Music, Worship, and the Regulative Principle

August 15, 2018 by Trent Hunter 0 comments

Posted in: Sermon Follow-Up

What has God told us to do when we come together? What kind of worship is worthy of "the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God," to whom belongs all "honor and glory forever and ever" 1 Tim. 1:17)?

In Sunday's sermon, "Elders as Bible Men," we explored what we call, the Regulative Principle. The Regulative Principle is a commitment to allow the Bible to both fill and form our worship. It entails a basic trust in God's means for his own worship. 

What are God's means for his own worship? 

For example, Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." We have other such commands concerning singing (Col. 3:16), and praying (Acts 2:42). Where's the command about instruments? What about stained glass? High ceilings? Ornate woodwork? What about video bumpers for the sermon? The harder we search, the more we find that worship under the new covenant is surprisingly and profoundly and freeingly simple. The kind of external detail our Lord required for his old covenant people, Israel, has gone internal for us, a spiritual house, a people who offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:4–5; Ro. 12:1–2). 

Practically speaking, what does this mean? This means we make sure the big rocks of the reading and preaching and singing of God's Word stay big in our imaginations and in our gatherings. And it means we pursue simplicity and exercise restraint with respect to almost anything else that we do in our gatherings, especially where we have a tendency to obsess a bit too much. Again, we are trusting God's means for God's worship. It means we're really excited about the things the Bible says for us to do, becuase that's how God works, and we can remain relaxed about the rest.

If you'd like to reflect more on this subject, two articles and two books come to mind. In his article, "The Freedom of the Regulative Principle," Kevin DeYoung writes offers of five ways in which this principle brings about freedom in our worship. Then, in his piece, "Music–Gift or God?," Bob Kauflin addresses the question of music specifically and offers us five ways in can make music into a god. Here they are:

  1. We choose to attend a church or a meeting based on the music rather than the preaching of the gospel and God’s word.
  2. We can’t worship in song apart from a particular song, style, leader, or sound.
  3. We think music leads us into or brings God’s presence.
  4. Poor musical performance leads us to sin against other band members or the musicians leading us.
  5. A love for music has replaced a love for the things of God.

If you're up for some extended reading, look into two books. The first one Steven Brundage and I are working through this year, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, by Bob Kauflin. Then, D.A. Carson's, Worship by the Book, explores some of the intricacies of the regulative principle and shows how three separate congregations order their worship according to the Word. 

Music is a gift from God, but it must be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Because of the time and place in which we live, we have a super-abundance of creative musical and artistic possibilities for our worship. These and other trends force us to ask, what regulates our worship?

It's not an exact science, but this princple offers us a framework for approaching this important question. 

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