Do the Psalms Authorize Instrumental Music in Worship?

By Wayne Jackson

“I realize that the law of Moses, which replaced the Patriarchal law, was annulled by Jesus’ death on the cross. I further understand that we have the law of Christ today. A favorite argument, however, of those desiring to use musical instruments in worship is to refer to Psalms. Since the Jews referred to the Old Testament in three areas — law, prophets (including history books), and psalms (including the Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job) — how can we know that Psalms, and the other books of wisdom literature, were annulled along with the law and the prophets?”

While it is true that the Jews sometimes divided the Old Testament into three parts (e.g. – the law, the prophets, and the psalms – Lk. 24:44), it is also the case that at times the Old Testament was depicted by different, more abbreviated expressions. For example, it is called the “law and the prophets” (Mt. 5:17), or “Moses and the prophets” (Lk. 16:31) — in which case the poetic books were covered under one of these phrases.

More to the point, however, is the fact that the Psalms were sometimes referred to as “law.” In a discussion with the Jews, in which he contended for his own divine nature, Jesus said:

“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said you are gods’?” (Jn. 10:34).

The Lord is quoting from Psalms 82:6, yet he simply calls it “law.” Thus, the term “law” could embrace the entire Old Testament.

Finally, if the Psalms are binding as law today, then animal sacrifices are still an obligation, because the Psalms contain references to offering sacrifices (see Psa. 66:13-15). That conclusion would nullify the complete and permanent sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of human sin.

One must not resurrect any Old Testament practice in an attempt to justify worship conduct under the New Covenant regime. If the use of instrumental music in Christian worship is to be sanctioned, there must be New Testament authority for such. And the reality is, there is none — a fact which some advocates of instrumental music now concede. A current ploy is that “authority” is an irrelevant issue. This is a disastrous conclusion of last resort.

See also:

“The Divine Pattern of Acceptable Worship — Part 1”
“The Divine Pattern of Acceptable Worship — Part 2”

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.