Singing Only?

Text: Colossians 3:16

Paul mentioned two things we do when we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs – teach one another and express our thankfulness to God. We know we are to sing, but what about using instrumental music? It this a problem? Is it a necessity? Is it a non-issue as a matter of judgment/preference? Why do we use singing only in our worship?

Question About Instrumental Music in Worship

  • Churches that do not use instrumental music in worship are seen as an oddity – it is generally expected that a congregation’s worship will include instrumental music; the fact that we do not have it is peculiar to people and they wonder why
  • Why do we have singing only as we worship in song? – not just about preference
  • It is an issue of Bible authority – what we do in worship must be authorized (Colossians 3:17; John 4:24)

Four Ways to Determine What God Has Authorized

  • Command – the Lord has given orders about what we must (or must not) do (Matthew 28:20)
  • Statement – statement of fact (John 8:24); not a command, but carries the same weight as a command
  • Example – approved examples showing what the early church did (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17)
  • Implication – the Lord has implied something without expressly stating it (Acts 10:34-35); from these implications, we draw necessary inferences (the key is “necessary”)

Singing Is Authorized

  • Command – teach one another in this way (Colossians 3:16); if we are merry, we are told to sing (James 5:13)
  • Statement – sing with the spirit and understanding; psalms when we assemble (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26)
  • Example – Paul and Silas singing hymns while in prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25)
  • Implication – we will sing this way in the assembly (Ephesians 5:19); context is not about the assembly per se, but by implication the assembly is included since we sing to one another

Instrumental Music Is Not Authorized

  • No command – no command in the NT for us to use instrumental music
  • No statement – no statement indicating that instruments are to be used to accompany our songs
  • No example – no example of early Christians using instrumental music in their worship
  • No implication – nothing that ever implies that instrumental music was part of NT worship
  • Therefore, with no command, no statement, no example, and no implication, instrumental music is unauthorized (Colossians 3:17) – we are to hold fast to the pattern (2 Timothy 1:13) and instrumental music is not part of that

Common Arguments for Instrumental Music

  • “Doesn’t say not to use them” – principle of silence (Hebrews 7:14); when God specifies something, everything else is excluded (cf. Acts 20:7)
  • Instruments in the OT (Psalm 150) – different law (Colossians 2:14); not only that, but they were commanded under the old law (2 Chronicles 29:25-27); not so in the NT
  • Harps in heaven (Revelation 5:8; 14:2) – these are symbolic, not literal; they are a metaphor/symbol for singing (Revelation 14:2-3)
  • It is an “aid” like a song book – difference between an aid and an addition; expedients must first be authorized (1 Corinthians 6:12); purpose of singing is teaching and instruments cannot teach; just as we can teach by reading a verse out of a printed Bible, we can sing a verse out of a printed songbook


  • When we sing, we do so to teach one another and to praise God
  • Why do we sing only? – only singing is authorized in the NT (Colossians 3:16-17)
  • Regardless of personal preference or prevailing practice, this is what we must do to please God

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