A Matter of Authority

By: Zach Collins

Paul once wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” – Colossians 3:17

The issue of mechanical instruments, in Christian worship, is truly a matter of authority. The phrase “word or deed” embraces two areas in the church – teaching and practice. In short, what we teach and what we practice must be implemented through the authority of Christ. To declare authority, one must find a direct command, whether explicit or implicit, or an example. Many are often surprised to learn that the Bible never authorizes the church to worship God with mechanical accompaniment. In truth, the use of mechanical instruments in worship is a mere tradition, adopted within Christendom in recent history, that is void of biblical authority.   

It can be stated, emphatically, that the church of Christ in the first century did not use instrumental music in worship. These are the words of Clement of Alexandria, a mere two hundred years after the death of Christ, “Let the pipe be resigned to the shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious who are engrossed in idolatry. For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the banquet… (i.e., Worship). We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, trumpet, timbrel, and flute.” Not only was this practice void of example in the New Testament, but it was also commonly accepted that the implementation of mechanical instruments in worship was a dangerous step toward Judaism and the handwriting of requirements (c.f., Colossians 2:14).  

In the same manner, we must be diligent to remain within the bounds of Christ’s authority. If the King makes a decree within his authority, does the subject have the authority to change or alter the King’s decree? In our lives, we are commanded to respect the limitations of our authority and submit to the authority of our superior. If Jesus has been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth (c.f., Matthew 28:18), we as subjects in the kingdom of God can not alter the King’s decrees to implement our traditions. 

Would you consider these biblical truths regarding authority and musical instruments?

1.     Instrumental music in worship was never endorsed nor taught by Christ. Since we must do all things through His authority (c.f., Matthew 28:18; Colossians 3:17).  

2.     Instrumental music in worship was never endorsed nor taught by the Spirit. Our faith comes through hearing the teachings of the Spirit (c.f., Romans 10:17). 

3.     Instrumental music in worship was never endorsed nor taught by the Apostles. These men were guided into all truth (c.f., John 16:13-15). 

4.     Instrumental music in worship is given no biblical precedent. All we do must be done through the authority of Christ. The Bible is absent, whether implicitly or explicitly, of such a practice. We must not go beyond what is written (c.f., 1 Corinthians 4:6).  

These basic, yet persuasive, biblical truths should guide our thinking on this common practice and tradition in Christendom today, which is void of any biblical precedent. If musical instruments were implemented, in Christian worship, based upon the authority of men and not the authority of God, such a practice exalts the teachings of inferior men over a supreme God. 

While this is not an exhaustive study of musical instruments in worship, we must concede to this simple truth: Implementing musical instruments in worship is a matter of authority and, if our only authority is in Christ, we have no authority to teach the commands of men as doctrines. 

Meditate on these things