MUSIC AND SONG IN WORSHIP

taken from AG Position Paper on Worship

Music and musical instruments appear near the beginning of the biblical record.As early as Genesis 4:21, Jubal is mentioned as the “father of all who play the harp and flute.” The Old Testament mentions 16 or more musical instruments in both worship and non-worship settings. The New Testament mentions four (or five if the “gong”of 1 Corinthians 13:1 is included).

The Creator himself declared, “The morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” at the dawn of creation (Job 38:7). David, “Israel’s singer of songs” (2 Samuel 23:1), said, “He [the Lord] put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalms 40:3). And Isaiah prophesied, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).

Organized music and choirs developed rapidly in David’s time, given his personal musical genius and his reverence toward the ark and the tabernacle/temple as God’s dwelling. David appointed Levites as “singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps, and cymbals” (1 Chronicles 15:16-22; cf. 2 Chronicles 29:25,26; 35:15). “Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose” (1 Chronicles 23:5; cf. 2 Chron. 5:12,13). In fact, the word "psalm" (psalmos, from psallo, originally“to pluck” or “to play”) itself implies use of musical instruments. Interrupted by the Exile, Israel’s musical tradition resumed following her return from captivity, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the completion of the second temple (cf. Nehemiah 7:1; 12:27).

Though there is little information in the Gospels and Acts, Jesus, the Apostles,and the believers of the Early Church would have been the beneficiaries of the musical ministries of the organized choirs and musicians of the temple. While the New Testament says nothing about musical instruments per se in the early Christian house churches,music and song were a part of Spirit-filled worship (Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:14,15,26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Apparently there was a variety of styles and content in the congregational singing, though there is no evidence of church choirs or special numbers. The convictions of certain denominations against musical instruments notwithstanding, the New Testament does not prohibit any kind of musical instrument.

In fact, Revelation depicts repeated scenes of heavenly worship featuring musical instruments and songs, as well as verbal celebration of the glory and power of God. The worshipping throng of Revelation 5, some with harp in hand, climaxed their songs to God and the Lamb with “praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13). The 144,000 sang to the Lamb “a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders” (Revelation 14:3). Those who overcame the beast “held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty’ ” (Revelation 15:3). The vision of the Lord descending in power and glory is also prefaced by shouts of worship and praise (Revelation 19:1-8). The final word of the angel in that setting is, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

While particular aptitude in the music arts is not specifically mentioned among the spiritual gift lists of the New Testament (cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10,28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:10,11), remember that these lists are probably ad hoc and noncomprehensive. Just as God by His Spirit specifically gifted Bezalel and Oholiab for the artistry of the tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 35:30-35)—another gifting not mentioned in the New Testament—it seems evident that He gifted David (2 Samuel 23:1; Psalms 40:3) for music and psalms and continues similarly to gift yielded believers.