Music As a Means of Worship
Music as a Means of God Meeting with Me
There was a day when the gospel was communicated to me through music in a way that I will never forget.
My brother, Jeff, died of a drug overdose on a Saturday. He was a Christian who struggled long with addiction, until meth finally stopped his heart. Hearing the news catapulted my mind into a desperate search for some kind of concrete consolation.
I was thankful that the next day was a Sunday. I knew that the Spirit would minister the truth of the gospel - God’s grace in Jesus to save real sinners from real death – to me. I knew it would come from Scripture as I gathered with my brothers and sisters. I expected that the needed comfort would come through the sermon (as it often does), but this day what got through to me was a song, Before the Throne of God Above.
Here are the lyrics that fell on my ears. Imagine yourself in my shoes that day.
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
It’s been twelve years and I still can’t read those words without tears. Each verse, even each line, communicated the gospel to me. I will never forget the truth conveyed through this hymn.
After church, I called my mom. “Kate,” she said, “The Lord comforted me greatly through a song we sang in church today. It was called Before the Throne of God Above.”
“Mom,” I replied, “The Lord really does want us to know this and to take heart. You’ll never believe it. We sang the same song today, and he did the same thing for me. Jeff is with Jesus.”
Twelve years. And neither of us will ever forget the gospel truths communicated to us through that song until we see the reality it portrays when Jesus comes again. It is God’s gift to us as we wait.
Music as Worship
Worship encompasses much more than the music. True worship is defined as the appropriate response by people to God’s revelation. God initiates worship drawing near to people and revealing something about his nature or his mighty acts. For this reason, worship is a gift of grace. People respond to this grace by exalting him. This means orienting their entire lives around God in a variety of ways.
For example, in Exodus 4, when Moses told the Israelites that God was going to rescue them from slavery in Egypt (revelation), they believed and they bowed down (response). Both of those responses, one internal and one external, constituted appropriate worship.
Or take another example. When you heard the good news that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin through his death on the cross (revelation), you repented and believed the good news (response). These responses constituted appropriate worship.
Although worship encompasses much more than the music we sing during a worship service, music is an important component of worship. The Bible shows that music is one of the primary means the revelation of God is communicated and one of the primary means by which we respond in worship.
I could cite multiple biblical examples of this reality. The book of Psalms, for instance, demonstrates this truth. Plus, Paul states it explicitly in Colossians 3:16. The truth of the gospel of Christ dwells in us richly as we teach and admonish each other through music. As we do, each person is able to respond with thankfulness to God in our hearts. Music is a means of revelation and response.
Music as a Means of Revelation
I bet that if you and I were having coffee (or tea!) together right now, you would have at least one story similar to mine. This is because God often works this way through music.
Every verse of "Before the Throne of God Above" communicates the gospel or an implication of the gospel. Moreover, as I sang each one, the Spirit confirmed the truth to my heart personally.
When the Spirit reminded me that both Jeff and I have such a strong, perfect plea before God’s throne in Christ, my frantic mind began to rest. When he ministered to me that Jesus had made an end to Jeff’s sin and to mine, my soul began to be anchored. When he communicated to me that union with Christ had guaranteed eternal life for Jeff and for me, my entire being found comfort. I responded to the reminder of revelation communicated to me. I worshiped.
What this means is that the content of worship music matters. Because we believe that the Bible is God’s authoritative word, worship music must reflect the truths he has revealed about himself there. Because all of Scripture points to God’s revelation of himself in Jesus and his mighty act of saving sinners, worship music must be Christ and gospel-centered. Because the object of worship is God himself, music must be centered on him.
If music does not reflect these truths, then it will fail to communicate the truth you and I so badly need for comfort, conviction, encouragement, equipping, and more.
A Workshop on Music
We want to faithfully communicate God’s revelation through our music. We must because the well being of God’s people depends on it. Without the thoughtful words of Charitie Lees Bancroft or the sing-able tune by Vikki Cook, the gospel would not have been communicated to me in a way I could comprehend it when I so desperately needed it.
Because of the great significance of worship music, the Verity Team is offering a workshop at Verity Forum that will delve into topic of music as worship in depth. Whitney Woollard (with guest worship leader Neal Woollard) will be teaching about these aspects of music on May 6th. That's one month from today. Whether you are a worship leader or a singing participant, you will be challenged and blessed as you learn more. Who knows how the Lord will use the worship music in the lives of those in your church?