Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16, NKJV)
The word of Christ is not merely the word about Christ, but the word that belongs to Christ. It is the message of the cross, the word of truth, and the gospel of our salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; Eph. 1:13). We are called to let His word be at home in us, not as an infrequent guest, but as a constant resident. With the word of God abiding in us, we can overcome the wicked one (1 Jno. 2:14). But, Christ’s word must dwell in us richly along with “all wisdom.” Doing so equips us to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10). We must do more than know the word of Christ. We must use His word correctly and wisely. With the word of Christ and wisdom combined in our hearts, we can teach and warn one other with the music of praise Christ approves. Singing songs of praise reveals our thankful hearts while also teaching God’s word to each other. We do not need to add another kind of music (instrumental) to accomplish the teaching and admonition singing achieves. Indeed, the word of Christ does not teach us to add playing music to singing music as a form of worship. Adding instrumental music to our singing worship adds another kind of music to what the word of Christ says. Doing so does not “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom.” When we add to the word of Christ, we act foolishly.
2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV)
This passage explains several things about the musical worship we give God. It tells us to give God vocal music (singing). It tells us who sings and what it accomplishes, what we are to sing, how we are to sing, and to whom we sing. It is notable that vocal music – singing – achieves each of these purposes without adding an instrument. Forcing instrumental music into this passage (when it is not there) is a futile attempt to add to the sufficiency of God’s word. Worship music is vocal (singing). We speak “to one another” when we sing. Everyone sings – this is congregational singing – and by “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” we teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Sacred, religious odes that address spiritual subjects are what true worshipers sing (John 4:23-24). Singing is the mode of communication to use, not whistling, stomping, thumping, clapping, humming, or any other non-verbal expressions that attempt to heighten emotion and mimic musical instruments. The heart, our God-made instrument, is plucked as songs are sweetly and earnestly sung to the Lord. We can unite on the truth that singing is true worship to the Lord. Division came when musical instruments were added to worship. We know God put singing in His church. So, who put playing musical instruments in the church (Galatians 1:6-9)? [More on this in tomorrow’s Sword Tip.]