Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Music, the Christian's Achilles Heel
"Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." Daniel 3:3-7
The worship of God in heaven is conducted with music. God approves of good instrumental music as evidenced by those in heaven possessing harps. (cf. Rev 5:8, 9; 14:2-3; 15:2-3). The redeemed sing the song of Moses and the song of the lamb before the throne. Rev 15:2,3
As God ordained instrumental music in His temple in heaven so He commanded instrumental music in the temple on earth. The earthly temple was a model or type of the heavenly temple: “And he [Hezekiah] did [that which was] right in the sight of the LORD...And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the kingʼs seer, and Nathan the prophet: for [so was] THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD by his prophets.” 2Chron 29:2, 25.
Use of musical instruments was commanded by God
Through His prophets God has actually commanded His people to praise Him on wind, stringed and percussion instruments. (Ps 149:3; Ps 81:2-4; Ps 150:3-6; Ps 92:3; 2Chron 5:13). David appointed musicians (1Chron 25:11) and the prophet Elisha used music on one occasion for prophetic inspiration (2Kings 3:14, 15).
Holy instrumental music is a good influence
Holy instrumental music can lift the mind to heaven and bring the blessings of peace and calm. (1Sam 16:14-17, 23).
God enjoys good music
God commanded instrumental music in the past, He enjoys it in heaven, and He does not change. Mal 3:6 “For I [am] the LORD, I change not...” In the New Testament Jesus associated music with joy and celebration (Luke 15:25).
Psalms indicates instrumental music
We are told to sing Psalms (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; James 5:13) and many Psalms were designed to be accompanied by instrumental music. The word “psalms” in Eph 5:19 and James 5:13 is from the Greek “psallo” which, according to several Greek lexicons, means “to pluck, pull, to strike the chord, twang the strings of a musical instrument so that they gently vibrate. To play on a stringed instrument, to play, the harp, etc.” Not everybody in the church can play an instrument but those who can may and this music can accompany the Psalms. “In the LXX [Greek translation of the O.T.] ps[allo] freq. means ʻsingʼ whether to the accompaniment of a harp or (as usually) not...” The Greek English Lexicon of Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker (891).
A Misunderstood text explained
“Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” Amos 5:23 23. Does this condemn musical instruments in worship? In verse 21 God condemns their “solemn assemblies” Both verses refer to Godʼs disgust of hypocritical religion, not Godʼs disgust of musical instruments or of solemn assemblies!
Though there are few references to instrumental music in the N.T. there are NO scriptures forbidding it. It is possible that the early church avoided instruments in their church services because of their pagan or secular associations, (may we show their caution in our musical choices) however no passage prohibits musical instuments. In light of Godʼs command to have instrumental music in the Old Testament; the existence of instrumental music in heaven and the fact that God does not change, we are within Godʼs will to praise Him with carefully considered instrumental music today.
God permits what He does not forbid e.g. motorized transport, telecommunications hymnbooks etc.. As our unchanging God nowhere forbids musical instruments and as He even commanded their use, we may know that God is well pleased with the right use of musical instruments in worship today.
ACCEPTABLE CHRISTIAN MUSIC
Evangelism and worship have been greatly enhanced by music but ultimately it is the Word of God accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit that converts people. From the priestly chants of early centuries through to congregational singing, brought in by Martin Luther, Christian music has changed over time. In all this change we need to ask what does God like? This study examines the Biblical principles that relate to worship music. It is our prayer that all who read it will do so seeking to know Godʼs will.
Music - Audible feelings
Music is based on physics - sound waves of a certain melody, rythmn, pitch, volume, etc. Our emotions are also connected to physical affects such as heart rhythms, voice pitch, volume, etc. Skilful musicians can encapsulate the physical properties of feelings in the physical properties of music. All emotions can be captured this way. Because music communicates using the same physical phenomena of emotion which we all posses, all of us respond in similar ways to music. Music is thus a universal language.
Music, even without lyrics, affects us
Music styles, even without lyrics, impact us all in similar ways. Indeed, if this were not the case there would be no point in a music sound track in a movie. The emotion of each scenes is emphasized with appropriate music. When a movie is released internationally the musical soundtrack remains unchanged. This shows that the music affects all peoples the same way. Language is decoded using a learned language code. However the imagery, suggestion and feelings of music are not decoded because it is not a code, it exists in the raw material of existence - physical phenomena. This means that music affects us irrespective of the lyrics. Worship music mus therefore be carefully chosen based not only as to lyrics but also as to style.
Music styles have a power to change us
As music even without lyrics can communicate emotions and feelings music can affect morality. Music may illicit feelings of anger, rebellion and discord or it may brings feelings of peace and serenity. Philosophers and politicians have recognised the power of music to affect people and some have even tried to regulate it. Music has helped to lure Godʼs people into false worship before: Worshipping the golden calf (Exo 32:19). On the very borders of the promised land the children of Israel were “beguiled by music and dancing.” (Num 25:1-2; PP 454). On the other hand music can bless. Davidʼs music soothed Saul (1Sam 16:23). Because of musicʼs power to affect us we must choose our music carefully.
There are dangerous musical styles
Music, like everything else, has been affected by sin. The gift of music God gave has been perverted and turned to an evil use by Satan. Satanʼs power to tempt is ever increasing and it would be foolishness to think that he has not developed musical styles to use in his work. Heavy rythmic beat captures the physical aspects of excitement, rebellion, anger, and sexual desire (increased heart rate). The strong repetitive rythmn of rock, which often increases to a crescendo, suggest physical rythmn such as sexual activity. The sexual suggestion can be further exaggerated when the deep base is actually felt.
The musical instruments such as the electric guitar often produce a sound quality similar to a whine which exagerates the rebellious and aggressive aspects of cetain music. Due to the different quality of sound made certain instruments sit well with the calm and holy while others sit well with the aggressive and rebellious.
The way lyrics are sounded also has suggestive qualities. Some lyrics are sung in a ʻbreathy,ʼ husky, sexually suggestive way. Husky, sexually suggestive lyrics have no place in worship music.
The Musical style of rebellion
Of all musical styles in the past 2000 years none has been so closely associated with the rejection of the moral values and beliefs of Christianity as rock music. Rock is the universal style of choice for the worldly. Rock is associated with the irrational, the instinctual, the sexually immoral, the godless, and freedom from any restriction.
Musical styles are value laden
Rock music is the style above all others which is associated with worldly, immoral values. When rock is played in a church people think that the church not only accepts rock music but also to some degree the values associated with rock music. Because the rock style is associated with worldly values the rock style cannot properly represent Godʼs moral values. The true significance of issues such as life, death and holiness cannot be represented through rock style music because the rock style is inseparably associated with worldly values, unrestricted partying and godlessness.
Adding spiritual words to rock make it acceptable?
The rock medium itself is a vehicle chosen by the immoral and corrupt and good lyrics cannot change the medium.
“Christian” rock, because of its rock associations, distorts the message of the Bible.
If we adopt a worldly appearance to attract the worldly how can we present a vivid contrast between the worldly and the holy? Casual dress and behaviour associated with rock create a social club atmosphere, undermining reverence and holiness. Rock reminds people of their rebellious past.
Rock music undermines the churchʼs separation from the world.
Rockʼs innate worldliness has no place in Godʼs worship. Rock is not a neutral vehicle for Christian lyrics. “Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1John 2:15. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Rom 12:2.
Rock is bridge leading to the world
Christian rock does not give a clear call to come out of Babylon. On the contrary “Christian” rock is actually a bridge back to the world. Rock is the music of the world and the use of rock music in church stimulates memories of the world.
Rock music alters the mind and body
Rock music captivates, stimulates, and weakens moral sensibilities. It affects us physiologically and psychologically. The repetitive rock rhythm stimulates a sexual response. Rock music makes its impact musically rather than lyrically. The words, if they are noticed at all, are absorbed after the music has ʻhookedʼ us. Rock is hypnotic and addictive. The high some feel in Christian rock concerts, and believe it to be the moving of Godʼs Spirit, is no different than the ecstatic feelings the godles experience in worldly rock concerts and nightclubs
. Just because something may lead to salvation is no justification for its use
People have been led to saalvation by things God never sanctions. Evangelism must not be guided by its apparent ʻsuccessʼ but by its harmony with Biblical direction.
Can we allow people to choose their worship music?
We can no more allow our young people to choose appropriate musical styles than we can allow them to choose what they eat. Rock music has been called “junk food for the soul.” Musical style should be driven by theological directives not personal choices. The issue is not what we want but what God wants.
Why has there not been more resistance to rock style music in church?
Many naively thought that taking the rock medium (the rock style music) and replacing the ungodly rock lyrics with Christian lyrics made it safe. It did not: 1. Rock makes its impact musically rather than lyrically so the rock style itself affects people in unchristian ways irrespective of the lyrics. 2. Christian rock addicts people to the rock style and becomes a bridge over which many move into worldly rock. 3. Rock style music is inseparably associated with the irreligious and the immoral. Therefore its use in church is in conflict with Christian values. No wonder those churches using it generally dress casually and a show lack of reverence.
1. Music lured Godʼs people into false worship before: The worship of the golden calf was associated with music, dancing and nudity (Exo 32:17-19). (a) The music was the music of Egypt. (b) The worship service was that of Egypt.
(c) The church leader (Aaron) had given in to the wants of the people who desired to have what they had done in Egypt.
2. On the very borders of the promised land the children of Israel were “beguiled by music and dancing.” (Num 25:1-2; PP 454).
3. The language of Revelation is based on Old Testament stories. The end-time worship of the beast and his image is based on the events in Daniel 3 in which the faithful were commanded to worship a Babylonian image and music was used to lead all into worship. Today Satan is using the music of spiritual “Babylonian” to induce Godʼs people to worshipping the image of the beast.
Christian Rock Festival
“Christian” rock is eroding the distinctions between denominations and the world. This is leading to a united worship style and doctrine. The resulting unity among various deomination will eventually lead to them pressuring government to have their common doctrines enforced by law. The true Christian message is to call a people out of Babylon. Soon the whole world will be gathered for the end-time worship of the image and the music of Babylon will be played to lead the inhabitants of the world to “worship the beast and his image.” (Rev 14:9).
In the end God will overthrow Babylon and her music will be silenced. “...Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all...” Rev 18:21-22. The silencing of Babylonʼs music indicates that their music had played a part in seducing Godʼs people into Babylonian worship.
Heavenly musical is described as primarily choral. Only harps are said to accompany it. Babylonʼs music, by contrast, is full of instruments and minstrels (professional entertainers). It is perfomance based.
Rock is addictive
Rock music is so stimulating and addictive that many now listen to it on mobile music players almost continually.
Rock is primarily carnal
Some have suggested the following:
MELODY - responds to the SPIRIT*
HARMONY - responds to the MIND
RHYTHM - responds to the BODY. *See Eph 5:18-19. Rock music reverses the order. The strong rhythm (beat) of rock plays primarily to the carnal - the body. As such it is inappropriate for church which should be primarilly spiritual not carnal.
Feeling orientated Music
Much ʻChristian rockʼ music is overly repetitive and emphasises feelings as evidence that we are right with God. Our right standing with God is based on faith in His word not our feelings or exercises.
Songs with no clear biblical reference are inappropriate. Such “cross over” music that is welcomed in secular circles is not acceptable in church. Many hymns contain beautiful Biblical doctrines whereas many contemporary worship songs are doctrinally void.
Trivialising serious themes
Music which trivializes serious biblical themes is also innappropriate.
How the message of the Remnant Church relates to our musical choices
Church music should reflect the churchʼs theology and proclaim biblical truths. The music of a church reveals the churchʼs ideas of God. Three major doctrines of the remnant church should guide our musical choices: 1. The Sabbath 2. Christʼs heavenly ministry 3. The Second Coming.
These distinctive doctrines emphasise elements that should be found in the best church music:
The Sabbath and Music
The Sabbath emphasizes the distinction between the secular and the holy. It points to God as the One who created us and creates in us a clean heart. Church music should likewise be distinct from secular music in style.
Christʼs Heavenly ministry and Music
Christʼs heavenly ministry brings to mind His sacrifice, holiness, sacredness, solemnity and Christʼs love and care for us. During the judgment and the cleansing of the sanctuary Israel were to “afflict their souls.” (Lev 16:29-30). “To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecc 3:1-4). Now, during the judgment and the cleansing the heavenly sanctuary, it is not a time to dance.
In the earthly sanctuary only four instruments were used: Trumpets, cymbals, lyres, and harps (1Chron 15:16; 16:5-6). Only the lyres and harps (stringed instruments which blend with human voices), accompanied singing. Trumpets were used to signal times for prostration or choral singing (2Chron 29:27-29). The cymbals were used to announce a new song or stanza, not to give beat or rhythm (See John W Kleinig, The Lordʼs Song, The Basis, Function and Significance of choral music in Chronicles, 1933, p82. Anthony Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel, 1963, p376- 377). The instruments used were given by Godʼs command (2Chron 29:25) not simply human preference. It is probable that other instruments were excluded from temple use because of their association with secular entertainment and dancing, not because any instrument is evil per se.
Points to note from the temple music
(a) God commanded that instruments were to be used to accompany singing. (b) The instruments used with singing blended with human voices and did not drown the singing out. (c) Percussion instruments (tambourines, drums) were not used in the temple. Only cymbals were used but in a limited way.
(d) The music fostered holiness and reverence. (e) There was a distinction between religious temple music and secular music.
These principles if applied in houses of worship today would exclude rock music because: (aʼ) Rock with its emphasis on beat does not harmonize well with congregational singing. The voice is the greatest instrument of praise and no musical instrument should overwhelm the singing of the congregation.
(bʼ) Rock emphasizes the beat of percussion instruments. (cʼ) Rock is inseparably associated with worldly associations and does not therefore foster holiness and reverence. (dʼ) Rock musicʼs secular association destroys the separation between the holy and the secular.
The Second coming and music
The Second Coming is full of expectancy and urgency. It brings to mind triumph and reunion and inspires us to herald the day. Our music should likewise catch these themes and ethusiastically inspire the congregation to hasten the day.
Should we use methods which appeal to the world?
Had Paul been using methods which appealed to the world of His day he would not have encountered the poor response he did.
Target market approach
One difference between marketing and evangelism is that in marketing the market dictates the approach. This leads some Christians to the thinking that if the ʻtarget marketʼ (the world) love rock, give it to them. Bible based evangelism however must be directed by Scriptural principles and counsel. What the market wants rules in marketing but following Bible counsel must rule in evangelism. If the Bible allows the use of something we may use it. However if a thing is unbiblical we must not use it no matter how popular it may be. We must make the Bible as releavant as possible but we must not allow the target audience to direct our methods. We are not to conform to the world (Rom 12:2). When evangelism is not directed by Biblical principles it becomes manipulation rather than a manifestation of the power of truth. The ʻmarketʼ (the world) love rock but this is not sufficient justification to use it. To rock or not to rock must be based on biblical principles.
Rock draws the crowds
The world like rock because it is the music of the world. Christian youth who love rock come to such concerts where they can enjoy their type of music without condemnation from parents. Apostolic Christianity converted 0.6% of the Roman Empireʼs 181 in 70 years. When paganism and apostasy entered the church in the 4th century church numbers grew amazingly. This shows that church growth can be deceptive. Massive church growth can even be a sign of apostasy.
Who is asking for rock in the church?
Do the unsaved want rock in church so they can come? Or do some church members want rock music in the church because they like it? “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” (Eph 5:11).
Addressing arguments used for rock music in church:
(1) Music is just a matter of personal taste and preference
We must do all to Godʼs glory (1Cor 10:31). To do this we need to know what God likes. It is not about our personal tastes and preference but about what God likes. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.” Pro 14:12
. (2) We must use rock in order to be relevant and user friendly We are not here to give the world what they like but to give God what He likes.
(3) Rock is the best way to reach the unchurched where they are Rock is the best way for the world to reach the church! Rock is the preferred style of the world.
(4) Music is amoral (morally neutral) Music, even without lyrics, reflects our emotions and feelings (consider movie soundtracks). Music most certainly leads to a certain train of thought or feeling even without lyrics and is not therefore morally neutral.
(5) God made music—isnʼt all music inherently good? God made all things but because of sin not all things are safe today. Music like all of Godʼs blessings can be and has been perverted by Satan.
(6) Show me in the Bible where God says that rock music is a sin Show us in the Bible where it says rock music is acceptable. Though not specifically mentioned Biblical principles show that rock is unacceptable: (a) Rock is the favoured musical style of the world - the rebellous, the immoral etc.
(b) Rock is associated with unchristian values. (c) Rock undermines the churchʼs seperation from the world. (d) Rock erodes the distinction between the secular and the holy. (e) Rock is a bridge to the world. (f) Prophetic types show that music will be used to lead the faithful into worshipping the image of the beast (See Dan 3). The image of the beast will be Apostate Protestantism enforcing it doctrines through the State. Rock is the musical style dominating contemporary Protestant churches.
(7) Itʼs the ʻheart of worshipʼ that matters and not the music itself God accepts a good heart if it is ignorantly doing wrong. However when one knows Godʼs will one needs to do it in order to remain acceptable to God.
(8) Martin Luther and Charles Wesley used contemporary music in church
Luther and Wesley are not models for us.
(9) Rock music is easier to sing than the traditional hymns This is simply untrue. Many rock songs have long notes that require skill to hold.
(10) We should use rock to disciple and save our teens. Christian rock gives our teens a taste for rock and creates a bridge leading them out of the church into worldly rock.
The Bibleʼs references to dancing are used by some to support dance music and dancing in the church. A study of the references to dancing (dance, danced, dances, dancing) reveal: 1. None show that dancing was a part of divine worship in the Temple, synagogue or New Testament church. 2. Only four of the verses refer without dispute to religious dancing, and none refer to worship in Godʼs house. 3. Women, who did most of the dancing, were excluded from the music ministry in the Temple, synagogue and early church.
Verses often used to justify dancing
Ps 105:1-6 “Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.Praise him with the timbrel and DANCE: praise him with stringed instruments and pipes. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
1. The word “dance” sits among a list of musical instruments indicating that it refers to a musical instrument. In fact the marginal reading is “pipe” instead of “dance.” 2. Verse 1 refers to Godʼs location. God, Who is in His sanctuary and firmament is to be praised. It does not refer to worshippers going into those places as believers never entered the sanctuary and could not enter into “the firmament” of Godʼs power. 3. No biblical passage refers to dance in the temple, synagogue, or early church. Religious meetings were characteerized by solemnity, reverence and holiness.
Praise God in the Dance
Ps 149:3 “Let them praise his name in the DANCE: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.”
1. The word “dance” is from the Hebrew. machowl and is possibly a reference to a pipe. The alternate reading given in the margin is “pipe.” 2. The fact that the word machowl sits among other musical instruments (timbrel and harp) indicates that machowl refers to a musical instrument; a pipe.
King David danced
2Sam 6:14 “And David DANCED before the LORD with all [his] might; and David [was] girded with a linen ephod... David leaping and dancing before the LORD...”
1. This did not occur in the sanctuary. 2. The context shows that David laid aside his royal garments and humbled himself by dressing in clothes similar to the priests. He then danced in reverent joy. The proud daughter of Saul despised David for laying aside his royal garments but God honoured him. 3. Davidʼs joy prefigured the joy of the saints at the end of the world when God turns their captivity. 4. Davidʼs reverent dance bears no resemblance to common dancing. One glorified God, the other tends to remove God from the mind. References to dance in the New Testament (Matt 14:6; Mark 6:22) Herodias dancing; (Matt 11:17; Luke 7:32) children dancing. When the prodigal son returns home in the parable he hears “music and dancing.” The word “dancing” is from the word “chorus” which is used in extrabiblical literature with the meaning of “choir.” Dancing is often associated with pagan religious practises and apostasy. Israel worshipping round the golden calf (Exo 32:19) The Moabites luring Israel into false worship (Num 25:1-2) involved dancing. False worship on Mount Carmel (1Kings 18:26).
The Jews had no sensual dancing. There was no physical contact between men and women. Their dancing was folk style and consisted in more of a rhythmic march.
Grace and Peace be with you