A Christian View of Music

“Do not say, ‘I know what I like,’ rather say, ‘I like what I know.’”

  • Sports
  • Music

A question about music – What does it do?

  • Communicates
    • Verbal – Words
    • Non-verbal
      • Gestures
      • Inflection
      • Body language
      • Music
  • Communicates worship
    • No religion is without its music

The power of music

  • People at a ballgame – YMCA
  • An orchestra conductor
  • “I do what the music makes me do.  Sometimes I look back at the tape, and I say, ‘Did I do that?’  You have no control.  I do what the bass asks me to do.  I’m a slave to the music.” ~~ Michael Jackson, February 10, 1993.

Biblical Principles

  • The sound of music
    • Psalm 33:2-3
    • Psalm 149:3
    • Ephesians 5:19 – “singing and making melody”
  • The “New Song” principle
    • “New” refers to kind not time
      • “Spiritual songs” indicates that there must be some non-spiritual songs – there are kinds of music
      • Two words in both OT and NT for new
        • One has reference to time
        • Other has reference to kind
          • 2 Corinthians 5:17
          • Revelation 5:9
          • Revelation 14:3
    • References
      • Psalm 33:3
      • Psalm 40:3
      • Psalm 96:1
      • Psalm 98:1
      • Psalm 144:9
      • Psalm 149:1
      • Isaiah 42:10
      • Revelation 5:9
      • Revelation 14:3
    • What would be the “new song” to those that first received these Scriptures?
      • What music was used in pagan worship?
      • What was worshiped in pagan religion?
      • What type of music is used to worship the world? Galatians 5:19-21; 1 John 2:15-17
        • Lust of the flesh – sensual, sexual music (women, pleasure)
        • Lust of the eyes – materialistic music (money, cars, things)
        • Pride of life – self-exalting, anti-establishment music (rebellion, cop-killers, pot-pushers, etc.)
    • The Christian’s music is new (different in kind) than the music used to worship the world. Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 4:8

Bible Commands – Psalms, Hymns, Spiritual Songs

  • Ephesians 5:19
    • Yourselves – plural, among yourselves
    • Making melody – instrumental music
  • Colossians 3:16
    • Richly – abundantly
    • Teaching – songs teach, they should be doctrinally correct
  • Both
    • Psalms – these clearly refer to the Book of Psalms
    • Hymns – this is music praising someone else (God); the pagans wrote many hymns praising their gods
    • Spiritual songs – this is music of “any” nature; an ode; designated to be spiritual, in apposition with worldly, drinking songs
    • To the Lord – spiritually sounding songs sung to uplift self or man are unbiblical
  • Do not say, “I can’t sing hymns, or psalms, or spiritual songs.” If we are commanded to sing them all, we should and we’ll like them when we learn them.

You like what you know!



  1. Jeff,

    What is the best way to determine, scripturally, what “style” of music is acceptable before the Lord? I know from the verse you provided we are to stay with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Many would argue this would include CCM (spiritual songs). I have been taught, and I have taught, there are three aspects to music, melody, harmony, and rhythm. That each of these three relate to a different aspect of man. For instance the rhythm would appeal to our flesh, while melody our spirit, and harmony appeals to our soul. Christians are to listen to music which appeals to our spirit. So in determining what music to listen to, the Christian must listen to music where the melody dominates and not the rhythm. This would then make CCM unacceptable. Is this accurate in your opinion? (As you can probably already tell, I do not have a great deal of knowledge of music.) Any help in this area I would appreciate. Also if I am on track with the above, how does one properly determine the correct balance between rhythm harmony and melody?


  2. PV it is interesting the point you have made about how Powerful music is.

    Many CCM advocates will defend their rythmn with the argument that “music is amoral”. They deny the power of any style of music. Thus no type is right or wrong.

    What I felt was interesting, is that in the music appreciation class I took at a secular college, it was pointed out how powerful, how fleshly music is. The secular textbook (which I still have) ,we used even protrayed that.

    If consevative Christians and Liberal educated philosphers see it, why doesn’t the CCM crowd accept it?

  3. Terry,

    The melody/spiritual, harmony/intellectual, rhythm/physical argument about the style of music seems to ring true to me also. But, as far as I can tell, it is not a Scriptural one in the sense of being able to find it articulated that way in the Bible.

    Arguing for, or against, specific styles of music is difficult because we can’t hear the music that David sang or Paul referred to. I say that, just admitting that this is a reason CCM musicians cling to their style of music. Someone would be hard-pressed to convince a CCMer that their music is wrong.

    On the other hand, someone who has been recently saved or turned back to the Lord should have little difficulty with the “worldly worship music” arguement I presented here. I believe it was probably clearer to hear the arguement than to read the notes I used to develop it.

    Fleshing it out…

    All styles of music designed to be used to worship the flesh, the eyes, and pride are worldly music. This is music that exalts sensuality, worldly pleasures, materialism, fornication, rebellion. There are many American titles that immediatly come to mind, but the principle should be applicable across cultural lines. I think this principle would be more easily applied than the melody/harmony/rhythm principle.

    Look at the culture you are in. Determine what kind of music is used in that culture to worship the world (flesh, eyes, pride). Then refrain from singing, enjoying or employing that kind of music.

    For those who would say that this limits the believer to only “sacred” music. Remember that other good, pure, lovely things can be communicated with words and they could also be communicated with music. If the theme of some music was love. Love that is represented biblically, it could easily be performed and enjoyed by a Christian. There’s a difference between love and lust.

  4. Cathy,

    I don’t think CCM musicians deny the power of music. That is why they want to use the powerful worldly music to communicate their message. What they deny, and you mentioned this, is the morality of music.

    Music communicates. The Bible tells us not to allow corrupt communication to come from our lips. Since the Bible refers to “corrupt communication,” it makes communication a category of moral judgment — corrupt, incorrupt (good, bad), etc.

    The CCM crowd often argues that God accepts them as they are and their music is part of their being. They will admit that the message should be new, they deny that the Lord is concerned with the sound of the music or that the sound communicates in any way. Why they do this I can only surmise, but that they do it is plain. And the result is that CCM is a syncretism of godly words and worldly sounds.

  5. I believe from personal experience (there’s two questionable statements in a row) that music (words or no words) is powerful. I remember taking my little brother to a rally at my school one time. He was standing on the grass being admired by all the girls there and then the “music” started. My little brother (a little less than two) began to dance and twist and turn. He did it naturally. There was no to tell him, okay go Boogie. That’s power. Another one memory I have is the power of that song, Twinkle twinkle little star. Not the words, just the melody. It is the song that the ice cream truck played as it came into the neighborhood. To this day if I hear that song being played the first thing I think of is ice cream. Finally, I agree with Pastor Voegtlin. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who could sit still while the music hits for YMCA. (I had to mention it, sorry) Seriously though. If something can control your mind, and manipulate your body it has to be powerful. Everything from relaxation seminars, to supermarket check-outs have their own style of music because it is innately manipulative. And like you pointed out, it is a form of communication and it needs not to be filthy as well. I would never drink good milk (right words) out of a rat poisoin tin (worldly music) no matter how assuredly you tell me it has been cleaned.

    Looking forward to May,
    Christopher Myers

  6. PV, what I meant with the power of music, is that geniunely when I post my thoughts on CCM on forums that many listeners deny that music is powerful. I don’t think it is artists as much as the listeners that are dupped over the power of music

    I hope that clarifies what I meant.

  7. I was just reading some of the comments here and I think to that music is very powerful and can do great things or great harm. I however disagree with the whole idea that Melody is always first then harmony then rhythm. Several verses come to mind, one is Psalm 150:4-5, “Praise Him with the Timbrel and dancing; praise him with the stringed instruments and Pipe. Praise Him with the loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.” If anyone has done any research, they can see that a Timbrel was a frame drum, much like what the natives used. The Holy Spirit inspired David to write this Psalm commanding praise to God with a variety of interments and ways. Think about this guys, Timbrels and dancing. But isn’t this appealing to the flesh? I think we need to define what appealing to the flesh is. The flesh is sinful and many things appeal to its sinful desires. A nice tasty taco appeals to my flesh but is it wrong to eat taco’s? No, but its wrong to over eat them. Should we then say that my taco’s can’t be overly tasty because it appeals to my flesh and I might commit gluttony? no, that would be absurd. Look at rhythm. The Holy Spirit, through David says that we can dance to a rhythm. I think the same can be applied to this as my taco’s. If I let the music control me, then My flesh can take over and I may fall into sin. At the same time we need to look at the motives of the author of the music. Voodoo witch doctors make it a point to use their drums to do evil but a guy trying to worship God on a drum kit in church is hopefully trying to do the opposite. We should then probably not listen to the voodoo guy because we know that he has put HIs sin into the music. Does that make the drum wrong? No, but what he created is. We can’t use the logic that just because something is associated with evil that it is. Look at alcohol. The Bible says, be not drunk with wine and that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. yet the Bible does not condemn the use of it in a controlled manner. Looking at society, we see nothing but destruction coming from alcohol. One would think, my thats a worldly and sinful style of drink, but it isn’t. The non-christian can go to a party and drink a beer and sin, and the Christian can drink that same type of beer and honor God. One gives into his flesh and gets drunk, or if not that, makes it and idol, and that other enjoys a tasty drink. One person can go and sleep with girl and dishonor God, a Christian can get married and sleep with their spouse and honor God with the same act. When I look at what appeals to my flesh, I look at things that will appeal to the sinful desires. Like cleavage. If I watch the dukes of hazzard, I find I struggle with all the cleavage there and it can cause me to sin. The clothing that does that is designed to cause men to sin an so is the act of putting that in the show. That is fleshly. That appeals to my flesh. a beer, a taco and a good beat do to but in a different way.

  8. The notion that rhythm/harmony/melody having levels of importance is incredibly hard for me to accept. Are percussion instruments that lack tonality inherently less important in God’s eyes? Do great pieces of work such as Stavinsky’s Rite of Spring that focus more on rhythm than melody give God less glory than works by Bach?
    It is my belief that all music regardless of style, meter, tone, or culture gives God glory. The lyrics to a song can certainly pervert the music, but there is no inherently evil or wrong combination of notes or rhythms. How could there be? Did the devil or man invent the rock beat or the drum beat that drives us to dance?
    I believe without a doubt that music in and of itself is ALWAYS pure and can never in and of itself be made evil. Music can be perverted and used for wrong purposes, but this is not the fault of the notes themselves.
    In A Clockwork Orange, the main character lies in his room listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and imagining himself doing terrible things to people. Does this make Beethoven’s work evil? On the contrary, I believe this symphony to be a fantastic spectacle of God’s glory through music. Another example: Billy Jean by Michael Jackson is about him sleeping with some girl and possibly getting her pregnant, certainly not the most edifying material. But when I listen to it I am driven by the fantastic beat and awesome mixes of grooving sound to praise God for creating such fantasticly jamming music, even if it was through a man of questionable morality.

    I make this point, music in and of itself is never inherently wrong. It’s not even a-moral. I believe all musis, all rhythm, all sounds, all melodies and harmonies give God glory.

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