Churches need to train the people in music so well that they can test it by biblical standards. They must be able to discern such things as soft rock, honky-tonk, dance rhythms, chords as used in CCM, and worldly vocal styles.
It is not enough to publish a list of unacceptable music. Such lists are helpful, but any list will be obsolete in a short time. Further, no list is exhaustive.
The following principles from Scripture on the music issue are for the ongoing education of the entire church:
- Man was created with the ability to sing, and the chief purpose for this is the worship of God.
- The Bible is filled with references to music.
- The largest book of the Bible is a hymnbook.
- There was singing in the Old Testament temple.
- Christ’s kingdom will be a singing kingdom.
- Christ’s church is to be a singing church.
- Church music must be sung and played by Spirit-filled saints who are indwelt with God’s Word.
- Church music is for singing to one another and unto the Lord.
- Church music must be sound in doctrine (Col. 3:16).
- Church music must emphasize “melody” (Eph. 5:19).
- Church music must be sung from the heart.
- Music is not “neutral”; it is a language and the message of the music must match the message of the lyrics.
- Church music must be holy and separate from the world (Ro. 12:2; Eph. 4:17-19; 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 4:4; 1 Pe. 2:11; 1 Jo. 2:15-16).
- Church music must edify.
- Church music should be joyful.
- Church music must not borrow from and build bridges to the world of contemporary Christian music (Ro. 16:17-18; 1 Co. 10:21; 15:33; 2 Co. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11; 2 Ti. 3:5; Re. 18:4).
- Church music must not be designed to produce a charismatic style mystical experience (1 Peter 5:8).
- Church music must be skillful (1 Ch. 15:21, 22; Ps. 33:3).
- Church music must be unquestionably right and safe.
- Church music must guard against incrementalism (1 Co. 5:6; Ga. 5:9).
- Church music must aim for that which is excellent (Php. 1:10).
- God’s people should aim to learn to sing and play music.
- Pastors must oversee the church’s music.
1. Man was created with the ability to sing, and the chief purpose for this is the worship of God.
Man sings because he is made in God’s image. God gave man the equipment for singing (physical, intellectual, emotional). Consider the physical. The four main parts of voice production are as follows: The power source, which is the air excelled from the lungs. The vibrator, which is the larynx (voice box) that sits on top of the windpipe or trachea. It is an incredibly complex organ consisting of two folds (known also as vocal cords) that vibrate when air passes over them when activated by the individual. (When we aren’t speaking or singing, the air passes over the vocal folds without producing sound.) When activated, the vocal folds vibrate from 65 to 1300 times per second, being controlled by muscles in the larynx. The muscles of the larynx adjust the tension of the vocal folds to tune the pitch and tone. The resonator or vocal tract, which is the throat, mouth, cheeks, palate, nasal cavity, and nose. The articulators are the tongue, the lips, the hard and soft palate. (Source: “How the Voice Works,” American Academy of Otolaryngology.) “Together with the teeth and jaw, the lips, and the hard and soft palate, all more or less controllable by conscious intention, the flow of air, having come already vibrating from the larynx, is tuned to articulate speech and imbued with feeling from the opening, trembling or closing of the various sounding chambers of the nasal cavity, the sinuses, and even of the throat and chest. The fundamental tone is created by powerful wind blowing across and between warm, moist, moving, finely controlled membranes and cartilaginous surfaces in the voice box; but this sound is only the raw material that will be shaped again and again until it passes through the lips and nostrils” (Frederick Turner, “The Human Voice” Newington-Cropsey Cultural Studies Center, American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2010).
According to Ingo Titze, director of the National Center for Voice and Speech at the University of Utah, it would be nearly impossible to create an instrument that could elongate and vibrate exactly the way human vocal cords do (“15 Throaty Facts about Vocal Cords,” Mental Floss, Nov. 15, 2016).
The range of the human voice is vast. The loudest recorded human voice is Jill Drake, a teaching assistant who lives in England. Her scream is 129 dBA, equivalent to an AC/DC concert. The lowest note ever sung was G(-7) by Tom Storms, eight octaves below the lowest G on a piano. Storms also holds the record for the widest range, a full 10 octaves, more than 3 times the average singer’s range of 3 octaves.
The human voice can express every human emotion. “The tone of the human voice may be modulated in various ways to express our emotions such as joy, happiness, anger, sadness and surprise” (“Amazing Facts about the Human Voice,” Sep. 7, 2015, worldwithtj.wordpress.com).
The first purpose of man’s singing ability is to worship God, because this is man’s chief reason for existence. The first commandment is “thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (De. 6:5). Man is commanded to sing praises unto God. “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:7).
Men have corrupted God’s gifts and used them for their own selfish, wicked purposes, with no thought for God’s glory. But in redemption, through the blood of Christ, the fallen sinner is restored to his place as God’s son and can live for the glory of God.
Christ, the perfect man, the last Adam, sings. Zephaniah prophesies of Jehovah God singing with joy over redeemed Israel. “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zep. 3:17). We know that this refers to Christ. The writer of Hebrews cites Psalm 22:25 and applies it to Christ singing praises in the midst of the church. Imagine the Son of God singing to the Father and to His people! He is the one who invented song and created the marvelous human voice. Pavarotti has been called “the voice of the ages,” but surely, Jesus is the true Voice of the Ages, the Singer of singers! He will sing in His glory as the eternal Son of God.
Christ is the example for every redeemed saint.
2. The Bible is filled with references to music.
It should be obvious from the following study that music is no small issue in Scripture:
- Satan is mentioned in connection with musical instruments before his fall (Eze. 28:12-14).
- The angels sang together at the creation (Job 38:7).
- Cain’s offspring made musical instruments (Ge. 4:21).
- Moses and Israel sang in the wilderness (Ex. 15:1-21; Nu. 21:17).
- Israel made worldly music when they committed idolatry and immorality (Ex. 32:4-6, 17-19, 25).
- Deborah and Barak sang at the downfall of Sisera (Ju. 5:1-31).
- The Levites were organized to sing and make music in praise to God. See 1 Ch. 15:16-28; 16:4-42; 23:3-6, 27-30; 25:1-8; 2 Ch. 5:12-13; 20:19-28; 23:13; 29:25-28; 31:2; 35:15, 25; Ezr. 2:64; 3:10-11; Ne. 12:42-47.
- The Psalms contain 150 musical psalms to God.
- The wicked make music to entertain themselves in their rebellion to God (Job 21:12-14) and in connection with moral debauchery (Is. 5:11-12; 24:8-9; Am. 6:5-6).
- Israel sang when God fought against Moab and Ammon (2 Ch. 20:1423). David sang to comfort Saul (1 Sa. 16:15, 16, 23).
- The Israelite women sang at the return of the armies from battle (1 Sa. 18:6-7).
- David made many musical instruments and organized music for the worship of God (1 Ch. 23:5; 2 Ch. 7:6; 29:26; Am. 6:5)
- Solomon made musical instruments (1 Ki. 10:12; 2 Ch. 9:11; Ec. 2:8).
- There are songs of fools (Ec. 7:5).
- Israel sang at the coronation of Solomon (1 Ki. 1:39-40).
- Israel sang at the coronation of Joash (2 Ch. 23:12-13).
- Nebuchadnezzar required music to be played at his idolatrous festival (Da. 3:4-16).
- Israel sang at the rededication of the temple by Hezekiah (2 Ch. 29:20-36).
- Israel sang at the dedication of the rebuilt temple (Ezr. 3:10-11).
- Israel sang at the dedication of the rebuilt wall in Jerusalem (Ne. 12:42-47).
- Jesus sang with his disciples (Mk. 14:26; He. 2:12).
- The churches are commanded to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
- Paul and Silas sang praises to God in the jail (Ac. 16:25).
- The earth will break forth in singing during the Millennium (Is. 14:7).
- The end-time Babylonian world system loves music (Eze. 26:13; Re. 18:22).
- There is singing in heaven (Re. 5:8-10; 14:2-3; 15:2-3).
3. The largest book of the Bible is a hymnbook.
God gave a perfect hymnbook through Israel, His chosen nation. Since the largest book in the Bible is a songbook, we see the importance of sacred music before God. Psalms is infinite in its teaching. It is a whole world of revelation.
The name of the book in Hebrew is te’hillim (songs of praises). In Hebrew, the individual psalms are called miz’mor, meaning melody of praise. Psalmos (Psalms) is what the book is called in the New Testament (Lu. 20:42; 24:44; Ac. 1:20; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13). Psalmos is from psallo, which refers to touching or plucking the strings of a harp.
There are 150 hymns that deal with all facets of God’s character and every aspect of human experience and man’s relationship with God. William Law said, “Singing psalms awakes all that is good and holy within you, calling your spirits to their proper duty, setting you in your best posture toward heaven, and tuning all the powers of your soul to worship and adoration.”
The Psalms were sung by Israel (Ps. 66:8). Israel invented special musical instruments for singing the Psalms (2 Ch. 7:6)
The Psalms were sung by Protestants. A metrical Psalter is an edition of the Psalms meant to be sung. The Psalms are translated and adapted in such a way that they can be sung to one or more meters or tunes. The premillennialist Isaac Watts (1674-1748) published the most influential English psalter (1719). He is known as “the father of English hymnology.” He spent 19 years producing his Psalter and wrote another 697 hymns. Watts was a pioneer in adapting the Psalms so that New Testament truth is incorporated. He wrote,
“Far be it from my thoughts to lay aside the Book of Psalms in public worship. ... But it must be acknowledged still, that there are a thousand lines in it which were not made for a Church in our Days, to assume as its own. There are also many deficiencies of Light and Glory, which our Lord Jesus and his Apostles have supplied to the Writings of the New Testament. ... You will also find in this Paraphrase dark expressions enlightened, and the Levitical ceremonies and Hebrew forms of speech changed into the Worship of the Gospel, and explained in the language of our time and nation” (Preface, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, 1707).
He also said,
“I have not been so curious and exact in striving everywhere to express the ancient sense and meaning of David, but have rather exprest myself as I may suppose David would have done, had he lived in the Days of Christianity. And by this means perhaps I have sometimes hit upon the true Intent of the Spirit of God in those verses farther and clearer than David himself could ever discover, as St. Peter encourages me to hope, 1 Pet. 1:11, 12” (Preface. The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, 1719).
Watts’ Psalter, with its five meters (tunes), is an example of singing hymns to simple melodies (“making melody,” Eph. 5:19).
Psalm 1 (sung to the Common Meter - “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past”)
1. Blest is the man who shuns the place
Where sinners love to meet;
Who fears to tread their wicked ways,
And hates the scoffer’s seat;
2. But in the statutes of the Lord
Hath placed his chief delight;
By day he reads or hears the Word,
And meditates by night.
3. He like a plant of gen’rous kind,
By living waters set,
Safe from the storms and blasting wind,
Enjoys a peaceful state.
4. Green as the leaf and ever fair
Shall his profession shine,
While fruits of holiness appear
Like cluster on the vine.
5. Not so the impious and unjust;
What vain designs they form!
Their hopes are blown away like dust,
Or chaff before the storm.
6. Sinners in judgment shall not stand
Amongst the sons of grace,
When Christ the Judge, at His right hand
Appoints His saints a place.
7. His eye beholds the path they tread.
His heart approves it well;
But crooked ways of sinners lead
Down to the gates of hell.
The Psalms were sung by some Baptists. Charles Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle hymnbook of 1866 contained Watts’ Psalter, in addition to other hymns. The 1991 edition of Metropolitan Tabernacle’s Psalms & Hymns of Reformed Worship has selections from Watts, Charles Wesley, Henry Lyte, Philip Doddridge, Nahum Tate, and others. The tunes are published in a separate music edition.
An edition of the Scottish Psalter is published by the Free Church of Scotland. It includes 193 tunes, and each Psalm can be sung to three or more tunes.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America publishes a Psalter that includes the musical notations together with the lyrics.
4. There was singing in the Old Testament Temple.
(This study is also repeated in the chapter “Song Leading and Congregational Singing” in The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music - The Book, www.wayoflife.org.)
David organized the music worship program for the Tabernacle. This began on the occasion of bringing the ark of God from Kirjathjearim to Jerusalem (1 Ch. 15:1-24). After the ark was set in a tent in Jerusalem, David appointed a continual music program (1 Ch. 16:1-7, 37-42). When David was old, in connection with the charge to Solomon about the building of the Temple, he further organized the Levitical music program, assigning 4,000 priests to this task (1 Ch. 23:1-5; 25:1-31). He did this by divine revelation (2 Ch. 28:11-13).
Suddenly the Tabernacle was filled with holy worship music. There had been no such thing from the time of Moses until David. The divine Tabernacle service is described in Exodus and Leviticus, and there is no music. There were no Levites appointed to music. There was no hymnal.
With David, a new era begins. We are moving further along now toward the coming of Christ! David is promised an eternal throne and kingdom, ruled by his Son, who is Christ (2 Sa. 7:12-16).
In a foreview of that glorious kingdom, David begins to write the Messianic hymnal. The last five psalms of the hymnal explode with Messianic praise. “Praise” is mentioned here 50 times. These psalms are about “an everlasting kingdom” (Ps. 145:13; 146:13). The words “for ever” and “everlasting” and “all generations” appear nine times. These psalms prophesy of the time when the LORD will “build up Jerusalem” and strengthen the bars of her gates and “gather together the outcasts of Israel” and make peace within her borders and fill her with the finest of wheat (Ps. 147:2, 13, 14). Then the entire universe with praise the LORD, the angels, the sun and moon and stars, the heavens and the earth, the mountains and hills and trees, the beasts and flying fowl, the kings, the princes, the judges, the young men and maidens, old men and children (Ps. 148:1-13). Then the Lord’s people will execute vengeance upon the heathen (Ps. 149:6-9). Then the LORD will be praised with the sound of the trumpet, the psaltery and harp, the timbrel and dance, the stringed instruments and organs, the loud cymbals and the high sounding cymbals (Ps. 150:3-5). Then everything that has breath will praise the LORD (Ps. 150:6)!
In 2 Ch. 5:12-13, we see the music ministry operating full blown in Solomon’s Temple.
“Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD.”
All of these passages contain instruction for the churches. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning...” (Ro. 15:4).
This does not mean that we are to construct grand buildings and have magnificent professional choirs and orchestras like the Mormon Tabernacle. The New Testament church is a pilgrim church. We live in tents, so to speak, like Abraham. We are composed of the weak things of the world rather than the noble (1 Co. 1:26-29). We are ever waiting and ready for the call, “Come up hither” (1 Th. 1:9-10). We are not laying up treasures on earth, but in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21). Our affection is not on earth; it is in heaven where our Saviour resides (Col. 3:1-4).
But there are important lessons from the Temple music service for New Testament churches. Following are some of them:
The instruments were harps, psalteries, cymbals, trumpets and cornets (1 Ch. 15:16, 28). Though some churches don’t believe in using music instruments, it is obvious that God loves sacred worship music that incorporates instruments. There should never have been a debate about this in churches; the Psalms are not just for the Mosaic era. Today the church is the house of God and the things in the Old Testament are our example (Ro. 15:4). We are specifically instructed to sing Psalms, which takes us right back to the Psalms and the instruments mentioned therein. Observe that these are not the type of instruments used to create worldly dance music. There were no drums, for example. (Drums can be used properly in sacred music, such as in the timpani section of an orchestra, but drums as used in pop music to emphasize the dance back rhythm are not sacred.) Cymbals are percussion instruments, but there can be no doubt that when used in the Temple worship, they were not continually banged together to create a discordant racket. That would be more in keeping with Babylonian music. The cymbals were not used as in a rock band. The instruments mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:28 were used in accompaniment to the singing of the priests, so it is obvious that they were used in moderation so as not to drown out or overwhelm the voices.
The singers and musicians were skillful (“excel,” 1 Ch. 15:21; “skilful,” 1 Ch. 15:22; “cunning,” 1 Ch. 25:7). One qualification for ministry is ability. When God calls an individual to a ministry, he gifts and equips him for that ministry. For example, the elder must be apt to teach and must be able to exhort and convince false teachers (1 Ti. 3:2; Titus 1:9). If a man cannot do this work, he is not called to be an elder.
They excelled (1 Ch. 15:21). They wanted everything to be as perfect as possible; mediocrity was unacceptable. Anything we do for the Lord should be done right, with the highest level of expertise and preparation that we can produce. He is most worthy of our very best. God’s people need to be getting better educated, stronger in every area, moving in the opposite direction of most churches. This is the path of victory and revival.
They were trained (1 Ch. 25:7). Churches should do everything they can to provide training for their singers and musicians to the glory of the Creator. It is one thing to be untrained and ignorant, but it is quite another thing to be content to remain untrained and to offer unto God something less than our best. Every church must be a serious Bible training institute.
They were well organized; there was oversight; they submitted to God’s order and to the authority figures God had put over them; they were assigned their places (1 Ch. 15:17, 19; 25:2, 6). The lot was used (1 Ch. 25:8) so that God’s will would be done in the appointment of the singers and musicians and so that no favoritism would be exercised by the leaders. The lot was used to determine God’s mind. There is no place for jealousy and carnality and favoritism in the church’s music ministry. All things should be done by the mind of God and for the glory of God rather than for man. Compare 1 Co. 12:7. We don’t need to use the lot today, because we have the indwelling Spirit and the complete Word of God. Submission to God-ordained authority is the way of peace in the congregation (1 Th. 5:12-13).
The music was a ministry of the priests (1 Ch. 15:16). Compare 1 Pe. 2:5, which teaches that the church is “an holy priesthood.”
They sang and played with enthusiasm and joy (1 Ch. 15:16). God’s people should follow this example in the churches, and the music leaders should teach and encourage it. I believe that congregational singing is a reflection of a church’s spiritual character. Many of the Lord’s people do not sing or sing so softly that no one can hear them, but the song service is not about me and whether or not I feel like singing or whether I like to sing, and it’s not a time to be entertained. It is about singing to God and edifying one another, and it should be done with exuberance.
They prophesied (1 Ch. 25:1-3). Compare 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 which says that all the saints should prophesy. This doesn’t mean that every member preaches. Paul limited the actual prophesying or preaching to two or three (1 Co. 14:29). 1 Corinthians 14:3 says prophesying is speaking “unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” Any of that is prophesying. For all to prophesy means that every believer participates in and responds to every part of the service from the heart: to the singing and playing, to the preaching and teaching, even to the corporate prayer. I like the practice I have seen in Korean Baptist churches. During public prayer, as one brother is leading, the brethren say a loud “amen” after every statement. This is prophesying! This is unity in corporate prayer. When visitors see that the members are enthusiastically involved in the services, they understand that the brethren really do believe in Christ, and they are convicted of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
They sang God’s Words (1 Ch. 25:5). Compare Colossians 3:16. Worship must be based solidly upon Scripture; it must not be heretical or frivolous or shallow. The first test of Christian music is the test of whether its message is Scriptural. Worship music should flow from lives that are filled richly with God’s Word, and from lives that understand the Word and practice its precepts wisely in daily living. This is what creates a spiritual song service. Yet in my experience, the average member of Bible-believing churches is ignorant of God’s Word and doesn’t have the wisdom to apply it to daily living. No wonder our services are so lukewarm.
They gave thanksgiving to God (1 Ch. 25:3). This is the first and foremost purpose of the Christian life and church. There are two kinds of spiritual songs: those that teach and edify the brethren and those that praise the Lord (Col. 3:16). The churches need to make sure that they sing hymns of worship and not only songs for the edification of the saints. True worship is not a rock & roll dance party; it is not a performance. True worship is glorifying God with the mind and heart for His attributes and character and works. See Psalm 100. True worship is to give thanks to God (Heb. 13:15).
They sang in unity (“the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard,” 2 Ch. 5:12-13). The singing and playing were one voice. It was harmonious rather than discordant. It was not a bunch of individuals doing as they pleased. Every individual was submitted to the Lord and to one another and to the leadership as one body.
Whenever there was a revival in Israel, the Temple music “program” was revived. We see this in the days of Hezekiah.
“And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped. Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped” (2 Ch. 29:25-30).
There were rooms in the Temple for the singers and instruments. In Herod’s temple, they were located below the Nicanor Gate that led from the Court of the Women to the place of the sacrificial altar before the Temple proper. In front of the Nicanor Gate was a series of semi-circular steps and a platform on which the singing priests presented themselves.
In ancient Israel, when she was right with God, the music associated with worship was carefully prepared and skillfully performed with godly oversight.
All too often a church’s song service is led by individuals who know almost nothing about what they are doing, who lack the skill, enthusiasm, and spirituality to do a good job and aren’t interested in getting a proper education to improve their ministries.
No wonder many are tempted to move to a church that has an enthusiastic contemporary worship service. No wonder young people often think of church as dull. I received an email recently from a woman who informed me that her family left an independent Baptist church that was lifeless and that they are now happy members of a lively, contemporary Southern Baptist congregation. That’s too bad, but I wonder how many people have turned away from the truth because it was presented in a lifeless, incredibly boring manner!
A doctrinally sound church that is dull, half-hearted, half-dead, and mediocre does not glorify the Lord. God’s people are instructed to do everything heartily (“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men,” Col. 3:23).
If a church is half-hearted and boring, it is not a true NT church, because Jesus Christ and the Bible are the most exciting “things” on earth!
If a church is young and the congregation small, it is understandable that there might not be proper musicians and song leaders. No one expects a young church to have everything that a more established church has. Under such conditions, the church must do the best it can with what it has and beseech God for growth. We are referring here to churches that could do better in this matter but don’t simply because it is not a priority. They are content with mediocrity and dullness.
We need to be getting better educated, stronger in every area, moving in the opposite direction of most churches, which is weaker, less cautious, more ignorant. To get stronger is the path of continual revival.
5. Christ’s church is to be a singing church
(This study is also repeated in the chapter “Song Leading and Congregational Singing” in The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music - The Book, www.wayoflife.org.)
Singing was practiced by Jesus in His little flock (Mt. 26:30).
It was practiced in the first churches (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
Congregational singing died in apostasy (priestcraft destroyed the priesthood of believers).
Congregational singing was practiced by Anabaptists. Baptists of old loved to sing. Their songs and hymns were sacred in character and biblical in doctrine. They put entire sermons or Bible stories or histories of martyrdom into song. Some of their hymns had 45 stanzas! Balthasar Hübmaier’s hymn “A Song in Praise of God’s Word” is 18 stanzas and covers the whole Bible from Adam to Christ. Hübmaier (1480-1528) was martyred for his faith. We found that this hymn can be sung to the tune of the Common Meter (“Our God Our Help in Ages Past”).
Rejoice, rejoice, ye Christians all,
And break forth into singing!
Since far and wide on every side
The word of God is ringing.
And well we know, no human foe
Our souls from Christ can sever;
For to the base, and men of grace,
God's word stands sure for ever.
O Adam, Adam, first of men,
What future did fate send you?
After your fall in Paradise
How did your God befriend you?
His holy word from him you heard,
That word which faileth never,
To tend'rest age, to hoary sage,
God's word stands sure for ever.
O Noah, Noah, man of God,
Thy God hath thee selected
And sworn to thee an oath, since thou
His word hast not rejected:
"With flood again to drown all men
My wrath shall hasten never";
To swollen pelf, to want itself,
God's word stands sure for ever.
And Abraham believed his God,
And so, for his devotion,
His faith became his righteousness,
His seed like sands of ocean.
Thus has God done for every one,
Who trust him perish never;
To every one who builds thereon
God's word stands sure for ever.
And Lot, devout, God-fearing man,
Two angels came to find him,
And lead him out from Sodom safe,
Nor should he look behind him.
God's fiery flood therein withstood
No living thing whatever;
All men, like Lot, must pay their scot,
God's word stands sure for ever.
O David, David, king and lord,
A man of God's own choosing,
God's truth he hid within his heart
Beyond all fear of losing.
From David's seed Christ should proceed,
He swore who changeth never;
In heaven and on earth the same
God's word stands sure for ever.
Jesus the Christ, of Mary born
And of the Holy Spirit,
What all the prophets promisèd
We shall in him inherit.
"Hear him," the call of God to all,
To save us his endeavour;
To him all praise and honour raise—
God's word stands sure for ever.
Now hear, now hear, and mark with care
What else for us is written,
And learn from his new Covenant
What more to do we're bidden.
And what of old has been foretold
Of Christ our Lord and Saviour;
To latest hour, in vaster power,
God's word stands sure for ever.
Matthew, the first evangelist,
From Roman service taken,
Has now become chief counsellor
And has his sins forsaken;
Hears Jesus call, who says to all,
"Follow with best endeavour."
In ample fame, always the same,
God's word stands sure for ever.
And Mark, yes, Mark, the second is,
And richly he has taught us
The knowledge of that mighty power
Wherewith our Lord has brought us
To faith in God, to which is owed
All goodness whatsoever;
For all men's tears, for all men's jeers,
God's word stands sure for ever.
Luke also follows in the train
And tells the gospel story:
The wondrous works of Christ, and how
From heaven the God of glory
To men undone has sent his Son
That men might perish never;
Believe we must, or bite the dust,
God's word stands sure for ever.
And John, the fourth evangelist,
A youth of wondrous beauty,
Reveals to us the Word divine
And teaches us our duty.
With faith and love your calling prove
And seek no other lever;
It gives no aid to hoe or spade,
But God's word stands for ever.
And Saul, God's chosen vessel he,
His early sin repented:
He stormed and strove against the saints
As if he were demented.
In vain the age 'gainst us shall rage,
Our souls from Christ to sever;
In time of ill our stronghold still,
God's word stands sure for ever.
O Paul, O Paul, what fruit of all
Thy writings in their season!
The truth thou hast declared shall stand
Against all human reason.
Sin is o'erthrown by faith alone,
And, though the great and clever
Were all employed to make it void,
God's word stands sure for ever.
And Peter, Jude, and James, all three
Do follow in this teaching;
Repentance and confession they
Through Christ our Lord are preaching
In him men must put all their trust,
Or they shall see God never;
The wolf may tear, the lion, bear,—
God's word stands sure for ever.
Ah, man, blind man, now hear the word,
Make sure your state and calling;
Believe the Scripture is the power
By which we're kept from falling.
Your valued lore at once give o'er,
Renounce your vain endeavour;
This shows the way, no longer stray,
God's word stands sure for ever.
O Jesus Christ, thou Son of God,
Let us not lack thy favour,
For what shall be our just reward
If the salt shall lose its savour?
With angry flame to efface thy name
In vain shall men endeavour;
Not for a day, the same for aye,
God's word stands sure for ever.
Praise God, praise God in unity,
Ye Christian people sweetly,
That he his word has spread abroad—
His word, his work completely.
No human hand can him withstand,
No name how high soever;
And sing we then our glad Amen!
God's word stands sure for ever.
(Balthasar Hübmaier, “A Song in Praise of God’s Word”)
Congregational singing was practiced by Protestants. Martin Luther is one of the fathers of congregational singing in modern times. He understood the importance of singing in the Christian life and church. He wanted all of the people to sing, unlike in the Catholic Church where the singing was usually done by choirs or was in Latin rather than in the people’s language. He used melodies that were easy to learn and remember for all classes of people. He did not use drinking songs or songs that would remind the listeners of the evil things of the world.
Congregational singing was practiced in times of revival. There was a great spiritual revival in the late 1800s and early 1900s and it was accompanied by a great hymn writing movement (e.g., Philip Bliss, Fanny Crosby, Ira Sankey, Frances Havergal, Charlotte Elliot, Augustus Toplady). Exuberant singing was a major factor in the Bible conference movement and the camp meetings. There was the shape-note singing movement. There was a proliferation of hymnals. (For more on this, see The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists, “Interdenominational Fundamentalism - Hymn Singing, Dwight L. Moody, and R.A. Torrey” www.wayoflife.org. For studies on Philip Bliss asnd Homer Rodeheaver, see the report “The Evangelist/Revivalist Movement,” www.wayoflife.org.)
6. Christ’s kingdom will be a singing kingdom.
The musical worship in Solomon’s Temple looks forward to the Millennial Temple when Christ will be seated on the throne of His glory and the priests will sing and play to His glory and the people will worship Him.
The prophecies emphasize that Christ’s kingdom will be a singing kingdom.
“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10).
“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion...” (Isa. 51:11).
“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Ps. 100:1-2).
“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion” (Jer. 31:12).
Singing priests will be in the Millennial Temple (Isa. 40:44).
In that day, the whole creation will praise the Lord. Singing to the glory of God will be heard everywhere. See also Psalm 108:1-3; 147; 149; 150.
The church-age saints will be there, ruling with Christ as kings and priests (Re. 1:6; 5:10). The apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28; Lu. 22:30).
The Lord Jesus Christ will sing in the congregation in the kingdom (Heb. 2:12). He is the Creator of the human voice. He is the Creator of singing. God made man for music. How wonderful it will be to hear the Singer of singers sing and the glorious heavenly melodies and harmonies! This world’s best singers only provide a bare glimpse into glory.
7. Church music must be sung and played by Spirit-filled saints who are indwelt with God’s Word.
“be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18-19).
“let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom ... singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
When dealing with the music issue, God begins with the spiritual condition of the church and of the individual singers and players. Sound congregational singing requires a spiritual house made of living stones, referring to born again people who are actively functioning as holy priests. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pe. 2:5).
We find the definition of Spirit filling in the context of Ephesians 5:18. It means not controlled by anything other than the Spirit of God (not alcohol or drugs, “not drunk with wine,” not the works of darkness, Eph. 5:11). Spirit filled means not spiritually asleep, carnal, lukewarm (“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” Eph. 5:14). Spirit filled means not careless and foolish but rather walking in God’s will (Eph. 5:15-17). “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
To “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” is another description of the foundation of a spiritual song service (Col. 3:16). Note that the word of Christ is to dwell in “you” (plural). It is to dwell in the entire church body, not just in a few. Every member is to be filled with the Spirit by being filled with God’s Word. This happens when every member is born again and surrenders to God’s will and becomes a serious Bible student and an obedient disciple of Christ. The Word of God is to dwell “richly.” It is to fill our minds and hearts. The church must be immersed in Scripture. Note that each believer is to “let the word of God dwell.” It is a choice. I can fill my life with Scripture. I can read it. I can learn how to study it and understand it. I can delight in it and meditate on it day and night (Ps. 1:2). I can test everything by it and thereby exercise my spiritual senses (Heb. 5:14). Note that the word of Christ is to dwell in the believers “in all wisdom.” The Word of God must produce spiritual wisdom in the lives of God’s people. It is not an intellectual exercise only. It is not a matter of rote reading, learning, and memorizing. The Word of God must get down into every part of the believers’ lives and conform them to God’s will.
To sing “with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16) is a description of born again people who are engaged with the Lord from the heart. They are abiding in Christ, communing with Him, walking with Him, walking in the light with Him. They are people who are saved by grace and walking in grace and loving grace. No other kind of people can sing in such a manner.
If the spiritual condition of a church deteriorates, so does the spiritual character of the song service.
“We must desire to be godly in character since we are ministering godly music. Our example sings loudest. We must be exemplary (1 Ti. 4:12). Worldliness cannot be sanitized. God doesn’t just accept whatever people offer. Do we personally listen to bad music? This will affect us. How can we pray for God’s blessings and at the same time shake hands with the world? Are we attracted to or addicted to worldliness in music?” (Chris Starr, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Brogue, Pennsylvania).
8. Church music is for singing to one another and unto the Lord.
“Speaking to yourselves ... singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
“... teaching and admonishing one another ... singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
The two-fold purpose of church singing is to edify the saints and to worship God. This is emphasized by means of repetition, being repeated in two of the church epistles.
Sacred music is for teaching and admonishing one another. The song service is a “one another” ministry. Sacred music is a function of the church body (Eph. 4:16) and of the church as a holy priesthood (1 Pe. 2:5). I have heard it said that the song service is preparation for the preaching. That is the “revivalist” viewpoint (e.g., D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday), but Paul teaches that the congregational singing is to be an important teaching ministry in itself. Each member is commanded to teach and admonish the other brethren, so church singing is not about me, not about my choices, my pleasure, my feelings; it’s not about whether or not I want to participate. It is about dying to the old self and submitting to God’s authority and being a holy priest and ministering to the brethren.
“Mr. [Charles] Spurgeon evidently takes delight in the service of song, and is anxious above all things that every man, woman, and child in the place should sing. In announcing the hymn he generally makes some remark, such as, ‘Let us sing joyfully the 48th Psalm,’ – ‘Dear friends, this hymn is full of joy, let’s sing it with all our hearts,’ &c.” (J.S. Curwen, Studies in Worship Music, 1880).
Ministering to “one another” involves first ministering the message of the song or hymn to oneself.
Sacred music is also to be sung “to the Lord.” Singing to the Lord is pure worship. “The Lord” is Jesus Christ. He is Lord of lords. He made me; He owns me; He loves me; He redeemed me; my sole purpose is to live for His pleasure and glory. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Ro. 11:36). “he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Ac. 17:25). “for in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Ac. 17:28). “by him were all things created ... And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17).
We should include pure worship songs in the congregational singing and instruct the people to sing those directly to the Lord as prayers from the heart. Examples of hymns that are prayers directed to God or direct praise about God are as follows: “All Hail the Power,” “Cleanse Me,” “Come, Thou Almighty King,” “Come Thou Fount,” “Draw Me Nearer,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Jesus, I Am Resting,” “Jesus Lover of My Soul,” “Jesus! the Very Thought of Thee,” “Lead Me Gently Home Father,” “Lead Me to Calvary,” “Make Me a Blessing,” “More Love to Thee,” “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” “My Jesus I Love Thee,” “O To Be Like Thee!” “O Worship the King,” “Open My Eyes That I May See,” “Our Great Savior,” “Rock of Ages,” “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” “To God Be the Glory,” “Whiter Than Snow.” Some hymns are a combination of singing to the brethren and singing directly to the Lord. Examples are “Day by Day,” “Living for Jesus,” and “I’m Pressing on the Upward Way.”
9. Church music must be sound in doctrine (“let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” Col. 3:16).
The words of the songs must be theologically sound according to the teaching of the Bible.
A great deal of Contemporary Christian Music is unacceptable because it represents ecumenical charismatic doctrine or it presents a vague message that lacks doctrinal clarity and strength.
And we want more than just theological soundness, we want theological depth. We want richness of truth that will edify deeply and broadly. The lyrics must be examined carefully to make sure that we are not singing heresy and also that we are not singing vapid, emotional, sweet nothings. This is why we avoid shallow Southern Gospel songs such as “I’ll Fly Away,” “Just a Little Talk with Jesus,” “Step into the Water,” “There’s a Rainbow,” and “My God Is Real.” The Stamps-Baxter hymns were typically characterized by biblical shallowness, if not outright heresy.
This is also why we don’t want a steady diet of revivalist songs. These were geared for a mixed-multitude, interdenominational, evangelistic forum, such as the the crusades of D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, and Billy Sunday. They often lack theological depth. “Ira Sankey’s songs were simple and direct, appealing to the heart and leading to a decision.” Examples are “Tell Me the Old Old Story,” “There’ll Be No Dark Valley,” “Throw out the Life Line,” “Wonderful Words of Life,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “The Cleansing Fountain,” “Faith Is the Victory,” and “Trusting Jesus.”
Many of the revivalist songs were very shallow. Examples are some of the ones popularized by Torrey’s song leader, Charles Alexander: “What a Wonderful Savior,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Showers of Blessing,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Tell Mother I’ll Be There,” “A New Name Written Down in Glory,” and “God Will Take Care of You.”
The Sword of the Lord’s Soul Stirring Songs and Hymns is in the Sankey revivalist tradition. Many of these are good hymns and have their place, but many are shallow and of very little value. There is a need for hymns of greater spiritual and doctrinal depth to challenge the people and better educate them and to build them up to a higher level. Hymnals with a better selection include Songs and Hymns of Revival, Living Hymns, and Majesty Hymns. We also recommend singing the Psalms with psaltries such as Isaac Watts and
God’s people must weigh every song and hymn by the absolute standard of God’s Word. Just because a song is in a good hymnbook doesn’t mean that it is sound. Just because it has a pleasant tune and people like it doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. For example, the chorus “Spirit of the Living God” is a prayer addressed to the Spirit, which we never see in Scripture. We are taught to pray to the Father (Mt. 6:9). And the idea of the Spirit falling fresh on me isn’t Scriptural. He doesn’t fall on God’s people; He indwells them. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” teaches the liberal social gospel. The author, Julia Ward Howe, was a Unitarian universalist who rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God. She interpreted the Union armies of the American North as the coming of Christ. The “watch-fires” of the Union army camps are the altar of God, and “the burnish’d rows of steel” bayonets are the gospel. “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” teaches the post-millennial heresy that the preaching of the gospel will bring in Christ’s kingdom by “conquering evil” and “shattering the spear and sword.”
“Godly music is word-enriched and loaded with sound doctrine. Godly music packages Bible doctrines in memorable format” (Chris Starr).
10. Church music must emphasize “melody” (“making melody in your heart,” Eph. 5:19).
Melody is the simplest part of music. It is the basic tune. It is the part that can be sung and hummed and whistled. An individual can’t sing harmony and chords.
A good melody reinforces the words and helps God’s people remember the words and edify themselves with the words all their days.
By emphasizing melody, God’s Word teaches us to keep the music simple so it doesn’t distract from the message of the words. There should be a good singable melody, and the rest of the music should never overwhelm the melody. In sacred music, particularly for congregational use, a simple musical arrangement is superior to an overly complicated one.
“In common life the music presides. But in Godly music, the words (lyrics, or the message) preside. The music serves as an accompaniment to the message. Godly music is the harmonious balance between tunes that fit or compliment the lyrics” (Chris Starr).
11. Church music must be sung from the heart.
“singing and making melody in your heart” (Eph. 5:19).
“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
The singing and playing of sacred music is a heart affair.
By the heart, we are not talking primarily about the emotions but about man’s fundamental interior. In the Bible, the heart refers to the center of man’s thinking, emotions, and will. The heart thinks (Pr. 23:7), understands (Pr. 2:2), meditates (Ps. 19:14), considers (De. 4:39), purposes (Da. 1:8), takes counsel (Pr. 20:5), reasons (Lk. 5:22), desires (Ro. 10:1), has intents (Heb. 4:12). From the heart proceed all the actions and motivations of man (Pr. 4:23-27; Mt. 15:18-20).
Both the mouth and the heart are to be fully engaged. Sacred music is not something that is done by rote or by vain tradition. It is not unthinking, not unfeeling, not religious ritual, not mere duty, not habit or tradition, not just mindless loud singing like a boisterous child.
“Godly music is interested in the heart condition as much as the mechanics of good singing or instrumentation. Add to this that God is a heart-inspector (1 Sa. 16:7; 1 Ki. 8:39b; 1 Ch. 28:9b; Ps. 7:9; Je. 17:10; Ac. 1:24). What is the embouchure of your heart? Is your heart tuned to God and His Word?” (Chris Starr).
12. Music is not “neutral”; it is a language and the message of the music must match the message of the lyrics.
The foundational philosophy of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is the idea that music is neutral or amoral and that any style of music can be used in the service of God. The Christian Rocker’s Creed says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all music was created equal, that no instrument or style of music is in itself evil—that the diversity of musical expression which flows forth from man is but one evidence of the boundless creativity of our heavenly Father.” Harold Best says, “[Music is] morally relative … [It is] essentially neutral in its ability to express belief, creed, moral and ethic exactitudes, or even world view” (Music Through the Eyes of Faith). Don Butler, former head of the Gospel Music Association, says, “Every style and form of music can become gospel, whether it’s jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, or rap.” Rick Warren, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor, says, “There’s no such thing as Christian music. There are just Christian lyrics” (SuperConference 2003, Liberty University).
This is why Contemporary Christian Music encompasses every sort of pop music style: blues, ragtime, boogie woogie, jazz, big band swing, country, rock, urban, techno, metal, thrash, punk, rap/hip hop.
The concept that music is neutral is fundamental. As soon as this is accepted, the battle is lost. It erases all boundaries, and the very concept of “sacred music” is lost.
But no one except defenders of contemporary Christian music believes this. If all musical styles are neutral, why does a military march never sound like a romance ballad, and why does a baby lullaby never sound like a punk rock concert? The reason is that music is not neutral; music is a language.
Rock & rollers don’t believe that music is neutral. Timothy Leary, 1960s LSD guru and pop culture hero, said, “Don’t listen to the words, it’s the music that has its own message.” Rock historian Robert Palmer says, “The transformative power of rock lies ... in the music itself ...” (Robert Palmer, Illustrated History of Rock & Roll).
Movie text painters (creators of sound tracks) don’t believe that music is neutral. They know that different styles of music create different emotional responses, and they must use the right type of music to fit the message presented by the scene’s pictures and words. John Debney, one of the top composers of movie films, says: “I think music is the voice of the soul of the emotional fabric of the film” (“The Passion of the Musicians,” Christianity Today web site, Aug. 31, 2004). Debney is talking about the power of music as a language.
Orchestra composers and conductors don’t believe that music is neutral. Each style of music played by an orchestra creates different feelings and thoughts in the listeners. Howard Hanson, who directed the prestigious Eastman School of Music for 40 years, said, “Music can be philosophical or orgiastic. It has powers for evil as well as for good” (cited from Frank Garlock The Language of Music; Garlock is a graduate of Eastman).
The Christian Rocker’s Creed, that no musical style is evil, denies that man is evil and that he can create evil with his art. The first musical instruments were made by the sons of Cain who were in open rebellion to God’s holy laws. It is ridiculous to think that they were using those instruments for anything other than evil.
The Christian Rocker’s Creed, that no musical style is evil, denies the existence of Satan as “the god of this world.” It would deny his role in the human arts. It would deny that men walk “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The devil hates God and has attempted to corrupt everything that God has created. He is called “the god of this world” (2 Co. 4:4) and “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). He has corrupted religion, literature, art, fashion--you name it. Music is one of the most powerful influences in society. To think that the devil has not corrupted music for his own wicked purposes and for the sensual enticement of fallen man is contrary to everything the Bible teaches. The issue, then, for a Christ-honoring believer is to find the devil’s fingerprints in music and to reject such music.
The Bible plainly teaches that music is not neutral, that different styles of music present different messages and have different emotional effects. The Bible describes a party sound (Ex. 32:17-19) and a refreshing sound (1 Sa. 16:23). Paul teaches that music is a language in 1 Corinthians 14:7-8, “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Music is a language, and in fact it is one of the most powerful languages in human society! It has been called “the language of the soul” and “the language of the emotions.”
In Christian music, therefore, the message of the music must match the message of the lyrics and both must be spiritual in character. This is the very definition of sacred music.
There are styles of music that preach a message that is contrary to the Bible and should be avoided in the service of a holy God.
We must, therefore, exercise discernment. We must ask, “What kind of message is this music presenting? Does the message of the music fit the message of the lyrics?” We must do exactly what the Bible says. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Th. 5:21-22). “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
Since music is a language, God’s people must carefully, wisely test the language of every piece of church music.
13. Church music must be holy and separate from the world (Ro. 12:2; Eph. 4:17-19; 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 4:4; 1 Pe. 2:11; 1 Jo. 2:15-16).
“Spiritual” means set apart for God, different from the world. Spiritual is that which is under the control of the Spirit of God, as explained in the verse previous to Ephesians 5:19. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Spiritual is the opposite of carnal, fleshly. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” Spiritual is the opposite of the unfruitful works of darkness that are mentioned in Ephesians 5:11 in the same context as Ephesians 5:19. Spiritual is the opposite of worldliness. “And be not conformed to this world…” (Ro. 12:2). “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 Jo. 2:15-16).
By requiring that our songs be spiritual, Paul is saying that God’s people are to sing songs that are holy, sacred, that are set apart for God, that are not carnal and fleshly, that are different in quality from the songs of the world, that are morally pure, that are of a heavenly flavor rather than a worldly.
This means that the church’s music will not sound like the world’s pop music and the music that the world uses for dancing and drinking and partying. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life is a perfect definition of modern pop music, and this is admitted by rockers. Deborah Harry of Blondie says, “The main ingredients in rock are sex and sass.” The music of a holy God should contain no aspect of the world’s sensual ways. To borrow from the world’s unholy music is confusion. It is sin. It is a reflection of the end-times “after their own lusts” apostasy (2 Ti. 4:3-4).
Pop styles of music that we purposefully avoid are the backbeat, beat anticipation, honky-tonk (ragtime, boogie woogie, etc., that are popular in Southern Gospel), sensual vocal styles (e.g., scooping, sliding, breathiness, vocal fry), soft, overly emotional styles that are created by the wrong use of chords (e.g., unresolving chord cadences). The “soft sound” softens the power, dynamism, majesty, spiritual conviction, and militarism of sacred music.
We avoid the use of drums and electric guitars in church music, because they are so totally identified with rock music and so easily used in a pop music fashion. (An exception is the use of drums in a timpani section of an orchestra.)
(For more education on this see “The Language of Music Styles” and “Bob Jones, Majesty Music, New Reformed Calvinism, and the Gettys,” which are two segments of the video series The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music, available for free viewing and downloading from www.wayoflife.org.)
14. Church music must edify.
“How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. LET ALL THINGS BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING” (1 Co. 14:26).
The words “edify,” “understand,” “meaning,” and “knowledge” are used 17 times in this chapter.
“Edify” means to build up in the faith by means of hearing and understanding the truth of God’s Word. Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defined edify as “to instruct and improve the mind in knowledge generally, and particularly in moral and religious knowledge, in faith and holiness.”
All things being done unto edification means that sacred music must emphasize the message. The message must be clear so that it speaks to the people’s minds and hearts and thus edifies. Nothing must be allowed to detract from this. Musical instruments can be too loud and drown out the message. Music can be so complex that it hinders the message because the words are not clearly heard.
All things being done unto edification means there is no place for entertainment in sacred music. Entertainment is about the performer, but sacred music is about Christ. Entertainment is for man’s pleasure, but sacred music is for God’s pleasure. We want to purposefully and emphatically avoid anything that speaks of entertainment. This is why we do not applaud special music. This is why we don’t use sensual vocal techniques that draw attention to the singer (scooping, sliding, breathiness, vocal fry). This is why we don’t use video cameras to spotlight the singers and musicians and highlight them on video screens. These things are the way of performance and entertainment, not the way of true worship. It is carnally distracting. It is impossible to conceive of such things being used in Solomon’s Temple or the Millennial Temple.
All things being done unto edification means that each song should be selected because of its message. If the message is theologically wrong (e.g., “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) or weak (e.g., “Church in the Wildwood”), there is no edification.
All things being done unto edification means there must be education. If the message of the song is spiritual but couched in words that are not understood by the congregation, there is still no edification. Many of the old hymns use words that must be explained. The song “A Mighty Fortress” contains the words, “Lord Sabaoth is His name,” and “Come, Thou Fount” says, “I will raise mine Ebenezer.” Other songs speak of “Hephzibah” and “Beulah Land.” Unless the meaning of these words are known by the congregation, there is no edification. The song leader should briefly define any uncommon words.
All things being done unto edification means the people must be taught and reminded to think about the words of the songs. No matter how spiritual the songs are, if the people are not meditating on them, no edification is accomplished.
15. Church music should be joyful.
“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:1-3).
Congregational singing should be enthusiastic and cheerful. God’s people are coming into His presence. The great King of kings is listening and He requires a joyful noise!
To teach and admonish one another in song and to sing unto the Lord is not a half-hearted thing. Since Christ hates lukewarm, He must hate lukewarm singing (Re. 3:15-16).
We don’t always “feel like” singing unto the Lord, but we must control our feelings and stir ourselves up with the truth of God’s Word. When coming to the church’s song service, I must say to myself, “It is time to worship the wonderful God who has loved you and redeemed you and who cares for you. It is time to forget your problems and focus on the Great Redeemer and your priestly work for Him.”
16. Church music must not borrow from and thus build bridges to the world of contemporary Christian music (Ro. 16:17-18; 1 Co. 10:21; 15:33; 2 Co. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11; 2 Ti. 3:5; 4:3-4; Re. 18:4).
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Co. 15:33).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Ti. 3:5).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Ti. 4:3-4).
Contemporary Christian Music is a major element of building the apostate one-world church and represents this world with all of its doctrinal, spiritual, and moral dangers
This is evident by examining the history of this music as well as the lives and beliefs and associations of contemporary musicians as we have done in the free eBook The Directory of Contemporary Worship Musicians. See also the video presentation “CCM a Bridge to Dangerous Waters,” which is one of the segments in the video series The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music, available for free viewing and downloading at www.wayoflife.org.
In former times, God’s people were not in much danger of being influenced by the authors of songs and hymns. But the Internet has changed that dramatically. Now if a song is sung in a church, the people can go online and find the author and communicate quite intimately with him or her and his associates and his “world.”
17. Church music must not produce a charismatic style mystical experience (“be sober,” 1 Peter 1:13; 5:8).
Sober is the Greek nepho, which is always used in the context of watching (1 Pe. 4:7; 5:8; 1 Th. 5:6; 2 Ti. 4:5). It means to be in control of one’s mind. It means to guard the mind against wrong thoughts and to think right thoughts according to God’s Word.
To be sober forbids the believer to follow the “be open to new experiences, don’t quench the Spirit by testing” philosophy of the charismatic movement and contemporary worship.
Contemporary worship music is largely a rock & roll feeling-fest. It is designed to create an emotional experience, a sensual experience, as opposed to a sacred music style that edifies through the understanding. It is designed to carry the listeners along on an emotional roller coaster. Graham Kendrick, one of the biggest names in contemporary worship, says, “The old way of preaching and singing began to give way to an expectation that ... God would visit us, and we’d EXPERIENCE HIS PRESENCE IN A TANGIBLE SORT OF WAY” (interview June 11, 2002 with Chris Davidson of Integrity Music).
To produce “experiential worship,” contemporary musicians use music with sensual dance rhythms, non-resolving chord sequences, repetition, electronic modulation, and other things so that people will get carried away emotionally. There is a hypnotic effect.
But the Bible tells us to be sober-minded and not to allow anything to capture our hearts and souls other than God and His Word. We are not supposed to open ourselves up unquestioningly to any force or experience, but we are to test everything continually by the standard of God’s absolute Truth (Pr. 14:12; 2 Co. 10:5; 1 Th. 5:21-22; Heb. 5:14). Thus we refuse to be controlled by highly emotional music.
18. Church music must be skillful.
“And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith TO EXCEL. And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was SKILFUL” (1 Ch. 15:21-22).
“Sing unto him a new song; play SKILFULLY with a loud noise” (Ps. 33:3).
Jesus Christ is worthy of our very best. The hymn says, “Give of your best to the Master,” and that is what we want to do with sacred music. We want to lead it, sing it, and play it with the highest level of expertise and preparation that we can produce, not for our glory, but for God’s. We want to be getting better educated, better prepared, stronger in every area. This is the path of spiritual victory and revival. Pastor Chris Starr says, “Let’s keep the regular church service music excellent and a cut above the average. Our music must reflect excellence because our God is excellent in all that He does. Refuse and resist the casual look and casual feel.”
Far too many times I have heard singers say something like, “Well, folks, we haven’t been able to practice much, but we hope you get a blessing anyway.”
19. Church music must be unquestionably right and safe.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Th. 5:21-22).
We are to prove all things and hold fast only that which is good, avoiding even the very appearance of evil.
That is the highest possible standard for music. This is one reason why we avoid the use of snare drums and electric guitars. Even if they are used to play the right kind of sound, they are too intimately identified with rock music, and we want to avoid all such identity.
This is our fundamental music standard. If a song or hymn is questionable, we want to avoid it. If we aren’t sure if it is right, sound, and healthy, we want to avoid it. There is a wealth of unquestionably sound, doctrinally strong, spiritual, non-worldly, non-charismatic music, that is not associated with the contemporary worship movement. To avoid a piece of questionable music never harms a church, but using questionable music can definitely bring harm.
This standard requires continual testing of the church music.
This is the standard of wisdom and safety.
20. Church music must guard against incrementalism.
“a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Co. 5:6; Ga. 5:9).
When it comes to church music, little can be big. The wrong music usually enters a church gradually, not overnight. One way it enters is through specials, choruses, and youth ministries. I witnessed this some years ago on a preaching trip to 12 churches in three countries. In each of the churches, the congregational music was sacred, but in about half of the churches, the special music was at least mildly contemporary. I saw that the men in charge of the music did not know how to discern contemporary music and therefore it was slipping in unawares. When this happens, the church is doomed to continue moving away from spiritual and toward contemporary unless there is a dramatic move to stop the progression, which is exceedingly rare.
“As the pastor, I have tested and made some judgments regarding the music we have in our church. ... [Some genres of music] have slippery slopes, and we want to be far away from the slope in our church music” (Chris Starr).
21. Church music must aim for excellence.
“that ye may approve things that are excellent” (Php. 1:10).
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Co. 10:31).
Everything about the church’s music must be done on purpose, with biblical and spiritual wisdom, always aiming for the very best, the very highest, never satisfied with mediocrity, progressing in excellence. This is not for the glory of man, but for the glory of God. If the world strives for excellence for human profit and glory, how much more should God’s people strive for excellence for God’s glory!
We must aim for excellence in the standards for singers and musicians, in the selection of every song and hymn, in the conducting of every aspect of the song service, and in the quality of the singing and playing.
This standard requires continual education of the entire church in the issue of music. The goal is not merely to “hold the line,” but to grow in wisdom and knowledge and discernment in order to please the Lord at an ever higher level.
22. God’s people should aim to learn to sing and play music.
We are commanded to praise God with trumpets, psalteries, harps, timbrels, stringed instruments, organs, loud cymbals, and high sounding cymbals (Ps. 150). That is an orchestra!
Born again Christians are priests (1 Pe. 2:5, 9), and the priests in the former dispensation were singers and players of instruments, as we have seen.
Children and young people in the churches should be learning music so that they can glorify and serve God, and they should be ever learning how to discern sacred from contemporary music styles. Pastor Chris Starr says, “It would be good to encourage parents to invest in lessons for their children rather than to try to teach themselves. Get lessons for your children. It pays off in the long run.”
This is a good incentive to holiness and to the wholesome use of time.
23. Pastors must oversee the church’s music.
“the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Ac. 20:28)
“obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17)
“taking the oversight thereof” (1 Pe. 5:2)
We are putting this point last, but it is actually first in importance. Pastor Chris Starr rightly observes, “The point that the pastors must oversee church music might be better put toward the top. All the other principles can be true, but if a pastor does not take the responsibility of training, inspecting, teaching, expecting, overseeing, then the other principles won’t be taught, enforced, promoted, etc.”
Pastors are called “bishops,” which means overseers or superintendents. As God’s stewards, they must watch over every aspect of the congregation’s life and ministry to see that things are done according to God’s will. They must know what is happening in order to protect the flock from danger and error.
Pastors must, therefore, study the issue of music, because it is a biblical issue and because it is a major force in modern society and therefore a major potential influence on God’s people. They must educate themselves about sacred music and know how to discern various popular sounds of music, such as soft rock, and they must increase their education. They should learn how to read music, at the very least. That is not a very difficult project. A good start in this education is to go through all of the materials recommended at the end of Church Music Standards and Training Course.
Pastors must appoint the right people to be in charge of the church’s music. If there are no right people, they must pray that God will bring them from outside or raise them up in the congregation.
Pastors must approve all special music and/or appoint a wise person to do this under their direction. There must be a proper gatekeeper or the wrong music will slip in and become leaven that will increase
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