God-Centered WorshipWorship in Spirit and in Truth

True worship is to be offered in a manner that pleases God, which is in agreement with His Word. But that is not enough. We pray for the presence of Christ through His Spirit in each aspect of worship. It is the Holy Spirit who can prepare us for worship and enliven us to worship God in the beauty of holiness.

All worship music should be guided by biblical principles of Reformed worship.

We cannot understand the role of instruments in worship without placing them in the larger framework. All worship music is part of the reasonable service due to our Sovereign Triune God. For this reason all words, forms, styles, instruments, and singing and should abide by the fundamental principles of Reformed worship as set forth in Scripture, the Three Forms of Unity, the Constitution of the Reformed Church in the U.S., and our Directory for Worship. The Bible and our Confessions do not provide detailed regulations concerning the composition, selection, and use of worship music, but rather give general principles. Two key passages in the New Testament to guide us are Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossaisn 3:16-17. Our Directory of Worship safeguards both freedom in worship while laying down some key principles to regulate worship music.

Rom. 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given His Church a large measure of liberty in using the elements of worship sanctioned by Scripture. It may not be forgotten, however, that there is true liberty only where the rules of God’s Word are observed and the Spirit of the Lord is. All things must be done decently and in order, and God’s people should serve Him with reverence and in the beauty of holiness. From its beginning to its end, a service of public worship should be characterized by the simplicity which is an evidence of sincerity, and by the beauty and dignity which are manifestations of holiness. (RCUS DW 1.8)

Since it is the purpose of public worship to glorify God, prayer and praise should predominate in congregational singing. Every member of the church ought to participate in this element of worship. Singing should be done not merely with the lips but with the spirit and the understanding. Since the metrical versions of the Psalms are based upon the Word of God, they ought to be used frequently in public worship. Great care must be taken to insure that all the materials of song are in complete accord with the teaching of Holy Scripture. The tunes as well as the words should be dignified and elevated. The stately rhythm of the chorales is especially appropriate for public worship. No person shall take a special part in the musical service unless he is a Christian and adorns his profession with a godly walk. (RCUS DW 2.6)

The primary purpose of worship music is to glorify God.

The Reformation principle of Soli Deo Gloria expresses the Reformed emphasis on the sovereign majesty and holiness of God. For this reason, all worship music is to be directed primarily toward God and His Glory. God is glorified through music when we are singing and making melody with grace in our hearts to the Lord by “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20). Thus, every aspect of our song is to be “from Him, and through Him, and to Him” (Rom. 11:36).

Psalm 150:1-2Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!

Eph. 5:19-20 … singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Colossians 3:16-17 … singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

The purpose of public worship is the glory of God. Therefore His people should engage in all the elements of worship with their eyes focused on His glory. The goals of public worship are the building of Christ’s Church by the edification of the saints and the addition to its membership of those who are being saved — all to the glory of God. Through public worship on the Lord’s Day, Christians should learn to serve God all the days of the week in all their activities, remembering, whether they eat or dirnk or whatever they do, to do all to the glory of God. (RCUS DW 1.4)

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” ― Johann Sebastian Bach

The secondary purpose of worship music is to edify the church of the Living God.

As the family of God, it is to build itself up in love (Eph. 4:11-16) as it grows into a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Believers have been anointed by the Holy Spirit with a general office of being a prophet, priest, and king that we, “confess His Name,may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life.” To this end we have been given gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of one another. Congregational singing plays an essential role in this general duty of teaching (didactic) and counseling (nouthetic) one another from the Word of God. In teaching through song, we sing to each other of what we are to believe in regard to sound doctrine. In counseling through song we engage one another with sound wisdom for living the Christian life out of faith, love, and gratitude.

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…

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…

HC Q32. But why are you called a Christian? Because by faith I am a member of Christ1 and thus a partaker of His anointing,in order that I also may confess His Name,may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life,5 and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.

All worship music should be God-centered and thoroughly Trinitarian.

Worship music should be directed toward God the Father, sanctified through God the Son, and enlivened by the power of the God the Holy Spirit. The church should avoid man-centered or worldly-centered approaches to music in worship. It should “proceed from true faith,and are done according to the law of God,unto His glory,and not such as rest on our own opinionor the commandments of men (HC Q91).” By implication, we must submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over music and neither enthrone nor reject any one period or style of Christian music based on human tradition or personal preference alone.

Rom. 11:6For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Public worship is rightly said to be divine because God is its beginning and its end. It is of Him and through Him and unto Him. (RCUS DW 1.5)

Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Media­tor; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone. (WCF 21.2)

It should be free from association with the currently secular or with anything that does violence to our Reformed conception of worship. (CRC i-6)

All worship music should be Christ-centered and convey the gospel of His kingdom.

Christ is the one through whom all things were created and are now preserved. He is now the culmination of God’s revelation as the Redeemer and mediator of the New Covenant. To be Christian, worship music should sing of Christ as its primary theme. This is not to diminish the other members of the Trinity, but to emphasize that Christ is the only mediator between God and man. Hence our worship music, like our preaching, speaks of Christ and Him crucified as its central theme.

Heb. 1:1-2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Rom. 1:1-5 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

The Word of God is the standard for all worship music.

The Word and Spirit of Christ are to be the chief guiding factors in all true worship music. Having the Word of Christ dwell richly within us is the power that motivates us to sing. The Word of God is to regulate the content, composition, selection, and use of all psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The words and tunes used in worship music should be scrutinized and judged to see that they reflect sound biblical theology and practice.

Ephesians 5:18-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”,

Colossians 3:16-17 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. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Since the Word of God itself restricts God’s people only to such practices in worship which his Word specifically sanctions (Deut. 12:30-32; John 4:23-24), the principles of the public worship of God must not be derived from any other source than the Bible, nor may they depart from its teaching. (RCUS DW 1.2)

[But the ac­cept­able way of worshipping the true God is insti­tuted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be wor­shipped accord­ing to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Sa­tan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (WCF 21.1)]

The Spirit of Christ is the source of true spiritual worship music.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is coordinant with having the Word of Christ dwell richly within us. Worship is a spiritual activity, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit cannot be underestimated. God the Holy Spirit is to regulate the spirit, style, and practice of worship music.

John 4:23-24 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, … 19 singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord …

Col. 3:16 … singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Public worship must be performed in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Therefore externalism and hypocrisy stand condemned. The forms of public worship have value only when they serve to express the inner reverence of the worshipper and his sincere devotion to the true and living God. Only those whose hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit are capable of such reverence and devotion. (RCUS DW 1.7)

Worship music should enage the whole person—mind, will, and emotions.

Since the totality of human nature was created by God, corrupted by sin, and is being redeemed, our worship and singing should serve the transformation of every area of human life. We are love God with all of our heart, all our soul, and all our minds. Worship music is to be intelligent, wholehearted, and sincere, and to lead us to consecrated covenant faithfulness. Mere external worship in song is to be rejected as out of step with biblical worship. We are sing to the Lord and praise His holy Name with all that is within us.

1 Cor. 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? 17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Singing should be done not merely with the lips but with the spirit and the understanding. (RCUS DW 2.6c)

(RCUS DW 1.7

Words Use in Worship Music

Holy Scripture is to guide and judge all words used in worship music.

The Bible is the standard of truth. Since God wants us to sing with truth, all text compositions used in Christian worship should be derived from or in accord with the text and teachings of Scripture. Scripture, as the rich revelation of God the Creator, also should be the chief source of topics and metaphors used in compositions. The Word of God is to become the song that we sing to Him as we are transformed by it.

Great care must be taken to insure that all the materials of song are in complete accord with the teaching of Holy Scripture. (RCUS DW 2.6e)

Whenever Psalms or other portions of Scripture are involved, the poetry of the songs should be true to the inspired Word. (CRC i-4a)

Whenever songs other than versifications of portions of Scripture are involved, the poetry should be genuinely expressive of religious experience, but should also be in harmony with the whole counsel of God. (CRC i-5)

The words used in worship music should represent the totality of God’s revelation.

Revelation is manifest in creation and verbalized in Scripture. Since the whole Bible is the written verbal revelation of God, Scripture should be the source out of which all worship music should be formed. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a book of literary beauty and it provides the content and form of what we should sing. It is appropriate that the worship music reflect poetically on God’s works of creation and providence as part of our worship song. The Bible itself is a guide to how this should be done (e.g. Psalm 19, 104).

Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs

The music of the church should represent the full range of the revelation of God. (CRC i-1)

The words used in worship music should reflect a covenantal understanding of the Bible.

Our worship should be rooted in a comprehensive covenantal understanding of Scripture. The collection and selection of worship music should reflect the whole revelation of God throughout the Old to the New Covenants. Old Covenant scripture provides the foundation and background for New Covenant worship. Worship music should make ample use of the imagery and theological teachings of the Old Testament, especially the Book of Psalms. Worship music should also be specifically Christian and oriented to Christ as our Lord and Savior. Hence it is insufficent to sing only from the Old Testament, for the principle of progressive covenant revelation culminates in Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant as the Final Prophet, Priest, and King.

See the songs of Mary, Simeon, as well as other evidences of hymnody in the NT.

Public worship is Christian when the worshippers recognize that Christ is the only Mediator through Whom they come to God, when they honor Christ as the great Head of the Church Who rules over public worship, and when their worship is an expression of their faith in Christ and of their love for Him. (RCUS DW 1.6)

The words used in worship music must have sound theological content.

We are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). For this reason each composition of worship music should contain sound theological content, faithful to both the general teachings of Scripture and its treatment of particular doctrines. Our Three Forms of Unity provide us with a faithful summary of a theology that should be used to evaluate all worship music.

The poetic form of the words should have literary beauty.

In worship we are to behold spiritually the beauty of the Lord and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. The words used in worship music should imitate Scripture by conveying truth in a pleasing way and thus adorn the doctrine of God. For this reason, great skill must be exercised in the lyrics to engage the heart and mind with the knowledge of God through the words as well as the music.

Ps. 27:4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.

Ps. 96:4-6 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Phi. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

The poetry of the songs should be good poetry; it should not have to rely upon the music to carry it. (CRC i-3a)

Such poetry should at the same time be vital—free from the defects of artificiality and sentimentality. (CRC i-4b)

The words used in worship music should be clear and understandable to all of God’s people.

We should cultivate the simplicity of faith in Jesus Christ and make God’s truth easily understandable to God’s people in the ministry of music. While deep theological truths should be conveyed in song, they should be written in such a way so that even a child might profit from the words. The Gospel of John and the Psalms are wonderful examples of this lucid brevity, clarity, and simplicity.

2 Cor. 1:12-13 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end

Musical Form and Style in Worship

Thanksgiving, Prayer, Praise, and Joy should predominate the form of worship music.

Since worship should direct us to honor, praise, and love God, its musical form should emphasize the gratitude which should mark the Christian life. It should help us in the formulation of our prayers and serve as a way of expressing praise for His blessings and gifts. However, this does not exclude the singing of laments and songs of confession of sin, of which we have many examples in the Psalms. Songs should be sung in both the major and minor keys, thus reflecting Christian musical tradition, but with the predominate emphasis on major keys. Atonal music and strange modes should be avoided.

Ps. 98:4-6 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;   Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.Sing to the Lord with the harp,   With the harp and the sound of a psalm,With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.

Eph. 5:19-20 … singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Colossians 3:16-17 … singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Since it is the purpose of public worship to glorify God, prayer and praise should predominate in congregational singing. (RCUS DW 2.6a)

The Psalms should have an important and frequent place in worship.

The use of the Psalms in Christian worship characterized the apostolic church as well as the church in the post-apostolic period. The reviving of Psalm-singing in the Reformed churches during the Reformation is a great heritage that we should treasure and maintain. For this reason, while not embracing exclusive psalmody, we should place a great emphasis on the priority of the Psalms in worship, or “inclusive psalmody.” Such Psalm-singing should not be limited to chants of Bible texts but free versifications of the Psalms appropriate to New Covenant worship.

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

Since the metrical versions of the Psalms are based upon the Word of God, they ought to be used frequently in public worship. (RCUS DW 2.6d)

The music of the church should be expressive of our Reformed tradition and, so far as possible, should make ample use of the Genevan Psalm tunes and other music of Calvinistic inspiration. (CRC i-10)

We should sing an abundance of Christian hymns taken from the whole history of the church.

A hymn is a song that is sung as a prayer directly to God or that addresses praise to Him. For this reason, hymns were sung by Christ and the Apostles. The church has developed a rich tradition of hymnody over two millenia and this heritage is a rich repository of worship music which is to be sung today. Hymns from every period of the history of the church should be used to demonstrate the unity of the faith. This unity of faith is to be sung with words from the early, medieval, Reformation, and modern periods of the church.

Isa 42:10 (LXX) Sing to the Lord a new song, AndHis praise from the ends of the earth, You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!

Heb 2:11-12  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

Matt. 26:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Acts 16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

We may use praise and worship songs in our worship that are truly spiritual, in accord with God’s Word, and embody Christian aesthetic principles.

God commands us to sing new songs in our worship. Spiritual songs may be more informal folk compositions which are not from the Book of Psalms, or a prayer to God, but speak of what God has done for us in Christ. Like the Psalms of David, they reflect a wide range of Christian experience. Contemporary praise songs should not be despised just because they are contemporary, but be evaluated in the light of the Reformed principles of worship music. However, since meaningless repetition is condemned by Christ in our prayers, we should avoid contemporary songs that employ tedious repetition.

Ps. 149:1Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints.

Matt. 6:7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Rev. 15: 2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. 3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,

Worship music should be beautiful to reflect God’s holiness.

Worship music, like the words, should be pleasing to Him. The principles of beauty are established by our Creator in His handiwork and His self-revelation which reflects His glory. Beauty is the coordination of the good, the true, and right as defined by Scripture in relation to God. Beauty should be evident in our music as a living reality that reflects the simple and yet complex beauty of the Lord.

Psalm. Worship the Lord in Holy Array.

Ps. 27: 4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.

Ps. 29: 1 Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Ps. 33:1Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!For praise from the upright is beautiful. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

All things must be done decently and in order, and God’s people should serve Him with reverence and in the beauty of holiness. From its beginning to its end, a service of public worship should be characterized by the simplicity which is an evidence of sincerity, and by the beauty and dignity which are manifestations of holiness. (RCUS DW 1.8)

The music of the songs should be artistically defensible as good music; it should not have to rely upon the words to carry it. (CRC i-3b)

The music of the church should be beautiful. (CRC p-2)

It should satisfy the aesthetic laws of balance, unity, variety, harmony, design, rhythm, restraint, and fitness which are the conditions of all art. (CRC p-2b)

Such devices as extreme syncopation and extreme chromaticism (although on occasion these may be of value for special text settings) should generally be avoided. (CRC i-8)

Worship music should be reverent and convey God’s awesome majesty.

Our God is awesome in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. For this reason worship music is to manifest our fear of God. Light-hearted and trite music is inappropriate for the sanctuary. We are to be sober-minded and serious in our worship of God in song, as opposed to frivolous and trivial.

Heb. 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. .. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve [worship] God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

The tunes as well as the words should be dignified and elevated. (RCUS DW 2.6f)

Worship music should be joyful and rejoice in God’s covenant goodness.

The Psalms are examples of how our worship music is to be filled with praise and joy. We are to rejoice in the Lord at all times. Worship music should set the tone for our lives to be lived as an ongoing hymn of praise to the One who created and redeemed us. Our music should not be ultimately sad but full of gladness and joy as we delight in the Lord.

Ps. 67:3-4  Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, And govern the nations on earth.

Ps. 100:1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

Words and Music should appropriately complement each other.

Words gain great power when they are set to great music. We are to sing the truth from a transformed heart by God’s grace. For this reason, tunes should be appropriate to the words as they engage the new man in Christ. Words and music should blend together—the power of the music serving the meaning of the words.

Its religious thought or spirit should be embodied appropriately in the poetry as poetry, in the music as music, and in the blending of these in song. (CRC p-2

In spirit, form, and content it must be a positive expression of Scripturally religious thought and feeling. It should serve the ministry of the Word. (CRC p-A)

Its religious thought or spirit should be embodied appropriately in the poetry as poetry, in the music as music, and in the blending of these in song. (CRC p-2a)

Musical Instruments in Worship

Congregational singing is the chief instrument in the ministry of music.

God created man as the culmination of His works. His elect are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ to be His Kingdom and church. For this reason the human voice, both male and female, should have priority in worship music. As an instrument of teaching and counseling, congregational singing is a necessary part of our worship service. By singing together the church lifts up one voice to praise to exalt God as Creator and Redeemer.

Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

2 Chron. 5:11 And it came to pass when the priests came out of the Most Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had sanctified themselves, without keeping to their divisions), 12 and the Levites who were the singers, all those of Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, stood at the east end of the altar, clothed in white linen, having cymbals, stringed instruments and harps, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets— 13 indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord …

A service of public worship is not merely a gathering of God’s children with each other, but above all else a meeting of the Triune God with His chosen people. God is present in public worship not only by virtue of the divine omnipresence but, much more intimately, as the faithful covenant Savior (see Heb. 12:18-25). The Lord Jesus Christ said: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18: 20). (RCUS DW 1.3)

Since it is the purpose of public worship to glorify God, prayer and praise should predominate in congregational singing. (RCUS DW 2.6a)

Every member of the church ought to participate in this element of worship. (RCUS DW 2.6b)

Public worship differs from private worship because in public worship God is served by the saints united as His covenant people, the Body of Christ. For this reason, covenant children as well as adults should be present as far as possible. For the same reason, no favoritism may be shown to any who at­tend, nor may any member of the church presume to exalt himself above others as though he were more spiritual, but each one must esteem others better than himself. (RCUS DW 1.9)

A variety of musical instruments are suitable to accompany worship music.

God has created everything to be used for His glory. For this reason, no musical instrument should be rejected or emphasized based on tradition alone. The Old Testament speaks of a variety of stringed instruments, wind instruments, and instruments of percussion used in worship.  God wants the trees, the hills, and all creatures to praise His name. Subordinate to the human voice, musical instruments should serve the singing of God’s Word. Amplification was used in the Old Covenant period, in essence, by using numerous instruments to make a joyful noise to the Lord. In our time, amplification can be used (as it is for preaching), but it should not overwhelm congregational singing. If electronic organs or guitars or other electronic instruments are used, they should be used with moderation and discretion under the oversight of the spiritual council.

1 Tim. 4:4-5 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Ps. 81:To the Chief Musician. On An Instrument of Gath. A Psalm of Asaph.  1 Sing aloud to God our strength;   Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.  2 Raise a song and strike the timbrel,   The pleasant harp with the lute.  3 Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon,   At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.  4 For this is a statute for Israel,   A law of the God of Jacob.

Ps. 150:3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;   Praise Him with the lute and harp!  4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;   Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!  5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;   Praise Him with clashing cymbals!

Musical instruments should be played with skill in making sound that is pleasant and distinct.

Old Testament worship music was accompanied by skillful and trained musicians. In the New Covenant, musical skill and training are no less necessary in a ministry of music that glorifies God. God is a God of order, and music in worship should be played decently and in order. Yet the younger members of the congregation should be encouraged to develop and use their musical gifts for the honor of Christ.

Ps. 33:1Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!For praise from the upright is beautiful. 2 Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. 3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

1 Cor. 14:7 Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?

Practice of Worship Music

Worship music should serve the other elements of the worship service.

Worship music does not stand alone. It is one part of our worship, service, and fellowship with God. In public worship it plays the important role of a response by God people to God speaking in His Word. Since worship as a dialogue between God and His people, the progression of worship should be served by the ministry of appropriate worship songs. The selection of worship music should be subordinate to and further all the elements of Christian worship. Worship music should help the congregation give praise at the beginning of worship, help formulate prayers, contribute to the confession of sin, and provide meditation after the sermon, etc.

Since a service of public worship is in its essence a meeting of God with his people, the parts of the service are of two kinds: those which are performed on behalf of God, and those which are performed by the congregation. In the former the worshippers are receptive, in the latter they are active. It is reasonable that these twotypesofelementsbemadetoalternateasfaraspossible. (RCUS DW 2.1)

The music of the church should be liturgical. (CRC p-1) … The music of the church should he suitable to the liturgical text to which it has been adapted. It should be free from association with the currently secular or with anything that does violence to our Reformed conception of worship. (CRC i-6)

1 Cor. 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Since a service of public worship is in its essence a meeting of God with his people, the parts of the service are of two kinds: those which are per­formed on behalf of God, and those which are performed by the congregation. In the former the worshippers are receptive, in the latter they are active. It is reasonable that these two types of elements be made to alternate as far as possible. (RCUS DW 2.1)

The elements of worship set forth in the Scriptures may be used in the service of public worship in the order suggested here: Call to Worship, Salutation, Invocation, Psalm or Hymn, Scripture, Prayer, Psalm or Hymn, Sermon, Prayer, Offering, Psalm or Hymn,

The ministry of music should serve and complement the ministry of the Word.

Worship music does not stand on its own. It is not a social performance to serve itself. As appropriate for divine worship it should fit the ministry of the Word. Since hearing and believing the Word of God is at the core of our worship, music must serve the same end. Hence worship in song is to complement worship by the Word.

The stately rhythm of the chorales is especially appropriate for public worship. (RCUS DW 2.6g)

The music of the church should not be borrowed from that of the dance nor from concert or other music which suggests places and occasions other than the church and the worship service. (CRC i-7)

All things must be done decently and in order, and God’s people should serve Him with reverence and in the beauty of holiness. From its beginning to its end, a service of public worship should be characterized by the simplicity which is an evidence of sincerity, and by the beauty and dignity which are manifestations of holiness. (RCUS DW 1.8)

The minister of the Word, on the one hand, and the organist and the choir director on the other, should cooperate constantly, so that the service of music will contribute to the service of the Word. (CRC i-2b)

Great care must be exercised by the organist, pianist and choir director in selecting organ music and anthems, lest a secular association with the music interfere with the worshiper’s service. (CRC i-9)

Benediction, Doxology. (RCUS DW, 3)

Worship music should be developed to enhance the congregation’s worship of God.

The musical abilities of the congregation should be developed to increase the quality of our worship. Synod, Classes, and spiritual councils should study, teach, and develop worship music to enhance and deepen our worship of God.

It is necessary for God’s people to come into His presence with a deep sense of awe at the thought of His perfect holiness and their own great sinful­ness. They are to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise for the great salvation which He has so graciously provided for them through His only begotten Son, and has applied to them by the Holy Spirit. (RCUS DW 1.10)

Worship music should be carefully selected.

Worship music may be selected from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Throughout the course of the year selections should represent music from the whole history of the church. Selection should highlight compositions the Reformed tradition, especially the use of the Psalms. Congregations may make use of Hymnals and Songbooks that are approved by Synod, Classis, and the Spiritual Council. The Trinity Hymnal (1961, 1990) has been used extensively in the RCUS for good reason. It is a rich collection of the praise of God’s people throughout the history of the church and seeks to apply the principles of Reformed worship.

Ordained officers are the music leaders in worship (Spiritual Council).

Reformed worship is to be led by men who are ordained by God for this purpose. Unordained men and women are not to lead in worship but to serve the Lord as part of the congregation. Pastors and elders are the instruments chosen by God to shepherd His people in the matter of worship. Such officers should make special effort and preparation to see that worship is scriptural, spiritual, edifying to all of God’s people, and ultimately to the glory of our Triune God.

1 Tim. 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

No person shall take a special part in the musical service unless he is a Christian and adorns his profession with a godly walk. (RCUS DW 2.6h)

Bibliography

RCUS Directory of Worship, The Trinity Hymnal, A Statement was adopted by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of 1953, while the Implications were recommended to the churches for study. The statement was printed in the front of the Psalter Hymnal of 1959. There is one main principle of worship which comprised three statements and is followed by eleven implications; OPC Committee on Song in Worship, 1947.

Worship Times

Sunday School, 9:00 a.m.

(Not held during June-August)

Sunday Morning Worship, 10:00 a.m.

The Lord's Supper, 1st Sunday

Sunday Evening Worship, 6:00 p.m.