Several years ago in Southeast Texas, some visitors asked me a question I will never forget. They asked, “Where are the instruments?” We had just wrapped up our Wednesday night Bible class. The singing was great! It was a very encouraging night. But these visitors probably didn’t think so. They were probably disappointed.
Many find it weird to see a church without musical instruments in worship. But why? It’s because most churches have musical instruments and much more. But does that make it right? The answer is no. The reason why we don’t have musical instruments, a choir, a school, a dance team, a coffee shop, and more is because we don’t have Biblical Authority to have them.
When we study the scriptures, we find a pattern for us to follow. In every age, God has given His people a pattern to follow. The challenge for many is whether they will be satisfied with God’s pattern and God’s way. Let’s consider some scriptures.
Cain and Abel.
God gave Cain and Abel a pattern to follow as they worshipped Him, Genesis 4:3-5. On the surface, what Cain did with respect to what he offered to God sounds good. And yet God regarded Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain. God was not pleased with Cain.
An answer is not given to us in Genesis as to why He was displeased. Yet additional details are found in the New Testament. Jesus spoke of Abel as the first righteous martyr, Matthew 23:35. The fact he’s described as righteous gives us insight with respect to the way he sacrificed to God. He worshipped God as God desired, 1 John 3:12.
In Hebrews 11: 4 we learn that what Abel did was by faith. This wasn’t by accident, but rather because he followed God’s pattern. Abel’s sacrifice is to be an example for us. In what way is this an example? Just as he worshiped God by faith, we are to do the same. Our faith comes by hearing from God’s word, Romans 10:17. We can hear and determine correctly what it is that God wants from us as we worship Him.
Moses and the Israelites
God gave Moses and the Israelites specific instructions to follow as they worshipped Him. After being delivered from Egypt, God told Moses to build a tabernacle, Exodus 25. It was to be according to the pattern, Exodus 25:9, 40. In Leviticus 8, we see just how seriously Moses and the people took God’s authority. In chapter eight, we see that eight times Moses and the people did “Just as the LORD commanded them…” Leviticus 8:4, 9, 13,17, 21, 29, 31, 34, 36. Maybe this explains why God did what He did in Leviticus 10 with Nadab and Abihu. They offered strange fire to God, which He had not commanded them. They failed to honor and revere God, Leviticus 10:1-2.
This story destroys the argument of “God didn’t say I couldn’t…” God used them as an example to the people to see that what His people did mattered to Him, Leviticus 10:4-6. These examples should matter to us! In every age God has given His people a pattern for them to follow.
Under the New Covenant
Under the New Covenant in Christ, it still matters that we act according to God’s pattern. People want to know why we don’t have instrumental music. It’s not because we don’t have the talent, money, or energy. It’s because it’s not in God’s pattern. We don’t have Bible authority for instruments. We do have Bible authority to sing, Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12. It’s just that simple. In fact, in the New Testament we find patterns found numerous times, 1 Corinthians 16:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 4:17. God has always given man a pattern to follow. The idea of God not providing us a pattern is simply false! Following God’s pattern does not negate His grace or our love for Him. Following God’s pattern is a way for us to demonstrate our love for God, 2 Timothy 1:13. Our starting point in all things is this: Is this pleasing to God, 2 Corinthians 5:9?
How can we know what’s pleasing to God? Only following the pattern, He gave us.