“You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy.” Ps 16:11

Manner of Worship: True Instruments

As a part of the formal and ceremonial worship of Israel, musical instruments were symbolic and typical.  The Bible likens the Old Testament trumpets to gospel preaching.

[1] The cymbals also symbolized the preaching of the Word.[2]  But gospel proclamation is Spirit empowered preaching. Jesus Christ confesses this. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news” (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18).  The apostle Paul also confesses this.  “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

The Old Testament Levitical choirs, singing with harps and lyres in the temple in response to the sacrifices, typified New Testament Spirit empowered praise.[3]  The apostle Paul teaches us that singing praise to God is the result of the fullness of the Spirit.  He enjoins, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19).  The connecting thread is the Holy Spirit.

There is another connection.  “That music evokes emotion is a well-known and uncontested fact.”[4]  For example, music evokes fear, joy, awe, and other emotions in connection with action in a movie.  The emotions portrayed in the film are more successfully evoked in the audience with instrumental music.

But in the gospel era, after the coming of Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, it is not instrumental music that evokes emotional responses to the gospel and to Christ.  Instruments that stir the emotions are but a dim reflection of the Holy Spirit who actually changes and bridles your emotions to form the image of Jesus Christ in you.

On one hand, the Holy Spirit works proper emotions within you (Galatians 5:22-23).  On the other hand, God guides you in the expression of your emotions in praise through the use of the Psalms. Calvin says, “I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, ‘An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;’ for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.”[5]  You have the Holy Spirit Himself plus the Holy Spirit given guide for the expression of your emotions in your worship.

In addition, although your Spirit empowered and guided praise in worship is an important outlet for your emotions, God does not ordain praise primarily for this purpose. Colossians 3:16 reminds us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (ESV).  Paul points out two primary means by which you “let the word of Christ dwell within you.”  The first means is through the teaching and admonishing you receive each Lord’s Day.  Simply put, Paul has preaching in mind. Compare Colossians 1:28.  Paul says we proclaim Christ, “admonishing every man and teaching every man.”  Listening to Spirit empowered preaching is one of God’s means for forming Christ in you.  According to Paul, singing praise is the second means, equal with preaching, God uses to form Christ in you.  This is praise empowered by the Spirit and guided by the Spirit through the use of the Psalms.

Musical instruments in Old Testament worship point you to the Holy Spirit who uses both preaching and singing as great means you should employ to let the word of Christ dwell within you.  Musical instruments in praise therefore fall away in the New Testament.

  1. “Sound the Trumpet,” RP Witness, June, 2007, 13.
  2. “Praise with Resounding Cymbals,” RP Witness, July, 2007, 15.
  3. “Harps in Worship,” RP Witness, August, 2007, 15.
  4. Matthew M. Lavy, “Emotion and the Experience of Listening to Music, A Framework for Empirical Research,” (Ph.D. dissertation University of Cambridge, Jesus College, 2001), 6.
  5. John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, Author’s Preface, 19.
2016-10-29T15:11:15-04:00 January 6th, 2014|