GOD's Purpose for Singing
It is important that we seek to understand the heart of GOD—the "why" behind His instructions to sing.
Singing has been a significant part of human life and worship of GOD for thousands of years, perhaps since the beginning.
GOD has given mankind the avenue of singing as a means of expressing our thoughts and emotions. He desires our complete devotion, and that we would rejoice in His salvation and provision. Singing is an excellent method of expressing these feelings.
GOD is unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6). He accepted worship by song with the accompaniment of instruments (including dancing) in the OT as well as in heaven. Since He does not change, and since there is no mention of instrumental singing in the NT, I find it a logical conclusion that GOD views singing with instruments the same today.
I believe that what GOD is interested in with regard to our singing is the benefit we gain from the teaching, admonition, encouragement and praise of Him! He doesn't need our singing (Acts 17:25) and everything GOD gives us, including our worship of Him, is for our benefit, not His.
Old Covenant vs. New Covenant
Someone says, "What about the fact that all the passages regarding instrumental music in worship are in the Old Testament? We're under the new covenant so those don't apply to us."
It is true that we are under the new covenant and therefore passages such as those dealing with temple worship don't apply to us.
But what about those psalms, such as Psalm 92, Psalm 147, and Psalm 149, which clearly state that it is good to praise the LORD with singing and with instruments? This has nothing to do with the covenant.
We have to be careful to avoid inconsistently choosing certain OT verses to apply to us today and improperly excluding others based on prior convictions.
For example, have you ever heard a Christian argue that Prov. 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.) doesn't apply to us today because it is in the OT? I certainly haven't. Everybody recognizes this to be a universal parenting truth that spans covenants.
Yet, many would argue Psalm 149:1-3 doesn't apply to us. That seems awfully inconsistent to me.
The Silence Argument
Someone says, "But we have no authority for singing with instruments because GOD didn't say (in the NT) that we can use them."
I already explained my thoughts on the Spirit's use of the words "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." Feelings about the word "psalms" aside, GOD is indeed otherwise silent about the earthly use of instruments in the NT. But when we examine Scripture (including several examples in this post), GOD's silence isn't necessarily restrictive. Rather, GOD's silence means that we must individually make a judgment call—we must do our best to properly apply the principles taught in Scripture to make the best possible decision.
As much as we might like to pretend otherwise, you and I make decisions every day on things about which GOD is silent.
GOD is silent about attending college, playing tennis, and eating ice cream, just to pick a few random silly examples to illustrate.
And lest you think these things apply to only individual decisions, GOD is also silent about church buildings, church vans, church kitchens, church gyms, and church staffs.
Thus, people are left to make judgment calls about each of these issues. Some we accept or engage in; others we reject or abstain from.
(For more on my understanding of how to properly interpret the Bible, read this article.)
Public vs. Private Worship
Really? On what Bible text do you base this conclusion?
We've already established that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 are in the context of individual everyday Christian life. This includes, but is not limited to those times when the church meets.
Worship is not something we do only when we assemble as a congregation. Worship is as broad as our life. The NT does not distinguish between singing in private versus public worship. We need to be careful to avoid drawing lines where GOD hasn't drawn them.
Christians certainly don't require instrument-accompanied singing in order to please the LORD. Acapella singing fulfills the instruction and has the bonus of being quite beautiful. Our congregation chooses to sing without instruments when we meet.
At the End of All This...
The bottom line is that I have concluded that singing with or without instruments falls is a Rom. 14 issue:
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. ... But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
One person concludes it would be wrong for them to sing spiritual songs accompanied by instruments, another concludes it is acceptable.
Regardless of your personal conviction, don't judge those who conclude otherwise because GOD hasn't spoken about it in the NT. Be convinced of your own belief, follow your belief on the subject, but don't cause your brother to stumble because of your belief.