What a grand gift music is! It is indeed just one more of the many gifts God has given by His grace. But why did God give us music? What are the purposes of music? God’s Word reveals three purposes of music.
First, music is for the worship of God, as Paul declares with the words “making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
It needs to be strongly emphasized today that Christian music is not for the purpose of entertainment. This, of course, does not mean we are not to enjoy music. On the contrary, as we’ll see in a moment, music is something to be greatly enjoyed.
But Christian music today is often used to entertain, to draw attention to the artist, to solicit applause for the performer. Some Christian artists add so much to a piano or vocal arrangement that the melody is obscured. This often brings more praise to the talent of the artist than praise to God! Johann Sebastian Bach, the great music master himself, who truly loved the Lord, once said, “The aim of all music is the glory of God.” Whether we are singing a solo, in an ensemble, in a choir, or in a congregation, our thoughts are to be on the Lord.
As we’ll also see in a moment, music is being used today simply to appeal to specific audiences, which is really just another form of entertainment. Countless people today look for a church based upon “the music program” and the style of music that the church uses.
Second, music is to be used as a restatement of Truth. At the very core of all three types of singing—psalms and hymns and spiritual songs—is the Truth about God.
Now, we say this with great concern because what we see today is that music has become the very heart of worship to the exclusion of most everything else, especially preaching. It is commonly taught, “Where preaching cannot be effective, we will use music instead.” Such statements are nowhere substantiated in Scripture. Nothing, not even music, should be allowed to replace the preaching and teaching of the Word of God from the pulpit. Not one single time is music allowed to do so in the Scripture record. Rather, music is to prepare for and complement the preaching of the Word. It is to be a restatement and reemphasis of the Truth.
Third, music is for the edification of believers. Notice the words speaking to yourselves. This translation could give us the idea that each of us should go off in a corner and sing to ourselves. Of course, in a sense we do that each time we sing because it’s first of all a personal act, and we also do that by singing or whistling to ourselves as we go about work or play.
Paul’s point, however, is deeper than that. Another translation would be “speaking among yourselves” or “speaking to each other.” Paul is writing to a church and is, therefore, speaking of corporate worship. “Corporate” is from the Latin corpus, which means “body,” so it is the Body of Christ that comes together for worship. One of the ways, then, that we edify, uplift, encourage, and challenge one another is through song. Music is indeed a naturally uplifting force. We all have heard the old saying, “Music can soothe the savage beast,” but it can also “uplift the downtrodden spirit.”
It is tragic indeed when our desire for a preferred style of music overshadows our desire for the edification of the Body. Tragically, however, that is exactly what is happening today. People are being divided over music, and even church splits have occurred. Sadly, many churches actually have two services: one with traditional music using hymns and another with contemporary music, mostly praise choruses. Where in the world did we get the appalling idea of splitting up the church based on styles of music? It doesn’t come from Scripture.
Historically, we have step-by-step drifted further and further away from quality music in the Church. What once was theologically strong, structurally sound, and musically stable, is now just shallow, popular, and sometimes just down right fleshly. Should we not strive for excellence? One preacher says it well: “Music in worship serves the singing of the redeemed to the Redeemer about the Redemption.”