Don’t Use Ephesians 5:19 to Argue Against Instrumental Music

Instrumental music argument

Time and time again, the question of why acapella churches of Christ have no instruments is raised. Sometimes , it is simply because a visitor stumbles into an acapella church and sees no piano, organ or big band blaring. That gets the visitor wondering if the instruments are being tuned that week or something more dastardly has happened such as an “instrument” thief broke in the building and stole the piano, organ or every instrument in the big band.

Well, nope, it’s not an “instrument” thief. It is just a belief that the Bible teaches instrumental worship is wrong and acapella worship is correct. Sometimes, adherents to the acapella churches will say it’s because the Bible doesn’t expressly say instruments are permitted or required in worship, therefoe, they forbidden. But most often (and I’m saying this as a member of an acapella Church of Christ), I’m told it’s because the Bible states plainly in Ephesians 5:19 that God wants us to make a “joyful melody in our hearts.” Ephesians 5:19 doesn’t say make a banging sound on drums or smash the keys of an organ or piano, or even blow as hard as you can via something brass like a trumpet, tuba or French horn. No, no, no, my friends who are adamantly against instruments insist that Ephesians 5:19 says we are to only make a melody in our hearts and that melody is clearly acapella music.

I understand where supporters of non-instrumental worship are coming from, but whether that passage is interpreted correctly does not concern me. It doesn’t concern me because the early New Testament church did not have instrumental music and when I say early, I mean the first two or three decades . . . the 30s, the 40s and the 50s. Then, you know what happened? The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians in, arguably, about AD 60, 61 or 62. Way before Paul wrote Ephesians 5:19 and way way before that letter was circulated to all of the early church, there were no instruments in early Christian worship.

So, whatever argument non-instrumental proponents pit against instruments, they should simply leave Ephesians 5:19 out of the discussion of why the early church did not use them. There is a better argument and that is to figure out where early Christian worship came from. That, my friends, was from the synagogue worship of the Jews, the worship all new Christians had experienced and understood, was from the synagogue.

The synagogue worship in the early first century consisted of scripture reading, prayers, teaching and acapella singing, all of which was also found in first century Christian worship. The early Christians didn’t simply make up their worship, they patterned it after something they already knew, adding communion and prayers “in Jesus name.”

I didn’t footnote this little rant of mine, but the concept of our Christian worship coming directly from Jewish Synagogue worship came from a book I read during seminary/preaching school (the acapella Church of Christ name for seminary), either Everett Fergusons’s Early Christian Worship or a small book on early Christian worship by F.F. Bruce.

As far as arguing about whether instrumental music in worship is correct or not, that is not a big thing on my radar. I simply don’t want people who are against instrumental music to use Ephesians 5:19 for their reasoning because understanding the verse was written 30 years after non-instrumental Christian worship had become the norm, makes that precise argument pointless.

Peace y’all,

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