Let’s jump right into some typical questions we receive concerning our worship. Although Hebrews 10:5-9 indicates the sacrifices of the Old Testament were taken away to establish the sacrifice of Christ, we do not find an explicit command in the New Testament to abstain from the use of musical instruments in worship. This is true. However, we must remember the three aspects of law in the Old Testament, Civil, Ceremonial, and Moral. The Civil Law and the Ceremonial Law are taken away. The Moral Law remains. Requirements of the Civil Law and of the Ceremonial Law no longer apply to Christians. This includes instrumentation in worship.
Then what about the use of instruments in the book of Revelation? Why do the angels and saints have harps in passages like Revelation 14:1-3? Take care, the voices in heaven are like thunder, many waters and harps. In Revelation harps represent voices of praise. Similarly, in Revelation 5:8, bowls of incense represent prayers. As we do not use incense [thunder or many waters] in worship, so we would not use instruments.
But the inspired titles of many psalms, like Psalms 12 and 55, instruct us to sing these psalms with instruments. Because the Ceremonial Law was set aside. Since the use of instruments in worship is a part of the Ceremonial Law, these directions simply no longer apply.
Sometimes the psalms command us to worship with the use of various instruments? Psalm 92:3 commands us to use the lute, harp and lyre in worship. Psalm 150 command us to worship with trumpet, harp, lyre, pipe, and cymbals. Do we handle these directions the same way? Yes. Then too, if we take these commands to be applicable to us today, we must use all the instruments.
In addition, because the instruments are part of the Ceremonial Law, they picture or portray praise. Psalm 150 commands us to praise God with “dancing.” We do not dance in our worship because dancing is a picture of joy in praise. Psalm 141:2 speaks of incense as does Revelation 5:8. We recognize incense as symbolic. It pictures prayer. We have little trouble singing about dancing or incense and not using them because we understand the symbolism. We should also have little trouble singing about instruments because we should understand the picture of the praise they paint.
If instruments were used to facilitate worship, what is wrong with using instruments to facilitate our glorifying of God today? God has directed us not to use instruments through the setting aside of the Old Testament Ceremonial Law. He is telling us the work of the Spirit in us facilitates our worship. We tend to think instruments facilitate our worship. Remember John 4:23-24. Are we actually more spiritual in our worship when we use instruments? We could be much less spiritual and more like the world.
If instrumental music exists for our enjoyment, why can’t we use instruments in worship as a part of our enjoyment of God? Do we want to use instruments in worship because it is God’s will or our desire? We must also distinguish types of joy. The joy of an athletic contest or a musical concert is a joy related to our senses. We can genuinely enjoy reading a good book, playing the piano, listening to a concert. Our emotions are deeply affected. The enjoyment of God is a higher form of joy. Jonathan Edwards said the enjoyment of God in heaven would be mind to mind. There will be a direct apprehension of God. We have tokens of such joy in this life. Instrumental music facilitates the lower form of joy.