Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
What Qualifies as Biblical Christian Music
by Tony Warren
Christian Rock Music and Christian Rap Music
he question, "what is Christian Music" or what type music is appropriate for the Church, is one that has been a controversial subject for many years. From those who believe that we should only sing scripture, to those who reject any instruments in worship, to those who believe that any type music can be justified, we have had this clash of positions in the Church. Many Christians have sought to make Church music more relevant to the world by incorporating a pop, rock or hip-hop beat to it. These diverse opinions of Christians have caused many to throw up their hands in frustration asking, "what really constitutes Biblical Christian music, and how do we really know which view is right?" I believe that how we answer these questions depends upon the strength of our personal relationship with God. Any answer we give must be soundly grounded in scriptures, that we can make an honest defense.
First, what is God glorifying in song is not speculative, it is gleaned from what the scriptures require of us. Second, carnal music of the flesh is antithetical to Spiritual Godly music. And third, what is true Christian music is not revealed through its words alone, but through its arrangement, agreement and communion with the personage of Christ. Thus if the music does not demonstrate the proper reverence and honor, then it should be self evident that we are singing it for ourselves, rather than God. Apart from the words, what is the real message of the rythm or beat of the song? It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us (the earnest desire to do the will of God) that will cause us to surrender our will and our worldly rhythms and preferences, to the will of God and His edicts. It is a reasonable expectation that we sacrifice our own desires, for the sake of that which is holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1), and that includes not giving in to our carnal desire to feel like the world. Christian music has historically been a respectable discipline, exhortation and comfort rather than an assault on the senses. Because in having been born spiritually from above, we now serve Christ rather than ourselves. And it is in this new birth that we should be convinced and convicted that Christian music must be God pleasing, rather than man pleasing. The truth of this is not found in leaning towards what seems right in our own eyes, but in the precepts of scripture that reveal what is, and what is not good and acceptable to God.
- Christian music must be God Glorifying.
- Christian Music must not be carnal.
- Sound Christian music is manifested by the Spirit through the word.
I believe that this verse should be committed to memory by every Christian. Because most sin starts in the mind's eye wherein our thoughts dwell upon it. If we have our eyes on the world, we will think in a worldly fashion where we will begin incorporating worldly views, behaviors and music into our worship services. And whether it is done under the guise of culture change, progressive thinking, or tolerance of diverse opinions, it is always from the same carnal based root. Philippians 4:8 doesn't encourage us to think on whatsoever makes us feel good, or whatsoever has an exciting dynamic, or whatsoever beats are popular or have rhythms that move us. We are told to set our minds upon virtuous and moral excellence. The summary of this verse is that we should have our minds on what things are [alethes} sincere or not feigned, things that are [semnos} venerable or worthy of respect, things that are [dikaios] righteous or without transgression, things that are [hagnos] totally clean, unadulterated, uncorrupted and chaste, things that are [prosphiles] acceptably endearing, and things that are [euphemos] reputable or well spoken of. These are the things we should have our minds upon. Not if something has a catchy beat the world loves, but if there is any [arete] valor or virtue within it and if it is [epainos] commendable or laudable. In Christ, this is what we should strive for as we are moved toward a spiritual work on earth that is borne of a different desire and is of a different nature than the works of the world (Matthew 5:48; 1st Corinthians 11:1). In other words, we are a special, holy, distinctive or peculiar people, set apart from the world so that we think differently, act differently and yes, rejoice in song differently. Giving up the lusts of the flesh in worldly behavior is a small sacrifice to make for the cause of Christ.
- "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
1st Peter 4:1-2
When we put Christ first it should be clear that the purpose of Christian music is not to please man's senses, but that in our joy and rejoicing in song unto God, we may please Him. One of the most deceptive ideas of our day is that "music is a-moral" so that it is really only the words that make a song Christian. This is most certainly not true, for even the very music or orchestration itself is a movement and a additional message. Music is an expressive language that can capture and control the thoughts and actions of an individual (or group) just as surely as a good book, lecture or speech can. So it is most certainly not neutral as far as its message. But this is the untenable position that is often taken by Christians in order to feel justified in bringing carnal and worldly music into the Church. The unpalatable truth is, there are those who have an earnest desire to do the will of God, and then there are those who have an earnest desire to do their own will and feign it is the will of God. And both people are (in their own way) very persuasive. The difference of course is the spirit within the heart, which is unto obedience or unto justification.
- "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
- That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God."
I believe that every 'true' Christian in reading the scriptures and having the Spirit of God dwell within them, should be able to discern the groanings of the warfare in the flesh, and therefore discern of themselves what music is really not God glorifying. The problem is, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Nevertheless, when God said He puts His laws in our minds and writes them in our hearts, this is not just an empty slogan. It is Biblical notice that with Christ's Spirit we should have earnest desires that are 'different' from those of the people of the world. Deliberately different because, as a new creation from the heart, we long to do all to the glory of God according to His will and word.
- "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:"
Surely we will continue to battle against the flesh, but we should never have that flesh 'overcome' us so that we fall back to being so much like the world, that there is really no discernable difference. And that's the place where a lot of professing Christians are today. In other words, this modern day lust after (so-called) Christian Rock Music, Christian Rap, Christian Hip Hop or even Christian pop, should be a warning sign that we really don't want to give up friendship with the world (James 4:4). On the contrary, we want to bring the world into the Church with us. It's really no different than the worldly lust of Christians for tattoos, gaudy body piercings, or wearing immodest and revealing clothes. It's all part and parcel of the very same worldly carnality infecting the Church. Are we yet carnal? Rather than separate ourselves from the world, Christians today seem to be desperately seeking to see just how close they can get to the world, and still feign themselves Christian. And this should not be.
- "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
1st Peter 2:9
We are not like the world, but are a "Special People." Christians are to be a chosen family set apart, a Kingdom of priests, a Holy nation, an acquired [peripoiesis] people brought out from the ways of the world. And (of the Spirit) we should know what is carnal/of the flesh in music and not truly God glorifying. I do not believe that anyone needs an explicit phrase in the Bible stating, "Thou Shalt Not Play Rock Music in the Church" in order for them to know that this is a worldly, ungodly, vain, foolish and unbiblical act. But unfortunately, people will rationalize anything that their "heart desires," and indeed, this is the real crux of the matter. Therefore I am resigned that if God does not reveal these truths to people by His Spirit, surely nothing I write here will enlighten anyone. This study is merely a witness or testimony for the benefit of those whom God is drawing 'closer' to Himself. Those, who are as Bereans, with all readiness of mind, who are open to the unpalatable honesty and truth about this issue.
- "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:"
Just what is good Christian music from a biblical perspective? First of all, it is a given that music is an important means through which we praise and worship God. So there must of necessity be a serious Biblical nature and relevancy to Christian worship in song. When a Christian presents the gospel of Jesus Christ in song, he is really singing of revolt against the worldly kingdoms, not joy in acquiescence to them. Song is the means by which we express our rejection of this world's rule, and our faith in the rule of Christ. Therefore, our songs should not be the sounds of the world which we cannot be a part of, but of a distinct sound which evidences this spiritual separation. A sound that emphasizes the relationship between peculiar/different/special people and the God that they worship. When a song is of the world, and has worldly rhythm and theme, it is bringing a message which (despite the words) is carnal and thus appeals to the natural man. It is sad that many Christians today not only joy in music which is "doctrinally errant," but they blatantly desire rhythm which is worldly and decadent. The problem is, they often don't really see anything wrong with this party of the flesh atmosphere.
On the other hand, there are also Christians who have gone to the extreme in the other direction. They argue that the absence of divine appointment, amounts to a prohibition of singing songs that are not explicitly scripture. They claim that since the New Testament is (allegedly) silent when it comes to words of song, types of music, or instruments in worship, that this silence means there can be no biblical songs except those from the scripture, or that there can be no instruments at all played in the worship of God. While I would certainly not contend with anyone that they have every right to sing only Psalms, or to not use instruments if they so choose, I would contend with them that there is a Biblical mandate for us to do this. Surely God is glorified by the singing of Psalms, but I believe that God is also glorified in singing other great hymns and songs that 'accurately' portray, and respectfully praise God in word and orchestration. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with either position. Until it demands the others must follow their position or not be Christian. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, so one cannot do what they feel is sin.
Let him who believes in singing only Psalms, sing only the Psalms unto the Lord. But likewise, let him who believes in also singing songs and hymns that are not recorded in the Psalms, sing them unto the Lord without regret. Whatever we do should be without doubting, and if we have reason to, then we should not do it. Because whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.
- "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
- And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
As to the merits of mandating exclusive Psalmody, we must ask ourselves, is it contrary to the word of God for a congregation to sing chapter forty-two of the Psalms, and then follow that up with "How Great Thou Art?" Absolutely not! If singing only Bible Psalms is what a Church group decides to do, that is fine. But it cannot be written down as Biblical law. That is to say, we cannot mandate that if we don't sing only Psalms, it is sinning or transgression against God's laws. That is overstepping our bounds. Exclusive Psalmody is an honorable preference and a Christian liberty, but it is not God's law.
This declaration had established singing unto the lord long before any of the songs or Psalms written in the Bible. Can someone sing unto the Lord and not even have a bible at all? Yes, he most certainly can. we have to be careful not to become like the scribes and Pharisees, so erroneously legalistic that we can't see the forest for the trees. For the song of Moses and the song sung unto the Lord is a song declaring His laws that are written upon our heart. It is our earnest desire for the glory of God, which is in obedience to His law within us. It is composed by the author and finisher of our faith, and brought out through the true Spirit in our rejoicing in song and hymns. It is not the latest rhythms, or the hottest instruments, or whatever flavor of the month some Christians proclaims right, it is the song which only the true Child of God can sing, in reverence, honor and true faithfulness to His word.
- "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."
A song which no man can learn except those redeemed from the earth is not chapters quoted word for word from Psalms. Anyone can sing those (not that mere singing accomplishes anything). But "this song" only the truly redeemed can sing, because it is a Spiritual song orchestrated in their heart.
- "And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth."
On the similar issue of not using any instruments in praising or worshipping God, if that is what one wants to do, have at it. But to call this law is an idea that doesn't have biblical leg to stand on. There is no decree in scripture against anyone worshipping without instruments if that is the way they choose to worship. But to insist upon this as a requirement for believers would be overstepping what is Biblically justifiable. And one cannot argue doctrinal positions from silence. If that were the case, we could argue for the marriage of four year old children, since it is something that scripture is silent on. But it doesn't take a Ph.d. to know we shouldn't do that, because other scriptures figure in to the question. God's laws are written on our heart, and revealed by scripture principles. We should all understand that an argument against an alleged sin, if not explicit, requires some implicit voiding from other scriptures. Likewise, to say that we cannot praise God with instruments because scripture doesn't specifically say we can, is the same error of arguing from silence. It is no different than saying, "scripture doesn't specifically say we can't use instruments (silence), so we can use instruments." Moreover, from scripture we have clear biblical examples of the worship of God with instruments.
2nd Chronicles 5:12-13
- "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;"
2nd Samuel 6:5
- "The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD."
I think we have full justification by scripture to use instruments in praise and worship of the Lord. The validity of Biblical and respectful songs, praise, psalms, or hymns, is established by more than mere words and types of musical instruments. It is established in something only true believers can hear through the Holy Spirit, and which they articulate in song. This in no way means that I'm supporting songs "apart" from what is written in the bible. I'm supporting songs that are "in agreement" with what is in the Bible. There are (so called) Christian songs that I believe indeed are unbiblical to sing because Biblical songs are songs which are in harmony with the Bible. In other words, whatever is sung, must meet certain criteria.
- "And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals."
The song 'How great thou art' is an excellent example of this principle. This song is nothing more than what scripture says, but it is not scripture per se. How could anyone in good conscience declare this song unbiblical and not God glorifying? That would be somewhat like declaring the King James Bible unbiblical because it uses the word 'lord' and not [Adonay], even though they basically say the very same thing. It's different words with the very same meaning. Or it's like saying Christians are in sin because prophecy says Jesus would be nailed to a tree, and we say He was nailed to a cross. We understand that these things are not unbiblical. But these same Christians that exhort exclusivity in song have no problem saying "trinity" when they speak of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That's not a Biblical word. But they have no problem with that because though they understand completely that the word trinity is a deviation from the exact phrases in the word of God, to be a 'concise' way of saying exactly what is written in the word of God. ie., in practical application, they violate their own rules. Using this word "trinity" instead of quoting all the verses which actually speak of the three persons of the Godhead, does not mean that we are violating God's word, or are saying something which is unbiblical, just because they are not quoting word for word from scripture. It's just another way of saying the same thing. Likewise, singing 'How Great thou art' is another way of singing: Psalms 92:5
- Song words must be in agreement with what the word of God says.
- Song Music must Glorify God, and not the sensuality or vanity of man.
- Song uplifts the spirit of man in a Godly way, not a fleshly or carnal way.
- "O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep."
The song 'How great thou art' is not trying to improve on scripture, it is indeed in perfect harmony with scripture. To declare it unbiblical I believe would not be in accord with either reality, or the will of God.
- "For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods."
How Great Thou ArtOh Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder.
Thy power throughout the universe display.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee
How great Thou art. How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee
How great Thou art. How great Thou art.
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
To take us home, what joy will fill my heart
Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And there proclaim, My God, How great Thou art!
Great are You, Lord, and worthy of glory!
Great are You, Lord, and worthy of praise.
Great are You, Lord; I lift up my voice,
I lift up my voice: Great are you Lord!
Great are you Lord!
How great Thou art. How great Thou art.
What has this song said more than the very scriptures themselves? What has this added to God's word more than any sermon preached in any faithful Church on any given Sunday? The answer is, nothing! The 'truth' is, it is indeed both a praise to God and a witness to the scriptures. Shall we declare this song unlawful and a transgression against God? I say, God forbid! On the contrary, I shall sing it with all my heart and soul unto the Lord, and in good conscience.
We are permitted of God to compose our own prayers, to speak to Him in our own words, to worship him in our own language, to preach sermons about God with our own sentences, so long as we do it in accordance with God's word. And that means that we also ought to be allowed to sing our own 'Biblical' songs of praise. What is the difference between preaching a sermon saying, "how great Thou art," and singing to God "how great thou art?" Yet they find nothing wrong with the first, while rejecting the second. Inconsistency is the hallmark of error. The only real difference between these is in the minds and the Church traditions of men. For it is not the perfect words which carry prayers and songs before God, but the Spirit within us which carries them, and 'makes them' perfect.
- "And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
If the Holy Spirit of God brings our imperfect prayers "perfectly" before God, then it is ridiculous to think it does not bring our songs of praise, done in a God glorifying, respectful and honorable way, perfectly before Him.
- "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
- And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
Some have argued against this declaring that only scripture suggests perfect appropriate thoughts. I do not deny this is true. But this is assuming that the words of a 'Biblical' song composed by man cannot suggest Biblical thought. That is an erroneous assumption. Biblical hymns should suggest nothing but appropriate thought, because they should be solidly grounded in the word. When we sing How great thou art, this is nothing but Biblical thought. When we sing:'Oh Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe display,'..this is nothing but Biblical thought. Just because it is not quoted word for word from the Psalms does not make it "un-biblical." And that is what these Christians seem to neglect in their judgments. Would they suggest that the words, "Jesus Christ is My lord and my Saviour, the Creator of Heaven and earth, whom I worship," is not a thought from scripture, and that it is somehow not Biblical? That of course is absurd! So we must be careful that we be not modern day Scribes and Pharisees who are blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. We should be careful that we do not fall into the same snare of those who went before us, of taking Church traditions and regarding it as God's law. The words in Christian song are very important, but let us not lose sight of the fact that we can bring praises to God in our own words, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this.
Which brings us back to the melody itself. I have a very serious caveat about Church music in this regard. As I have said, not only should the words be worship text which is Biblical, shows proper respect for God, and is God-centered. But the accompanying music should illustrate that same heart-felt piety, devotion, and fear of the Lord. Just as our lifestyles are a witness to the light of Christ that is within us, so our music should be that same witness. We are the light of the world, and though we live in the world, we are not a friend of the world. We are as strangers and pilgrims here and should not live comfortably with the world (James 4:4).
In our day, there are many apologists for worldly music, and they claim that Christian Swing, Pop, Rock, Blues, Rap or Hip Hop music, is really simply particular styles, and thus they provide Christians with a sense of belonging in their community. The problem with that logic is that it's flawed in it's inception by worldly, humanistic thinking. When we become Christians, we are no longer like-citizens of our worldly community, we become citizens of a Kingdom which is set apart from this world as the body of Christ. This is a vastly different lifestyle and moral community than that of the world. People often don't understand that there really is only two kinds of music. There is that music which is of the world, and that music which is of God. And never the two shall meet, righteously. What determines Godly music has nothing to do with ethnicity, culture, or modern social and community styles. It has to do with the heart, reverence, the Spirit of truth and knowledge of 'distinctives.' We cannot mix the world's kingdom with the Kingdom of Christ and come out unscathed. It is confusion. And though many people 'feign' not to have the ability to discern (or judge) between the two, I believe that the alleged lack of discernment is nothing more than a reluctance to judge right from wrong, and is self serving. Deep down inside, we all do know the difference between carnal music and Spiritual music.
Just as you can't dress up a pig and use him as an image of cleanliness, you can't dress up the music of the world and label it Godly music. For no matter how one tries to rationalize it, Christian lyrics yoked together with worldly music like Rock or rap does not glorify God. What it glorifies is the sensual, or what is pleasing to man in the temporal-- the here and now. Others claim that Christian music cannot be written today without financial or worldly influences, but that is certainly not true. All it just takes is the will of Christians, the spiritual harmony in the will of God to do so. The problem is, this constant bombardment of worldly music desensitizes many Christians to true Holiness, where we're always willing to move just a little bit more closer to the carnal so that, before we know it, there really is no difference. And this is what we are seeing in the Churches today. The tacit acceptance of worldly music, even so-called Christian rap and Christian rock music, as a mere diversity of style rather than substance.
- "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion."
Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that music is "somewhat" subjective, and I don't want to get into an argument of semantics. But I believe that there is (and should be) a clear difference between the sound of the world's music, and the sound of CHRIST-ian music. Things like heavy drumming or deep bass beats that are an enticement to the flesh, and which detract from the true worship of God, should be avoided. Any hypnotic rhythms or beats that causes people to act in a way which is trance-like, should not be incorporated into the worship service. This is not the working of the Holy Spirit (as some believe), but very reminiscent of worldly or pagan hypnotic rituals and ceremonies that play to the carnal desires of the flesh. Again, we are separate kingdoms, and because the Spirit of God dwells within us, we should have sanctified (set-apart) musical tastes which transcends both culture and time. Not as sensual or carnal in the lusts of our own flesh, but sacred songs of humility, devotion, praise and supplication that brings Glory to God. Christian music, just as Christian lifestyles, should be sanctified and manifested in its diversity, seeing we are of two diverse spirits.
2nd Corinthians 6:17
The so called 'Christian rock,' or 'Christian rap' is no more Christian for it's changed lyrics, than the worldly music which it attempts to emulate. No one should kid themselves in their rationalizations as this is the lust of the world, to envy and enjoy in our body what we talk against in word. It is not a desire to praise and Glorify God, that is merely the justification. By mixing the world's style of music with God glorifying music, we are in essence mocking God. The very fact that these people cannot bear to give up the musical ways of the world may very well be evidence that they are indeed, "still of the world."
- "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,"
The Christians who profess Christ, but still wish to walk after the carnal and sensual, are in effect separating themselves from Christ. For we cannot serve two masters. When we walk after the flesh in sensual music to get the adrenaline going to serve the body, rather than spiritual music to get our spirit rejoicing to serve Christ, we are walking after our own unGodly lusts. And we are not serving God, we are really serving ourselves. Wisdom and understanding is in recognizing this unpalatable truth. We cannot have one foot in the world, and one foot in the Kingdom. As it is written, "no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." That goes for the love of the flesh, the love of mammon or money, or the love of the world. For where our heart is, there will be our love also. If we love the world's music and want to bring it into the Church, that is what we will seek ways to do. And it is an evidence that we are still thinking carnally.
- "How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
- These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."
Why does man love darkness when he has seen the light? Because he doesn't like law, or doesn't like things black and white. That is why he chooses to mix light and darkness and form a 'grey area,' when He knows God's word is not to be compromised. When man loves the world, he want to have his cake and eat it too. To mix heaven and hell to come up with this concoction where He can have what he "thinks" is the best of both worlds. But compromise with the world does not Glorify God, separation from that world does. Christian music should feed the Spirit, not the flesh. And certainly not the flesh masquerading as the Spirit in sensual degradation. There must be a clear distinction. As one Minister succinctly wrote:
- "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.""Is it Christian Rock, or an excuse for Christians to Rock?"By Grace, this Minister's eyes were open to 'receive' the truth of this, while so many others choose to blind themselves with rhetoric and self-serving justifications. The entire content and expression of faithful Christian songs needs to be articulated in a gracious, humble and simple way, so as to not glorify the human senses, but the Lord. Our efforts should not be to remain as close to the world as possible without actually falling headlong into it, but to stay as far away from it as we possibly can. i.e., to stay as close to God as possible. To be distinctive! The intent should be to play the type music that when people hear it, they will know "automatically" that this is music that is 'not' of the world, but is of a Christian nature. It should be music that will be connected right away as that conducted and articulated in the Churches as the songs of those 'set-apart' from the world. Everyone should know that just by it's distinctive sound (as was once the case). Just as the Lord declared when speaking about languages, that there must of necessity be a distinction.
1st Corinthians 14:7-8
Likewise, Christians in their music should give a distinct sound to a watching world, that all will know that 'this' is not the music of this world. The warning in 2nd Corinthians 6:14, 'be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' is a exhortation to distinctiveness and a reminder that we are set apart from the people who do not believe. That distinguishing characteristic should not only be relevant, but prevalent in our music and our lives.
- "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?"
Part of the problem in today's modern Church is that many are trying to draw in the youth by being youthful, entertaining, or else attempting to sell people on the gospel as if they are in some kind of advertising campaign which needs new schemes, tricks, or hip music to draw people in. But God is sovereign and that's not how He works. Sure, in reality, God can Save someone even by them hearing a Roman Mass, but that doesn't mean that the Roman Mass is what God wants Christians to do. Likewise, someone's youthful but worldly tunes may by some small chance be the instigation to someone to hear of Christ, but that doesn't mean that these actions are a Glory to God. Winsome and worldly dances have been touted as a draw for the young sinner to come to Christ for years (as if God needs these gimmicks), but God is well aware of the worldly lusts of the flesh in youth, and He doesn't use this as a means of the gospel. On the contrary.
2nd Timothy 2:22
A pure heart is not a heart full of youthful fleshly lusts, but one of Love of God with singleness of mind and faith of Christ, not faith of experience. Christ died for us that we are no longer our own, but a new creature which does not live for the flesh, but by the Spirit. It's not as if God doesn't know how to call the youth to repentance and needs our imaginations. He is sovereign and calls, chooses, and draws those whom He will, that they will live not unto themselves. Not by giving them reason to continue to live unto themselves in worldly fashion, but by drawing them that they should change.
- "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
2nd Corinthians 5:15-17
Worldly music was a part of our past, we cannot any longer be entangled therein. We are a new creation, we speak a new language, we have a new life, a new walk, a new desire, and a new song. Would the music of our previous 'old man' reflect the spirit of the old, or the new man? And to deny the music matters so long as it draws people in, is to stick one's head in the proverbial sand. The ends never justify the means. This rationale is just another example of the egotistical and simplistic reasoning which proliferates the Church of our day. In truth, the type music we play in the Church does matter. It matters just as surely as the type preaching in our pulpits matters. The music of the Church allows the congregation to make the proper application of the Scriptures or lyrics which they are singing. To keep the worship God-centered rather than sensual or "entertainment" centered. We should not forget that the goal of the music accompanying the Biblical lyrics is that the people may come to better understand the feelings they should have about the biblical truths they are singing. Thus the accompanying music should be pious, reverent, holy, and gracious. Good Christian music is usually composed by those who have their mind singly on the biblical truths, and their musical talents directed in humility, supplication, and holy petition to God. Because the songs are songs of the Spirit, which speak of of Saviour and Salvation and deliverance by the God of the Bible who is our protector.
- "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
- Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
- Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
It's ironic that the Church which is falling further and further away from God in our day, thinks it needs to compromise even more by instituting worldly music to get the modern man into the Churches (as if they have suddenly become Hucksters and God is an idle bystander.) The Church with each new degradation of God's laws gets progressively worse because the gospel drawing doesn't work that way. The drawing is done by the Holy Spirit, not by cultures, drum beats, styles, loud or heavy rhythms. Christian music, like the gospel which it portrays, is timeless. It doesn't need modernizing, gimmicks, or compromise, it needs only faithfulness. The gospel draws the 'elect' out of the world because of it's distinctiveness from the world, not because it is so much like the world that people want it. Why would they want what they already have? Understand, when the Churches become so much like the world, that is when the Church becomes the world, and when it's desolation is not far off. For it has then lost it's God-centered and righteous compass, and has become as clouds without rain. It's then a Church compromised rather than commissioned, and it's songs are just personal entertainment, rather than communal praise and worship.
- "Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah."
As for the term "contemporary," today this might mean different things to different Christians. To one it might mean the sound of Rock, to another it could mean a smooth modern hymns sound, and to still another it could mean a sound like that of Beethoven. But it's not all relative. We can have (so-called) contemporary music which glorifies God, but we cannot have rock, rap, hip hop, swinging, good-time, knee slapping worldly music, and call it Christian. Are Christians today so drunk with the music of the world, or so in bondage (addicted) to it that they find it almost impossible to give up? If so then they had better begin to understand that there are two kinds of spirits in the world, and only one is of God.
We are to speak to ourselves, or exhort ourselves in the worship of God in psalms, hymns, and 'spiritual' songs that give thanks unto God. And the context here is that these songs should be 'Biblical' and spiritual songs. This singing must be scriptural, that is to say, related to His Word in a faithful way. And the accompanying music should be sanctified for the service of God. It should be 'set apart' from types of music that the world enjoys and listens to, and the words and melody should convey the thoughts and lifestyle that relate to this service of God. It should not be of the words or melody that relate to the thoughts and lifestyles of the world. And therein lies the rub.
- "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
- 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;"
Which brings us to the unmentionable. That there are all kinds of people in the Church today who really believe that they are Saved, but who are not Saved at all4. They are sometimes labeled 'Carnal Christians,' as if such an animal exists. These are those who want to have things lukewarm, instead of hot and cold. The lusts of the flesh and pleasures of this world tempt and call to them, and they are dragged back into league with the body of death. Music is judged in cultural struggles between what man want, and what is glorifying to God. And in making this judgment, we have to remember that the sphere of our daily lives cannot stand isolated and untouched by our theology or song. Godly virtue must always guide our personal judgments about music. Music has always been a source of disagreement between those who are Christian and those who are not. This is not by accident, but because we are of two distinctly diverse realms. We have overcome the world in Christ, therefore our ears are attuned to an entirely different frequency. Because we have the receiver in us which is the Spirit of God, not the spirit of this world. Therefore we will want to do what is pleasing to God, rather than follow after worldly spirits pleasing to our flesh.
1st John 4:4-6
Clearly, there are two distinct spirits working. Those of the world gravitate to the sounds of the world. And much of this so called "Christian Rock and Rap" is an indication of the obfuscated, convoluted, confused, and disjointed nature of the Church today. And also of many of those professed Christians who dwell therein. The compromise in worldly music is often the visible evidence of this bewilderment and lack of Biblical leadership within the Congregations. By contrast, sound Christian music should not give an uncertain sound, but be distinctive. Contrary to popular opinion, there is not a fine line between "Church worship" and "Church partying," there is a great divide. And we should be careful not to bridge the gap under the guise of personal or Christian liberty. We have liberty to sing Christian songs and rejoice in Christian hymns, but we must do it in a Godly manner that will bring honor and reverence to God and illustrate His kingdom is a different Kingdom.
- "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
- They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
- We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
Again, we know music is 'somewhat' subjective. I have acknowledged that. we all have our certain biases. There are many modernists who think any old music is bad, and that contemporary or new music is good. Likewise there are those who think that all new music is bad, and all old music is good. But age is no way to make decisions about music. Longevity does not a good Christian hymn make. Though I must in all honesty admit, it is often true that there is a beauty, scripture, reverence, and solemnity in much of the older music which is hard to find in the newer songs. Note I say hard to find, but it is not impossible. Each song must be judged individually.
The bottom line is to judge Biblically and sensibly. When we are born from above, a new creation in Christ, there should be a new biblical sensibility in us which discerns between what is carnal, corrupt and not glorifying to God in music, and what is doctrinally sound, instructive, and informative to the hearer.
The Spirit is what moves us:
- "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
'That we know' that songs meet the criteria for Godly music.
'That we know' the instrumentation and beat does not work to the flesh, and is delivered in such as way that brings honor to our God.
'That we know' it's lyrics are taken from the precepts of scripture where they are consistent with what the Bible teaches.
'That we know' the music itself is reverent, enhances, and lends a certain solemnity to the song.
'That we know' that the music itself does not detract from the the overall message of the song.
We started out this Bible Study asking, "what constitutes biblical Christian music." The answer we saw was found incorporated in Philippians 4:8,"..whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."This is music which is true, which incorporates sound doctrines, and which is just or righteous. Music which is uncorrupted, pure, lovely and is of a good report. Virtuous music, hymns of praise, and the honest worship of His image, not our own. When we find music which glorifies God, and not the man or the body, this will constitute Biblical Christian music. After hearing the song we should be left with recalling the praise of it's message to God, not the musical instruments or the snappy beat.
Take all these aspects together and they make up a balanced prescription for sound biblical songs and hymns to worship God conservatively, honorably, and conscientiously, the way that He would have us to glorify Him. Let us sing with songs that are a sign or signification that His will be done, not our own.
May the eternal God who is merciful above all, give His Church the wisdom to discern between the right way to Glorify God, and the wrong way. In His name,
Copyright ©2003 Tony WarrenFeel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone so long as the above copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the article. This publication can be distributed only in it's original form, unedited, and without cost.
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Created 2/12/03 / Last Modified 9/16/03
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