by Christopher Dickinson
What’s the big fuss about music?
In His great omniscience, the Creator saw fit to grant men and women with the ability to make and recognize harmonious, regular sounds known as music. Music is able to drive our emotions. Hearing an old song on the radio can remind us of pleasant times from the past; listening to a familiar child’s tune may cause us to recall a mother’s love and guidance. Likewise, music in the worship services can serve as a powerful tool to help us to focus upon and remember the wonderful love and life of the Savior.
To my knowledge, all religious organizations of all histories agree that music has a place in the New Testament church; however, not all are agreed on what type of music should be included in spiritual and truthful worship unto God. Among the different types of music are vocal or instrumental, or vocal accompanied by instrumental, and congregational singing or the participation of only a select few. Yet the only type of music that should be included in a worship service unto God is that type of music which was authorized by God.
So what kind of music should we produce?
It is the sincere desire of the church of Christ to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” To stand upon any other principle is to stand in doubt and without God’s authority. Jesus said in John 4:23-24,
(John 4:23-24 KJV) “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.“
We should strive to be true worshippers by Jesus’ definition, for God is searching for such people. Thus, in order to have worshipful music authorized by God we must have music that is created both in the spirit of worship and in the truth of worship.
What is truthful music? Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
(2 Tim 3:16-17 KJV) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.“
Jesus made a promise and prophesy to the apostles in Matthew 16:19, saying,
(Mat 16:19 KJV) “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.“
The kind of music that we should produce in our worship services is the kind of music that the apostles, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, authorized in the scriptures. In other words, if we want to have music that God recognizes as a part of true worship, then we must find that music described in the New Testament for Christ’s church.
What does the Bible say about worship music?
Music is an important part of our worship to God, and the New Testament accordingly mentions worshipful music on several occasions. As in all cases, however, the Bible does not contradict itself; on each and every occasion the same type of music is mentioned. Through a study of these verses, we can learn what type of worship music the Bible authorizes for New Testament Christians. Below is a list of the verses in the New Testament that mention worship music:
(1 Cor 14:15 KJV) “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.“
(Eph 5:19-20 KJV) “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.“
(Col 3:16 KJV) “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.“
(Heb 13:15 KJV) “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.“
(James 5:13 KJV) “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
We notice, then, some truths about worshipful music.
- We must sing. Nowhere in the New Testament is an instrument authorized for the worship services of the church. Each verse above mentions singing and singing alone. As Paul said in Ephesians 5:19-20, New Testament worship music is only created by “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” We are not to pull the strings of a piano, violin or guitar, but on the chords of our hearts by singing with our God-given voices.
- All must sing. The commands listed above were given by the apostles to all Christians. We find no authorization in the New Testament for small group singings or special choirs. All Christians are expected to sing together in the worship services.
- We must sing with the spirit. When we sing, we should feel the emotions that we sing about. If we sing about the joys and happiness of being Christians, then we should feel joyous; if we sing about the trials and pains of the Savior, then we should feel love and perhaps even sorrow.
- We must sing with the understanding. If we do not understand what we are singing about, then we cannot sing with our hearts and with the spirit. True scriptural music does not focus on pitches or rhythms but rather on the words that are being sung. When we sing “Amazing Grace,” we should contemplate in our hearts the wonderful grace and mercy that God has granted to us; when we sing “Blessed Assurance” we should remember how wonderful it is to be able to know God and his salvation.
Music, when produced according to God’s plan, becomes a very meaningful part of worship to God. Not only does it become an acceptable offering to our God, but it also blesses us with a renewed spirit and understanding of the one whom we serve.