Monday, January 10, 2011

Sing Only Psalms in Worship?

There are "exclusive psalms" singing churches. Hmmmm. Not sing "Amazing Grace", "How Great Thou Art" and "It Is Well With My Soul"?

Well I do love Colossians 3:16 which says in The Geneva Bible:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you plenteously in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing your own selves,  in Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
I love to let Christ's word dwell in me all the time. And what to sing? The footnote to this favorite verse says:
By Psalms he meaneth all godly songs, which were written upon divers occasions, and by hymns, all such as contain the praise of God, and by spiritual songs, other more peculiar and artifcious songs which were also in praise of God, but they were made fuller of music.
Below is a theological note "Music in the Church" in my husband's New Geneva Study Bible:
   Some branches of the Reformed faith, eager to protect the church from the addition of human tradition, impressed by the continuity between Israel and the church, and noticing that the terms "psalms," "hymns," and "songs" are used in the Book of Psalms, believe that Paul envisioned only the singing of the psalms of the Old Testament in public worship. This restriction appears, however, to miss his point. He piles up the terms to highlight the wide range of musical expression that grateful and heartfelt praise to God calls forth from the body of Christ.
     The word "psalms" refers at least to the use of the Old Testament psalter (Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33), but may also refer to fresh compositions for worship (1 Cor. 14:26). The word "spiritual" (Greek pneumatikos) qualifies the potentially secular term "songs" as being taught or led by the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6; 15:44, 45 notes).
     Christ's redemptive work brought an outpouring of hymns of praise from His people, often patterned after the songs of the Old Testament (e.g. Luke 1:46-53, 67-79; 2:14, 29-32). Paul personally employed music within his own worship (Acts 16:25), and it has long been observed that his letters contain portions of early Christian hymns (Eph. 5:14; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-20; I Tim 3:16 and notes). Early Christian songs of praise appear also to underlie John 1:1-14; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-21; 2:21-25; 3:18-22. The "new songs" of the Book of Revelation are themselves a study in the vibrancy of early Christian worship (Rev. 4;8, 11; 5:9, 10, 12, 13; 7:110, 12; 11:15, 17, 18; 12:10-12; 15:3,4; 19:1-8; 21:3,4)
The above Scripture gives me enough to chew own without tracking down first century writings of the earliest worship.

Added 2/7/11. Pastor Darren Middleton, North Geelong Presbyterian Church, raises an interesting point here. He points out that Calvin himself wrote hymns and there are more hymns in the
Bible than just the Psalms.  Pastor Middleton also distinguishes between elements and circumstances. Check out  his discussion. There are other good Reformed articles there as well.
So we need to ask where is the warrant for singing psalms (as opposed to just singing) and specifically, where is the warrant for singing only the Book of Psalms since we can find no such warrant in the Old Covenant itself.

What do you think, gentle reader,
 of only singing from the Psalms?


  1. Hello Carol, sing only from the songs we would lose some rich and reverent songs that have been since written. As you say, Handel's Messiah; wow...what would I do without sings the scripture, how can that be wrong? Some real reverent songs can also be found with many other groups and not soley form hundreds of years ago. We have to use discernment when we chose the songs we worship with in church, yet not to be so rigid and unbending and thus miss some true gems of worship that magnify Christ and the Cross.

  2. Like this blog. I'm not of Reformed theology in my views. I have major problems with some of their teachings BUT I can not help but be in awe of their RESPECT for God. I search the web sometimes just to read Reformed Theology sites-not because I agree with them on doctrine-but because I enjoy how they are respectful of God. I wish more Christian denominations had as much reverence for the Creator.


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