Tag Archives: instrumental music

Why Does God Want Us To Sing?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16 – Scripture of the Day (March 25, 2014)

This verse gives us several reasons why we sing in worship to God:

  • It’s a way the word of Christ dwells in us richly.
  • It’s a way that we as Christians teach and admonish each other in all wisdom.
  • It’s a way to show our heart-felt thankfulness to God.

I know it’s easy for me to forget this as I sing in worship.  I think a lot of us forget this.  I think that’s why musical worship has gotten so far removed from what God said in his Word that he would have it to be.

We tend to go to two extremes when it comes to music in worship.  First, we might be so self-centered in our subconscious desire to be entertained that we either turn the worship service into a concert atmosphere with choirs, hand-clapping, pianos, guitars, drums, singing, and dancing in the aisles.  Reverence to God and making God the focus goes flying out the window, as does any desire to simply give him what he asked as revealed in this verse.  Even those who recognize the sinfulness of the instrumental additions to the music God prescribed in the New Testament and the error of the entertainment, concert-like so-called worship may still be guilty of focusing on self in our more reverent a cappella singing.  We do this when we focus on whether the song chosen is a song we like, or putting undue emphasis on making sure that we get the altos and tenors to harmonize more.

When our focus is on what entertains and pleases us in the song, does the song really help the word of Christ to dwell in us richly?  When we are focused on “rocking out” to the cool guitar accompaniment or making sure that we’re singing the bass part just right, how can we pay attention to any teaching or admonishment that we may need to hear in the lyrics of the song?  When the choir does something really entertaining and it makes us laugh while they sing a lyric that talks about all that God has done for us, will we even think about being thankful to God?

The other extreme we tend to gravitate towards is the exact opposite of the concert atmosphere:  somber, mournful ritualism.  A song of thanksgiving such as Amazing Grace or Sing and Be Happy is sung with the sorrowful tones and mood that would be appropriate for Night With Ebon Pinion.  Song leaders regularly report of seeing somber, moody, sorrowful faces in the pews as they lead singing, no matter how joyful the lyrics of the song may be.  Many song leaders themselves look mournful as they lead singing, showing none of the enthusiasm or happiness which, if seen, might motivate those in the pews to feel likewise.  I believe this approach to worship comes from not only a desire to avoid the concert/entertainment atmosphere, but also from a ritualistic approach to worship that is equally wrong.  We tend to take for granted what we do with regularity for long periods of time.  When we know that week after week, Sunday after Sunday, we will sing a song, then pray, then another song, then partake of communion and give of our means, then sing two more songs, after which comes the sermon, and then the invitation and closing song, followed by the closing prayer…well, it becomes easier for our minds to wander while we sing and pray.

Jesus condemned this kind of worship (Matt. 15:8), and rightfully so.  When our hearts are far away because we’ve been lulled by how easy it is to think of other things during this familiar ritual in which we are participating, how can the word of Christ dwell in us richly in that moment?  If we know the lyrics and melody of Angry Words by heart because we sing it all the time and so our mind wanders as we sing it, will we truly be taught and admonished to control our anger and watch what we say to others?  How can we be filled with the gratitude that the lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul call for when we’re not even thinking about what we are singing?

I have found that true worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24) requires discipline and self-control (Gal. 5:23; 1 Cor. 9:27).  I have to make the conscious decision to focus on each and every sentence of every song.  I have to make the conscious decision that I’m going to ignore my own personal preferences about the choice of song, or how fast or slow the tempo is, or getting that tenor part exactly right.  I have to make the conscious decision that my focus is going to be on giving God as much honor and reverence as I know how while I’m singing this song.

Guess what always happens as a result?  I find myself being reminded of passages of Scripture as I sing certain lyrics.  I find myself being taught and admonished to do better in certain aspects of my life as I sing a particular song.  With other songs, I find myself filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for all that my Redeemer has done for me.  Everything that God wants to happen as shown in today’s Scripture is taking place within me.

How about that?

Editor’s Page, September/October 2013 – David R. Pharr

Want to read some good books about instrumental music in worship, the A.D. 70 theory, and more? Check out David Pharr’s books reviews in this editorial he wrote for the September/October 2013 issue of the Carolina Messenger.

Editor’s Page, September/October 2013 – David R. Pharr.

It Doesn’t Taste The Same: The Problem of Denominationalism

Ladies, have you ever been invited to dinner at a friend’s house, and been served a dish you knew you just had to have the recipe to because it tasted so good? When you ask the host or hostess for the recipe, they gladly comply and give it to you. Your husband gets excited at the prospect of having this delicious dish at home without having to sneak over to the Joneses from now on to get it. A week or two goes by, and you decide to try fixing it yourself. You’re a health nut, however, and so when the dish calls for milk, you substitute half & half. When it calls for sugar, you put in artificial sweetener instead. When it calls for vanilla, you put in artificial vanilla instead. You mix it all together and proudly serve it to your husband, who dives right in with gusto…for the first bite. You notice that he takes his time with the second bite…and appears to suddenly have a great desire to eat it out on the balcony by himself with the third bite. He comes back in ten seconds later, claiming a big bird swooped right in and snatched it right off his plate…but “Honestly, honey, I really enjoyed the three bites I had. However, I did notice that it tastes a little different than it did at the Joneses. Did you follow the recipe?” You think it sweet of him to try to butter you up so he doesn’t spend the entire night on the couch, and so you explain to him that, in the interests of eating healthy, you substituted the less healthier items on the recipe for healthier items. Being male, he then tries to explain to you that eating tastefully, not healthy, is what really matters to him, and urges you to follow the recipe fully next time so that it will be exactly like it was at the Joneses. You thank him for his advice, and tell him that you’ll ponder it all night long while he’s sleeping on the couch…

It is interesting how many of us think substitutions can be made and still be the same. It should be apparent that one cannot make substitutions and have the “real thing.” It is that way with recipes, and it is also that way with the church of our Lord Jesus. Sadly, denominationalism has brought about many substitutions and changes. Why is it that people think they have the real thing when so many substitutions have been made?

The fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy about the man of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:1-12)

Some don’t realize it, but there are all kinds of differences between denominations and the church you read about in the New Testament. In most denominations there is a clergy system with priests, pastors, and/or “Reverends” and “Fathers.” Often times there is a national, and sometimes an international, governing body. Some denominations have deacons, but a “Pastor” rather than elders. Others have elders who are bachelors, or women serving as elders.

Yet, the Bible teaches that Christ is the only head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), and therefore there is no authority in the New Testament for a church hierarchy. Every member of the Lord’s church is a priest (1 Pet. 2:9), so there is no authority in the New Testament for a clergy system. The church is overseen by a plurality of elders (Acts 20:17) and served by deacons (Phil. 1:1), so there is no authority in the New Testament for a lone man being an elder. Elders are to be married and have believing children (1 Tim. 3:2,4; Tit. 1:6), so there is no authority for bachelor elders. Women are not to exercise authority over men in the church (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:14-15), and elders are required to be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2), which negates the idea of a female elder.

The New Testament does not give one example of anyone being saved by praying a prayer (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Denominationalism is different than what is taught in the Bible. How different depends upon which denomination. Many denominations teach that one becomes a Christian, a child of God, merely by “asking Jesus to come into one’s heart.” One is then accepted into the denomination based upon a testimony of conversion. Sometimes one is voted into the denomination. In other cases, one is sprinkled (not baptized) as a non-believing infant. Years later, after taking instruction, one is “confirmed.” One then is a member of the denomination. Other denominations have even different requirements.

However, the Bible teaches that one enters the body of Christ which is the church through baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23). When one who has confessed his faith in Christ as the Son of God and has repented of sins is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:35-38), God adds that person to the church (Acts 2:47). It is not a matter of “joining” the church or a denomination. It is also at that point that one becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27) and has his or her sins washed away (Acts 22:16).

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9)

Substitutions and changes have been made in denominations. Many denominational worship services center around entertainment, having bands, concerts, skits, drama presentations, and even aerobatic acts. Musical instruments have been added, and the Lord’s Supper has been taken away, being served only at certain times. In other denominations, burning of incense and the counting of beads have been added, along with statue worship. Saturday worship has replaced or been added to the first day of the week.

Yet, the Bible sets out God’s authorized manner of worship. The early church met upon every first day of the week to eat the Lord’s Supper and to give as they had prospered (Acts 20:6-7; 1 Cor. 11:20-34; 16:1-2). Prayers were offered up in worship (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:15) as well as songs of praise sung by saints with the instrument they plucked being their hearts (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). There was also edification as they were taught God’s doctrine (Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7).

The Bible is all you need to go by (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Friends, we all should realize and teach others that the same principle that applies to recipes applies to Christianity. If you want the real thing, there can be no substitutions and/or changes. Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God is tested…Do not add to his words or he will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” Paul warned the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:6 to “learn not to exceed what is written…” The Bible closes with the warning of Revelation 22:18-19: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

If you want the church of the Bible, the church of God’s choice, it must be according to his instructions found in his Word alone. Otherwise, you have a man-made substitute, not the real thing.  If you don’t have the real thing, then salvation is not yours because Jesus is the Savior of those who are in his body, the church (Eph. 5:23).  It’s something to think about.