Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150)
New Testament Music
The New Testament church is a unique organization of people gathered together in Christ to show forth the wonderful blessings of salvation through the love of God. There has never been a more perfect union of the mind of God and man than the church bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. Before the worlds were created, God had determined the existence of the church to be fulfilled with the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. Through the centuries the Lord showed His will to men like Abraham and Moses with promises of something greater coming in the last days. Jesus was born of a woman and lived under the burden of flesh in sinless perfection so that He could be offered as the lamb redeeming all men from the condemnation of sin. After His ascension, His apostles received power from on high on Pentecost and the New Testament church was begun. The message was different. Salvation would not come as it did in the days of Abraham. As the church began to grow it was clear the Law of Moses had been abolished. A new law was given to men whereby they would be saved. The gospel was first given to the Jews as a sign the trappings of old law was no longer in effect. Only through the gospel of Christ would men be saved.
Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. The early disciples learned through the writings of men like Paul that Jew and Gentile were now under the covenant of grace. Circumcision, keeping of days, Sabbaths and temple worship was no longer required as the new law of Christ’s blood saved men. The worship had changed from a physical priesthood to a spiritual. Animal sacrifices were no longer required but the sacrifice of the heart. Under Christ, the law of salvation would come from the teachings of the New Covenant. One of the changes that was evident in the first century was the absence of instrumental music. The first Christians ushered into the church were Jews who knew everything there was to know about using trumpets, lutes, lyres, stringed instruments and loud cymbals. Psalm 150 declared the glory of God through the use of these instruments. Yet the early Christians never used instruments in their worship. The first occasion of an instrument used in the worship of the church would appear six hundred years after the first century church. How do we understand passages like Psalm 150 and the use of instruments today?
Authority must be established for everything that is done in worship to God. This has been the pattern since the first offerings are recorded by Cain and Abel. Before the Law of Moses authority was needed to worship the Lord. When God gave a law to the Jews (and to the Jews alone) He inscribed upon the Law of Moses the pattern of authority the nation of Israel must follow to be obedient. Christ came to establish a better covenant with better promises and effectively removed the means of salvation as found with Abraham and destroyed the Law of Moses and its authority. The Old Testament has been retained as a pattern of example to know God and His will but the authority of the Old Testament has been removed. Can we appeal to passages like Psalm 150 as a pattern of authority for instrumental music? If we are allowed to use Psalm 150 as authority then the conclusion would be the other 149 psalms would also be allowed to be used as authority. This would present a serious challenge to the Christian.
The book of Psalms is a book of books containing 150 different writings by many different men. Psalm 150 says to praise the Lord with many different kinds of instruments. Psalm 149 also declares praise to the Lord with the timbrel and harp. If we use Psalm 150 and Psalm 149 as authority for worship today we must also include everything contained in the two psalms as part of our worship. Psalm 149 says the saints are to be joyful in glory, sing aloud on their beds and let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples. The saints are to bind their kings with chains and nobles with fetters of iron executing on them the written judgment of God. All of this is the honor of being a saint. It is clear the teaching of Psalm 149 is not the teaching of Jesus Christ. If we are to take instruments of worship from Psalm 149 then we must take instruments of war as well.
All of the writers of the psalms were inspired by God. There is a lot of violence in the psalms. David spoke of his enemies falling by the sword, breaking their teeth, letting arrows fly, and washing feet in the blood of the wicked. Psalm 137 concludes with the hope that all the little ones of Babylon will be dashed against the rock. Are we to assume that since this language is contained in scripture that we are to commit such acts? The challenge of using Psalm 150 as authority for instrumental worship is that we are obligated to keep the whole law. Jesus explained how the old law was the writings of Moses, the prophets and the psalms and the early Christians learned the old law was abolished. Instruments of music have no authority in the church today because it was not in the first century. All of the passages that refer to the worship of the early church show that singing is the only means of worship. Paul was one of the finest students of the Law of Moses and the Psalms and he never suggested that instrumental music was accepted. He understood the only worship authorized was to sing. Praise the Lord but leave the instrument at home.