Music is a Gift from God
Music is art. There are many forms of art that stimulate our God-given senses. There’s visual art for the seeing eyes; culinary art for taste; aromatic art for smell; sensory art for touch; and auditory art for our hearing ears. As with all art, “Beauty is in the eye, mouth, nose, fingers, and/or ears of the beholder!”
As art, music is meant to stimulate the emotions of the listener as it enters the ear and engages the brain, and, with Christ-centered music, our God-given soul and spirit complex within mankind. Scripturally sound Christian music is offered, both collectively and individually, in our worship to, glorification of, and honoring of the Lord Jesus Christ and His marvelous Word!
Our emotions are God-given and are a gift to us if we use them wisely. And though we are never to rely solely upon our emotions as fallen creatures, a born-again believer is never commanded to shun those sentiments, especially when those reactions are in tune with our spirits and souls and with the heart and Spirit of God who we are offering our worship to.
All music offered to God in sincerity and love, with Biblically sound lyrics, should cause an emotional response in the one offering the song to their Lord and Savior. If this was not the case, then why even bother singing a song? You would be better off just reading the Scriptures aloud.
What this article seeks to accomplish is to demonstrate that music, in all its wonderous and various forms, when offered in true love and sincerity to our Lord, can be a true joy for the entire body of Christ and is ultimately a gift from God.
If the reader is not already aware, though, country/western and rap/hip-hop music is of the devil. From the demonically inspired “twangs” of the guitars and vocals in country/western music to the incessant Satanic speed-talking that generates excruciating migraines to the hearers in rap/hip-hop music, not only Christians, but every person on planet Earth should avoid these two forms of the devil’s music at all costs.
I jest, of course, but I really do not enjoy these genres of music. Sadly, the music of traditional/classical hymns does not do much for me either. For me, personally, the music of most traditional/classical hymns put me to sleep, at best, and into a mindless trance, at worst. But I would never say that, just because I do not appreciate these styles of music, that hymns, country/western, or rap/hip-hop music are not worthy to be offered to our Lord in praise, worship, and honor.
So, the question must be asked, why do others insist that some forms of music – other than the music of classic/traditional hymns – should be “canceled” from ever being offered to our Lord?
But before we get there, I would like to offer a quick personal story.
Since I brought up country/western music, I thought I would share a brief, whimsical story regarding this musical genre.
In the late 90s, I was the drummer for a Christian outreach ministry band that played at many venues proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our musical style was very diverse – hymns, ballads, easy listening, funk, rock, and everything in between – all Christ-honoring songs.
One of the venues we played happened to be a full-security youth corrections facility that housed males from the ages of 15-23, if I remember correctly. It was a full day of obstacles and challenges getting our equipment into the facility, and the enemy, it was quite evident, did not want us to be there. A riot even broke out in one of the cell blocks while we were setting up, and the entire prison got locked down!
After we played, and our bassist gave his testimony of being an ex-gangbanger, spending time in prison and getting saved, we had an opportunity for all of us to mingle with the inmates and fellowship with them.
One of the young men who approached me wanted to talk about music. He confided to me that his music of choice was country/western music and that he loved the Lord. This was very brave on his part, as, well, you know how much I love country/western music!
He then went on to say how he had never heard Christian country/western music before and that this saddened him. He wanted to know if I knew of anyone who did this so he could get their recordings to listen to. Not surprisingly, I did not.
He also informed me that he was learning how to play the guitar. My response? Well, believe it or not, I encourage him to take his newfound talent of playing the guitar and his love for the Lord and start writing Biblically sound songs that honor the Lord with the genre of music he enjoyed!
Rock music – in all its various forms – has gotten a raw deal from most who find this genre of music unsuitable for Christian consumption. Most of this is due to the people who made the music popular. This same idea can really be applied to virtually every genre of music, as music is generally produced, marketed, and promoted by the secular world.
I have heard some state that rock music is “sensual” or “attracts godless morals within the hearer,” or some other fundamentally flawed adjectives that describe what the godless musicians and producers of most rock music proclaim in their songs and through their lifestyles.
While the claim that many musicians and producers of rock music were and have been godless is true, they fail to recognize that every form of music, because of the secular stranglehold of the world system upon the music industry, falls prey to the same accusations. And what does the word “sensual” even mean when it comes to a genre of music? Does this imply that when one hears a certain style of music that they are tempted to fornicate or commit crimes against God, man, and nature?
Those who use the word “sensual” regarding a certain style of music will invariably cite James 3:15, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” The context of this verse is envying and strife in the professed believer’s life and the contrast of the world’s wisdom and wisdom from above.
The Greek word for “sensual” is 5591 ψυχικός “psuchikos” and essentially means natural, as in the natural aspect of an individual who has not been regenerated through being reborn in Christ, relying entirely on their base instincts of the flesh, soul, and mind, and not on the spirit.
But when it comes to our topic, we are speaking exclusively of music – in all its various forms – produced by true Christians that honor Jesus Christ and His Word, not worldly music produced from the secular world in all those same musical forms.
We see these same accusations made against Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), and there are some good reasons for this.
Unfortunately, most of the CCM industry is dominated by either the secular music machine or segments of the apostate Christian community that markets their songs as the world does, with man-centered messages of what God can do for us in this life and not what Yeshua has done for us on the cross, bringing those who accept His free gift of salvation into an eternal relationship with God.
Because of all of this, many well-meaning Christians and Christian ministries have delegated rock music – from classic, contemporary, hard, heavy, etc. – to be the music of Satan and dismiss any possibility that this music can honor our Creator. They are wrong, though, because even the music styles of classic hymns can be used for evil when accompanied with worldly and/or Satanic lyrics!
Scripturally speaking, is upbeat music that attempts to honor God and His Word unbiblical?
Here is the account of David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem.
“And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.” – 2 Samuel 6:5
“All manner of instruments” were being used.
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord.” – 2 Samuel 6:14-16
David was “shouting, leaping, and dancing before the Lord with all his might!”
Would the reader think this music that was played on this joyous occasion would be more similar to mellow classical/traditional hymn music or to upbeat contemporary Christian rock music?
Music for the Psalms and Other Biblical Poetry
Here are a few passages from the Psalms that refer to music offered to the Lord, noting the original language. (Underlined emphases are mine).
“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” – Psalm 95:1-2
The Hebrew for “let us make a joyful noise” is נָ֝רִ֗יעָה “nā·rî· ‘āh” with the Hebrew word 7321 רוּעַ “rua” which means raise a shout, give a blast. A primitive root; to mar (especially by breaking); figuratively, to split the ears (with sound), i.e., Shout (for alarm or joy) — blow an alarm, cry (alarm, aloud, out), destroy, make a joyful noise, smart, shout (for joy), sound an alarm, triumph.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” – Psalm 98:4
The Hebrew for “make a joyful noise” is הָרִ֖יעוּ “hā·rî· ‘ū” with the same Hebrew word, 7321 רוּעַ “rua” found in Psalm 95:1-2, and literally translates, “shout joyfully!”
The Hebrew for “make a loud noise” is פִּצְח֖וּ “piṣ·ḥū” from the Hebrew word 6476 פָצַח “patsach” which means to break forth, break forth into joy, make a loud noise. A primitive root; to break out (in joyful sound) — break (forth, forth into joy), make a loud noise.
“I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.” – Psalm 71:22-23
The Hebrew for “shall greatly rejoice” is תְּרַנֵּ֣נָּ֣ה “tə·ran·nên·nāh” with the Hebrew word 7442 תְּרַנֵּ֣נָּ֣ה “ranan” which means to give a ringing cry, cry out, aloud for joy. A primitive root; properly, to creak (or emit a stridulous sound), i.e., To shout (usually for joy) — aloud for joy, cry out, be joyful (greatly, make to) rejoice, (cause to) shout (for joy), (cause to) sing (aloud, for joy, out), triumph.
The very last Psalm – a Psalm of praise through the instruments of music – gives us some very interesting insights into praising our Lord through song.
“Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
“Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
“Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.” – Psalm 150:1-6
The Greek word for “high sounding” is 8643 תְּרוּעָה “teruah” and means alarm, blowing of, the trumpets, joy, jubilee, loud noise, rejoicing, shouting.
These passages sound very much like what we would consider fantastically loud, joyful, and upbeat music that was performed in a God-glorifying way to praise our amazing Lord!
My point in all of this is, do not let someone bamboozle you into thinking that the Scriptures declare “sacred music” to only be slow melodies in the classical/traditional hymn sense, for this is clearly not the case. And who is anyone, other than God Himself, that can justify what should and should not be considered sacred music?
Sadly, even godly men can err greatly in their attempt to persuade others by claiming only they have the knowledge of what should be considered sacred and evil apart from the Scriptures and our freedom in Christ.
Because there are so many amazing selections of musical genres to choose from, below are some suggested musical styles that I can hear for certain Psalms and Biblical poetry found within the Scriptures.
We have covered a few of the praise Psalms above, and those, along with other Psalms like them, could have many numerous upbeat genres available to them, including jazz, rock (of virtually every variety), disco, pop/contemporary, etc.
The acrostic Psalm 119, which praises God’s Word and His law, is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and because of its many lyrics, would lend itself quite nicely to a medium-tempo rap/hip hop music style. This genre would also lend itself nicely to Scripture memorization.
Jeremiah’s book of Lamentation is also written in acrostic form, and because of its somber and heart-wrenching imagery and observation through prose, in my mind, would be perfectly suited to an orthodox piece in the vein of the classical composers.
Psalm 52, concerning the treachery of Doeg the Edomite, would find a home, I would think, within a gothic metal sound or something similar. Many forms of the heavy metal genres, where the Psalmist is crying out for God to bring down calamity and judgment upon their and God’s enemies, could easily be utilized in accompanying what is known as the imprecatory Psalms.
David’s sorrowful petition to God in the wake of his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah in Psalm 51 seems to warrant a musical refrain similar to a melancholy country western or a somber theatrical number with haunting violins that enhances David’s desire to be forgiven and spiritually reconnected with God and His Spirit.
When it comes to the Psalms, virtually any and every musical genre and style could be used to accompany the many different lyrical presentations and messages offered to the Lord and His people by the Psalmists.
Essentially Anything Can Be Used for Either Good or Evil
Music, just as any other art form in a fallen world, can be used either to honor our God and Savior or not.
By extension, everything from music, marriage, sex, friendship, business, politics, money, commerce, drugs, etc., etc., can be used for either good or evil in a fallen world.
Regarding music – no matter the musical genre – how it is used, and by who it is used, and for who it is used, will determine whether the music is sacred or not. As Christians, we know this to be true by defining whether the music worships, glorifies, and honors the Lord Jesus Christ in Scriptural truth and integrity or not.
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:19-20
It is All About the Lyrics
Lyrics are truly the end-all to whether any song, applied to any genre of music, is worthy to be offered to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
On this same theme, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis observed in “Let Us Sing to the Lord!”: How Should We View Worship in Churches? | Answers in Genesis:
“But whether it’s the old hymns or modern songs, we should always carefully look at the words and check the theology. I do find a number of modern songs have atrocious theology and are often man-centered rather than God-centered. But some of the old hymns also have wrong theology and other problems too! So we need to be discerning in everything!”
I could not agree with Ken more. Most of the lyrics coming out of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) from the likes of Bethel, Hillsong, and others are man-centered, watered-down, gospel-less, New Age banter and have no place in the body of Christ.
To hone in on the point that lyrics, not the music, are what is truly required for a song to be considered Christian-worthy, below are three short samplings of song lyrics. One is from a song I wrote some years back, another is a classic hymn, and the other is lyrics of a song from a classic Christian rock band.
See if you can distinguish which is which based entirely on the lyrics. (If the hymn contained any Old English words, those words were updated to contemporary English as the Old English would have given it away).
If you email me with the correct answer, I will send you a couple of my songs via email mp3 attachment. (Actually, I will send them to you even if you get them wrong!)
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find;
Christ in me, the Hope of glory,
I am His, and He is mine.
There once was a Man who was born of prophecy.
It was the Word who spoke of He, and all that He would be.
In His heaven He decreed what mankind would need.
In His loving masterplan, He died for you and me.
Creator of the universe, heaven, earth, and sea.
Stepped out of eternity, He left the Trinity.
Separated in distress, on a hill called Calvary.
He was crying out in anguish, as He hung there on that tree.
He came alone into the battle,
He knew nobody else could face His foe.
He left His throne, He left His glory,
He knew nobody else could ever go…
He came, He saw, He conquered death and hell.
He came, He saw, He is alive and well.
He was, He is, and only He forgives.
He died, He rose, He lives!
He came, He saw, He conquered!
Again, please email me with your answer!
It is my personal observation that each song’s lyrics – in their own unique ways – honor our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Add in the Musical Element
As my favorite genre of music is rock – and is the one genre that gets the most condemnation – let us consider two sides of the same coin.
Before I had to lay down my instruments due to health issues at age 50, I had every intention of pulling some classic hymns off the internet and teaching myself how to play them. Once I did this, I desired to take the original music and melodies of each song and create new versions for these traditional hymns to be enjoyed by people of many different musical persuasions, including rock. My goal was to produce these versions as close as possible to the original music and melodies so that even those who knew the traditional versions would instantly recognize their favorite hymns.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to pursue this endeavor, but it does bring to my mind an interesting dichotomy. “Amazing Grace” was the first song I wanted to take on, and I can hear the many different ways this song could be played, from a marching band tempo to hard rock and everything in between.
So, the question is: Would a song like “Amazing Grace” be disqualified as a Christ-honoring song simply because it was played in an upbeat, contemporary, or rock format? My response is, God forbid!
Conversely, if Satanic lyrics – say from a Slayer song – were applied to the so-called “sacred music” of a classic hymn, would this suddenly qualify the song as Christ-honoring? Again, God forbid!
“Music” to Be Avoided at All Costs
The reason that music in our subtitle is in quotations is because the following warning for what we are going to briefly look at is not really music at all.
Certain drum progressions – usually played on hand drums that progressively get louder and faster – and open chords on a stringed instrument or notes on wind instruments played repetitiously for the sole purpose of inducing a hypnotic trance or generating an unnatural emotional euphoria or frenzy can be dangerously tragic to the listener.
These techniques are designed to produce in the listener an open mind where they are no longer in control of their faculties due to the hypnotic trance and/or unnatural emotional euphoria or frenzy invoked through the repetitious “music” that ultimately leads, whether wittingly or unwittingly, in summoning demonic spirits to take control of their mental capacities. These demonic spirits will often masquerade themselves as departed spirits of dead relatives or ascended masters from the tribe or cult involved in the religious ritual.
For millennia, shamanic pagan tribes – some with adherents to the Hindu and Buddhist religions and their mantras – and others throughout the world have partaken of these dangerous rituals. But unfortunately, and tragically, in the last few generations, the professing church has been indulging themselves in these anti-Christian and abhorrent practices, thinking themselves to be partaking in some new and improved mystical Christian experience to their own detriment and shame.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” – 1 Timothy 4:1
Saint, this ought not to be. Stay away from all such wickedness.
Again, this is not music. This is using musical instruments for nefarious purposes.
Different Genres of Music for Different Aspects of Service to Christ
While it would not be conducive for a heavy metal song with Christian or Biblical lyrics to be played during a worship and praise gathering of believers, believe it or not, in my humble opinion, this music could be quite appropriate in some ministry outreach environments.
There are what one may call dark riffs and haunting minor chord progressions used in classical music, many of which are also used in the genre of what we would call heavy metal. So how could this music be used to honor God? The truth is, the Bible, in many places throughout, can be very dark. Examples of this would be Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and the book of Revelation.
One of the last songs I wrote and recorded before I hung up the guitar was called The Tribulation, and the heavy metal genre was the perfect vehicle to express this Biblical end-time theme. Again, this song would be a great tune to play in a ministry outreach environment to share the truth of God’s prophetic Word with the lost.
In a ministry outreach environment, we would always offer Scripture and commentary for every song we played so that the Word of God was clearly established in the hearts of the audience.
Alternatively, when it comes to ministry outreach, a classic hymn would be the last genre of music that we would generally play. It just is not that favorable for that environment.
And this is my point: There are a plethora of ways to share the gospel, give our Lord praise and worship, and communicate the Word of God, and each of these and more could entertain a multitude of musical genres available to cater to each need.
When it comes to the harder styles of the rock genre, if done in an appropriate way with Biblically sound lyrics that honor the Lord and His Word – and the artists are committed Christians as evident in their lifestyles – then why would we frown upon this?
True Christians performing these heavier genres of music with Biblically-based, Christ-honoring lyrics may be the only time that gospel seeds get planted in the hearts of those who prefer these styles of music. For those who adamantly disagree, I would ask, “Where is your love for the lost? Is sharing the gospel only meant for those who listen to your already approved forms of music styles?” God forbid!
The Message of the Artists
Though a Christian artist and their songs can have Scriptural lyrics, the message from the artists themselves is also extremely important.
Are they ecumenical, trying to unite fundamental Christianity with apostate and heretical churches and Christian cults? Are they promoting false teachers and false teachings? Are they advocating Mysticism, Contemplative/Centering Prayer, and other New Age teachings? Is there an utter lack of discernment on their part when it comes to recognizing false Christianity in all its many forms?
Are their personal and private lives consistent with a born-again Christian lifestyle, and are they separate from the world and the world system at large? Are they promoting any worldly endeavors or non-Christian or anti-Christian views or people? Are they for or against anti-Christian laws, sins, practices, or beliefs of the culture that go against Biblical revelation?
These questions, among a host of others, the leadership of each church should be able to answer regarding the artists of the music the Worship Team performs.
Should the Worship Team Be Front and Center in a Church Service?
As a member of Worship Teams in the past, my views on whether or not a Worship Team should be front and center in a church service have radically changed. I am a fervent no to this question, and my reasons are simple.
Musicians, by nature, are put on a pedestal by society, including the church. Often, we can be seen as just as righteous as the Pastor – not that the Pastor should ever be seen as righteous and put on a pedestal, either.
Because of this fact, I see no reason why a Worship Team should not perform their music behind a curtain or barrier where they are unseen by the congregation. The focus of worship in a church setting should be on the Lord and the Lord alone.
My guess is that approximately 80-85% of all contemporary “Christian” music in all its forms – just as approximately 80-85% of all “Christian” books, teachings, Bibles, etc. – on the market today are compromised, at best, and outright heretical, at worst. Saint, you need to have your spiritual antennae at full strength in all these matters.
Nevertheless, there does exist some amazing Christian music that is represented by virtually every musical genre. When it comes to the many wonderful styles of music found in the world, it seems to me that each has their place in honoring our Lord and His Word, if done wisely and reverently.
Just as food can nourish our physical bodies, so, too, can Biblically-based, Christ-honoring music of all kinds nourish the soul and spirit of the Christian.
Paul’s admonition concerning food and our freedom in Christ is just as relevant for music in this matter. Let us substitute the concept of music in place of food in the appropriate portions of the following passage of Scripture:
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may [enjoy all music]: another, who is weak, [only hymns]. Let not him that [enjoys all music] despise him that [only listens to hymns]; and let not him which [only listens to hymns] judge him that [enjoys all music]: for God hath received him.” – Romans 14:1-3
Going even deeper, the stronger brother or sister must consider the following:
“I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
“But if thy brother be grieved with thy [music], now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy [music], for whom Christ died.
“Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not [all reverent music vs. hymns only]; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
“For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
“For [any music] destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who [listens to any reverent music] with offence. It is good neither to [listen to reverent rock music], nor to [listen to reverent country/western music], nor any [other reverent music] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
“Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he [listens to music he deems evil], because he [listens to that music] not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” – Romans 14:14-23
I must remind myself of this truth: The weaker brother or sister, if they truly believe that something is evil, it is sin to them because they do not do those things within their own faith. We must, as much as is possible, avoid offending the weaker brother or sister whenever the opportunity presents itself.
In closing, let us meditate on Paul’s words of encouragement to all Saints in every age concerning our topic today.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” – Colossians 3:16-17
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
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