Worship songs aren’t the Bible. They’re written by people, and sometimes their lyrics say things that aren’t true. Does that matter, though? Does it really affect our worship of God? Should we be concerned if a church sings unbiblical songs?
To answer this, we first need to be clear about how God calls us to worship him. If we’re trying to find a church, what kind of worship should we look for?
The elements of Christian worship are the faithful preaching of God’s word, the Bible, and the sacraments that Jesus instituted: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A biblical worship service will also include prayers and offerings. Just after Pentecost, the founding day of the New Covenant church, we see a picture of Christian worship: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Basically, this is the preaching of God’s word, Holy Communion, and prayers. The New Testament hadn’t yet been written, but the early church had the apostles to teach them. The New Testament we now have is the apostles’ teaching in written form, preserved for the church throughout the ages.
So, this is what faithful churches have done and continue to do. Music in the church, then, needs to reflect the truth of God’s word. When we worship God by singing, we need to sing words that are true and biblical. Worship shapes us. It shapes how we think and what we believe about God. If we’re singing songs that are theologically inaccurate—that say things that aren’t in the Bible—we’ll start believing things that are false.
What should we sing then? First, the Bible has its own songbook: the Psalms. We should sing psalms set to music. One of the beautiful things about the book of Psalms is that it expresses all the different emotions we might feel in worship. It’s not just happy-clappy stuff. It includes joyful songs of praise, but it also has laments. When the psalmist was brokenhearted because of his sin or some trial, he expressed it in songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we come to church, and we’re not feeling upbeat. We’re not at peace. We just want to be able to say with David in Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The Psalms give us words to express these feelings to the Lord.
There are also passages in the New Testament that may be early Christian hymns. Philippians 2:6–11 is one example. This passage shows us what the New Testament church focused on: worshipping the Holy Trinity and fixing the eyes of worshipers on Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s what we need to focus on when we sing.
So we should inspect every song, regardless of its source. We want to look at the lyrics and ask, “Is this good? Is this true? Is this beautiful? Is this in line with what God says in his word?” If it is, praise God and sing with all your heart to the Lord. But we need to be careful about what we sing. God takes worship very seriously, and we need to worship him in the way he calls us to.
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9 Things Everyone Should Know About Worship, 6 Categories You Need to Know, 5 Themes To Help You Understand the Bible