NOTE: This is the first of a series of planned articles on worship that I wrote for the church I pastor at Providence Church (PCA).
The Word of God makes it clear that we are to worship the living and true God corporately each week (E.g., Ps. 100). As we gather, we come to meet with him as his people called out from the world. Our goal in worship is to honor and adore him. We do so with the means that He has given to us in his Word. At Providence Church, we worship according to the regulative principle — that is, we worship by doing what God commands as we approach him. As we gather, we must worship him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes people worship without a full understanding of what they are doing. Over the next few articles, I want to briefly highlight our liturgy and why we are doing what we are doing. This inaugural article on the topic will discuss the importance of music in worship.
God’s people throughout all ages have used music in worship. One of the best examples is given to us in Exodus 15. The location of this passage is vital to understanding why we sing. Exodus 15 follows on the heels of God’s people’s glorious rescue from the onslaught of their enemy. God has redeemed his people from slavery (Ex. 12) and brings them to the shores of the Red Sea. There they face impending doom from the armies of Pharoah. It is there that they see the love, kindness, mercy, and protection of God when he brings them across the waters and drowns their enemies (Ex. 14). Exodus 15 is a response to God’s redeeming work. They sing, as we sing, because of God’s loving-kindness in redeeming a people to himself.
Scripture also makes it clear that we sing to instruct. The hymns and psalter selections are designed to teach sound theology within the confines of the corporate worship service. We read in Colossians 3:16 that we are to “[l]et the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” One way to teach one another in worship is through song — songs that edify and uplift and encourage one another. Thus, the hymns and psalter selections are specifically chosen to assist the worshiper in accomplishing these things. We sing as an expression of joy in our hearts because of what God has done. We also sing to edify and encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith. Music is a powerful tool and, if used rightly, can help others as we sing.
Our hymns and psalter selections are also designed to focus the worshiper’s attention on the preaching of God’s Word. Thus, we begin each worship service with a selection oriented around praise and adoration to God. We have gathered to exalt him. We teach one another when we lead off the worship service with a selection that focuses our minds and hearts on this simple truth. The next selection focuses the attention of the worshiper on God’s grace and mercy. After confessing our sin, we hear from him through the assurance of pardon and then sing joyfully to him because he has forgiven us and shown us his kindness. Knowing that we have not been treated as we deserve, we gladly lift our voices in adoration for his redeeming mercy. Immediately after the sermon and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we sing in response to these means of grace. Usually, the music selection will be oriented around what we have heard in the preaching of God’s Word. It is a response to the living voice of Christ speaking to his people. We have listened and, now, we respond in song.
Music is a wonderful gift, and our music is specifically designed around an atmosphere of worship. The psalter and hymn selections are carefully chosen each week to benefit the worshiper and praise the triune God. It is not a mere afterthought, but it is vital and central to our expression of worship each week.
Our Reformed Worship: Responsive and Active Worship.
Our Reformed Worship: The Call to Worship and the Benediction.
Our Reformed Worship: The Scripture Lesson.
Our Reformed Worship: Prayer (Invocation, Confession of Sin, Prayer of Thanksgiving, and the Pastoral Prayer).
Our Reformed Worship: Confession of Faith.
Our Reformed Worship: The Preaching of God’s Word.
Our Reformed Worship: The Sacraments.