Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Christian Worship: Singing

One of the most edifying acts of worship authorized by the Lord for Christians is “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

There is something about poetry set to a pleasant melody which uplifts men. This fact was recognized by James when he wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13). We are indeed blessed that God instructs us to edify and uplift one another as we praise Him in song.

It may be noted that the text mentioned above, (Ephesians 5:19), establishes some parameters which must be followed as we sing in worship. For example, we see that the songs we are to sing are to be “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” In Christian worship, our singing must be limited to songs which fit into these categories. Fortunately, there are many songs that conform to God’s standards.

The term “Psalm” refers to the Old Testament book of Psalms, a common source for singing in the early church. In the song book “Hymns for Worship”, there are a number of such Psalms which have been set to music (cf. Psa. 19, 439; Psa. 25, 607; Psa. 51, 501, etc).

The term “Hymn” refers to a specific type of spiritual song. It is defined by Vine as, “a song of praise addressed to God.” It is appropriate for us to offer up the sacrifice of our lips to the Almighty God of Heaven. He is worthy of our praise. Songs such as “A Mighty Fortress”, “Fairest Lord Jesus”, and “How Great Thou Art”, are all well known examples of hymns.

The term “Spiritual Songs” is a bit more broad. The word “song”, from the Greek ode, is a generic term for a song. The word Spiritual modifies and limits it to songs which have spiritual sentiment in their message. Songs such as “Christ Arose”, “The Lord My Shepherd Is”, “I Need Thee Every Hour”, and “Take Time to be Holy”, are familiar and varied examples of spiritual songs.

Every song we sing was at one time new. Though we love and enjoy the “old standards”, we should be open to learning new songs. So long as a song contains a spiritual sentiment, teaches truth, and does not promote any sensual or worldly response in the hearer, it is worthy of our consideration in worship to God.

The text of Ephesians 5:19 establishes the instrument we are to use in our musical worship to God. We are to sing with our voices, and make melody with our hearts. The New Testament is silent with regard to the use of mechanical instruments of music such as a piano or organ. As Truman Smith wrote in his recent article entitled “What is Wrong With Instrumental Music?”:

“Let’s put this matter in a nutshell: There are nine passages in the New Testament that teach us to sing: Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3;16; Heb. 2:12; Jas. 5:13; Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3). Please observe that none of these passages says anything about mechanical instrumental music. This simply means that we have authority to sing (vocal music), without the aid of any kind of mechanical instrument of music at all. Where does this leave the matter? It simply means that if we go ahead and include the mechanical instrument in our worship, we are adding to that which is written and we are forbidden to add anything or to take anything from the Word of God (2 Jn. 9; Rev. 22:18-19). (The Voice, January, 2004).

Men have long subordinated the directives of God to their own will and desires. Simply put, mechanical instruments exist in modern worship because men want them there, not because God authorized them.

As we seek to worship God “in spirit and truth” (cf. John 4:24), we must heed His will with regard to musical worship offered to Him. We are privileged by God to “speak [-ing] to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” As we conform to His will in this, may we have the proper spirit as we praise Him in song.