Whenever you hear someone mention the church of Christ, you might say to yourself, “That’s the church that doesn’t use instruments in worship.” That seems to be the first thing that pops into people’s minds when the church is discussed. That’s probably because not using musical instruments is so rare. It seems that most people who worship God sing accompanied by a piano, organ, or even a full band.
Sometimes, when people learn that we’re members of the church of Christ, they ask why we don’t use a piano. The answer is simple, and we’ll get to that in a little bit. But first, let me ask you this: If you use an instrument when you sing to God, why do you do it? Whether in a court trial, a formal debate, or just in a general conversation, the burden of proof rests on the affirmative. If you practice something in worshiping God, you’re supposed to be able to prove why you do it. Peter tells us to be able to defend our beliefs in First Peter 3:15. Can you prove that using instrumental music in worship pleases God?
Maybe you think it doesn’t matter to God whether you use instrumental music—that it’s an optional matter. Maybe you think it doesn’t matter how we worship as long as we do it with a sincere heart. But if that’s the case, why didn’t God accept Cain’s sacrifice in Genesis 4? Why didn’t God accept Nadab and Abihu’s sacrifice of incense in Leviticus 10? And why didn’t God accept King Saul’s sacrifice in First Samuel 13? God told all of these people how to worship Him, but they did something different. And God rejected their worship. You see, God doesn’t accept everything that man offers Him.
Maybe you think the Bible tells us to use instrumental music in our worship. Lots of times, people will turn to a passage in the Old Testament book of Psalms that mentions a harp and then say, “See, it’s okay to use instruments.” But that same book mentions sacrificing animals and offering them to God. Do you do that when you worship today? No, you don’t. That’s because God doesn’t want Christians killing animals in worship. The Old Testament told Jews how to worship under the Law of Moses. But today, we live under the Gospel of Christ. It’s in the New Testament that Christ tells us how to worship acceptably.
Others have said that they like instrumental music in worship because it “sounds so good.” Maybe you do enjoy it, but the question is, “Does God want it?” God has never left it up to man to worship the way he wants to. Worship isn’t meant to please man. Its purpose is to please God. We worship God to honor Him as the Creator Who has given us everything. God is the audience when we worship, not us. What we want is irrelevant. And frankly, it’s a little bit selfish to do what we want instead of what God wants.
Someone might argue that if a person has the talent to play an instrument and he wants to praise God with his ability, then it must be okay. But we still have to ask, what does God want? We all have some talent or ability, but that doesn’t mean God wants us to use it to worship him. Some are great cooks. Some are great golfers. Others are great builders, or baseball players, or fishermen. That doesn’t mean we’re at liberty to incorporate these things into our worship.
Cain, Nadab, Abihu, and Saul didn’t see anything wrong with the way they worshiped God. But God did. If God rejected worship in the Old Testament, it stands to reason that it’s possible for Him to reject your worship today. Faithful congregations of the church of Christ don’t use instruments when we sing to God because the New Testament doesn’t tell us to (Col. 3:16-17).
It’s that simple. The kind of worship that God wants today is plainly laid out in the New Testament, and we can prove why we worship the way we do. But can you do what Peter commands and prove why you use instrumental music in worship? We don’t think you can, because the Bible simply doesn’t authorize it.
Refusing to worship God the way He wants was a sign of disrespect in the Old Testament, which God punished severely. Don’t wait until Judgment Day to find out whether God accepts your worship. Study this subject with an open Bible and an open mind.