"I believe that the one attribute of God that should inform our thinking about worship more than any other is His holiness. This is what defines His character and should be manifested in how we respond to Him." — R.C. Sproul
One of the great privileges of the people of God is that we are invited to sing praises to our great and glorious God. God has commanded that we sing praises to him because it is pleasing to Him and, in being pleasing to Him, it brings great pleasure as well to us. The elements of public worship do not appear because they please the worshipers but are included because they please God, and yet in coming into His presence and fulfilling that which is pleasing to Him, we experience fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. In determining what music is acceptable in worship, we must acknowledge that the words that we sing ought to be as biblical as the prayers that we pray and the words that we preach. As we study the psalms we generally note that they possess certain qualities: God-centeredness, dignity, biblical ideas, theme, order, resolution, etc. The hymns and songs we sing should follow that pattern.
- The music of the church should represent the full range of the revelation of God.
- The service of music should contribute to the service of the Word of God.
- The poetry of the songs should be good poetry; it should not have to rely upon the music to carry it.
- The music of the songs should be artistically defensible as good music; it should not have to rely upon the words to carry it.
- The poetry of the songs should be true to the inspired Word. Such poetry at the same time must be free from the defects of artificiality and sentimentality. The poetry should be genuinely expressive of religious experience, but should be in harmony with the whole counsel of God.
- The music should be suitable to the scriptural text to which it has been adapted.
- Music of the church. . . [should not] suggest places and occasions other than the church and worship. . . lest a secular association with the music interfere with the worshiper's service.
- The music of the church should be expressive of our Reformed tradition.
In general, the elements of worship that are highlighted in Scripture include:
- reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13);
- preaching the Bible (2 Tim. 4:2);
- singing the Bible (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) — the Psalms as well as Scripture songs that reflect the development of redemptive history in the birth-life-death-resurrection-ascension of Jesus;
- praying the Bible — the Father’s house is “a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13); and
- seeing the Bible in the two sacraments of the church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Col. 2:11–12).
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