Primarily, the exposition of God’s Word is accomplished by way of normal verbalization which comes through the ministry of those gifted to teach. We read and hear the Word of God communicated and explained through speech, in script or spoken. This is the broad and substantive means which God has ordained for our spiritual instruction and learning.
There is a secondary means of spiritual communication, however, which can and should be edifying. And though it is not the principal mechanism, it is a Biblical one and that method is through music.
This second category may properly be viewed as an apparatus by which we decorate or dress the Word of God with music or song. Generally, what we communicate in song are explicit quotes from God’s Word or concepts which are compatible with God’s Word, ultimately, both stemming from Scripture. Our objective is to transmit a spiritual truth. This liberty which God has granted - that His Word may be dressed or decorated as such - is a magnificent one but one with great responsibility. So with this I have cardinal principle in mind as well as some accompanying thoughts.
How We Dress Things in Life
In life, we dress many things and we do so to enhance its presentation. For example, something as simple as an end table is given dressing such as placing a doily on its top and then accenting it with a lamp and maybe some kind of decorative side piece. Common sense tells us that shoddy materials and ugly intonations will not enhance the piece rather, paltry items distress, degrade and diminish its substance so we are careful not to use them.
Think of holiday time, particularly the Thanksgiving table. Most people who wish to enjoy the pleasantness of the Thanksgiving spread do so with orchestration in mind as they prepare and outfit the table. It is not uncommon for the banquet to be photographed because of what it represents, bounty, beauty and blessing. And you can be certain that those responsible for what it communicates have harmony, abundance and felicity in mind for their guests. Their objective is to enlarge the beauty of the occasion, not confuse it with elements contrary to the event.
Simple and Elaborate vs. Base and Discordant – When we add dressing to things to embellish its beauty it can range from the simple to the elaborate but always, for the Christian, it is in good taste. It is not the level of sophistication which is in question, that is to say, simple is not bad nor sophistication best, in and of themselves. Sometimes the uncomplicated is called for and sometimes refinement is more appropriate but never are base and discordant called for in dressing things in order to amplify their superior traits.
In the world around us, however, there are many who wish to pass off simple and elaborate for that which is base and discordant and the two should not be misunderstood. It might be true that something which is base is simple, but not all simple things are base. As well, that which is discordant may be sophisticated but not all things sophisticated are discordant. Do not confuse the two.
Sadly, in the Christian world there is an increasing naivety, if not genuine sinful resistance to and resentment of, this common sense which even unregenerate men and women can be found to comprehend. Many of those in spiritual darkness still know better than to be fooled by such claims.
Dressing Spiritual Communication
Therefore, when we give heed to Ephesians 5:15-20 (NIV):
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.And its counterpart, Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV):
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.We cannot ignore the responsibility which accompanies this great liberty given to us by God, this liberty that we may decorate His Word and its subsequent the communication of its principles, to one another, in song. The charge given to us, as we exercise this divine license to dress God’s Word in song, is that it must be treated with - in the least - the kind of prudence that even the world understands which is that ugliness, baseness and discordance is not dressing to augment beauty. But beyond that, there are principles among principles and more, in the Word of God, which should guide us past this common discretion and to a spiritual wisdom when formulating musical attire for spiritual communication.
Simple and elaborate both are acceptable when called for as we express God’s Word in song, but not that which represents debauched culture, depraved dispositions or discordant and disharmonious angst. Come, now.
Do you really need to be told not to bathe the Word of God in sensual music or are you so far gone that you can’t even bring yourself to admit there is such thing as salaciously provocative music? Do the clothes of the belly dancer belong on the body of informed saints (always understanding that the young or new saint is not necessarily informed and we must treat with grace that uniformed period of their journey) as we worship in public? So would the music of the belly dancer be appropriate array for spiritual communication? Do you think the belly dancer accidentally chooses the music she chooses? Should we, then, not be far more deliberate as God’s children when we adorn spiritual communication with song?
As it is often said, this really is a no-brainer.