Are All Modern Instruments Permissible in Worship?
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Part of the worship of God as we read in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, was praising Him with instruments. There is certainly no denying this. But these were musical instruments played by Biblical standards. “Modern instruments” is in reference to those invented to produce and fuel rock music and the type, with its fleshly feelings. These are new instruments that never existed before the twentieth century, such as drum sets, electric and bass amplified guitars. Instruments on their own are not necessarily inherently evil; they get used for evil purposes. I can’t however think of any good reason how these three instruments are used to promote godly and holy worship to the Lord in spirit and in truth. Other instruments that are typically associated with good and we would consider biblical, like a piano, can also be used to create fleshly and unBiblical overtones.
Since instruments are used in Scripture and God was glorified by them, then every man has the right to used them as he pleases, is the commonly heard argument today. Biblical use of certain instruments is good, they are in the Bible, but certain ones are dishonouring to God, ones that are fleshly-orientated producing profane worship rather than spiritual. That shouldn’t surprise us since we know that Satan is the god of this world who seeks to corrupt everything sacred. A good barometer to follow is — if the world loves it, it very likely isn’t Biblical.
Psalm 150 is about praising God with instruments.
“Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary:praise him in the firmament of his power. 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 psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” (vv 1-6).
There are other Psalms that speak of the same.
“Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” (Ps 33:2).
“Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. . . . With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. . . . I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.” (Ps 92:3; 98:6; 144:9).
We see Psalms does command to praise Jehovah with trumpet, cornet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instrument, organ, and cymbal. "Joyful noise" is King James language, but the translators were right. This is a noise because it is made with an instrument. If there is a joyful noise in contrast to other noises, then noises can be distinguished from one another. Like 1 Cor 14:8 says:
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Different sounds or noises from instruments mean different things. Ps 92:3 speaks of a "solemn sound," something different. I'm sure laments were not sung with a joyful noise, but a solemn one.
The assumption in God's Word, what one should call a "self-evident truth," is that we can judge sounds and noises. They send different messages, have different meanings, and some can praise the LORD, when they are in accordance with His nature and Word, and some cannot.
What I'm writing would’ve been agreed upon by just about everybody for centuries, then by most Christians after some started rejecting it because of humanism and relativism, and now people still know it, but they don't care.
King David didn’t use unbiblical instruments, nor did he use instruments unbiblically. The instruments he used and made (1 Ch 23:4) were with the intention of praising God. We know his instruments and melody were Biblical because his music was honoured by God and God doesn’t approve of anything contrary to His Word. The yardstick of His Word must measure everything. God wants instrumental music that praises Him. That means that there is music, there is an aesthetic, that is fitting with God's nature. He isn't praised by instrumental music that conflicts with His nature, and there is that music as well.
God wants to hear instrumental music that honours Him. It must be sacred. That doesn't relate to just the words. The music itself must praise God and can apart from words. I understand people will do what they want to do based upon their own thoughts and ideas rather then submitting to the Word of God but that is the very essence of humanism and relativism. Sincerity and zeal isn’t the yardstick of truth but—again—Gods Word. Gods Word is truth (Jn 17:17), which indwells all that are saved by the truth (2 Jn 1:2), which means they will walk in the truth (1 Jn 2:3-5). Instrumental music isn't primarily for personal pleasure. It is to please the Lord, which is the objective of all of Gods children. And we please Him by His truth (Jn 4:23-24; 18:37).
Jubal created instruments for personal pleasure (Gen 4:21), to console mankind under the harmful effects of the curse. Instrumental music originated in heaven (Rev 5:8; 14:2) but Heaven didn't see what Jubal did and say, "Good idea!" Jubal took something heavenly and repurposed it for self along with all the sinful line of Cain, whose imagination was only evil. Music is a way for false believers to kick the can down the road on true fulfillment in God. They replace ultimate fulfillment with superficial, short term pleasure, and music masks the pain of their rebellion, the emptiness. They get angry if they lose their carnal, worldly, entertaining activity, like a dog whose food is taken away.
Indeed, “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts," (2 Pet 3:3). These have itching ears that don’t endure sound doctrine but have turned from the truth and follow after fables and their own lusts (2 Tim 4:3-4). Since these are religious scoffers, a necessary part of justifying their own lusts involves a delicate balancing between professed adherence to Scripture and a walk according to their lusts. To overcome this difficulty, one simply increases and expands the number of things that "cannot be known or culturally applied" from Scripture, or to the list of “non-essentials,” paving the way to God-approved lust following. This is self-autonomy, not under control of Jesus, but denying the Lord who bought them.
God, His written words, is the standard for the instrumental music He wants to hear. The following is not how it should work. Man invents instruments for himself, that he likes, in line with his carnal nature. He takes that music into the church and uses it for worship, or chooses a church with that music, because then he likes church more. This keeps man at the center and most of this in history related to revivalism that used music to attract unbelievers. Almost nothing is as perverse as concocting music for man or self and then giving that to God as an offering. It's blasphemous. It’s golden calf worship and a strange fire offering, and God killed people for that, as we see in Scripture.
Godly music should be transcendent, proceeding from the nature of God and in line with the perfections of His attributes. The instruments and beats of CCM and Country music and Rock music, etc, by use of modern drums and amplified guitars doesn’t do that. It isn't Biblical worship. That is not instruments in the Old Testament. It doesn't conform to God. It conforms to the world system. People use it because they like it. Their flesh lusts after it, so they make it fit. Then in their addiction to it, they must have it at church. They will not have a church with sacred music only. It must be carnal. They demand it and manipulate to achieve it. It is frequently prominent in their church choice, scooping and sliding. They then associate it with God, bringing Him down in their imagination to the nature of their choice of music. What have they produced in the imagination of their carnal mind? “Another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4).
Christians don't have the liberty to sin. False worship is sin. The Holy Spirit doesn't manifest works of the flesh. That isn’t liberty, its lasciviousness. The Bible calls it spiritual adultery and those who have this type of mindset and love the worlds music while attempting to conform it to the Bible, are the profane and unruly enemies of God (Jam 4:4). Not His friends, because they rebel against Him and don’t do what He says (Jn 15:14), while true believers are the friends of God (Jam 2:23; Jn 15:14-19; cf. 14:23-24).
Christians have to change. They are predestined to conform to the image of the Son (Rom 8:29-30). Not all change is good though. Conforming to the image of the Son in Romans 8, good, conforming to the world in Romans 12, bad. The way most evangelicals and the like change today is not what one would expect in the Rom 8 type of change, the kind authored by God. They conform to the world and don’t want to be judged for it.
Sadly, most of these professing Christians are unsaved. That is why they love carnal worldly music, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” (Pr 23:7). God is crystal clear that those who love the world, do not have the love of the Father in them (1 Jn 2:15). Their nature is the flesh and a rebellious will (1 Jn 2:16; 2 Pet 3). They do the will of the world, proving an unsaved estate, while those who do the will of God, conforming to the Bible, prove they have everlasting life (1 Jn 2:17; Mt 7:21).
The music of true worship distinguishes between the true God and false gods, between true love and sentimentality, between true churches and false churches, between sacred and sacrilege. Contemporary professing churches mix what is unclean with what is holy. They give God profane (unholy, sacrilegious) worship and they profane God. They give Him something worldly, lustful, and distorted so as to blaspheme God. The people are like their worship. They themselves are profane and this results in even further profanity of God and of their lives. The world doesn't know God because of the correlation of the common or the profane with God in professing churches. They blaspheme God because of the blasphemy (Rom 2:24).
Read here for further info on “Christian”Contemporary Music (CCM):
• Christian Contemporary Music (CCM, Is it Honouring to God?
• Christian Contemporary Music (CCM), the Soundtrack of End-Times Apostasy