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Music in Worship


Music in Worship—

You asked for spaghetti; the waiter brought you spinach instead.

What man is there of you, 
whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?—Matthew  7:9

H AVE YOU EVER sat behind someone who sang off key and out of tempo during a congregational singing night? If so, you might discover a new appreciation for the need for musical accompaniment. A loud organ can erase a multitude of missed notes in the worst of us. All kidding aside, those people who make a joyful noise unto the Lord by singing, often sing from the heart and the soul. That is what matters to God.

Maybe you have friends who have heard of entire churches without music. I worship with one of those churches, but of course, the absence of music is not really true – it’s just that our music is confined to a capella singing. The absence of instrumental accompaniment may be shocking to some people who have enjoyed pianos and organs all their lives, or who crave a modern rock or R&B sound even in worship.

Something, though, can be said about a capella. Singing, of course, is music, or to put it another way, singing is an example of the fruit of our lips that God desires in worship, a setting about honoring and pleasing God rather than entertaining ourselves—

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. —Hebrews 13:15

Personal preferences will lean toward one kind of music or another, and the fad of some contemporary worship reflects what is here today and gone tomorrow. Yet, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are abiding and follow what we find in the New Testament about communicating praise verbally as well as scripturally—

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.  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. —Colossians 3:16-17

When we seek to follow the pattern of the early church, it is not because we lack imagination or lack initiative. We may lack such attributes, but honestly, there is a absolute need to offer God what God has asked of us. We need to respect God and the authoritative nature of the new covenant – its commands, it implications, its prohibitions, its examples, and its silence.

If we portend to follow and to speak for God, we must repeat what God has said and nothing else: If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). In brief, we must seek to please our Savior, not ourselves.  As for music, we understand that early Christians sung praises in worship and avoided what Martin Luther later depicted as “an ensign of Baal.” If God has asked for simplicity, should we change God’s word? If God asks for bread, should we give him a stone?

Eric Sanders

In the Days of Thy Youth, 2, a publication written for and sometimes by young people and distributed among congregations in central Florida.

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