One often hears someone muse: They used instruments of music to praise God in the Old Testament. If it pleased God then, why wouldn t it please Him today? That instruments of music in worship were pleasing to God during the Mosaic period is a point without controversy to all honest Bible students. I grew up hearing the text in Amos 6:5 misapplied. It states: Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David (NKJ). I was taught: Amos teaches that musical instruments in worship were condemned even in the Old Testament. But it never made any sense to me. The Old Testament clearly teaches that David introduced instruments of music into the worship at the Temple by the commandment of the LORD by his prophets (2 Chronicles 29:25). Also, more than one Psalm (inspired by the same Spirit who inspired Amos) commands praise to God by musical instruments (cf. 147:7; 149:3. Ch. 150). Did the Spirit contradict the Spirit? No! So what does Amos condemn? The rich and arrogant ruling class, who in wanton leisure invented instruments of music to pass away their idle time, but who oppressed the poor. That is the context of Amos condemnation, not the use of instruments in the worship to God at the Temple.
So, one argues, you have lost your case against using them under the New Testament today. But a critically important phrase has been changed. Old Testament usage was commanded. But it begs the question to assume that the New Testament does so, too. Think on how many acts of Old Testament worship are not prescribed in the New Testament! What if we circumcised our male babies as an act of worship today? It was commanded in the Old Testament. Were a male Israelite infant not circumcised, then the Old Testament commanded: that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant (Genesis 17:14; cf. Lev. 12:3). If a Christian today were to circumcise or be circumcised in order to obey the Old Testament Law, the New Testament says: if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing and You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:2,4). Strong and condemning words. What was right under the Old Testament (in this case) is forbidden in the New Testament! Could it also be true of other practices, including the use of instrumental music in worship?
The New Testament makes it plain that we are not under the Old Testament Law. Read Romans 7:1-7. Paul uses the analogy of a wife whose husband has died. She is no longer bound by the law (v.2) to her husband. She is free to remarry. Therefore (a necessary conclusion), Paul argues, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ and we have been delivered from the law (vv.4,6). But, what law is he talking about? The Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments. Look at verse 7: For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, You shall not covet - the tenth commandment (Exo. 20:17). Read also 2 Cor. 3; Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:13.
Someone might say, This is twisting the Scriptures! But stop and consider who is really twisting God’s word. Have you ever heard someone call Sunday the Christian Sabbath? Why? Because they mistakenly think we are under the Old Testament Law, and therefore we must obey the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment says: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). But the seventh day is the Sabbath (Exo. 20:10), not Sunday. The seventh day and the first day are not the same days of the week. Who has twisted their meaning into the passage at hand? The early Christians worshiped not on the Sabbath (7th day), but on Sunday (1st day; cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1). The Old Testament prescribed the former; the New Testament the latter.
The alarm one feels when someone says, We are not under the Ten Commandments, is understandable. Does that mean we can murder, steal, and lie? No! So, how do we determine what to do today to please God? We have to find it in the pages of the New Testament. If it’s not there, then we have no authority or right to do it. The authority prohibiting murder, stealing, and lying for us today comes not from the Ten Commandments, but from the New Testament (Romans 13:9; all violations of God’s moral law from the beginning). What does the New Testament say about praising God in music? It clearly teaches that singing is all that God wants in worship today (cf. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; singing and playing are distinct kinds of music). Why did God not command instrumental music in worship today? God could have, as He did with David, but He didn t. You will search in vain to find authority for the practice in the New Testament. Ah, but surely it doesn’t matter that much? someone asks. Does circumcision and Sabbath worship matter to God? He changed them. The Old Testament teaches us important concepts concerning the nature of God and man’s response to Him (Romans 15:4). The stories of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10) and Uzza (1 Chron. 13) graphically teach that all will suffer the wrath of God and the penalty of death for violating His order of worship. Does what God command in worship matter to Him? What does He think of people who change His commands about worship (Matthew 15:9)? Search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so!