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............."Oh, the gallant fisher's life, It is the best of any 'Tis full of pleasure, void of strife, And 'tis beloved of many." ..........[Piscator's Song, "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton] "The fishers also shall mourn,and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish." [Isaiah XIX:8]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Of Music in Public Worship

Recently I have received a couple of questions about music in public worship, particularly whether certain pieces should or should not be included. Allow me to express a few thoughts.

As you read the constitutional documents of the OPC, you will note that in the OPC the emphasis concerning music in worship is on congregational singing and every-member participation with the spirit and understanding and with prayer and praise to God. Here are a couple of things the OPC officially says about music in worship (as found in our Directory for the Public Worship of God to be published next year, which can be viewed at the OPC website http://opc.org/GA/FPR/DPW2011.pdf):

As public worship is for the praise and glory of God and the building up of the saints, not for the entertainment of the congregation nor the praise of man, the character of the songs used therein is to befit the nature of God and the purpose of worship (line 520).

In the choice of song for public worship, great care must be taken that all the materials of song are fully in accord with the Scriptures. The words are to be suitable for the worship of God and the tunes are to be appropriate to the meaning of the words and to the occasion of public worship. Care should be taken to the end that the songs chosen will express those specific truths and sentiments which are appropriate at the time of their use in the worship service (line 528).
As reformed believers, we think in terms of the “regulative principle of worship,” which is summarized in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith as follows:

"But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture" (WCF XXI.1).

Scripturally, we think of the words of the apostle Paul:
  • "Let all things be done for edification" (I Corinthians 14:26c)

  • "But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner" (I Corinthians 14:40).


I. Is God glorified in the words and the tune? After all, this is the chief end--not for entertainment, nor for the praise of men.

II. Is it in conformity to Scripture?

III. Are the words and the music edifying? How is the congregation built up? In other words, how does the inclusion of this piece serve the gospel?

IV. What specific truths and godly sentiments are being expressed?

The topic is certainly worthy of greater consideration than we have offered here, but I hope that this is at least a helpful starting point and a bit thought-provoking. Until next time...

In Christ,

R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Sewickley, PA

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