The Nature Of A Song

A lesson on the nature of our singing in worship to God. As always, your questions, comments and further discussion is welcomed.



  1. we must worship & serve GOD his way…not ours…that is why HE rejected cain’s sacrifice…we must be a true worshiper according to HIS word…keep preaching the truth norm…amen

  2. John Smith says:


    Another enjoyable video. But I was wondering, what if a church began singing, for example, in a “rock and roll” or “rap” beat (even though it’s still a capella and congregational)?

    Would this violate any specific biblical command?

    Is there anything that scripturally governs the tempo, style, etc. of the singing?

    Also, I know that in some churches there is “four part harmony”, etc. among the congregational singing, where some of those present will sing some portions of the song and others will sing other portions (often, it seems as though, when this occurs, the men sing one part and the women do another).

    How does this fit into the “every one to each other” concept (since they’re ALL not singing together ALWAYS at the EXACT SAME TIME–just as with solos, choirs, etc.)?

    Finally, what about in a Christian’s life OUTSIDE of a worship assembly?

    What if, for instance, a Christian family plays and sings “Rock of Ages” or “Amazing Grace”, etc. on a piano or organ in their living room in connection with a family time of prayer and Bible study?

    What about listening to and/or singing along to music classified as “Gospel”, “Contemporary Christian”, etc. which may also including instrumental music?

    What Bible verses would address these issues?

    Again, thank you for your time!

  3. john, there is no prescription of style, genre of musical origin, tempo, etc., regarding church music. what the bible expects is hymns (songs of praise to God), spiritual songs (those regarding spiritual matters), and psalms (as in the old testament, a well developed poetic style).
    single melodic line (chant), two or more parts all qualify. most hymnbooks are usually composed in four-part harmony. early in our colonial history there was much three-part harmony in hymnbooks.
    if the arrangement of the song has been written so that the parts perform in antiphonal (echo) style within the body of the song, nothing biblical has been violated.
    outside of worship, the music literature is just that…a style of music. to claim the music is holy apart from context would be equal to saying that any time you drink juice/wine and eat flat bread you’re taking communion. it will not work.
    regarding what you listen to or sing with on your own, your conscience should not be violated, as the bible indicates, but to disregard where the music comes from is folly. for example, ‘my Jesus as thou wilt’ is actually french horn quartet from a german opera (der Frieschutz). the melody for amazing grace is listed as ‘new britain’ in hymnology, and dates back to folk music and could well have been a waltz. ‘joyful, joyful’ is an excerpt from a beethoven symphony. context of the original music becomes very important.

  4. I am thinking that if you play Rock of Ages or any other hymn on any instrument and sing with it as worship, then you are violating God’s way that he wishes to receive worship. I don’t believe the rule of authority exists only for “corporate worship” (for lack of a better term). If you do so for entertainment, I wonder if that is not, in a sense, taking God’s name in vain? Is worship – even incorrect worship – supposed to be used for entertainment? If you merely play the tune, I see no problems … it is just a tune.

    You may not realize that a lot of the hymns we use today and would actually now consider an “old standard” was at one time a very popular new song. In fact, I can point to several that use the tunes from old pub songs – the Shakers were famous for taking pub tunes and changing the words!

    You mention “beat”. I am unaware of how you can have a “rock” or “rap” “beat” unless you are using drums. The beat for rock or rap is still 3/4, 4/4, etc., just like any other song. If it has a modern tune, so what? Rap – well I am not sure how that works into worship singing at all, TBH. I place a big question mark on that until I see such being used so I know the details. If one person is rapping, then that sounds a lot more like entertainment again.

    When men sing one part and women sing another, I place that under singing one to another. I know others who feel it is confusing and not worship. I’d place it under conscience, and when in groups where I know there are those whose conscience would be violated, I do not use it. I do not like songs which insinuate that one part should be silent for an entire verse and only join on the chorus, however, nor one where one part i supposed to sing “ahhh” or something like that. “Ah” is not a word. It is imitating instrumental accompaniment.

    • vincent, i believe ‘angry words’ is written with women’s parts in the verse and tutti parts in the chorus. our hymnbook has the lower part in cue notes for the verse. that way one can see the original arrangement and supply the added notes if desired.
      is ‘his grace reaches me’ the ‘ah’ song? the way it is written does not indicate an imitation of instruments. vocalized syllables are not uncommon. to me, the arrangement is just on the clumsy side and i don’t use it.

  5. One thing I did think about in listening to you discuss “psalmos” is that the radical meaning is simply to pluck. What was plucked changed over time. At one time it was the plucking of the beard, at another time it was plucking a carpenter’s line, at another time it was plucking the strings of a musical instrument. What is being plucked is not inherent in the word itself, it must be determined by an outside statement or context. Thus in the Eph. 5:19, the outside statement is that the heart is the instrument that is to be plucked.

  6. Hi Norm,

    I listened to your lesson and you did an excellent job. In response to some of the questions I will try and give an answer.

    In John’s questions, the “type” of song (rock and roll or rap) would not matter as long as it is done congregationally and without the addition of mechanical instruments.
    As far as I can determine, there is nothing that governs the tempo or style. (Both of these being governed by doing so decently and in order of 1 Cor. 14:40.)
    Antiphonal singing might have been done in the early church and it was definitely seen in the singing of some of the Psalms (OT ones). Thus, even in that antiphonal singing it was considered that everyone was singing and they were singing at the same time and to each other. The violation that you were speaking of all singing at the same time (each one to every one as I think you put it) would be regarding the solos and choirs but would not extend to when everyone is involved in the singing process of a song (which is what antiphonal singing does involve).
    I personally do not find any authority for using mechanical instruments of music with religious songs at any time, whether we are discussing in the gathering together to worship or in a home setting (I know others disagree with me on this but that is my conviction regarding it).
    As to listening, I have not totally made up my mind on it. I have difficulty with such simply because I see it being inconsistent. However, I am not willing to say it would be sin if we simply listened to a religious song on the radio or a recording that included mechanical instruments.

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