Since the Jesus movement of the 1960s and 70s, the youth culture has vastly influenced Christian music; with the question being asked is the genre of Rock ‘N Roll appropriate for Christian music in general, and worship songs in particular. The sub-genres within rock ‘n roll music can be: hard rock, acid rock, punk rock, alternative, new wave, heavy metal, rap, reggae, hip hop, and more.
The Right Questions
Perhaps in addressing this question it might be more effective to separate it into four different areas:
1) The Music Itself
2) Its Purpose
3) How It Is Done
4) Can Scripture Validate It
1. The Music It’s Self
Within the music itself there are two components:
1) The musical accompaniment
2) The lyrics
Musical Complement – The Medium
Musical accompaniment is a medium; and a medium is how we communicate something, and normally a medium in itself is neutral, not evil, or good. Examples of mediums would be the: telephone, television, books, public address systems, dancing (such as David in the Old Testament, and as seen in the Jewish religious ceremonies), and music. Normally the medium itself can be used for evil or good activities; it is the activity itself that defines the nature of the medium. However, there are mediums that are intrinsically evil; a few examples are nude erotic dancing, vulgar comedy, and sexually oriented acting.
Arguments Against & For the Use of Modern Genre, Musical Instruments, and Technologies
Some opponents to contemporary Christian music have stated that the use drums are not a simple musical media, but are sensual and ungodly, because they amplify the tempo and beat of the music, and has the effect of sensually enticing the hearer (to movement, and gyrations of the body), and therefore is not to be used in sacred music.
However, this premise concerning playing drums cannot be supported by Scripture, in fact we find the opposite to be true in God’s Word. The Tabret 1 was a type of tambourine, a hand drum that was struck with a hand or reeds, and was utilized throughout Old Testament and New Testament in religious ceremonies. So the concept that utilizing the drum to maintain a tempo or beat, is devilish or of Satan; is an unbiblical teaching, and to be rejected.
The Back Beat
There are also many within the church attempting to fight rock ‘n roll music based upon the presumption that certain styles (genres) of music are evil in themselves. They utilize examples concerning rock ‘n roll music having a back beat (accents on beat 2 & 4 of a 4 beat time), which is not seen in traditional European-style worship music, and therefore is evil. Their assumption is that since classical worship music is European in its style and make up, anything else would have to be antithetical and therefore evil. However, the assertion that the back beat is foreign to European classical music or any other style of music is completely incorrect. The back beat is derived from the accident placed in nontraditional timing, and is a feature of music, not a creation all its own. “The New World Encyclopedia” states concerning the back beat, which is what is referred to as a syncopation, when it states:
“In music, syncopation is a stress on a normally unstressed beat, or a missing beat where a stressed one would normally be expected [hence a back beat]. Syncopation is used in many musical styles, including classical music, but it is fundamental in such styles as reggae, ragtime, rap, jump blues, jazz and often in dubstep. In the form of a back beat, syncopation is used in virtually all contemporary popular music. This rhythmic surprise has a dual purpose. There is a purpose related just to the art of the development of syncopation, and there is a greater purpose that syncopation serves to the entire piece. The rhythmic surprise of syncopation not only serves the interests of the changes of accent when a weak beat is stressed but also the larger purpose of the composition for its rhythmic complexities and contributes towards the totality of the piece.”
“When a beat that is usually weak is accentuated, syncopation occurs which creates a rhythmic surprise to the natural rhythmic structure. Thus there is syncopation when this off-beat note is accentuated, i.e. 1-‘2’-3-4, or when the stress occurs between two beats, i.e., 1-2. Syncopation creates a harmony and cooperation beyond any boundaries by bringing together classical, reggae, ragtime, rap, blues and jazz genres just with the use of a unique off-beat rhythm. These contradictions in the rhythmic meter serve to surprise the listener and create an excitement in the piece. Thus with syncopation used in music of all types and periods, it builds a sudden and unexpected rhythmic event within a musical framework.”
“Folk music of indigenous cultures contains syncopation to varying degrees especially in music that accompanies dance. Syncopation can be found in French compositions as early as the fourteenth Century.”
“European composers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries utilized syncopation to great effect and syncopated rhythms are commonly found in the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, and Dvorak. The music of Schumann, Brahms, and Dvorak frequently accomplishes syncopated affectations through the use of “hemiola.” (the practice of juxatospsing two note patterns with three note patterns.)”
“Composers in the twentieth century continued the use of syncopation, especially if source materials were rooted in folk music. The scores of Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky demonstrate this to great effect.” (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Syncopation).
Those that make these absurd claims utilize anecdotal references that are simply “common sense,” as they phrase it; such as, the Africans dancing around the fire to the back beat of the drums. And since these activities on the surface look like demon possession, how could one argue with them having a satanic origin. However, when rock ‘n roll is played utilizing a back beat; the performers do not go into a demonic trance, dancing around a fire pit, displaying what might appear to be demon possession (jumping will be discussed later). The medium of the back beat found in Africa is even different; unlike the back beat found in rock ‘n roll (the back beat found in rock ‘n roll music still utilizes European tempos); also, in these primitive dances around the fire pit in dark Africa they do not utilize electronic equipment, electric lead or bass guitars; and the drums are totally different as well, in their sound, manufacturing and utilization, as well as the use of cymbals and other percussion instruments.
European Style Music
And the assertion that a back beat2 (accents on beat 2 & 4 of a 4 beat time) is diverse from normal European music styles is not correct, and even if it was utilized for secular purposes; that does not mean that it could not be utilized for God’s purposes now. The counter to this argument is that some of the greatest classical hymns of the 16th, 17th, and 18th century were based upon secular songs, commonly referred to as tavern or bar songs utilized for the purpose of dancing and frivolity centered around the intake of alcohol.
Martin Luther’s Contribution
Examples are Martin Luther’s Christmas Carol, “From Heaven on High I Come to You,” even those opposed to contemporary Christian music admit it was written by Luther based upon a secular score, a tavern song. However, the classic example, though refuted is “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Those opposed to contemporary Christian music claim that this hymn was never based upon the music composition of a tavern song, but was referred to as a Bar Tune, but the bar referred to was musical terminology, not a reference to a drinking establishment.
It has been repeated over the centuries that Martin Luther was the author of the statement,”Why should the Devil have all the good music,” in response to a question of why he used secular music, rather than composing his own. Those in opposition contemporary Christian music have stated that this statement was not made by Luther, but was stated by Rev. Rowland Hill (1744-1833), a London pastor and evangelist. Hill was concerned over the lamentable quality of music in his church (Surrey Chapel, built for him in 1783) and he wanted do something about it. So Hill wrote hymns and compiled/published five collections of psalms and hymns, based upon secular tunes, three of which were specifically for children and schools. However, the point is: rather Luther or another pastor, or as history indicates dozens of pastors have utilize secular tunes for a compliment with Christian lyrics; the point is it’s been habitually done in the past. However, this neither rationalizes the use of secular tunes and religious music nor condemns it. What it should do is highlight the point that the music is a medium that can be used in either situation; the entertainment of man, or the glorification of God.
The argument has also been made that the reason rock ‘n roll music is played so loud is because at high decibel levels the human conscience and inhibitions are numbed, leading more easily into open sin, or even overt Satanic control. For over 60 years scientists have been testing in the area of sound technology, and have never come to this conclusion. A distortion of the facts which this may allude to is that high decibel levels create confusion and an inability to fully reason (technologies in battlefield applications), as well as brain damage; but we are speaking ranges higher than what is heard in a Church service.
There are other wave technologies which have the same type of effect, yet none is known to be specific to creating an atmosphere for sinful or satanic behavior. The main problem here is that we have all seen the old black-and-white movies with the African tribesmen dancing around the fire in what appeared to be a demonic group, based upon repetitious chance and music that utilizes a back beat, and is very loud. It is this type of imagery wherein there is what appears to be a psychological mass hypnosis wherein demon possession and Satan worship seem to coincide. However this is all allusion and that there has never been any evidence which promotes this type of allegation. This is where what is referred to as common sense is meant to interpret a situation which is fictitious to begin with. There is no doubt that there are many tribes around the world that worship the devil or a demon (a figure which is the opponent of God), through rituals which include music. However, in these situations it is direct worship of these idols and entities that creates the evil of the situation, not the media of music which they employ.
Illegitimate Arguments which Create a Lack of Credibility
Well-meaning (? – perhaps), Christians that recite the above incorrect reasons, usually also state that the problem with rock ‘n roll music is not just its loudness, but also that it has a back beat, or that it uses electric instruments; without having scientific or biblical grounds for such assertions, display that they have a presupposition before entering the argument.
And it is these types of presuppositions that make Christianity look archaic, irrational, and man based; and usually do more harm than they ever do good. Very few individuals come out of contemporary Christian music because of these allegations. It is self apparent that these allegations are meant to validate the views of the holders, rather than glorify God. God is not the God of confusion; rather the confusion is seen on a stage in the form of hard Christian rock music, or its detractors that use emotional illogical assertions to promote their own agendas.
Matthew 15:6, state:
“…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”
The literal Greek translation of the Scripture is: “You nullified the Word (precepts) of God on account of your tradition (a precept; specifically, the Jewish tradition or law). What the religious leaders did was they reinterpreted God’s law (In this particular case, honoring your parents by taking care of them in their old age, yet in order to tie up their funds, the Jews dedicated their money for the work of the ministry [Temple] instead of meeting the needs taking care of their parents) in order to accommodate their own views, which in essence had to do with self promotion, and lucrative gain.
Whenever we use God’s word to validate our presuppositions, we are twisting it to fit our own vanity. Unfortunately, God is impugned because of the behavior of his children due to the fact that the world is not so dumb that they cannot see what is obvious.
Lyrics – The Message
This is the meat and potatoes of the argument, and where we can utilize God’s Word in determining the appropriateness of rock ‘n roll music.
1 Corinthians 14:12-20, states:
“12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 13Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 20Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”
This text makes it abundantly clear, lyrics must be understandable. Screaming words which cannot be understood are not understandable lyrics. Many times in Christian rock ‘n roll music, it becomes obvious that the lyrics are used to rationalize the music, rather than the music used to heighten the lyrics. This is easily identifiable when the lyrics are so nonspecific, or do not center on the person of Jesus Christ, or is a Jesus and “me” kind of song (God will share His glory with no one else3).
Unfortunately, many times, due to the fallen nature of man, the argument becomes what can we utilize to rationalize this style of music, rather than, how can we worship the Lord. Whenever the volume is so intense, the screaming so profound, and the words so twisted to serve a musical purpose rather than an intellectual one; then the performers are not singing intelligently as Paul dictates.
This is one of the primary problems within Christian music. It is where the music becomes more important than the message, or that the purpose cannot be determined, or that the emotional sensual musings become the purpose, and Christ is not preeminent.
Music has a purpose, and its purpose must be intelligently communicated. This becomes the problem with many current Christian rock ‘n roll songs, no matter what sub-genre it is. And the idea here is not that a few words are understandable, or that the choruses is understood, or even uplifting; but that the complete song is intelligible to everyone present, believers and unbelievers, all. A thorough examination of the above passage makes this clear, Paul states that concerning the work of the ministry, when the church comes together, singing must be understandable. The main difference between Christian music and secular music is its purpose, and we can understand the words we can understand the songs purpose.
2. Its Purpose
A casual consideration of the Psalms displays that the purpose of all Psalms are to glorify God. Paul also validates this point when he states in Ephesians 5:19,
“Speaking to yourself in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Paul also validates the purpose of singing for the edifying of the believer when he states in Colossians 3:16,
“let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
But the focus of this edifying is glorifying God in the heart of the believer, not with the believer brought into focus. Paul is not speaking about encouraging, or inspiring each other, as some songs do centering on the person rather than on Christ.
Purpose – Intelligently “Warning”
The English word “admonishing” is translated from the Greek word noutheteo, which means to caution, warn, or reprove gently. The point Paul is making is singing is not a feel-good experiment to make us feel good about each other.
Singing is verbalizing God’s Word, and learning in a different medium. It is still focused on understanding God’s Word, not our emotional response because we feel good. We are always to focus upon God and Jesus Christ, specifically we do this by focusing on his word, the Bible, and doing so in understanding and education, been warned (admonished), not entertained.
The side benefit to this is that, when the mind of a Christian, considers God’s Word, the Holy Spirit of God who indwells him, we’ll create an emotional response that is gratifying.
Yet we must not get the horse mixed up with the buggy, we seek to glorify God; which makes us feel good, yet whenever we seek to feel good by glorifying God; or simply using God to achieve our own ends.
And I’m aware that there are some people who will think this is over intellectualizing the Scripture, yet that is an impossibility; we must understand exactly what God is attempting to communicate in His Word, if we are to give His Word homage, and in so doing glorify Him.
The Main purpose of singing is to glorify God and give Him thanks, as seen in the following Scriptures:
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
“And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” (Romans 15:9)
“What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Corinthians 14:15)
“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (Hebrews 2:12)
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” (James 5:13)
“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” (Revelation 15:3)
Therefore the primary purpose of (“All” – according to God’s Word) music and singing, as well as dancing unto the Lord: is glorifying God, not entertaining men or making them feel good.
3. How it is Done
This is an area that needs to be examined concerning every genre of music, not just rock ‘n roll. As we’ve just discussed the primary purpose of music is to glorify God. And any time that man becomes a part of the focus of our attention, it becomes twisted and it is not as it was intended to be by God. The enemy of the best is usually not the worst, but it is the second best, when it attempts to draw the attention from the best, to itself.
This is not to be taken to the place that man cannot conduct worship services, nor play instruments; but it has to do with what draws the center of attention.
Center of Attention
It was this consideration that lecterns4 were originally created. They were a type of one person balcony, attached to the side of the wall, slightly raised up above the congregation, located on the right wall of the sanctuary, in which the pastor would stand and deliver the word of God.
Lecterns and Balconies
The front wall in front of the sanctuary was left blank, or if anything held a cross. The idea was that the pastor delivered the Word of God but he was not the center of attention, God was. Though this idea seems unusual to us, because of the practicality of a stage that lets someone up to be seen by all; yet the idea behind the lectern was more than symbolic, and felt that pre-eminence was more important than perceived practicality.
Musical instruments, as well as chorus groups were located in balconies, up and behind the seated parishioners. The whole idea in the design of the sanctuary was drawing the attention to Jesus Christ and not man.
However, as time drew on, and the name of practicality traveling evangelist and preachers, due to the lack of lecturers in public halls (usually saloons), and meeting places; started standing in front of the group. And with time, and the advent of vaudeville, certain evangelists began to use a stage to be lifted up, and seen by the whole audience.
It was in the name of practicality that attention started to be drawn to the preacher, rather than solely upon God. With time the musical accompaniment eventually moved to the stage as well as the chorus, and now we have the whole praise band with their own microphones, upon the stage, worshiping in front of us (inspiring us?). It was the same practicality that introduced electronic public address systems, and then electrical instruments. It’s curious how Jesus could speak to 500 or 3000, using the natural acoustics of mountains, and still communicate his message effectively. This displays God’s concern with our practicality.
The problem is that in the name of practicality, in the same way that slowly turning up the temperature of the water in a boiling pot catches the frog by surprise; the church auditorium (no longer the sanctuary), features a stage (vaudevillian), where the worship leader (lead singer) and the worship team (backup singers), as well as the pastor (the coach – according to Joel Osteen), lead the service (entertain), as the centers of attention (in front of the spectators – as opposed to parishioners that participate – if the audience doesn’t sing, you can’t tell because of the on stage troupe).
However, essentially, this is not the preponderance of the problem, but helps create the problem, the problem is how easy it becomes to be lifted up in pride according to the use of these tools of practicality.
This is the reason for the statement, that How music is presented, is a much more sweeping in consideration than How the specific genre of music rock ‘n roll is, is that any genre of music, which draws attention to people, away from God, can become an instrument of pride.
However, specifically addressing rock ‘n roll music, are the facts that many Christian entertainers, display a man’s pride, in their physical movement5 while on stage. Pride can be displayed as innocently as a child slightly lifting up it’s chin5 when being addressed, a sign of rebellion; or so obvious as open defiance in this respect exhibited when correction is doled out.
We as human beings can all detect when someone is full of themselves, displaying pride, and self grandiosity, even when it wraps itself in false humility. Pride, as seen in the books of Psalms and Proverbs; has been defined as preoccupation with self, rather it is seen in self aggrandizing behavior, or self belittlement; the consistency is seen in the focus, which is always on self.
Pride can be very insidious. There is a story of some elders of the church being so impressed with the humility of one of its members, that they gave him a badge which stated, “Humblest Man,” yet, they were forced to take it away from him when he started to wear it.
The great Jewish leader Golda Meier tells the story about how she was seated next to a gentleman in the Knesset, who delivered a long and elegant speech, at which the members gave a standing ovation. He bowed down attempting to sit down the few times, only to stand up again. Finally, Golda could take it no more, and leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Don’t act so humble you’re not that great.”
When we see contemporary music entertainers, wearing tattoos6 all over their body, which is biblically prohibited6 ; this displays a behavior that the world has introduced, along with multiple piercings7, and the pertinent question becomes “why did they do this?” Is it not to be seen that man, therefore is it not prideful behavior. A form of drawing attention to oneself in an extreme manner, intensifying the vanity that we all are subject to. Is this not extremely worldly.
Sanctification vs. Conformity
The Scripture is adamantly clear concerning the role of sanctification (separation – holiness) in the life of the believer, as seen in the following Scriptures:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 7:1)
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness.” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:12)
“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean,…” (Ezek 22:26)
Orderly, Without Confusion
Scripture is very clear concerning conducting church services in an orderly manner, where emotions do not take the lead, but follow the intellect, in accordance with God’s Word, as seen in: 1 Corinthians 14:23-40, which states:
“23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.”
If in Doubt, Self Restraint
Self-control and restraint are emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12, which states:
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
4. Can Scripture Validate It
You’ll notice that the phrasing of the question is not “does Scripture validate Christian rock ‘n roll,” but “can Scripture be found in the Bible to validate. These are two different questions. The question of does the Bible supports something holds much more weight, then the question of can it be supported by the Scripture.
The Easier Question First
The difference in these questions can be seen in the form of those things that we are told that we are to do in the Bible, as compared to those things that we are allowed to do. If the argument cannot be made to affirm the easier of the questions, then there’s no sense on asking the hard question.
Many representatives of Christian rock ‘n roll music have asserted that Christian rock ‘n roll music has reached a lot of youth, with them having dedicated their lives to the Lord, and that it is a tool to be used in the Ministry. They allude to Paul’s statement that he would be “all things to all men” in order to spread the gospel. This type of rationalization has been utilized many times over the centuries for all type of behaviors within the church, and without; and therefore needs to be examined more thoroughly.
All Things to All Men
When Paul spoke about “…being all things to all men…,”8 he was not saying to use the world’s contrivances or trappings, or any of the things that are popular in the world to attract people. Paul was not endorsing marketing techniques, which rely upon emotional manipulation, and attempt to utilize the frailties of humanity itself things, and make money.
What Paul Was Not Saying
Paul was not speaking about drawing people with gimmicks that would accomplish this, nor was he saying we should use complementary images to get them to listen. He was not talking about getting down and dirty with the masses or of learning what makes the world tick. He was not even talking about using rock-n-roll music to get kids to listen to the gospel or giving away a meal or a bed for a night in exchange (a hook) for listing to a hell and damnation message.
What he was talking about was speaking to people in languages and terminologies that they understood. When speaking to fishermen about Jesus, using terms that fisherman related too and that they easily comprehended. When Paul addressed Sheppard’s, he used terms and analogies that aided them in understanding Spiritual truth. When talking to children, use words that they would be familiar with. The point being that the Gospel was to be taken to all people, in all places with all types of different backgrounds. It was to be made plain when necessary, deep when appropriate, and always clear as possible to the hearer. Rather than using big sounding, religious terms just to impress people, the message was what was important, not the verbiage used.
This is not to say that we are to dumb down the Gospel. Most, if not every time Jesus taught, a majority of the hearers did not fully understand his message. According to Him, this was to fulfill the prophecy concerning Himself and His relationship with the Jews of His day, “that hearing, they would not hear; and seeing they would not see.”9 Jesus taught, knowing that it was the Holy Spirit that would give understanding to the hearer many of the enigmas he presented. Yet at the same time, much of what he had to say was so simple and common that anyone could understand, yet the presupposition of the people them from fully comprehending the essence of what he taught. Many times will we see is that due to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit people at a later point understood his prior messages. Many times, He explained to His followers the meaning of a teaching.
What we really need to understand about Jesus in his teaching was that he is rolled as the Messiah was that of dying on the cross primarily, in his teachings being the foundation of the church that would follow. This is why after the situation between him and the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 13, Jesus states that he will only utilize parables in communicating to the masses. He goes on to define that parables were meant to create enigmas not clarity. How common it is to hear preachers misrepresent what parables were meant for, they were mysterious sayings that the Holy Spirit what unravel to the hearer, they were not teaching tools to bring clarity to everyone that heard it.
Jesus quotes this being a fulfillment of Isaiah 6:9-10; with the specific purpose of those which heard would not understand. This is not to be confused with the stories that Jesus spoke about, which were meant to aid in teaching by been easier to remember. You can make a statement about something which can be easily forgotten, that if you wrap the statement within a story, it is much easier to remember the story and therefore the statement that it contains. Yet we must always remember that Jesus mission was specific what God had called him to do. Many times we forget this to our own demise.
Many people talk about Jesus being passive and loving and caring, and act like he is defined by these qualities; yet Jesus said that he came to bring a sword a division even within families, that on two occasions he overturned the money or strangers at the Temple and used a whip on the people. Jesus whipped people. The point is that we must use discernment in understanding the Bible, and misusing something that Jesus says in cross-reference to Paul when the subjects are not related is unbiblical. Paul’s mission was to make clear the mysteries that Jesus had presented, and that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him.
Paul’s Specific Meaning
In reading this passage we must realize what it does not say, and it does not mean, and therefore, realize that the subject matter does not relate that Paul never compromised the gospel, but that he compromised his own pride in presenting the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:18-23, states:
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;. To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” (KJV)
What Paul says, is: “unto the Jews, I became ‘as’ a Jew,” and “to them under the law, ‘as’ under the law,” and “to the weak became I “as” weak.” The word “as” is used to indicate his form of communication to them, he talked to them in the vernacular that they understood, both in terminology and examples. In our vernacular, we would say he spoke about the fish to fishermen, and used fishing words and analogies to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word “as” indicates a figurative usage, he did not become legalistic to those under the law, if he did, this he would violate the grace of Jesus Christ. He did not become weak and violate his own conscience to preach to those that were weak; this would have violated the gospel concerning Christ’s statement that those that would love Him would keep his Commandments. This Scripture in no way states that we are to approach the world utilizing worldly techniques or behaviors. We are in the world, but not of the world.
A simple Greek literal reading of the text, which is quite straightforward, would say:
“What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became [related] as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, [I related] as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, [I related] as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became [related] as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Cor 9:18-23)
Misusing this Concept
The problem of many current churches is that they misuse Paul’s teaching and indulgence in employing the trappings of the world to attract the masses. They become user-friendly in their messages, seeker friendly in their outreach, and non-offensive altogether. They are salt without savor, candles without light, and are driver by the newest trend of the day. They are compromised and impotent. They do not realize that they have stopped increasing Christ’s Church, and have started growing their own congregations. They have become lukewarm, thinking they are hot. Naked, not seeing their nakedness. Poor, not perceiving that the massive structures, ministries, books, are reflections of their own egos and presuppositions concerning what success is.
They’ve replaced quality with quantity. And unfortunately the compromise of the church has been the indulgence of self-centeredness. As the seeker friendly focus of many large churches, utilizes such tools as: “Being Purpose Driven” (which focuses on the believer rather than Christ) rather than Christ driven. Mistaking excellence for “what ever you do, do with all your heart,”10 making winning the goal rather than dying.
Never coming to understand or address the fact that, God may want us to lose in certain arenas, wherein humility, and seeking God becomes the center of attention rather than the self-centeredness of “ME.” We forget one of the major examples of Jesus was that of dying to self, not serving self.
Besides the narcissism and materialism that are inherent to many of these presuppositions, one of the inherent problems is that addressing issues in a pragmatic in nature elevates success with accomplishing the goals that God had set out for his church.
We now have modern dance in our churches. The rationality is that individuals can communicate their worship to God by using their bodies, yet wearing modest attire, and displaying respect in a calm demeanor.
The rationality has been used for this type of behavior, has been that it gets young girls involved in the church, and in studying scriptures that they will act them out. The problem becomes the self-centeredness that it takes exploits. Teaching young girls to draw attention to themselves, making worship into a form of entertainment rather than self-expression, such as is illustrated in Matthew 6:1-8. The church and following the culture has become a place of entertainment, and where the activity of spectator has been legitimized.
The point is pragmatism; that of having a logical way of approaching things to achieve a logical successful / goal (which is completely goal oriented), doesn’t always work in Christianity. The reason why human presuppositions are unbiblical and humans can never separate themselves of their presuppositions. This is why; many of the egregious atrocities of man have been done using the Scripture as justification. Yes, the Scripture was taken out of context either in the immediate passage, or concerning the whole of a biblical principle, which it is twisted out of shade from what it was intended.
But the point is, humans can mess up anything and everything; especially inside of the church of Jesus Christ. The Jews refused to of knowledge this (ability to warp things) and therefore became victims to it. The law that was meant to be a schoolteacher, they transformed into an accomplishment that merited salvation. This is why the Hebrews took the brazen snake on a staff, and started to worship it, rather than realizing it was a typological instrument that symbolized something that God wanted to communicate to them (according to Jesus in chapter 3:14), they utilized it pragmatically speaking, and centered their worship towards it. It was to be a reflection to be understood, not an object to be worshiped.
There are some things that cannot be combined with the gospel without violating the integrity of the gospel. You can’t witness by being a whore, no there’s no such thing as alcoholic ministry, that of being drunk and witnessing to drunks. You can’t be a criminal, violate the laws, as well as God’s Word, and then attempt to witness to criminals.
More and more churches are propagating the same message. Just look at the Seeker Friendly Churches, Rick Warren, the Emergent church, and the Name It and Claim It heresy, and you will see that the Pragmatic – success oriented – American culture is climbing into the church more each day.
It is in knowing when to apply certain biblical principles in certain situations that the Holy Spirit living inside of us gives directions; but always according to God’s Word.
When all is said and done, I believe the question has to be asked on an individual basis, rather Christian rock ‘n roll music can be utilized as a valid form of entertainment (a better question may be should Christians be entertained, or rather should they directly worship God themselves). This question has to do with purchasing CDs and listening to songs in our cars and at home. I believe this is an individual choice, yet the following should be taken into consideration; and that we are representatives and ambassadors of Christ and what we do affects His reputation, in His glory
Yet when we take this question into the worship service, concerning the church, there are certain critiques that must be in place.
1) The music must be intellectually discernible and understandable.11
2) According to Colossians 3:16, singing incorporates the intellect concerning God’s Word.
3) The lyrics must center on glorifying God the Father, and Jesus Christ, without man in the picture whatsoever.
4) The person leading the service should never be the center of attention, displaying pride or self as the focus.
5) Playing or leading music must be done in a manner that is representative of the holiness of God.
6) The perception of effectiveness cannot be utilized to rationalize effectiveness.
7) Church services should be orderly, not chaotic or emotionally (soulishly) driven.
8) The underlying reason for all music is to glorify God – not to exalt man, or allow him to steal the focus from the preeminence of Jesus Christ.
A Final Thought (the next 12 paragraphs) from Warren Wiersbe
Colossians 3:16, states:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
The word of Christ
“This means, of course, the Word of God. The false teachers came to Colossae with man-made traditions, religious rules, and human philosophies. They tried to harmonize God’s Word with their teachings, but they could not succeed. God’s Word always magnifies Jesus Christ.”
“It was not the word of false teachers that brought salvation to the Colossians; it was the Word of the truth of the Gospel (Colossians 1:15). This same Word gives us life and sustains and strengthens us (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).”
“The Word will transform our lives if we will but permit it to “dwell” in us richly. The word dwell means “to feel at home.” If we have experienced the grace and the peace of Christ, then the Word of Christ will feel at home in our hearts. We will discover how rich the Word is with spiritual treasures that give value to our lives.”
“However, we must not think that Paul wrote this only to individual Christians; for he directed it to the entire church body. “Let the Word of Christ dwell among you” is a possible translation. As it dwells richly in each member of the church, it will dwell richly in the church fellowship.”
“There is a danger today, as there was in Paul’s day, that local churches minimize the Word of God. There seems to be a lack of simple Bible teaching in Sunday School classes and pulpits. Far more interest is shown in movies, musical performances, and various entertainments than in God’s Word. Many saved people cannot honestly say that God’s Word dwells in their hearts richly because they do not take time to read, study, and memorize it.”
“There is (according to Paul) a definite relationship between our knowledge of the Bible and our expression of worship in song. One way we teach and encourage ourselves and others is through the singing of the Word of God. But if we do not know the Bible and understand it, we cannot honestly sing it from our hearts.”
“Perhaps this “poverty of Scripture” in our churches is one cause of the abundance of unbiblical songs that we have today. A singer has no more right to sing a lie than a preacher has to preach a lie. The great songs of the faith were, for the most part, written by believers who knew the doctrines of the Word of God. Many so-called “Christian songs” today are written by people with little or no knowledge of the Word of God. It is a dangerous thing to separate the praise of God from the Word of God.”
“Psalms were, of course, the songs taken from the Old Testament. For centuries, the churches in the English-speaking world sang only metrical versions of the Psalms. I am glad to see today a return to the singing of Scripture, especially the Psalms. Hymns were songs of praise to God written by believers but not taken from the Psalms. The church today has a rich heritage of hymnody which, I fear, is being neglected. Spiritual songs were expressions of Bible truth other than in psalms and hymns. When we sing a hymn, we address the Lord; when we sing a spiritual song, we address each other.”
“Paul described a local church worship service (1 Cor. 14:26; Col 3:16). Note that the believer sings to himself as well as to the other believers and to the Lord. Our singing must be from our hearts and not just our lips. But if the Word of God is not in our hearts, we cannot sing from our hearts. This shows how important it is to know the Word of God, for it enriches our public and private worship of God.”
“Our singing must be with grace. This does not mean “singing in a gracious way,” but singing because we have God’s grace in our hearts. It takes grace to sing when we are in pain, or when circumstances seem to be against us. It certainly took grace for Paul and Silas to sing in that Philippian prison (Acts 16:22-25). Our singing must not be a display of fleshly talent; it must be a demonstration of the grace of God in our hearts.”
“Someone has said that a successful Christian life involves attention to three books: God’s Book, the Bible; the pocketbook; and the hymn book. I agree. I often use a hymnal in my devotional time, to help express my praise to God. As a believer grows in his knowledge of the Word, he will want to grow in his expression of praise. He will learn to appreciate the great hymns of the church, the Gospel songs, and the spiritual songs that teach spiritual truths. To sing only the elementary songs of the faith is to rob himself of spiritual enrichment.”
“Before we leave this section, we should notice an important parallel with Ephesians 5:18-6:9. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasized being filled with the Spirit; in his Letter to the Colossians, he emphasized being filled with the Word. But the evidences of this spiritual fullness are the same! How can we tell if a believer is filled with the Spirit? He is joyful, thankful, and submissive (Eph. 5:19-21); all of this shows up in his relationships in the home and on the job (Eph. 5:22-6:9). How can we tell if a believer is filled with the Word of God? He is joyful, thankful, and submissive (Colossians 3:16-4:1).”12
All Scripture verses listed, unless otherwise noted, refer to the King James Version.
1. TABRET: KJV term for Tambourine. Scripture associates the tambourine with occasions of strong emotion: farewells (Genesis 31:27); prophetic ecstasy (1 Samuel 10:51); a victory procession (1 Samuel 18:6); the procession of the ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:5). Tambourine music often accompanied festive occasions of drinking and merrymaking (Isaiah 5:12; 24:8; 30:32; Jeremiah 31:4). Often women were the musicians (1 Samuel 18:6;2 Samuel 6:5; Psalms 60 8:25). Taken from: HOLMAN BIBLE DICTIONARY, General Editor: Trent C. Butler, PH. D., Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN 37234, USA, 1991-1998, Electronic Media.
2. If this hypothesis is true, then when ever man attempts to create a beat variation, such as in classical music; there is an opportunity for Satan to take control. The insult in this argument is a presumption that African music is specifically Satanic (as compared to man’s carnal and sinful behavior all on its own; there is a difference between the sinfulness of man, and Satanic dominance and worship. The millennium addresses this) in its origin, however, diversity within musical temples and styles are varied across many cultural ranges, and to assert that one cultural style is more Satanic than another is problematic, without biblical references.
THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THIS TYPE OF REASONING IS PEOPLE MAKING STATEMENTS WHICH CANNOT BE VALIDATED BY GOD’S WORD, AND THEREFORE, THEY APPEAR FOOLISH AND INSULTING IN THEIR ATTEMPT TO FORWARD THEIR OWN PRESUPPOSITIONS.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE GREATER PROBLEM IS THREEFOLD:
ONE, IT MAKES CHRISTIANS IN GENERAL, AND CHRISTIANITY IN PARTICULAR LOOK FOOLISH, IGNORANT, PREJUDICIAL, AND SUBJECTIVE.
SECONDLY, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY IT CHANGES THE CHRISTIANS POINT OF REFERENCE FROM THE BIBLE TO SCIENCE, THEREFORE INVALIDATING THE POWER AND AUTHORITY OF GOD’S WORD.
THIRDLY, AS AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST, OUR BEHAVIORS AND RHETORIC REFLECT HIM; AND ULTIMATELY GOD IT IS THAT IS DISGRACED BY OUR EMOTIONALLY-BASED FERVOR BECAUSE OUR PRIDE IS WOUNDED WHEN OUR OWN PRESUPPOSITIONS ARE ATTACKED. WE ARE CREATED FOR GOD’S GLORY, NOT OUR OWN.
3. Isaiah 42:8 ~ “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
4. A lectern is a stand with a sloping top on which a book or notes can rest in front of a standing speaker – originally they were mounted on the side of the sanctuary, half way up the wall; on top of, and attached to a type of pedestal which had a stairway for access.
5. Chin lifted up & proud movement – Isaiah 3:16 ~ “Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud, And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, And go along with mincing steps, And tinkle the bangles on their feet.”
6. Tattoos prohibited – Leviticus 19:28 ~ “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”
7. Piercings are frowned upon except as directed in Exodus 21:6, and Deuteronomy 15:17 for a specific purpose. According to the International Bible Standard Encyclopedia, concerning body piercing:
But men, and especially women, had their noses pierced for the wearing of jewelry (Gen 24:47; Isa 3:21; Ezek 16:12). In one passage the meaning is not completely clear, namely, in the enumeration of blemishes which disable a “son of Aaron” from the execution of the priest’s office (Lev 21:18), where English Versions of the Bible translates “flat (margin “slit”) nose.” The Hebrew word is חָרֻם, ḥārum, which is a hapax legomenon. It corresponds, however, to the Arabic root ḥaram, ḥarmān (kharam, kharmān), which means “to open,” “to pierce the nose,” especially the bridge of the nose. We may accept this meaning as the one intended in the passage.
Another dark and much discussed passage must still be referred to: “And, lo, they put the branch to their nose” (Ezek 8:17). The usual explanation (whereof the context gives some valuable hints) is that a rite connected with the worship of Baal (the sun) is here alluded to (see Smend and A.B. Davidson’s commentaries on the passage). A similar custom is known from Persian sun-worship, where a bunch (barecma) of dates, pomegranates or tamarisks was held to the nose by the worshipper, probably as an attempt to keep the Holy One (sun) from being contaminated by sinful breath (Spiegel, Eranische Altertamer, III, 571). Among modern Jews posies of myrtle and other fragrant herbs are held to the nose by the persons attending on the ceremony of circumcision, for the alleged reason of making the sight and smell of blood bearable. Another interpretation of the above passage would understand זְמוֹרָה, zemōrāh, in the sense of “male sexual member” (see Gesenius-Buhl, under the word; Levy, Nhb. Worterbuch, I, 544), and the whole passage as a reference to a sensuous Canaanite rite, such as is perhaps alluded to in Isa 57:8.
INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, James Orr, Parsons Technology Inc., Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, USA, 1999, Electronic Media.
BIBLICAL EARRINGS – SIDENOTE: There is a notable exception concerning piercing, that of a pierced ear understood in the Old Testament as a badge of honor among the Hebrews, a process ordained of God. Paul, used a repetitive introductions and epitaph concerning himself as a ”bond salve” of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1;1 Corinthians 7:21; Colossians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7; Titus 1:1;). Unfortunately, our English translations of the Bible many times translate this term into “servant,” however; the Greek word utilized by Paul has much more meaning than our simple English term. The Greek word which is translated into the English word “servant” is: Dulos and meant “A bond salve by choice,” indebted for life to serve humbly. It is understanding the history of this word that we gain a much clearer view of the humility which Paul exhibited, as well as the symbolism and typology that God set up to teach an object lesson to his people. As the ultimate bond slave of humanity was Jesus Christ who is pierced to across to atone for the sins of the world.
The idea of the bond slave / Dulos was that if a man lost everything and had no grain to feed his animals, he could sell himself to another man to become his servant, which we commonly referred to as employment, but the Bible refers as becoming a slave, some translations use the word “servant.” Many of these individuals were referred to as “field hands,” and slept in their own homes at night and worked for their master’s during the day. There were other situations where individuals would become totally destitute and have no food for their family whatsoever and become servants as well. In these cases they could indeed sell themselves as a slave 24/7, living with the master (a term sometimes to be equated with the current label “boss”) for a set period of time in order to feed their family, while paying off that debt that they had incurred. According to the Torah, God set it up so that every seven years, as well as on the 50th year in the celebration the server was set free of his obligation and became a free man again.
A bond slave was an individual who had worked off their debt, and had obtained their freedom. Yet, during the course of their servitude they had married another servant and had children. According to the Torah, the father could sell himself gladly back to the family to purchase and redeem his other family members. This was an honored position, and treated much differently than normal servants or salves; because it was servitude by choice – we get the concept of a trustee from this situation.
There was a ceremonial act that would take place where the husband who is purchasing his family would stand at the front door of the house, leaning his ear against the door-frame, and have his ear nailed to the door with awl, placing a part of their skin within the door frame, a symbol of the strength of the house, and of him becoming a prominent part of the house.
Then the nail would be pulled out, and he would wear an earring in the hole in his ear as a symbol that he was a bond salve, which was a sign of superiority indicating he had become a servant with the home for life others own free will, sacrificing himself for his own family. Therefore, he was admired and respected by the other slaves for having sacrificially placed his family before himself. And because this was a lifelong commitment, and was only done by individuals with integrity; bond slaves were always supervisors in the household, not doing hard labor, but taking care of and managing the master’s estate in good stead. This is what Paul meant when he meant he was a bond slave of Jesus Christ.
God use this kind of symbolism to also teach the foreshadowing of what his son would do by purchasing humanity when He was bonded to the cross with awls (nails), displaying perfect servitude to the Father and purchasing us with his blood (this is where we get the understanding of what Jesus meant in John 5:39, which states: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Everything written in God’s Word is to teach us about Christ, rather directly or indirectly, even in the object lessons such as this.).
8. 1 Corinthians 9:22 ~ “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
9. Isaiah 6:9-10 ~ “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
10. Colossians 3:22-25 ~ “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
11. 1 Corinthians 14:40 ~ “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
12. Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, Warren Wiersbe, David C. Cook Distribution, Canada; Ontario, Canada N3L 3E5, 2007.
Biblical Insights Into Error is an ongoing topical series that examines those teachings, practices, and patterns of current Christian movements and organizations within the Christian community which are unbiblical, extra-biblical, heretical, cultic, or promote the flesh, directly or by implication; and exposes them in the light of God’s Word. It is in addressing these unbiblical practices and teachings within the church, in contrast to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, that the church needs to moderate and guard against, understanding that “judgment starts in the house of God.” This series also examines the ways and means that ministry is meant to be conducted, and that preachers and leaders are to function according to the Word of God. Our main focus is always on Jesus the as the Lord and Savior of the world, He alone deserves preeminence in God’s Word. God’s Word all alone is our source of guidance, direction, and our singular rule of faith. Biblical Insights into Error is an outreach ministry of Faith Bible Ministries, a division of Faith Video Ministries Inc. You may contact us at our e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org