Church Music Statement Part 3

Posted by Site Admin On 6:15 PM

Read Part 2 Here 
Read Part 4 Here

Biblical Principles for Music Appropriate for Worship
   With the wide variety of music that is labelled as “Christian music” it is often difficult to make musical choices.  But there are guidelines that believers who desire to honor the Lord can use to help us make these choices.

The Principle of Distinctiveness
  The Bible is clear that the music and worship practices employed in the worship of God ought to be different in kind in two senses.  First, it was to be distinct from what was commonly used in the unregenerate society around it.
  In the Old Testament, especially, there were stipulations that the worship practices of the Israelites be different from the heathen around them. There was to be no similarity to the worship practices of the heathen nations. They were not even to ask what these lost nations did in reference to their false worship (Deu 12:30) They were not to pattern their worship after the heathen around them.
  There was also to be a distinction even from the ordinary practices of life in Israel. Certain practices were acceptable in daily life but were not acceptable in worship life.  Today, it is argued that anything we might listen to or sing in our private or social life is acceptable to use in our worship. Hence, it is argued that since there was a wide variety of instrumentation and even dancing in the Old Testament, this can and should be used today in the worship of the church today.
  What is forgotten is that many practices that might be acceptable in daily living of the Israelites were not acceptable in worship.  Peter Masters rightly observes that  “We should never forget that the Israelites were a nation state as well as a church. There were many things they could do as a state which had no place in their formal, direct worship.  Special processions, victory parades, and Thanksgiving days were open air civic activities organized by God’s people in their capacity as a state. The little girls would lead these processions dancing and shaking their tambourines.  But these tambourines were never allowed in the Tabernacle or the temple. A direct act of worship was quite different from a civic anniversary celebration.”
   Actual worship was regulated in the Old Testament. Little girls did not play tambourines in the temple.  Even flutes could not be played in the temple worship.  It was not that flutes were wrong in and of themselves. However, God’s intent was that worship be distinct from everyday life. Other excluded instruments in temple worship were the timbrel or tambourine and the Hebrew equivalent of “pan pipes.” God only allowed certain instrumentation to be used in temple worship such as  cymbals, psalteries,  harps, and trumpets. (I Chronicles 15:16, 28; 16:5-6, 42; 25:1, 6) Everyone could not participate. Only certain people, from among the Levites were authorized to do temple music.
  The point that is often argued based upon Old Testament passages is that anything goes in worship. That idea is patently false. There was to be a distinction between sacred and secular in reference to worship.
  Worship texts and music (accompaniment/sound) should reflect the character of God in His holiness, glory, weight, majesty, love, grace, joy, and other perfections (Psalm 96).  Though we recognize that the implications of this point to musical styles is necessarily somewhat subjective, we do desire that our music at Grace Baptist Church Mandaue promote a biblical reverence (Hebrews 12:28-29) and have a sound that is distinct from most of what is heard outside the church.  We also desire that our music be distinct in its quality. Of course, praise is accepted by God because of Christ (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Pet 2:5), not because of our abilities.
  However, we believe that one way in which we demonstrate God’s glory and our esteem for Him is by offering Him that which is excellent.  Our songs, like the Old Testament sacrificial lambs (Exodus 12:5), should be choice offerings, not the “lame” or “blemished” (Malachi 1:8, 13-14). To that end, we are striving to produce music that is excellent artistically as well as doctrinally—that is “skillful” (Ps 33:3; 47:7). We are hopeful that the result will be Christ-honoring music that will point Christ’s people to Him for years to come. (Psalm 115:1)
  Music for the believer and the Church should have no connotation or association with worldliness or compromised position.  Christian music should not be intentionally arranged to attract the ears of the carnal or fleshly, but one who really wants to seek God.  We avoid "pop" or "rock" arrangements of traditional hymns, recordings with the typical rhythm section of bass and drums common in popular music.  Romans 12:2, I John 2:15-16.
  We do not encourage a singing or playing style that mimics the style of popular musicians.  We do encourage a style of singing and playing based on traditional, legitimate principles of good musicianship, including rhythmic precision, breath and tone support and proper intonation.  We do not encourage the use of recorded accompaniment as it may contain inappropriate musical style.  Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-14. 

The Principle of Melodic Clarity
  The Bible assumes that there will be an identifiable melody in any song and that this melody is what stands out as its dominant quality. That assumption is reflected in the example the Apostle Paul uses about the need for understanding in what is being communicated via language in a church service (I Cor 14). He uses the example of an identifiable melody. He argues that even the pattern of notes played on a musical instrument must convey meaning through the melody of what is being played. If the instrument does not play an identifiable melodic progression, the meaning and identity of a song cannot be communicated.
  Here is how the text reads: 7And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?: 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?: 9So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. (1Co 14:7-9)
  While acknowledging that this passage is not directly addressing the topic of music, it is addressing clarity of understanding. Music with an identifiable melody is used as an illustration of how imperative understanding is.
  Melody is essential for understanding in music. It can rightly be inferred that if we are to worship God by making melody in our hearts to the Lord, then there must be melody for there to be music. Melody is a means through which God carries His truth to the heart and through which is carried praise from the heart to God. Melody must not be absent, obscured, competed with or dominated by other aspects of music.
  The application of this regulative principle certainly would apply to a variety of musical contexts. It would apply to some classical composers who arrange such elaborate counter melodies and harmonies that one cannot tell what the melody is or discern what the lyrics are saying. It would apply to rock styles that accent a driving beat, screaming vocals, blistering decibels, distorted sound and booming percussion. It would apply to rap and hip-hop which contains little or no melody and is almost exclusively defined and dominated by rhythm.
  This principle would even apply to modern vocal performance styles that employ what is called  “flipping”- vocalizing over, under and around the melody so that the melody is obscured.  If most vocalists that do this were honest, they would have to admit that this is not done to enhance the song or communicate meaning.  It is done to demonstrate the vocalist’s ability.  In short, any styling that omits, obscures or overwhelms melody is not the communicative tool that should be used to convey God’s truth to the heart or relay praise from it.
  In the elements of melodic line, harmony and rhythm, the melody should be prominent because it communicates the truth of the hymn or song.  Overwhelming rhythm appeals to the physical not to the spiritual. Romans 13:14, Galatians 5:16-18. 

The Principle of Proximity
  The meaning of the word proximity refers to how near something is.  It refers to how close something is in space, time, or relationship. Proximity as a principle in the Christian life has a two-fold aspect. First, as believers we are to have close proximity to God. Salvation in Ephesians 2:12-19 is depicted as God bringing those who were far away from Him near to Him.  We have been made close to God positionally and relationally through the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work. That aspect of nearness has been accomplished for us.
We are also to be close to God experientially. That closeness is to be reflected both in our hearts devotion and in our lifestyle. Peter’s admonition is for us to “sanctify”- set God in a special place – in our hearts.  1Pe 3:15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:….
Jesus talked about this kind of nearness when he spoke to someone about where the proper place to worship God was. He maintained that the location where worship takes place was not as crucial as worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24)  God’s people have always been commanded to set God in a special place and be close to and close like Him:Lev 20:7  Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. 1Pe 1:14  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. There is a proximity that we are to maintain to God.
   There is also a proximity that we are to have from the “world.” There is a “separateness” from the world in conjunction with our proximity to God that believers are to be characterized by.  Indeed, God commands that separateness. 2 Co 6: 17  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18  And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1Jo 2:15  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. 16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
  Proximity also affects our actions and attitudes toward certain practices of life. Simply put, we are commanded in the Bible to follow after some things and run from other things. We are to be in close proximity to God and those qualities and attributes that are like Him. We are to be in far proximity to those qualities, characteristics and practices that are not like Him.
  In all of this, the goal is to honor God with our lives. He and his purposes are what we have set our affections upon. Those who practice the principle of proximity….seek those things which are above, (Col 3:1) They have their coordinates set “….on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:2) They value their relationship with God and they know that “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. “(Mat 6:21) They know that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, it can all reflect upon God and His honor. (I Cor 10:31) Those in close proximity to God care.  This is the Principle of Proximity.
   This challenge of applying this principle is ever before us and its application is not always that easy. As believers we are to be in the world but not of the world. We must minister to unbelievers without being contaminated by their values.  The question surrounding proximity issues has always surrounded the issue of how close is too close?
  We are in this world. We cannot avoid the lost nor should we. (I Cor 5:9 -10) We are not to hide our light (Mt 5:15) We cannot and must not avoid having relationships with unbelievers if we are to be a witness. But we must never forget that our primary concern is to honor the Lord. Our obligation to people is always offset by the principle of proximity to God. But the tension between the two will always be there.
  There will always be a tension as well in making decisions as to what glorifies or does not glorify the Lord.  Nowhere is that issue more intense in the Christian world then over the issue of the music used in worship.  However, biblical principles mandate that we make decisions about this important arena of life.  If the music we use to edify each other as believers and to honor God is indistinct from what the lost world listens to; if it has no clearly identifiable melody; if the melody is dominated or blurred by other musical factors; if it is noisy and chaotic; if it is associated with ungodliness and wickedness; then God’s people must not use it to communicate God’s truth or attempt to honor Him with it.

Read More: Church Music Statement Part 4