Questions from an Assembly Observer: Assembly Music

neighbor of a sister in the assembly comes out to witness the Breaking of Bread. For years, she has played the organ in her evangelical church. She is shocked that the assembly only sings a cappella, without music. She can’t resist asking her friend immediately afterward, “Why do you not use musical instruments in your meetings?”

We can be thankful that the need of musical instruments in our assembly meetings has never been a real issue. When it has, usually there were other hidden reasons for a believer’s dissatisfaction with the simple Scriptural gathering of a local church without a musical instrument.

Some will ask “What is your verse against it?” May I ask where is the verse for it, or the example of its use in the New Testament? Without a basis for it, where would we start and where would we stop? Who would want to settle for less than the best in a number of musical instruments and a complete high class sound system to go with it?

To quote the Old Testament as the authority for the use of any musical instrument in the assembly is very weak and inadequate. If we are to introduce stringed instruments into the assembly, then we have as much authority for animal sacrifices, the priestly garments, and all of the rest of the Old Testament Jewish system. The Psalmist said, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord” (Ps 150:6). Manufactured instruments hardly have breath!

We definitely understand that the early believers sang spiritual hymns (Acts 4:24; 16:25; 1Cor 14:26). Paul says, “Everyone of you hath a song” suggesting that the songs were not necessarily pre-selected, but personally selected. How heart lifting in worship, when a hymn is given from the worshiping heart of a believer! The same exercise should be evident in the selecting of a hymn as in rising to lead the Lord’s people in worship.

The question must be asked personally, “Do I as a believer in the local assembly consistently contribute the best I can to the congregational singing of the company?” Occasionally, I observe believers in the meetings and I notice that many of our dear believers let us down at times. I do realize the problems of the day or difficulties within their own lives make it almost impossible to sing. I would be first to admit our singing at times needs help, your help and mine. I also understand there are some dear saints that find it very difficult to keep in tune, let alone carry a tune.

I have been in gospel meetings where a piano was used, but it was my experience that I did not sense it helped the singing of the company. It may have helped the overall sounds coming from the song, but at times it caused the believers to put little into their own singing.

Some assemblies are very blessed to have among them some very talented singers who are a tremendous help in our singing. However, some who sing well, for some reason, believe their singing talent is only for solo singing and, sadly, you hardly hear them in the company. Some are sensitive to their abilities and try not to sing out above or better than the rest of the assembly. Yet, every voice is needed.

Thank God that every child of God has had the “string of his tongue loosed” whereby he can speak or sing plainly (Mark 7:35). Many testify to being saved while listening to the Scriptural truth in a hymn as it was being sung in a gospel meeting.

Now I know the word psallo used in 1 Corinthians 14:15 can include the musical instrument, yet clearly in one of its five usages in the New Testament, “making melody in your heart” (Eph 5:19) would teach that your heart is the instrument that the Lord desires to hear!

It is not necessarily born out of exercise when we expect the same hymn from the same brother every time he announces a hymn. It is also a good practice to rotate the raising of the hymns by various brethren on a regular basis. Sometimes a word of encouragement or explanation from the one announcing the hymn can be most helpful.

Doesn’t our singing say something important about the assembly? Some are very obviously much better singers than others, yet no difference is made. No one is discouraged from singing by another, but all seek to add to the volume of praise in song that delights the heart of our Heavenly Choir Leader Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Who would not have wanted to be present to hear our Lord sing with His own as He anticipated Calvary?)

How honoring to the Lord as He looks upon talented musicians leaving their instruments at home and joining with others, redeemed by His precious blood, to sing, with tuned hearts, heavenly songs of praise!

Believers in a healthy, happy assembly, enjoy the simplicity of their singing, as their hearts rise in worship in the gatherings.