What Is Biblical Worship?
When we think of “biblical worship” what does that look like? How does it function? What examples do we have to go by? These are all the kinds of questions that face the New Testament church. At Zion Rest Church we strive to follow the New Testament example of how the Church should worship.
We believe that the New Testament church worship in a very simple way:
There a basically two perspectives on the musical portion of the worship service: those who have instruments, and those who do not.
We have typically upheld what we believe is the New Testament example of church worship; that being singing songs of praise without the use of musical instruments other than those given to us by God: A cappella singing.
When looking at this subject we must stress that our views on A Cappella singing are derived from the desire to keep our Church practices in accordance to the Word of God.
Singing songs, hymns, or psalms to God have been a practice since Moses with examples of Moses and the congregation singing to God as an assembly. There are of course examples of the use of musical instruments such as the psaltry, and harp mentioned by David, however without digging into the merits of these actions in the sabbath worship service of God let us focus on the New Testament Church.
Looking at the New Testament Church we can find no examples of instruments of any kind ever being used in times of worship. Let us look at the examples of where singing of hymns is referenced in the New Testament.
There are two Greek words associated with singing in the New Testament:
hymneō (Strongs G5214)
“to sing the praise of, sing hymns to; to sing a hymn, singing a paschal hymn”
(Matt. 26:30, Mar. 14:26, Act 16:25, Hebrews 2:12)
psallō (Strongs G5567)
“to pluck off, pull out; to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang; to twang the strings of a musical instrument, to play on a stringed instrument, to sing to the music of the harp, in the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song” (Rom. 15:9, 1 Cor. 14:15, Eph. 5:19, James 5:13)
Let us look at the scriptural examples that are listed above where these words are used.
Matthew 26:30 – “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”
Mark 14:26 – “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”
Acts 16:25 – “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
Hebrews 2:12 – “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
The first two examples we note are from the occurrence of the last supper. As they were ending the communion they concluded it with singing a hymn, and then departing to the Mount of Olives. Most communion services, and this one in particular, are definitely considered times of worship. Here we find the use of the word “hymneo”, or singing hymns without the use of musical instruments.
The third example if when Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. At midnight, as Paul and Silas were singing hymns, an earthquake occurred which opened all the jail cells.
Again the use of the word “hymneo” is used in this occurrence to denote the singing of hymns without the use of instruments. Now this example would not look like a typical Sunday morning worship service, but this was a great time of worship of God by the Apostles in their time of distress. Something to consider is that these men were in prison, which means there were definitely no musical instruments involved.
The last example comes from the book of Hebrews. In this chapter Paul is pointing to the superiority of Christ, but in this particular section we see Paul referencing Psalms (Psalm 22:22) where David prophesying about Christ states “…in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee.” Again we see the use of the word “hymneo”, which has in all occurrences
previously been seen as singing hymns without the use of instruments. We have in this verse Christ, singing praises to God, in the midst of the Church.
We will now examine the other four examples.
Romans 15:9 – “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.”
1 Corinthians 14:15 – “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.”
Ephesians 5:19 – “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
James 5:14 – “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
When we look at these examples we find that all of these speak of the day to day lives of the Christian. None of these examples are during times of what we would call “sabbath day” worship. While it is true that worship of God does, and should exceed the boundaries of the church doors, the example of how worship is to be conducted in the New Testament worship service is with singing, without instruments.
Again, our goal is to keep to the biblical example of how the New Testament Church worship service should be conducted. Our views are not intended to invoke argument, or to degrade the current practices of other churches, but rather to express our aim to keep as close as possible to the biblical example of worship in the Church.