Biblical Principles for Music and Worship, Part 2

March 10, 2017 by Paul Chappell

piano-keyboard

In part 1 of this post, we set the context for wanting our music to be honoring to God, and we looked at three principles related to music:

  1. I believe preaching is central in worship and evangelism.
  2. I believe music is to reflect the holiness of God.
  3. I believe there is a true danger in over contextualizing church ministry.

Before reading this post, I’d encourage you to go back and read part 1 if you have not read it already.)

In this post, we look at seven more biblical principles for music and worship:

4. I believe sacred music is for the purpose of worship, thanksgiving, rejoicing, consecration, edification, evangelism, and preservation of our faith.

Music has always been vital in worship. David employed “singers” to lead the worship of God’s people (1 Chronicles 9:33, 15:16), and he chose Asaph from four thousand musicians to be chief musician (1 Chronicles 6:31, 39).

There is a place for music as mere entertainment, but sacred music is not for entertainment. In fact, Scripture gives at least seven clear purposes for sacred music:

Worship

And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.—2 Chronicles 29:28

Thanksgiving

Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:—Psalm 147:7

Rejoicing

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
—Psalm 98:4–5

Consecration

Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.—Psalm 111:1

Edification

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.—Colossians 3:16

Evangelism

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.—Psalm 40:3

Preservation of the faith

One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.—Psalm 145:4–5

5. I believe in the priority of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as taught in the Word of God.

The instruction to first-century churches concerning sacred music shows that there was obviously music in the first-century culture that did not reflect the new nature we receive at salvation. Both the words and the music (the vehicle carrying the words) must be spiritual.

Dr. Byron Foxx, founder of Bible Truth Music, says it this way: “We should sing to God, for God, and about God.” I believe we should predominantly use songs that are timeless in doctrine and melody.

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;—Ephesians 5:19

6. I believe a hymn is a celebration of God based on Scripture.

While defining “psalms” (from Ephesians 5:19) is easy, it’s a little more difficult to assign a first-century definition to the words “hymns” and “spiritual songs.”

Hymns are songs that celebrate God, focusing on His attributes and works. A hymn does not refer to an old song, versus a new song. (Even I have written a hymn. It is titled “Consider Christ” and is published by Bible Truth Music. And I wrote a “spiritual song” too: “Make a Difference,” found on page 860 of the Living Hymns hymnal.)

Most hymns from the Reformation times were paraphrased Scripture. Isaac Watts insisted on New Testament doctrinal emphasis. The Wesley brothers wrote over seven thousand hymns with words and phrases obviously steeped in Scripture.

Our congregational music is intentionally and predominantly hymns and gospel songs for two reasons: First the traditional hymns and gospel songs are generally more accurate doctrinally, hence they teach us as we sing. Second, these traditional songs connect our church generationally.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.—Psalm 104:33–34

7. I believe Christian music should reflect the orderliness of God in its melodies and rhythms.

If music is obviously written, played, or sung with driving rhythms accentuated to sway the flesh it should be avoided. Godly music will encourage us to make melody in our hearts to the Lord and will lead us to walk in the Spirit. We strive to use music that has a dominant melody with supporting harmonies and rhythms.

I realize that discussions regarding rhythm and syncopation are a bit subjective and that each pastor must use discernment. However, we must remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as spiritual leaders in the church.

Let all things be done decently and in order.—1 Corinthians 14:40

…singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;—Ephesians 5:19

8. I believe the CCM movement as a whole denies the scriptural teaching to come out and be separate.

Because the church is a “called out assembly,” I do not believe the goal of sacred music is to “bridge to the world’s styles and philosophies.” We are called to stand out, not to blend in.

Some identify a song as being CCM based on its jazz or rock style. Others determine its association with CCM by who popularized the song. In either case, the philosophy is a bridging philosophy rather than a separating philosophy.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
—2 Corinthians 6:17

9. I believe music can be used in a moral fashion to glorify God or in a worldly fashion to glorify man.

We are against the encroachment of rock and roll and jazz music on Christian music. Music is not amoral. As tones and rhythms are combined into a composition, they convey a message. Some music fits best with worshipping God, and some music fits best with fleshly expressions, such as when Aaron and the Israelites sang before the golden calf.

I am convinced that the same music that was conducive to call men to worship a golden calf would not have been conducive to the chief musicians of the tabernacle.

And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
—Exodus 32:18–19

10. I believe new songs are commended and helpful in worship.

A “new song” that falls within biblical and godly guidelines should be encouraged. Several times the Scriptures encourage the employment of a “new song.” A “new song” could be new in nature or new in composition. One benefit of newer songs is that they force us to meditate on the words.

It seems, however, that in today’s churches the general sense is that “a good new song is the one I wrote, and a bad new song is the one you wrote!”

I believe it is a matter of practical wisdom to utilize predominantly familiar songs in an individual service rather than suddenly switching from the familiar to the unknown—even if the unknown are doctrinally sound.

It has been my observation that the “newness effect” produces discomfort in the hearts of many Christians. On the few occasions when we have used two new or unfamiliar songs in the same service, some folks have felt awkward. They could not scripturally say that a song was unacceptable by conviction; they just didn’t feel comfortable. As a pastor, I have no problem “preferring” or being sensitive to these dear people (Romans 12:10).

Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.—Psalm 33:3

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.—Psalm 149:1

In part 3 of this post, we will consider five final principles as well as a few concluding remarks. Once again, I’ll suggest that you may want to hold your final analysis until you read all three parts of this article. 🙂