Biblical Worship

'Sing Unto the Lord' - A Position Paper on Worship Music

By Reformation Bible Church, Darlington, Maryland
A presentation of Biblical truth and a call for discernment on a subject on which there is much confusion in the church today

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series

Editor's Note: This article is the first of three presenting a position paper on music in worship originally published by Reformation Bible Church in Darlington, Maryland. RBC's presentation of Biblical truth and call for discernment brings much-needed clarity to a subject on which there is much confusion in the church today. We thank Dr. John McKnight, senior pastor of RBC and a member of TeachingTheWord's Advisory Board, for permission to reproduce it. - Dr. Paul Elliott


"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

To know God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son is the greatest mercy man can know. Through that mercy, the grace of God is vividly displayed with the salvation of each soul. No wonder the apostle exclaims, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." (I John 3:1). Man's only response can be grateful praise.

Singing in Scripture

Throughout their history God's people have celebrated their salvation by singing to their Savior. After passing through the Red Sea, Israel sang, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously" (Exodus 15:1). During their wilderness wandering they sang, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations" (Psalms 90:1). Temple Levites sang to God, and Israel's holy days were marked by music (II Chronicles 29:30). During her national greatness Israel sang, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalms 33:12). In Babylonian captivity, the people of Israel sang, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:4) From the exodus to the wilderness through centuries of national existence and captivity, they sang to God, and some God-breathed, infallible songs are eternally preserved in the Psalms.

On the night of His betrayal Christ sang, quite possibly one of the Psalms that foretold the sufferings of Messiah. In Philippi's prison, Paul and Silas sang praises to God at midnight. Paul exhorted the Ephesian (5:18-19) and Colossian (3:16) saints to sing to the Lord with "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." James instructed the scattered people of Israel to sing Psalms (5:13). The last scenes of Scripture include multitudes in heaven singing a new song to Christ, the worthy Lamb of God (Revelation 5:8-13).

Singing Today

Man's musical ability is a gift from God by which he is to honor the Creator ("Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31). But like all God's gifts it has been marred by sin and perverted. Sinful man now sings to man rather than to God. He sings for his own pleasure, not for God's. Rather than singing about God's glories and saving works, man sings about his own experiences and evil exploits. Consequently not all music is acceptable to be sung unto God, and believers must be discerning about worship music.

Much "Gospel Music" has followed the temporal musical model, speaking of man's religious experiences and desires, not of God. It is produced for its effect upon man, not for God's honor, and features religious sentiments sung by many who never experienced them. In that setting, man (rather than God) quickly becomes the subject. God's truth is replaced by human feelings and intuition, and the result is sensual music sadly reminiscent of those the Bible says "worshiped and served the creature more than the creator" (Romans 1:25).

This phenomenon is relatively new to Christian hymnody. It took shape during the past two centuries in North America as the entire culture moved away from God's intrinsic truth and instead exalted man's rights, "self-worth" and individuality - and thus his arrogance. Those humanistic values have replaced Scripture in influencing much of the North American church, even its most conservative bodies.

Music which sounds worldly and speaks predominantly about man and to man, rather than God, is telling evidence. When man becomes the subject and object of worship music, then the fundamental reason for singing is man's pleasure, not God's honor. Hence, "gospel" musicians have gradually adopted secular styles, a trend which became increasingly obvious after the North American rock culture entered the picture with its mega-productions and concomitantly huge profits, leading logically to the commercialization of "gospel" music.

Music industry economics rather than Scripture ultimately dictate how the product will look and sound. On that point, the Scriptural picture is plain: the love of money is a root in every evil (I Timothy 6:10). Discerning Christians grieve at what is done in the name of their Saviour.


Next - The Character of Music: The Words, The Music, The Performance


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