What Should Worship Look Like? Part II

CORE SCRIPTURE #5 DANIEL 3:4-5

Music Is Not A-Moral

“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:” – Daniel 3:4-5

   The simple point of this section is that we cannot make the argument that music is a-moral (neither good nor bad) and it is only the words of a song that make it good or bad. Even music without lyrics cause people to react physically. This is a natural law we can observe even in small children with no concept of music education. The next time you are in a store or public place and bouncy music of any genre comes on, look around and observe. You will most likely notice small children begin to nod their heads to the beat, or sway in the rhythm. They may even dance. Adults may do any of these as well, but you should at least expect to see hands and fingers snapping or moving in sync with the beat of the music. Certain styles of music obviously evoke more response than others, but the point remains: music evokes physical responses. Pardon the expression, but the music moves us. Christians would readily agree that songs can have good or bad lyrics, yet many fail to see that songs also have bad or good music. 

   In Daniel 3:4-5 and even later on into the chapter, we see a graphic depiction of heathen worship. Guess what. It centered around music; music with no words! What the three Hebrew young men encountered in this passage was a regular occurrence in the Babylonian world, and certainly in the pagan world. Scripture is filled with examples where music is used both in godly and ungodly worship. As we have already noticed through the Scripture of Exodus 32, the object of the music’s worship does not determine the music being good or bad. For example, the Israelites in Exodus 32 aimed their singing toward Jehovah, yet God hated their singing because it was a style of music from Egypt–which they had observed being used in pagan worship there. So just because we make the song about God, that does not magically make the music morally right. 

   So if the object of our music does not determine its morality, how do we know when the Bible speaks good or evil of music? In short, the context tells us whether the music was distinct worship music that reverently praised the LORD or if it was chaotic, pagan and sensual. Examine these passages: 

Some Positive Uses of Music: 

“And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.” – I Samuel 18:6

“And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.” – I Chronicles 15:16

“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;” – II Chronicles 5:13

“And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.”  – II Chronicles 7:6

Some Negative Uses of Music

“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:” – Daniel 3:5

“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 3:7

“Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:” – Daniel 3:10

“Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”                – Daniel 3:15

Revelation 18:22 says one day when God’s judgment is poured out on the world that all world’s instruments and musicians will be destroyed and judged by God and they will be silent forever. That is a day we can rejoice over and look forward to. 

   It is also interesting to note that some music can be moral but not appropriate for worship. This is best demonstrated by imagining you are sitting in church and the special just before the message comes and the tune of Yankee Doodle is played. Is the music immoral? No. Are the lyrics immoral? No. Is the song appropriate? No. So even a song with moral lyrics and music can be inappropriate. One more thing to consider is that there are some songs that are simply not the best we could offer the LORD in our worship. For example, consider the following song by a very popular Christian artist and then consider a timeless hymn and observe which one has more pronounced and sound theology and which truly edifies and teaches the believer. 

YOU SAY  – Lauren Daigle

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?

Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know (ooh oh)

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, (ooh oh)

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

And You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet

You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, (ooh oh)

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

Oh I believe (I), yes I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

Oh I believe (oh)

 

ALAS AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEEDIsaac Watts

Alas, and did my Savior bleed

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

Was it for sins that I had done

He groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown

And love beyond degree

My God, why would You shed Your blood

So pure and undefiled

To make a sinful one like me

Your chosen, precious child?

Well might the sun in darkness hide

And shut His glories in

When Christ, the mighty Maker, died

For man, the creature’s, sin

Thus might I hide my blushing face

While His dear cross appears

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness

And melt my eyes to tears

My God, why would You shed Your blood

So pure and undefiled

To make a sinful one like me

Your chosen, precious child?

My God, why would You shed Your blood

So pure and undefiled

To make a sinful one like me

Your chosen, precious child?

 

While Daigle’s lyrics are not immoral or inappropriate for worship, it is severely lacking doctrinally. Until the third verse, there is no clear reference to God or deity at all. Anyone could listen to it and think she is referencing her friend or parent or anyone or anything. Notice in Watts’ hymn that he immediately points to the blood atonement of Jesus Christ as the Almighty God of the Universe. There is clarity in Watts’ hymn where there is vast ambiguity in Daigle’s. This is just one of many examples where a song may be morally right and even doctrinally right, yet is inferior to far better songs for corporate worship. God demands the best, not inferior ambiguous songs that do not fill themselves with Scripture and clear doctrinal teaching. 

What Kind of Music Did The New Testament Church Use? 

   Many who claim God has no preference of music style will quickly assert that the New Testament makes no mention of what kind of music believers were using in church services and therefore it does not matter. This is an ignorant and erroneous assumption that we will quickly set right. There are several mentions of the style they were using and because we know the culture so well that Jesus lived in, we can quickly conclude exactly what they were singing and in what manner they were singing it. But before we look at the style and content of the music, we must understand a key fact that will settle much of the modern worship music debate, and that is this: music was a very minor part of the worship service in Israel and the New Testament Church. This is why it is so rarely mentioned and so few examples of it exist in Scripture. Why? Because the overwhelming significance in worship was placed on the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. The vast majority of churches who use modern worship methods and seek to appeal of a stage and praise band by and large have a great disproportion between music and preaching. Sadly, many of these churches have replaced the sanctuary with an atmosphere resembling a nightclub or rock hall. Next they have replaced the pulpit with a stage. I urge my readers of what they notice upon entering a church auditorium. What is the dominant feature you notice? The pulpit or a stage filled with trap sets, drums and instruments? If the answer is anything other than the pulpit, then one can safely assume the preaching will not be the focus and something else will be–and it is usually music. God did not ordain music to be the main focus of worship and church; He did not even ordain it to be a major part of the worship. It is a minor thing. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Consider these verses, which teach the centrality of preaching: 

“Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” – Jonah 3:2

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea”                         – Matthew 3:1I

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” – Mark 1:14

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” – Mark 16:15 

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” – Matthew 4:23

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” – Matthew 9:35

Also consider the fact that music cannot do what preaching does: it convicts and leads to repentance and salvation. The following Scriptures show this. Consider these verses: 

“The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” – Matthew 12:41

“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” – Acts 8:12

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” – I Corinthians 1:21

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 2:36-38

We see in these verses that it is the preaching of the Word that changes lives, not music. Music is only an echo of Biblical truth and is not given the same power as preaching. Today, many Christians do not want preaching, but entertainment. Folks enter a rock hall like structure with nightclub like lights flashing and revolving all around and engage in emotional music that makes them feel good for thirty minutes or even hours in some cases, and then the pastor comes up dressed like a teenager and gives a fifteen minute pep talk. I submit that this is not a Biblical church, but a corruption just like Exodus 32 when Israel changed God’s parameters on worship for something they preferred and just like Leviticus 10 when Nadab and Abihu substituted God’s parameters for something they liked better. 

   Many will say, but God is not condemning these churches who do this and there is no outburst of divine wrath upon them, therefore He must not be mad at it and therefore it is acceptable to Him. I submit dear friend that it is the mercy and grace of God’s longsuffering that keeps Him from annihilating such corrupt worship as He did in past times. It is of His mercy that millions are not consumed in an instant. 

   So what kind of music did the New Testament Church use? We know that they used music taken straight from the traditional Tabernacle and Temple worship and sang words straight from the Psalms and other Scripture. They called them hymns, and so do we today. It is important to remember that the basis for New Testament worship services comes straight from the Jewish Synagogues. Figure out what Synagogue worship was like and you then know what the early Church worship was like. It is not hard and requires no P.h.D. in Theology to learn that the worship was calm, reverent and saturated with Scripture. This is not what many churches do today unfortunately. 

   The fact that Jesus attended Synagogue worship every week helps us know exactly what He approved of for worship in His church. The people would gather into a building or by a river–somewhere where everyone knew worship services took place. In that fact we can derive the logical and Biblical truth that church services are distinct events separate from all others in daily life, and therefore they must entail distinct activities from all others in daily life. In short, a church service should look, feel and sound like a church service–not a rock concert, nightclub floor or anything else. Even the lost world knows exactly what a church service looks like and what it does not look like.

   The Scriptures do present a clear case for Psalms and doctrinally filled songs. Here are some Scriptures to consider on this aspect of worship: 

“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” – Ephesians 5:19-20

“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

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” – Acts 16:25

“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”                            – Matthew 26:30 

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

“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.” – Revelation 14:3

Facts To Consider

Music it not a-moral (neither good nor bad) but is either good or bad. 

Music is designed to evoke and does evoke physical responses from people. 

Music is not good just because the lyrics are about God. 

Music that is being used to praise God is not automatically good music. 

Music is not to be a the main focus of a worship service. 

Preaching and teaching must be central to worship. 

Some music though not immoral, is not best for worship. 

 

PART III COMING ASAP

An Appeal To Fellow Preachers

It never ceases to amaze me how easily entertained people inherently are. Even folks that would seldom think to darken a church door seem to appreciated a “good preacher”, much like anyone is intrigued with a  good story teller. But it has been my observation, through at least 22 years of experience in hearing sermons from some of the greatest names in Fundamentalism, that far too often it is the charisma and showmanship people flock to rather than the accurate exposition of Scripture. This is something I constantly witness and honestly is deeply troubling. What good is a “fireball” preacher if he is performing much in the same way a circus act would to grab the eyes and ears of those in the pew, and yet is failing to preach what the Scripture he uses actually means. I see this the most in relation to money and giving, specifically to the one preaching or their ministry. This is not to say a faithful preacher cannot have charisma and a way of captivating those hearing him, but if that is the full extent of what he does, he is worthless, and I say even dangerous to the cause of Christ. This article is not intended to be unkind or scathing, but rather to cause soul searching and careful self-examination. To proclaim the Word of God is not a trivial performance, but a sacred duty that historically has cost men everything, and must be given the absolute utmost of care and holy fear it demands. The word preach in the Scripture means precisely to herald a message, a message given by God. Therefore, how we herald that message is gravely serious. I have been a Baptist all my life, and believe in general, they are closest to the Scriptures, but I believe we as Baptists are not perfect and have room for growth; much more, we are in need of returning to the Scriptures in how we preach and train young men to preach and teach the Scriptures. I am not presuming to have all the answers in that endeavor, but am bold enough to admit and proclaim that we are in danger of teaching the traditions of men for the doctrines of God. There must be some form of reformation where we examine how and what we preach, and examine our hearts to see if we are preaching to win the crowd, or preaching to speak the whole council of God, as it is written. My heart is heavy by seeing how often IFB preachers work up a proverbial or literal sweat, charismatically preaching messages in which they–whether by intention or ignorance–extrapolate, misapply and even mislead those under the sound of their voice. Many times their applications are good, moral things, yet had nothing to do with the actual meaning or teaching of the text. The saddest part of this is that many times the youth pick up on this and an instant questioning of everything being preached begins in that young heart. And no one is to blame but us, the preachers. I do not believe the answer is more seminaries or Bible colleges, but rather the instruction within them, and most importantly, the education only provided by the Holy Spirit and much time spent in prayer and faithful, exhausting study of the Word of God–not just pulling verses out of context to suit a presupposed thesis. This will not do and is wrecking our denomination.

I understand this article may cause misunderstandings and even outrage, but we must have the honesty and humility to examine ourselves and consider whether or not these things be so.

Sincerely and Brokenly,

Kenneth D. Willis