Music In Worship

Music undeniably plays an important part in the life of our society. It makes up the largest part of programming on radio, and what television program or movie does not use music in some way? Music not only plays an important part in the secular realm, but particularly so spiritually, as it is to be directed in worship to praise God, glorifying Him, and edifying each one involved. That music is important in our worship to God is not questioned; what is at issue is the type of music God desires, and how it should be expressed.

Scripture tells us singing in worship is to be reciprocal; that is, to speak to one another in song, we all must sing. Paul reminded the church in Ephesus they should be "speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19a). This involves each one in the congregation singing praises to God. The important part of singing in worship isn't in the kind of voice one possesses, in how well or poorly one sings, which is a human judgment. It is the attitude of heart one has, in offering sincere praise to God expressed through the voice. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God" (Colossians 3:16).

Singing in worship is also vocal only; "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19b). The teaching in the New Testament that our worship is to be offered in song, not with instrumental accompaniment, is clear. To try and justify instrumental music in worship contradicts Scripture. The use of the Old Testament for worship today is not valid, as it is no longer binding doctrinally (Ephesians 2:15). To appeal to the Law of Moses today would require one to keep all aspects of the Law, including animal sacrifices (Galatians 5:3). The use of "harp" in the book of Revelation is symbolic for praise (Revelation 5:8), and even if it were not, what will happen in heaven does not govern what God wants done in His church on earth. The New Testament is clear; the only place where any playing is done in worship is in the human heart.

Church history verifies music in worship was vocal only initially, as instruments were not introduced into worship until centuries had passed, and even then it was originally differentiated from vocal music. During the Reformation movement, when Biblical authority was being re-examined, men like Luther and Zwingli excluded it and brought back congregational singing. The term "a cappella" literally means "in the manner of the church," which means singing without instrumental accompaniment. Where did this concept come from, but from Scripture itself?

There is nothing quite like the experience of singing praises to God, of blending our hearts and voices together, offering each other mutual encouragement. When we address the issue of music in worship to God, the question should not be, "What pleases me?" but "What pleases God?" Singing, as all other expressions of worship to God, must be done as God desires, according to His will, that we might receive His greatest blessings.

Robert Johnson, Longview, TX