Music in the New Testament Church

5. The evaluation of music

Previous chapters have introduced the background of music and discussed some ways of evaluating music in terms of the Christian ethic. This discussion is continued here.

Balance in melody, harmony and rhythm

Having understood the nature of these three aspects of music and the relationship between them an essential decision must be made in regard to the correctness of the relationship proposed in the earlier paper. There are no rules about music written down in Scripture. We are left to consider and test for ourselves each of the ideas presented and this might well be the best course to adopt with such an important subject. In the broad sense the need for a sincere heart and a mind that holds fast to the righteous balance between all the principles of music is the beginning of evaluation.

Other guidelines for evaluation

There are other things to consider besides music theory and the emotional effects of musical form and structure. The seemingly eternal questions of where does it come from; why is it here and where is it going applies readily to music as it does to the human condition. The final arbiter is always the Word of God and a general revision of all references to music in the Scriptures is a good place to start. So much contention could be avoided if all Christians remembered to measure their likes and dislikes by this eternal standard.


(John 3:6 NRSV) What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Music written by humankind always has its origin from both the flesh and the spirit. No person is perfect but it is likely that music that flows from the heart of a genuine believer will partake of Christian principles. The creativity of those outside the family of God is more open to the influence of fleshly thinking and humanistic ideas. The great masters of classical music, popular songwriters and any who create music are not free from the possibility of corruption from worldly influences Evaluation begins with this in mind. That which has its origin in the flesh will have the characteristics of the flesh and as such will appeal to the unregenerate among humankind.

(Rom 8:5-8 NRSV) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, [8] and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

The use of music in the church that has had its origin in corrupt and sensuous minds may well be far from wise and expose those young in the faith to spiritual danger.

Those who have the task of selecting and using music in the church need to turn to the great creator of music and keep His guidance before them when selecting the music for church purposes. God can inspire the saints to undreamed heights of creativity and beauty and there is no need to ape the music of the world system. Use of worldly/fleshly music in the church will bring its own unrighteous harvest.

(Gal 6:7-9 NRSV) Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. [8] If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. [9] So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.


An aspect of origins is found in identity. To use a well-known phrase it is more than where we come from but what we are “getting at” We hear the expression “where are you coming from? ” used to try and discern the identity of a new idea or person.

What social or emotional milieu, or what source group will the listener tend to identify or see as being represented by any piece of music? The individual reaction is often a clue, and some persons give their answer in an almost unconscious response. For example if music played in the church results in responses which centre the attention on the Lord that is the ideal but music with poor identity could direct the heart in quite another direction.

Styles of music are generally associated with something or someone. The church has a responsibility to use wisdom in the selecting and writing of music. Let us be sure it has an identity that will glorify God.

(2 Cor 6:17 NRSV) Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you,


Music is a form of communication. It speaks to the whole person. The question is; what is being said? The end product, the where and what is the response, the “what kind of fruit” are all vital measures as to its purity and holiness.

Music from a heart grounded in the Word of God and with a message provoking worship and glorification of God achieves musics eternal purpose (both words and music singularly and together).

(Col 3:16 NRSV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

This teaching is the exemplar of communication. The test of all hymns psalms and spiritual songs as seen here is the Word content. Is the message according to the Word of God? Does it admonish, teach and edify the church in holiness and righteousness as written in Scripture.

Nothing less is acceptable

Some steps in judging music and songs

1. Examine the lyrics: What kind of knowledge and ideas do the words convey? Does the message of the song minister edification? Do the words promote and encourage righteousness or sin, truth or error?

2. Examine the music: What type of emotions does the music communicate? Are these emotions godly? According to the word of God? Does the music minister to the spirit facilitating worship and edification, or does it minister to the flesh?

3. Examine the fruit: What kind of an example and image do the musicians set? Is their image and example in accordance with the word of God? What kind of fruit do the musicians bear? Are their followers’ holy and separate individuals, or are they worldly and carnal?

Music was created for the purpose of glorifying God. Music does this through altering man’s attitude, helping him express himself to God and become sensitive to call of the Holy Spirit. Music is a language that communicates emotions, just as words communicate knowledge. Music can convey godly or ungodly emotions. M

Music is not neutral as many assume. Finally, hard rock music, including some “Christian?” rock, can communicate sinful attitudes and emotions that lead to defilement.