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Musical Instruments In Worship (4)

When we come to the New Testament, we must ask the same questions that were asked by Hezekiah, Josiah, and Nehemiah. Who gives the standard for worship? Where will we seek our authority for musical instruments? Is it David? Is it Moses? Is there authority for musical instruments in worship? If so, what specific instruments are authorized and who is to play them? Is it to be the priests and Levites as David was commanded?

The Hebrew writer argues strongly that the Levitical priesthood and the physical temple has been abolished:

“For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” (Hebrews 7:12)

“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holiest of all is not yet opened as long as the first tabernacle is still standing…” (Hebrews 9:8)

From these passages we learn that since the priesthood has changed from Aaron to Christ, the law has also changed. The first covenant (the Law of Moses) was obsolete and vanished away. Salvation and the way into heaven were not opened while the first tabernacle was still standing. Therefore, with the Levitical priesthood gone, the old law changed, and the tabernacle no longer standing, there is nothing revealed in the Old Testament concerning the use of musical instruments that is applicable today. To turn to David as authority for musical instruments requires us have a physical priesthood from the tribe of Levi, because that was what God commanded David (please read previous posts for explanation).

Just as Moses was directly commanded by God (Numbers 10:1-10) for priests to use two silver trumpets for certain, specified occasions, and just as David was directly commanded by God (2 Chronicles 29:25-27) for certain Levites to use certain instruments on certain occasions (1 Chronicles 16:1-6), we need to search the New Testament for the same kind of authority. Just as Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:25-29), Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:4-5), Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:10), and Nehemiah (12:24,35,45-46) restored the worship to what God commanded David, we must also restore our worship to what is commanded in the New Testament.

However, the New Testament does not provide a command for using musical instruments in worship. Further, we have no instructions on which instruments to use, who can use the instruments, nor when the instruments are to be played. The silence on these matters should be glaring to us. Only by the command of God were instruments added in the Old Testament, along with careful explanations of who can play, what instruments were to be played, and when the instruments were to be played. We lack information and commandment for all these things in the New Testament.

Consider further, in the lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12), there is no gift concerning musical instruments. And yet, those were gifts given by God under the Old Testament system. If musical instruments of the temple were to continue, why do we not find the apostles instituting their use or any New Testament church practicing it? Why is there no mention of any spiritual gift for musical instruments in the New Testament? While in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit spoke profusely and very specifically about the use of instruments, the Holy Spirit remained absolutely silent in the New Testament regarding instruments.

Finally, the instruments of David were never separated from the temple or the sacrificial system. Therefore, as John Calvin said, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.” John Calvin correctly observed that returning to instrumental music is returning to the Old Testament system of worship. We do not look to the Law of Moses, for the Law was only a shadow of the things to come in Christ (Hebrews 10:1; 8:5). We are under Christ and his Law (Hebrews 10:8-10). To continue to use mechanical instruments in Christian worship is to return to the Law of Moses, to the Levitical priesthood, and to animal sacrifices which cannot take away our sins (Hebrews 10:1-4). We have been set free in Christ and must not submit ourselves to the shadows and the enslavement found in the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1-4; 4:21-31; 3:10-14).