Congregational Singing | Victor Tey

Why doesn’t our church use musical instruments for the congregational singing? In this sermon, Victor Tey gives 5 reasons why a cappella singing is the preference at The Church in Punchbowl.

What should be the purpose of singing in the church?

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

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.

  1. Praise God – “to the Lord”
    1. God likes it
    2. Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
    3. Not just with the church but daily in our personal lives.
    4. Why do we only sing old songs? – copyright issues
  2. Edify – “teaching and admonishing”
    1. Both teaching what is right and exhorting you to do right
    2. Both teaching yourself and teaching others
      1. You should sing to be heard by others – motive to edify not glorify self (matter of the heart)
      2. Need to be understood – no opera or pop-style singing
      3. Learn the songs if you don’t know them – download them and listen to them (YouTube)
      4. Sing them to and with your children
    3. Songs with wrong doctrine should be changed or not sung.
  3. Congregational – “speaking to yourselves”
    1. Be on time when coming to the church gathering to obey this command
    2. Simpler rhythms
    3. No rap songs

Subjective factors when judging music

  1. The age of the song
  2. Types of instruments used
  3. Its effect on the emotions
  4. The depth of the lyrics
  5. The style of the music, eg. beat or genre
  6. Association – the original composer or artists that perform the song

Don’t underestimate the power of music

  1. Throughout the bible music is used to teach doctrine.
    1. The largest book in the bible is the book of Psalms, a song book. Rich with stories, doctrine, exhortation.
  2. Don’t be naive – it will be used by Satan to influence you and your family
    1. Ezekiel 28:13 insight into Satan’s musical ability
    2. Music is like a drug, the feelings that it invokes can be addictive
    3. Get away from bad music with ungodly and worldly lyrics – what are you filling your heart and the hearts of your children with?
    4. Many famous musicians attest to being supernaturally gifted by demonic forces
    5. You wouldn’t go to the satanic church and sit your family through the sermon, yet you’ll listen to their songs?
    6. Same with movies teaching themes of fornication, pornography, sorcery, dysfunctional families, anti-biblical themes, etc.
  3. Be vigilant about the music you and your family listen to
    1. YouTube music on videos
    2. Advertising jingles on television or online
    3. Radio in the car
    4. Hangout places like cafes that play radio, the world’s songs
    5. Parties and work functions
    6. It’s like toxins in the world. You can’t avoid it but you can reduce your intake.
  4. Replacements for music
    1. Sermons, Bible, Podcasts, Hymns, Educational talks,

5 Reasons to Not Use Musical Instruments in the NT Church

  1. NT gospels and letters only have examples of Jesus and the disciples singing
    1. Examples in the gospels and epistles
      1. Matthew 26:30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
      2. Mark 14:26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
      3. Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
      4. 1 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 understanding also.
      5. James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
    2. We see breaking of bread, baptism, soulwinning, preaching, prayer, fasting, even singing.
    3. In churches today the music is such a huge part of the gathering. Why would it be mentioned so little and every example doesn’t even mention an instrument once if God expected it to be an orchestra?
  2. Musical instruments cannot fulfil any of the commandments about singing in the New Testament scriptures (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16).
    1. sing
    2. teach
    3. admonish
    4. speak
    5. make melody in your heart
  3. The Psalms have passages that seem to support the use of musical instruments for church singing but cannot be consistently applied to the New Testament church.
    1. eg. Psalm 33:1-3, Psalm 92:1-3, Psalm 147:7
    2. “How can you be commanded to sing the psalms about instruments without instruments?”
      1. We are not commanded to sing “the” Psalms, just to sing “in” psalms which are poetic, spiritual songs.
      2. I’m all for singing the bible for the purposes of memorization and edification.
    3. The position is usually not followed consistently (dance).
      1. Psalm 150 – sanctuary, dance?
      2. Psalm 149 – two-edged sword?
      3. Need to be understood in light of NT teaching.
  4. God never instructed musical instruments for the tabernacle. Instruments were an addition to temple worship, set in order by the will of King David.
    1. Moses was not commanded to create musical instruments as part of the tabernacle equipment.
      1. Exodus 36-39 – the building of the tabernacle by Bezaleel and Co.
    2. The temple was a desire of David’s heart
      1. 1 Chronicles 17:1-15 – David’s desire to build the temple not God’s commandment. In fact God commanded him not to build it but that God would build the house.
      2. 1 Chronicles 28:17 – David incorrectly understood God’s word
      3. 1 Kings 8:18-20 – Solomon was following the words of David
    3. Musical instruments were introduced when David had the Levites praise God with them when bringing the ark back
      1. 1 Chronicles 6:31  And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest.
        1. All are levites because it was part of the levitical services.
        2. Asaph was a levite
      2. Can read more about the story – 2 Samuel 6 / 1 Chronicles 13,15
      3. 1 Chronicles 23:5  Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.
      4. 2 Chronicles 7:6  And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.
      5. Nehemiah 12:36  And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them.
      6. Amos 6:5 – …invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
    4. Even though God did not intend a temple, God still blessed David’s works and used it as a shadow of the heavenly temple.
      1. 1 Kings 8:11, 2 Chronicles 5:14 – glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
      2. 2 Chronicles 29:20-36 – Hezekiah repairs the temple
        1. v25 – commandment of the Lord by his prophets
        2. v35 – So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order.
      3. God did not intend a king but still uses the picture to describe the Lord.
  5. The temple was a shadow of heavenly and spiritual things and is no longer in effect
    1. Hebrews 9:1-14 – divine service, worldly sanctuary
    2. Revelation 14:2-3  And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
      1. Instruments are used for worship in the real temple of God in heaven as revealed in the book of Revelation.
      1. Revelation 8:1-6 – There’s also an altar, fire, incense, cherubims.
      2. Hebrews 8:5 – It’s the real temple that the tabernacle symbolized.
      3. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – Spiritual temple = body
      4. Spiritual Instruments = making melody in your heart

The Pros & Cons

  1. Cons
    1. If unskilled can be awkward – instruments can act as an aid but should not aim to replace voices
    2. Silence after songs or during communion – church is not meant to be a show or party
    3. The dumb cannot participate – an exception, being blind doesn’t negate having to “read” the bible.
    4. less entertaining if you come to church just to listen and not sing
  2. Pros
    1. No logistics
    2. No music practice
    3. Less space
    4. Cheaper
    5. Everyone singing – if a large group was singing, it would drown out the instruments were it not for amplification.
    6. Words emphasized over melody – since an instrument is pure melody.
    7. Easier to hear others singing – not drowned out by instruments
  3. Not sinful – musical instruments have a place in entertainment or celebrations
    1. Music played when prodigal son returned

Interesting quotes from history and religious leaders



“All our sources deal amply with vocal music of the church, but they are chary with mention of any other manifestations of musical art… The development of Western music was decisively influenced by the exclusion of musical instruments from the early Christian Church.” – Paul Henry Lang, MUSIC IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION, pp. 53,54

4. “We have no real knowledge of the exact character of the music which formed a part of the religious devotion of the first Christian congregations. It was, however, purely vocal.” – Dr. Frederick Louis Ritter, HISTORY OF MUSIC FROM THE CHRISTIAN ERA TO THE PRESENT TIME, p. 28

“Both the Jews in their temple service, and the Greeks in their idol worship, were accustomed to sing with the accompaniment of instrumental music. The converts to Christianity accordingly must have been familiar with this mode of singing…But it is generally admitted, that the primitive Christians employed no instrumental music in their worship.” — Lyman Coleman (Presbyterian), THE APOSTOLIC AND PRIMITIVE CHURCH, pp. 368-369


3. PRESBYTERIAN – “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law.  The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.  Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to Him.” – JOHN CALVIN, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. I, p. 539

4. METHODIST – “I have no objection to instruments of music, in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.” – JOHN WESLEY (founder)

5. METHODIST – “Music as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity.” – ADAM CLARKE (commentator)

7. BAPTIST – “I would as soon attempt to pray to God with machinery as to sing to Him with machinery.” – CHARLES H. SPURGEON


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