Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Singing and the Regulative Principle

If the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture, and if singing is a part of the corporate worship of God, then we should look to the directions of Scripture – not tradition, popularity, predominance or accommodation – in order to understand how singing relates to our coming together to worship God. Psalm 66:4 relates singing to the worship of God:
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
We are commanded in both Testaments to sing (and declare God's works), e.g. Psalm 9:11; 30:4; 47:6; 96:1; 100:2; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13. Below I give a lists of verses of Scripture that I believe express how, why, what, and when we should sing. Hoping that the readers will find the bulk of the texts generally self-explanatory, I present them as a simple list. Some texts will be found in more than one list and there is some degree of overlapping (e.g. marking distinct occasions and events tells us something about both what and when we should sing). The lists are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to promote serious contemplation of these elements of our songs.

  How should we sing
Singing is worship (Cf. Psalm 66:4), and we worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24
Singing is teaching and admonishing. Col. 3:16
Singing is the duty of a steadfast heart. Psalm 57:7
Sing with understanding Psalm 47:6-7; 100:3; 1 Corinthians 14:15;
Sing with the spirit. 1 Cor. 14:15; Psalm 77:6; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
Sing together; sing corporately. Psalm 109:30; Isaiah 52:8-9; Matt. 26:30; Heb. 2:12; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16 
Sing aloud and make a joyful noise. Psalm 81:1
Make a joyful noise; come before Him. Psalm 100:1-2
Sing with our lips (mouth, voice), not just our hearts. Psalm 109:30; Hebrews 13:15
Sing to God, to others (one another) and for ourselves (in our hearts). Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16

  Why we should sing
For God is the King of all the earth. Psalm 46:7
For the purity of His word and works Psalm 33:3-4
To praise the Lord. Exodus 15:1; Psalm 146:1
Because it is good, pleasant and comely. Psalm 147:1
Because we're merry. James 5:13 
Out of gratitude. Isaiah 12:5; 35:6
To remember. Deuteronomy 31:19-30; 32:1-44
As an expression of our faith/belief in God. Psa. 106:12
To glorify God. Romans 15:9-11; Revelation 15:3
To mark distinct occasions and events. Psalm 18 (title); Psalm 30 (title)
To teach and edify others. Col. 3:16

  What should we sing
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16
Sing praises. Judges 5:3; 2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 147:1
Acknowledge specific acts of God. Numbers 21:16-17
Give thanks and acknowledge His holiness. Psalm 30:4
Acknowledge the mercies and faithfulness of the Lord. Psalm 89:1
Bless His name, tell of His salvation and declare His glory. Psalm 96:1-3; 1 Chronicles 16:23
Of the beauty of the love of God for His people. Song of Solomon 1:1ff.
Sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1
Tell of His wondrous works. Psalm 105:2
Praise and give thanks. Hebrews 13:15

  When we should sing
While we live and have ability. Psalm 146:1-2; Psalm 104:33
When we come together in the church. Hebrews 12:2
Not confined to the church meeting Acts 16:25; James 5:13
To mark distinct occasions and events. Psalm 30 (title)
Always. Psalm 30:12; 61:8; 75:9

Some do not deeply consider letting Scripture govern the worship of singing, but rather sing the way they like, what they are comfortable with, or what they have always done. Others who do seriously hope to allow Scripture to govern their worship in singing still do not come to all the same conclusions about how it should do so. I hope to examine that further in the next few posts.

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