Where In The Bible Is Instrumental Music Forbidden?
Nowhere in the Bible does God explicitly forbid the use of instrumental music in
worship. Some find implicit condemnation in Amos 6:1-5, where the prophet
writes, "they invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." But upon
a closer contextual examination, one must conclude that the self-indulgent and
insensate idolator is condemned, not the instrument. Using for revelry what
David had been commanded by God to use in worship (2 Chronicles 29:25-26)
kindled the wrath of Jehovah.
To justify any practice upon the fact God has not forbidden it is to argue from
silence. Silence never authorizes anything. Such endeavor to justify begins at the
wrong place with the wrong emphasis.
For example, no one from the tribe of Judah, "as to which tribe Moses spake
nothing concerning priests," could attend at the altar under the Mosaic Law
(Hebrews 7:14). It was not that God said nothing against any family other Aaron
being priests, for He clearly did (Numbers 18:7; 16:40). The emphasis is that he
said nothing for the tribe of Judah attending at the altar. Since Jesus arose from
the tribe of Judah and is priest, the lack of authority for such a combination
necessitated the changing of the law, whereby a new order of priesthood is
justified (Hebrews 7:12).
To argue from silence is to be presumptuous with Almighty God. Nadab and
Abihu serve as sobering reminders of God's attitude toward man's daring
presumptuous actions. They offered "strange fire before the Lord, which He
commanded them not" (Leviticus 10:1). Notice that God did not say not to. He just
gave no commandment. The price for assuming that God's silence is permissive
was enormous and frightening. Fire from God devoured the two priests (Leviticus
By His severity, God determines to teach that He will be sanctified among those
who come before Him as priests, and be glorified among the people (Leviticus
10:3). Neither can be accomplished when men act upon what God has not
So, to justify any action merely because God does not forbid it is the wrong
beginning place for authority and causes the creature to stand before His Creator
as audaciously presumptuous.
Some proponents of worshiping God with mechanical instruments of music try
to appear less presumptuous by stating that the instrument was authorized by
the Old Testament. They reason since its use is not expressly forbidden in the
New Testament, God still authorizes it in worship today.
What might appear as less presumptuous is nevertheless presumptuous. The
argument appeals to the Law of Moses, which was originally given only to the
Israelites and which no Jew or Gentile is under today (Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:3, 13;
Romans 3:1-2; 9:4; Hebrews 8:8-13), for authority. And when forced to appeal to
authority found in God's new covenant in Christ, the proponent argues from
silence: "God does not forbid it."
If his line of reasoning is right, then we have "authority" for offering incense to
God in worship today. It was authorized in the Old Testament and is not
forbidden in the New. One partaking of the Lord's supper could first eat a lamb
typifying Christ and then partake of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.
What a meaningful memorial, blending the old with the new! When asked for
authority for such worship, one could reply, "It was commanded in the Old
Testament and not forbidden in the New Testament." For the authority that
supposedly allows for the mechanical instrument in worship, will also allow for
the lamb on the Lord's table.
The reasoning that something is authorized if not explicitly forbidden never
allows for the possibility that God has a peculiar design in mind. Only Aaron and
his sons could handle or touch the ark of the testimony with rings and staves in
order that it be borne by the sons of Kohath (Exodus 37:5; Numbers 4:15). When
David ordered the ark to be brought to him from nearby Kiriathjearim, he
allowed the ark to be borne on a "new cart" (1 Chronicles 13:7). When the ark
became unsteady, one of the two drivers, named Uzza, touched the ark to steady
it and was struck dead before God (1 Chronicles 13:10).
Later, David acknowledged, "no one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites," not
because God expressly forbade all others, but that He only authorized the one
family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 15:2; Numbers 4:15). David confessed, "Because
you did not carry it at the first, the Lord our God made an outburst on us, for we did
not seek Him according to the ordinance" (1 Chronicles 15:13). God's ordinance
did not expressly forbid a "new cart," but such silence did not authorize it either.
The ark was designed by God for carrying on the shoulder, not riding on a cart.
When the Levites "carried the ark of God on their shoulder with the poles thereon
as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord," the ark arrived at
David's destination without incident (1 Chronicles 15:15-16:1).
A child knowing that for his own protection his parents desire to know his
whereabouts asks his mother's permission to go into a neighbor's house to play.
Recognizing the family, she grants permission. What parent would be pleased to
learn that in addition to the house specified, he went into two other homes before
coming home? What boy would be justified by saying, "But Mom, you didn't tell
me I couldn't go into those houses"? What mom feels compelled to enumerate all
the houses her son cannot go into the next time the boy goes out to play?
Yet, the proponents of mechanical instruments of music demand the same work
of God. They feel that they are justified in using the instrument of music in
worship if God does not forbid it. Who thinks for a moment that Uzza, David, or
the frustrated parent would agree? Does God have to tell us what He forbids
before He can preserve only what He wants in worship? How much more
voluminous the Bible would be if God approved of such reasoning!
God never says, "Thou shalt not use mechanical instruments of music in worship." However, to assume that such silence is permissive is presumptuous. To establish what God desires in our worship today, we must begin with what God has commanded, not what He has not forbidden. The failure to do so is digressive, and is greeted with God's wrath, not His approval.