I also wrote a short article on this subject, but the audio has more information, so be sure to listen!
I do not believe that the use of instruments in worship is against God’s will. I believe that God simply wants us to worship Him in the realm of the spirit (without the distinctions and boundaries of the flesh) and in truth (The Logos, Word, Christ – John 1:1, 14:6, 17:17). The reason why I begin in this way is so that you know precisely where this paper is going. Jesus’ comment in John 4:24 is in response to a question that a Samaritan woman had as to the appropriate place of worship. Jesus’ response was that while the place had been a popular debate, His ministry would lead the people away from a single, flesh-centered place with distinctions, walls, and national requirements to a more inclusive, global place (1 Corinthians 1:3 – “every place”). That is, worship would not be “here or there” but “in spirit.” Anyone can go to the right place but not everyone can be in spirit because being in spirit requires the right attitude. For years, I used this passage to teach that the worship that we offer must be authorized by the New Testament, but, regardless of the truthfulness of that premise, I do not believe that this text defends what I thought it did. It is possible, in my opinion, for one to worship God in spirit and in truth with out without an instrument.
The real question, however, is about authority. The question that is usually asked is, “Does the New Testament authorize instrumental music?” The assumption within this question is that silence is authoritative. Thus, the argument is as follows:
The New Testament does not authorize the use of instruments in worship to God.
That which is not authorized is sinful.
Thus, it is a sin to use instruments in worship to God.
In order for an argument to prove a conclusion to be true, it must meet three requirements: 1) the terms must be clear, 2) the major and minor premise must be true, and 3) the argument must be valid. In the above, both one and three appear to have been satisfied, so the question is if the premises are true.
One argument that is often discussed is whether silence is permissive or prohibitive, and it is this point that we will dwell on in the course of this paper. If silence is permissive, the argument goes, then instruments are allowed to be used in a worship assembly. If silence is prohibitive, then the use of any mechanical instrument would be a sin. For the sake of my audience, I will be playing by these rules regardless of whether or not I believe them to be proper. Perhaps their validity can be determined at a future date in another paper.
The fact is that the New Testament is apparently silent on the approval or disapproval of the instrument in worship; however, the New Testament is not silent on the discontinuation of the sacrificial system. In fact, the New Testament addresses the discontinuation of dietary laws, purity washings, and sacrifices (Hebrews 9:9-10). The reason why these ordinances had to be named is because of their prevalence in Old Testament worship. The Jewish Christians of the New Testament continued to participate in things pertaining to the Law, so the Hebrews writer made it plain what actions were to cease at the end of the Old Covenant age – what he calls the “time of reformation” in Hebrews 9. The Old Covenant was ready to vanish away at the fall of the temple, so the things associated with the Law were ready to pass away as well (Hebrews 8:13). The question is then why did Paul not mention instruments in any of these texts?
The reason is that the instrument was not part of Torah. As the prophet Amos said, it was popularized by David (Amos 6:5). If you search Torah, you will not find any positive or negative command regarding the playing of instruments in a musical way during a worship service; however, throughout the Psalms, one can find much praise for the use of the instrument in worship. The popular response to this is that the Psalms are in the Old Testament, so they are not authoritative for us under the New Testament. While this is true, these passages show us the prevalence and sanctity of the instrument in worship and praise to God. Again, the New Testament is silent on the use of the instrument, but from an overall biblical perspective the silence of its condemnation speaks louder than its apparent lack of approval because its approval was assumed. Thus, it is no surprise to anyone that the angels use harps in Revelation and that the apostle Paul told his audience to sing Psalms which are saturated with references to the instrument. As a side note, in the book of Psalms, sacrifices are often condemned because of the heart of the people participating in that worship (Psalm 50:7ff). This serves to show that one can play an instrument from the heart – just listen to a talented Jazz pianist play with soul!
The fact that God accepts instruments is assumed in the New Testament. Paul had no reason to make a positive or negative command regarding them. The saints in Jerusalem continued to participate in Old Testament worship, and the parts of it that would be discontinued were plainly pointed out. The Bible is not silent about the approval of the instrument, it is silent about their condemnation. When the Bible is silent people say that they are silent, but actually they have a whole lot more to say.