If people know anything about the church of Christ, they usually “know” it does not have any music. This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Why? Because people have been taught, consciously or unconsciously, that music is of one kind, instrumental.
It is true churches of Christ that pattern themselves after the New Testament do not use instrumental music in worship. This does not mean there is no music. They do have music, it is just music produced by the human “instrument,” the mouth.
Why do churches of Christ not have instruments?
The reason for a lack of instrumental music in worship is due to a lack of it in the New Testament. Churches of Christ strive diligently to follow the New Testament without addition or subtraction. And, since there is no teaching or evidence of musical instruments being used in the worship of the church, churches of Christ do not add them.
The musical worship of the New Testament church was vocal. Two passages sum up the Bible’s teaching on this point.
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
“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” (Col. 3:16).
Other passages addressing musical worship of the church are: Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; Heb. 2:12; 1 Cor. 14:15; Jas. 5:13.
Now, there are a couple of passages in Revelation that mention the use of instruments.
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8).
“And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing on their harps” (Rev. 14:2).
Members of the church of Christ do not see these as part of the worship of the church. First, the scenes depict activities in heaven, not on earth. Second, the book of Revelation is one of signs and symbols (Rev. 1:1). If we accept harps, should we also have golden bowls full of incense? If the harps are literal, is the Lamb also literal? Churches of Christ answer no. The harps, golden bowls, and Lamb are symbolic for something real. The Lamb, of course, is Christ. The golden bowls with incense are the prayers of the saints, as we are told. The harps are the praises given to God.
There are other arguments that people have for using instruments in worship, but these are not really the focus of this article. What is at issue is the misconception people have that churches of Christ do not have music. They do. It is a capella, that is, without the accompaniment of an instrument.