Who speaks for us?
How do we worship?
Yet there’s an anomaly. Having combed through the three main lists of spiritual gifts, as well as a few other places, I noticed something strange that I had never noticed before. There is no spiritual gift of … worship. For what is seen and promoted as perhaps the most spiritual of disciplines, there is no mention. Strange! Given that, in our culture, worship is most often expressed as sung music, what does the Bible say?
Here are the five main relevant New Testament passages. First the two places where music is part of the narrative:
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)
Just a group of people singing hymns, with no sign of a worship leader (or musical instruments). Then there are the instructional verses:
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:19)
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
That’s just about it, in terms of the early Church. They certainly sang hymns, but no sense of led worship. The only time the New Testament speaks of worship, it’s in a sense of a function of the heart, not anything specifically to do with music.
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
Worship musicians, though, are in the Bible, in the Old Testament.
The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed. (2 Chronicles 29:28)
David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals. (2 Samuel 6:5)
David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. (1 Chronicles 15:16)
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. (Nehemiah 12:27)
So, it seems, the Church worship model is taken from the communal celebrations in the Old Testament. This may seem confusing, as many in the Church are convinced that they are New Testament people and that the New has supplanted the Old. More of this later on.
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp