Music in the Bible and Music in the Church

Date: 2/15/2009
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Music in the Bible and Music in the Church
All Saints * Dr. Gregg Strawbridge * Sunday, February 15, 2009

Let the Revealed Word of the Anointed [King] reside in you to the fullest measure, with all wisdom, [you should be] teaching and counseling each other, with the Book of Psalms, hymns of praise, [and] spiritually mature songs, in thankful grace singing with all your hearts to God (Col. 3:16, GS trans.).

Music in the Bible: In “biblical-times” music, there is no wall of separation between speech and singing. Language flows out of one’s life (Mt. 12:34, also Mt. 15:11-18). It ranges in expression: “They shout for joy, yes, they sing” (Psalm 65:13) or “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). This continuum of verbal expression is foreign to us Western Enlightenment folks. (The closest example to us is Afro-American “preaching.”) We must “transform” our cultural “moldings” however (Rom. 12:1-2). In Col. 3:16 we are exhorted not simply to teach and counsel (noutheteo) and also sing, but we are teach and counsel “with” (dative of means) psalms, hymns, and songs. It is “speaking with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19). Paul means the full range of Biblical kinds of music. “Psalmos” literally “plucked music” as in “with harps” and primarily refers to the Book of Psalms (Luke 20:42, 24:44, Acts 1:20, 13:33). “Hymnos” refers to composed hymns praising gods or the True God. The term “song” (literally, “ode”) is first used (in the LXX) of the Song of Myriam (Ex. 15:1), the Song of Moses (Dt. 31:19), the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5 - “Thus may all the enemies of Israel perish”). These are all war songs. The term is qualified with “pneumatikos” or “spiritual,” used only by Paul to refer to being “of the Spirit,” or mature in the Christ (1 Cor. 3:1, Gal. 6:1), not “spiritual” vs “material.”
Music in the Church - How should we then, sing? WE MUST:
Know the Old Testament Psalms through singing. And thus we need a metrical and through-composed Psalters, as well as the liturgical chanting of all the Psalms.
Know hymns of God’s attributes which include the great tradition of Christian hymnody. Hymns fortify doctrines and we should set them to lively music.
Sing the war songs of the Spirit such as the Song of Deborah, the Song of Myriam, etc., as well as newly composed and set hymns declaring the Great Victory.
“Perform” well since the musical qualities of excellence, complexity, consonance, etc. are implied because all the Scripture’s teaching is in view by reference to Psalms. Music is a means for praise (Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9 [originally sung]), joy (Jm. 5:13), thanksgiving (Ps. 92:1-3), sorrow for sin (Is. 16:10), a means of prayer (I Cor. 14:15; Ps. 72:20), teaching and spiritual communication (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), and the use of a wide range of refined and folk instruments (Ps. 150 and about 50 other commands).
Use all kinds of music. Tender praises of our experience in Christ are comforting and useful, but we must also advance the gospel of the “Anointed King.” The musical sound should not effectively deny the Lordship of Christ. Thus, we need new composers to lead in the call,“Rise Up O Men of God.”
Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more