferred practices or attributes of that same group. I won’t take the time today to describe and define hermeneutics to those who might be inclined to protest those same elements of Biblical understanding, but I will simply contend for now that they are a sound way of finding truth in God’s Word.
No amount of historical data will ever replace the simple and beautiful Word of God. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 both call on the heart to be the primary element of Godly vocal praise. We find the example of the heart being the focus with Jesus and the apostles in Matthew 26:30, and Mark 14:26. We find the same with Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25. Other references would be Romans 15:9 – “sing to Your name”; 1 Corinthians 14:15 – “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding”; Ephesians 5:19 – “singing and making melody in your heart”, Colossians 3:16 – “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”, Hebrews 2:12 – “I will sing praise to You”; and James 5:13 – “Let him sing psalms.”
Praising God will always be about an individual and their heart. It will never be about the glorification of one’s talent. It will always be about the observation and approval of the One we claim to be there to praise and worship. Maybe the question of instrumental music has to do with my heart more than my ear or my vocal cords. Scripture and early practice are clear. If Scripture and practice are in agreement, then why are there those who are contending for their own practice? If one of the greatest separations of God’s people is in the realm of personal preferences, make sure to be on the side that supports the Bible. ALL else is both vain and futile and condemnable. God gave us voices. Use them to His Glory. If you can’t speak, you can do exactly what we are taught in Scripture and make a joyful noise in our hearts. (Ephesians 5:19) Godspeed on your journey.