Excerpts From the Christian Legacy of A cappella Music in Divine Worship

By Harlan Sorrell

Instrumental music was not introduced into so-called Christian worship until late in the Roman Catholic apostasy, and even then, the Catholic Church accepted it reluctantly. The Greek Orthodox Church never accepted mechanical instruments into their worship at all, and it is evident that the Protestant reformers removed them from worship.

The word a cappella is an Italian word, coming from two Latin words, a meaning “according to,” and cappella meaning “chapel.” Webster defines a cappella thus: “In the style of church or chapel music; especially in the old style, without accompaniment.” It is a fact of history that this was the style of church music from apostolic times.

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Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. —Psalm 29:2

This quarter we once again build upon the foundation of Issue 18 concerning the two covenants that God established. No longer do God’s people serve Him after the flesh but after the spirit. The use of musical instruments was absent from formal worship in the New Testament church. The sound from spiritless instruments brings no more glory to God in worship than does the lighting of candles in worship service. God is praised with that which comes out of the mouth from a holy and pure heart. Many people say that this issue is unimportant and optional. Should we then also burn incense and follow the other examples of worship in the Old Testament? New Testament teaching neither condoned nor commended these practices because they were superseded by spiritual worship. At best, the use of musical instruments in worship is inadvisable.Read more

Music in Worship

Scripture Reading:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. —John 4:23-24


Musical instruments were used in the Old Testament when service to God was based on ritual and ceremony after the flesh. Worship in the New Testament dispensation is to be in spirit and God instructs His people to sing not to play. A cappella singing is the biblical pattern and practice for God’s church.

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Types & Symbols of Musical Instruments

There is great beauty in reflecting upon musical instruments as types and symbols of the unity brought by the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people. When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, 120 priests sounded trumpets as one with the singers to praise and thank God (2 Chronicles 5:12-14). The glory of the Lord came down and filled the temple. In the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost, 120 followers of Christ were in the upper room in one accord. The Holy Spirit descended and filled them with His glory. They then became instruments of righteousness doing the will of God.

Music in Worship

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). Thus spoke Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well. The words of Christ clearly intonated that a change had come and that the manner and condition of true worship would be different.

True Worship Desired

In the dispensation before Christ, worship was ritualistic and ceremonial in nature. God’s people kept certain days holy, offered sacrifices, burned incense, observed ritualist washing, played musical instruments in worship, and the list goes on. With the coming of Christ, God was no longer satisfied with worship of the flesh by the flesh but was interested in the spiritual communion of man’s heart through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. While false worship continues today, God is still looking for true worshippers.Read more