Examining the Doctrine of the Church of Christ Denomination
In dealing with this topic, you need to keep in mind that not all Church of Christ denominations agree on this subject. So before you begin to witness to them about musical instruments, you need to find out where they stand on the issue. It would be easy to see why a person might ask, "What's the big deal if they have musical instruments, anyway?" Well in reality, it is no big deal, to you or me, but it is to them. Such a big deal, in fact, that they say if you do have musical instruments in the worship service, then your worship is PAGAN, and it could cost you your salvation! This is also another area where we get a glimpse of the schizophrenia that so often accompanies this type of legalism. Because many of the same people that say it is evil to use musical instruments in worship to God in the church service, will use musical instruments to worship God at home! It's because they see some sort of invisible, nonexistent dichotomy between the church service, and everyday life. It's as though you act one way in church, and another way at home. That might explain why in some Church of Christ denominations, right after the worship service is over, and they've studied the Word, and taken communion, half the congregation heads for the back door to "have a smoke." This is especially true in the southern states.
Their main reason for outlawing musical instruments in the church service is because they say that it is not mentioned in the Bible. You may remember their slogan is, "We speak where the Bible speaks; and we are silent where the Bible is silent." Unfortunately for them, ignorance is not bliss… it's just plain folly. Unbeknownst to them, the Bible very clearly does give us permission to have musical instruments in our worship to God, whether it's in a corporate worship service or in the privacy of our own home, car or wherever the Spirit might lead. Ephesians 5:19 says "... speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs..." and correspondingly Colossians 3:16 says to, "... admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." So Paul makes it clear that we are to sing "psalms," but which psalms? Obviously he is referring to the Psalms of David! And many of the Psalms say to worship God with musical instruments, such as Psalm 150. Also, many of the Psalms were directed by David to be accompanied by a musical instrument, such as a harp or lyre. We also see that the worship of God in heaven will also include musical instruments as found in Revelation 15:2,"They held harps given them by God."
But let's dig a little deeper into the actual definition of the word psalm. Most serious students of the Bible own a concordance. This is simply a reference book that lists all the key words and phrases in the Bible, in alphabetic order. The most commonly used concordance is called, "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible." It's approximately 1500 pages long. It also has a Hebrew and Greek dictionary in the back, where you can actually look up certain words in the Hebrew and Greek languages, which is what the Old and New Testaments were written in, respectively. If you were to take the time to look up the word "psalm" in the Greek dictionary, you would find this definition (#5568): "A set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp, or other instrument)." The root word of psalm is "psallo" which means to means "to twitch, twang or pluck," such as pluck a string of a musical instrument. We even see this term used in this same context to this day: in the southern states, the old timers "psalm" (pick or pluck) cotton. Obviously, from its text and its definition, a psalm was normally accompanied with a musical instrument.
If you applied the CoC legalistic perspective to the entire verse of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, then we could not even sing. They say, "The verse says making melody in your HEARTS not with your HANDS!" Meaning you cannot "make melody" with your hands playing a man-made musical instruments. But if the melody HAS to be "made ONLY in your heart" then that would also preclude the vocal cords.
Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of what happens when you establish your doctrines in haste! Can you find the words "musical instruments" in the New Testament? No. "Then let's keep them out of our worship!" But wait, Brother, doesn't the word "psalm" mean: "a song accompanied by a musical instrument?" Well, at this point they will choose their tradition over the Bible, because they don't want to be confused by the facts! And if you think that's bad, you should hear some of the straws (verses) they grasp at out of context, to buttress their erroneous conclusions. There are several examples we could cite that they wrongly claim substantiates their position against musical instruments in the worship of God, but for the sake of time, we will just look at the two most common. The first is what they call an "argument from silence." In reality it would better be described as a "straw man argument." What they say is that there were never any musical instruments used in the Temple worship, in the Old Testament. The reason that would be an issue to them is that they make a correlation between the Temple and the Church. Then you can point out that they are completely wrong in their assumption, by citing one of many scriptures, such as II Chronicles 5:12, which clearly shows musical instruments in the Temple.
II Chronicles 5:11-14 took place at the dedication of the Temple:
"The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians-Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives-stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD .Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
'He is good; His love endures forever.'
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God."
So we clearly see God sanction the use of musical instruments in worship by endorsing the proceedings by filling the Temple with His Glory.
The Church of Christ denomination will usually then come back with the moot argument that "There were no musical instruments in the Most Holy Place." Well, there were no accapella singers in the Most Holy Place, either! This is why we refer to this as a "straw man argument." It's totally without merit. It doesn't prove anything, let alone their point!
Next, they usually will cite Amos 6:5, which they claim proves that musical instruments are evil. Rather than quoting the entire chapter here, please read all of chapter six of Amos and I'm sure you will immediately see the flaws in their logic. We see in these verses that God (through the Prophet, Amos) is pronouncing woes upon those "who are at ease in Zion." And one of the sins that they were committing was that they were "inventing musical songs and instruments, just like David." First of all, if it was a sin to invent songs or instruments "like David," then it would have been a sin for David to do it, too! But this chapter also refers to them "eating beef" and "lying down on beds of ivory." Are these sins, also? NO! It is just a list of things that they were doing that revealed their apathetic hearts. It wasn't because these things were evil, in and of themselves, but because that's all they did. They were more concerned with the pleasures of their daily lives than they were with doing God's will.
The funny thing about the Church of Christ denomination on this (or any other) issue is their bizarre bi-polar view of the Old Testament. As soon as you quote something out of the Old Testament, they are on you like stink on a skunk, saying, "That's the OLD Testament and we are not under the OLD Testament!" But two minutes later they quote the Old Testament to back up their position.
So we see yet another example of how the Church of Christ denomination is willing to bend and stretch the Scriptures to fit their mold. But alas, anyone with "eyes to see" and "ears to hear" can quickly detect counterfeit doctrine when faced with the authentic truth of God's Word. The issue should be dealt with graciously through the words of our beloved Apostle Paul, as he attempts to deal with a similar issue in Chapter 14 of his letter to the Romans. I encourage you to stop and read the whole chapter right now. Paul simply states that on nonessential issues, such as eating meat or celebrating holidays, please don't be judgmental. If you want to eat meat or celebrate a holiday as unto the Lord, then fine. But please don't judge your brother who seeks to abstain. And I'm sure Paul would say the same thing about musical instruments, especially when he already said they were permitted in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16! It is simply a personal preference. I have friends that attend churches that worship without instruments, and I say, "More power to you!" But the Church of Christ denomination says that if you include musical instruments in the worship of God, then your worship is Pagan (Godless) and could cost you your salvation!
Now if Paul says not to judge your Brothers in non-essential issues, then the Church of Christ denomination is clearly overstepping their boundaries in this case. My suggestion to the Church of Christ denomination is to take the log out of your own eye... then you'll be able to read your Strong's Concordance better!
Like we said earlier, no one cares if the Church of Christ denomination wants to leave out musical instruments in their worship, that is their prerogative. The reason that this issue is so egregious is because they judge and condemn everyone else who chooses to use musical instruments like David did, as the angels in Heaven do and as the Apostle Paul instructed.