Music

  1. Thoughts on Music (1)

1.   DEFINITION OF WORSHIP

Worship is the reverent attitude, desire and action involving the whole being in the guidance of the Word of God and actuated by the Spirit of God to ascribe honor, and glory to God, as the Supreme Creator and sustainer of the universe. This is what the Lord God told His chosen community in Deuteronomy 6:4,5:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your might.”

The Lord Jesus reiterated this requirement to His disciples as recorded in the first three gospels to show its importance. See Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27. Therefore, worship demands a total response of heart, mind and strength because it is the requirement of God Almighty that His worshipping people give total and unqualified submission to His sovereign demands, as revealed in His word. To come to worship this great God is to come with unreserved commitment. With every part of our being, with the aim to please Him. With all our powers, we purpose to ascribe to Him the praise that is His due as He has revealed through His written Word – the Bible.

The demand laid upon us by God for us to worship Him is that the whole of our being must be involved in the worship. We should be very careful not to neglect any part of our being in the worship, hence the emphasis in these passages, to love Him with all of our heart, soul, spirit, mind, and strength. This does not mean that it is only these parts that involved in the worship, but this is used for the sake of emphasis. We are integrated human beings and not just parts or a collection of faculties. We are expected to respond to God in worship with all of powers and abilities[1].

What this means is that worship is more than the meetings and singing we have when we gather as churches. It is all the Christian living. It is the obedience submission to the Creator and Saviour. Worship is the lifestyle and attitude of a believer. However this paper does not seek to cover the whole scope of worship. Rather it is only the place of music in the public worship that the researcher aims to cover.

The Regulative Principle of Worship

Apart from the involvement of all the parts of the body, we have to take note that the manner of worship is what is prescribed in the Scripture. There is no room for speculation or human inventions that are man-centered since the Lord has to be worshipped in a manner that is pleasing to Him and not men. This is what the Reformers meant when they sought to explain the method of worshipping God in what they called the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), that is, the application of the fundamental principle of the Reformation (‘Sola Scriptura’) to the sphere of worship[2].

“The acceptable way of worshipping the true God has been instituted by Himself, and therefore our method of worship is limited by His won revealed will. He may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan. He may not be worshipped by way of visible representations, or by any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures[3].” (Deut. 12:32; Exod. 20:4-6)

In this principle, we see a clearly revealed will of God to the Israel community and to in Deuteronomy 12:32 and applies to us as the Inspired Word of God to the present Israel of God through faith in Christ. Furthermore, it is commanded to us through the second commandment. Heidelberg Catechism asks the question (Q.96), “What does God require in the second commandment?” The answer provided is, “That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded.” Zacharius Ursinus commenting on this question said, “The end or design of this commandment is, that the true God … be worshipped under a proper form … such as is pleasing to him, and not with such worship as that which is according to the imagination and device of man … (and) that the worship of God prescribed be preserved pure and uncorrupted.”[4]

But is RPW to be found anywhere in the New Testament pages? RPW is most clear in the Great Commission when the Lord told the apostles how to do the ministry:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given o me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV, Emphasis mine)

The words in bold are vital in understanding the RPW in the Christian church because it is clear from these words that there is no legitimate authority in the Christian church which is not found in, or received from Christ, because the Lord did not tell the Apostles to teach the disciples they made from all the nations to observe what he commanded and more from their own invention. What is to be observed is what the Lord of the church had commanded, which is what His messengers wrote down as the God-breathed Word as the Holy Spirit led them. Our obligation is therefore to believe and practice what has been revealed to us, whether publically or privately.

Therefore, any faithful Christian who believes in the inspiration and authority of Scripture will subscribe to this RPW as a faithful manner of worshipping God. This is what this research seeks to show its outworking in the public congregational worship. With this in mind as the basic regulation of worship, then let us turn to singing and music as one of the elements of congregational or public worship as seen from such passages as Psalms 95:1-7; 96:1-13; 98:1;; 100:1-5; 101: 1;108:1-2; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; James 5:).

Other elements of worship are:

  1. Prayer (Psalm 65:2; John 14:13-14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1Cor. 14:16-17; 1Tim. 2:1-2; Matthew 6;5-13; Luke 11:1-13; etc.)
  2. The reading of Scriptures, preaching and hearing of the Word of GOD (1Tim. 4;13; 2Tim. 4:2; Luke 8:18)
  3. The Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:26)
  4. Fasting (Esther 4:16; Joel 2:12; Matt. 6:16)


[1] Halleluyah, Herbert Carson, p.

[2] G.I. Williamson, The Regulative Principle of Worship, a paper delivered at the 2001 Internal Conference of Reformed Churches

[3] 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 22.1

[4] The Commentary of Dr. Zacharius Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Grand Rapids MI, 1954, P.517

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