OceanSide church of Christ

 Previous Return to Sermons Next  Click to download Audio


A Capella Music in Worship

Victor M. Eskew




A.    Once a month this year, we are doing a lesson entitled:  “Questions & Answers about…”


B.      These lessons focus upon one particular topic.  We ask questions about the topic in an effort to help individuals to understand the topic better.

1.        Questions & Answers about…The Lord’s Supper

2.       Questions & Answers about…The Organization of the church.


C.     In this lesson, we will look at:  “Questions & Answers about…A Capella Music in Worship.”




A.    A capella music is singing without the accompaniment of instrumental music.

1.        It is singing without a piano being played.

2.       It is singing without an organ being played.

3.       It is singing without a guitar being played.

4.       It is singing without an entire band playing.


B.      The word “a capella” literally means:  “in the manner of the chapel,” or “in the style of the church.”

1.        In other words, it means:  “Let’s sing the way the church sings.”

2.       Think about that.  “Let’s sing the way the church sings.” 

3.       The way the church sang was without instruments of music.

4.       If a person studies church history, it was some 600 to 800 years before instruments of music were introduced into the worship of the church. 


C.     Sadly, we also need to define singing in today’s world.

1.      Miriam Websterto utter words in musical tones and with musical inflections and modulations

2.      NOTE:  Just making sounds with one’s voice does not constitute singing. 

3.      According to the New Testament singing involves at least three things:  speaking (Eph. 5:19), teaching and admonishing (Col. 3:16).  Just uttering sounds does not accomplish these things.




A.    Singing without musical accompaniment is a matter of Biblical authority.


B.      The Bible teaches that we must have authority for all we do.  Let’s look at three passages.

1.      Colossians 3:17


And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him.


a.      All that we do is to be done “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

b.      The words, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” mean by His authority.

c.       His authority is found in the New Testament.  Thus, if is it not in the New Testament, then we are not free to engage in the matter.

2.      Matthew 28:20


Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.


a.      Jesus told His apostles that they were to only teach what He had commanded.

b.      What He commanded is now found in the New Testament.

c.       Thus, they were to only teach what is commanded in the New Covenant.

d.      Question:  Can we do any differently than the apostles?  Absolutely not!

3.      II Corinthians 5:7


(For we walk by faith, not by sight:).


a.      We are to walk by faith.

b.      How does faith come?  Romans 10:17 give us that answer.


So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


c.       When we hear God’s Word and do it, then we are walking by faith. 

d.      If we do not have God’s Word to authorize our walk, we are walking by our own devices.  We are not walking by faith.


C.     When we turn to the New Testament, instrumental accompaniment is not authorized. 

1.      Singing is authorized.

a.      I Corinthians 14:15


What is it then?  I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also:  I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the spirit also.


b.      Ephesians 5:19


Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.


c.       Colossians 3:16


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


2.      I have the authority to sing.

I can only teach what is commanded, that is, to sing.

If I walk by faith, I walk only by what is revealed in God’s Word.  What is revealed is to sing.




A.    If singing is what God has authorized, then singing with the accompaniment of an instrument is an addition to God’s Word.


B.      Additions to the Word of God are condemned from beginning to end in the Bible.

1.      Deuteronomy 4:2


Ye shall not add unto the words which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.


2.      Proverbs 30:6


Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.


3.      Revelation 22:18


For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.


C.     Adding to God’s Word is a serious matter.  It will cause one to be condemned.  This is why the matter is so serious.




A.    Instruments of music are found in the Bible.

1.      David authorizes their use in Psalm 150:3-5 and other passages in the Old Testament.

a.      It is true that instruments of music were used when the Law of Moses was in effect.

b.      That law has been done away.  It is no longer a binding covenant.

1)      I usually use Romans 7:4, 6 because they are so plain in showing that we are not under the Law:  “dead to the law,” and “delivered from the law.”

2)      Let’s turn to Galatians 3:24-25.  It, too, is very plain.


Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.


a)      The term “schoolmaster” means one who is entrusted with getting a child from home to the teacher.  The child was under the care of the schoolmaster until she reached the teacher.  Once in the teacher’s care, she was no longer under the care of the schoolmaster.

b)      In like manner, the Law of Moses brought us to the faith, that is, the New Testament.  Now that we are under the New Covenant, we are no under the schoolmaster, that is, the Law of Moses.

2.      Instruments are found in heaven (Rev. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2)

a.      Answer #1:  Harps in heaven do not authorize instruments of music in worship in the church today.  If God allows them in heaven, it does not mean that He approves of them in the church. 

b.      Answer #2:  Revelation is a highly figurative book.  Look at Revelation 5:8.


And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.


1)      Notice how the verse ends:  “…and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.”

a)      The vials are not literal, but figurative.

b)      The text plainly tells us what they represent, the prayers of the saints.

2)      There are many other elements of the verse that are figurative.

3)      Question:  Are the harps real?  Or, are they figurative? 

4)      To take a figurative term and make it literal is not true Biblical interpretation.


B.      The Bible does not say that we cannot use them.

1.      Answer #1:  We do not operate on what the Bible does not say.  We operate on that which is commanded.

a.      The Bible did not say that those from the tribe of Judah could not be priests.

b.      Yet, the writer of Hebrews says Jesus could not be a priest (Heb. 8:4).

c.       Why?  The only tribe authorized for the priesthood was the tribe of Levi.

d.      NOTE:  The same principle applies to the use of singing.  It is authorized.

2.      Answer #2:  If we operated on the principle that all things not specifically condemned are authorized, then many things would be authorized.

a.      Dancing in worship

b.      Praying to Mary

c.       Loaf bread on the Lord’s Supper

d.      Choirs and quartets and solos


C.     The meaning of “psallo” will allow the use of instrumental music.

1.      In Ephesians 5:19, Paul tells the saints at Ephesus to sing and make melody.

a.      The words “make melody” is psallo.

b.      Definition:

1)      Strong (5567):  to twitch or twang, that is, to play on a stringed instrument (celebrate the divine worship with music and accompanying odes)

2)      Thayer:  to pluck, pull out, to cause to vibrate by touching, to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument so they gently vibrate, to play on a stringed instrument, to play, the harp, etc., to sing to the music of the harp

2.      Answers:

a.      Answer #1:  Thayer’s definition also includes these words: “in the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song.”

b.      Answer #2:  The melody is not to be made on a musical instrument.  Paul says that the melody is to be made “in the heart.”  Our songs are not to be the mouthing of mere words, but they are to include the touch of the heart as we sing as well.

c.       Answer #3:  The command of this verse is mutual in nature, that is, one to another.  In other words, all would be required to play an instrument if the word “psallo” includes singing with musical accompaniment.

d.      Answer #4:  If “psallo” includes musical instruments, then to sing a capella would be a violation of Paul’s words. 

1)      How did the church miss this for 600+ years?

2)      Too, a capella should not be defined “in the manner of the church.”  It should be defined as “in the style of Satan.” 




A.    Some think that we are the only ones understand that musical instruments are not authorized in the worship of God.


B.      We are not the only ones.

1.        Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Theologian; 13th century: "Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 2, p.483, London

2.       John Calvin, Reformation Leader, Founder of Reformed & Presbyterian denominations: "Musical Instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law." Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 33, see also commentary on 1 Samuel 18:1-9

3.       John Wesley, Founder of Methodist Denomination: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen." Cited by Methodist commentator Adam Clarke; Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 4, p.684

4.       Catholic Encyclopedia: "Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets." Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 652

5.       Martin Luther, Reformation Leader: "The organ in the worship service is a sign of Baal." Realencyklopadie Fur Protestantische Theologie und Kirche, Bd, 14, s.433 cited in Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship, James D. Bales, p. 130.

6.       Charles Spurgeon, Baptist Author/Pastor: "We might as well pray by machinery as sing by it" and "Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes... we do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto Him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice." Charles Spurgeon, Commentary on Psalm 42




A.    God has always been very serious about how we worship Him.

1.      It started as early as Cain and Abel.  Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because it was not offered by faith (See Heb. 11:4).

2.      In the New Testament, Jesus teaches us that our worship must be in harmony with the truth (John 4:24).


God is a Spirit:  and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


B.      When it comes to singing a capella, we are doing all we can do to worship God in truth.


C.     We do not want to be as Cain (Gen. 4:5).


But unto Cain and to his offering he (God) has not respect.


1.      We want God to respect our worship.

2.      We want to honor God in worship.

3.      We want worship to be about Him and not us.

4.      Thus, we will not add something to our worship that is not authorized in His Word.