“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name…with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16
We are in a giving our offering or sacrifice of “fruits” to God as we sing and give thanks to Him. In regard to what we do when we gather together with our fellow priests and saints, our singing not only is a sacrifice and offering to God, it has the purpose of admonishing and teaching each other as we offer it to the Lord. Paul says in Colossians 3:16:
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
The picture we are given here is that those who have the word of Christ dwelling in them will have it come out from within us as teaching and admonishing. This is the natural thing that will happen. As we sing to the Lord, we need to learn and be challenged by the things that we are hearing one another sing. The same point is made in a parallel passage in Ephesians 5:18-19:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”
Our singing goes two directions, horizontally to one another and vertically to the Lord to be offered at His throne. We sing to God along with His heavenly host. Paul also says that we make melody in our hearts to the Lord as we sing and speak to one another. The melody doesn’t necessarily come from our mouth, although we do use our mouths to teach and admonish while we sing. But the melody is to the Lord from and with our hearts. It comes from within us and goes to the Lord. Thankfully, He doesn’t talk about the melody coming from our vocal chords. I know at times there is not much melody to be heard there. At times my singing doesn’t sound good to my ear (and probably others), but it is a sweet sound to the ear of the Lord as our hearts make melody with thankfulness to Him.
One other point I would like to make from this passage that I hinted to earlier: I believe this passage is also showing us that we are not just the fulfillment of the shadow of the temple singers, but also of the instruments that some of the Levites used during their temple ceremonies. Our instrument is within us. It is our heart. The melody that we offer to the Lord comes from our within us. The phrase “make melody with your hearts” does literally mean that we are “plucking the strings of our hearts.” This is where the music/melody comes from when we sing to the Lord. Instead of using the Old Covenant instruments that were meant to be a shadow of what was to come in Christ, we “in spirit” worship God by giving Him thanksgiving and praise from the heart. This is our “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Under the New Covenant, this is the kind of worship that our God and King is pleased with, and this is the kind of music that He specifically commands that He be worshipped with.
This is why bringing a mechanical instrument, such as a guitar or piano, etc. into New Testament worship just does not fit. The melody that is offered to the Lord is to come from within us, not from instruments that we use that are outside of us that are more for our ears and emotional stimulation. The Lord says to sing and make melody with our hearts. He does not give His approval in the New Testament for any other instrument.
I agree with John Calvin when he said, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praise 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.” Either all of the worship in the Old Covenant is fulfilled under the New Covenant, or none of it is. If you want to bring in other instruments other than the heart, why not bring incense to accompany our prayers? Or lighting candles during the offering? How about we all come to worship wearing the garments that God gives the priests under the Old Covenant? We could go on and on here. Those who want to introduce the mechanical instrument into worship really are picking and choosing “buffet style” what they want to do in worship from a covenant that we are not under instead of looking at the New Testament and asking, “what does God tell us that He wants for His church?” And many times, those who want to use instruments do it because it is what they prefer in worship, and they go to Old Testament passages to justify what they want to do. This is always the wrong way to approach scripture.
I would ask this question to those who want to bring the “shadow” of the instrument from the worship under the Old Covenant: why? Why introduce a mechanical instrument into the worship of the New Covenant, especially when He does not show His approval of it in the New Testament? We cannot know it is pleasing to Him unless He tells us it is. To do so would be presumptuous. Unfortunately, the answers we receive to these questions are often, “It is because I like it more than just singing,” or “this is the way we have always done it,” or “this is what is common in our culture today.” Once again, these lines of reasoning place us and our culture on the throne as the authority to decide what God wants in worship instead of allowing Him as King to tell us what is pleasing to Him for New Covenant worship.