Music in the New Testament Church

6. The power of music

Consideration of the broad sweep of mankind’s musical endeavours and the effect this has upon the individual there is little that can be said against the notion that music has power. The slavish behaviour music fans can exhibit at all levels speaks of the power of music to dominate the souls of mankind

The results of man’s musical endeavours can be sometimes beneficial and in others they can be harmful in the extreme. Under the influence of righteous music mankind can be raised to greater heights of spiritual awareness and brought nearer to an expression of the greatness God had originally planned for his children. Under the influence of corrupt music a person can be brought down to a place far from his creator; a prey to vicious demoralising practises and into the hands of the Satanic.

Both these influences are evident in the history of mankind and are with us to this day.

Music and the emotions

The response of mankind to music is vitally linked to emotions. We hear music and an unbidden expression of emotion responds to its message. It seems almost a law of our being also, that we seek to find expression of our personal emotional needs, and music is a powerful medium for this expression. So from within and without we are effected by the power of music.

All emotions include either pleasure or pain. This is often expressed in rhythmic movement. Most people express impatience by tapping a foot or hand movement. Bending or bowing over as if in pain sometimes expresses sorrow. Some find rhythmic movement such as dancing an effective medium for the expression of joy, excitement, inner tension, etc.

Human emotions seek a vocal or physical expression. We feel we must do something. In particular the physical expression of emotions is the foundation of rhythm. The body desires to move rhythmically to express inner emotional states. In a similar way vocal expression of emotion leads to musical vocalising.

These resulting forms, music and rhythm, are closely linked in the expressing of emotional states and each can be a powerful channel for emotional expression.

Much that is beautiful, creative and sublime in human behaviour has as its mainspring intense emotion. Emotions used with the blessing of the divine hand of the Holy Spirit are forms of worship greatly to be desired.

A broad classification

a. Music which incites emotion.

People react to music through their emotions. We respond by changing inner states which touch us physically, psychologically or spiritually, be it for good or evil.

b. Music used to express emotion.

Love or hate, laughter or tears, faith or loss, and every emotion in the human soul can find expression through music and rhythm.

c. Music as a creator of pictures in the mind.

The peace of the forest, the raging storm, pictures of good or evil are all possible through music.

This simple classification will serve to help us make an evaluation of music by looking closely at the fruit it produces in the individuals emotional life. Do we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit expressed with purity and righteousness or is there evidence of the works of the flesh?

The positive effect of music

The use of music as a positive medium for benefit to the individual is well known in our society. Its use in therapy, welfare and social occasions has many beneficial uses.

  1. The use of stirring music in patriotic gatherings in the form of marches and anthems, The stirring of emotions to promote sacrifice and loyalty is well known all over the world.
  2. In factories and Super markets industrialists have found music a potent force to promote business and boost production.
  3. On the farm use of music helps in the production of milk and eggs by calming the animals and birds.
  4. Doctors and those helping the mentally ill use music extensively in healing and calming patients. Tests have suggested that suitable music can help in the problem of pain and suffering of many kinds.

The negative effect of music

In a negative sense we may also observe how music can be used to enslave and corrupt. Its power is a potent instrument in the hands of those who wish to assert mastery over others.

  1. African jungle music is an interesting example of the possibilities. In its native environment its use often brought about a stirring of emotion leading to warlike behaviour, orgiastic behaviour and in some extreme cases cannibalism.
  2. The rhythms involved in this “African” type led into todays rock music. While much has been argued about this heavy rhythm music, there can be no doubt that the rock scene is permeated with a negative influence leading to moral breakdown. Many of its practitioners are renowned for
  3. their involvement in drugs and improper sex behaviour. Jesus said that a tree would be known by its fruit??
  4. Chanting is also used as a medium of control. The repetition of mantras, sing-song chanting of formulas and self induced ecstatic states have musical undertones and are used in many eastern religions/cults to maintain control over the adherents mind state.

The power of spiritual songs

a. Break Spiritual Bondage.

I Samuel 16:23. Saul was in spiritual bondage to an evil spirit. David played an anointed song on his harp, and the evil spirit departed from Saul. “Anointed music caused the power of the enemy to be broken and bondage to be loosed. The same power of God accompanies spiritual songs not only sung but also those ministered on musical instruments without words. It is the “anointing” which breaks the yoke (Isa. 10:27).

b. Bring Spiritual Victories.

The promise is made that God’s people will sing new songs of victory to the Lord in times of trouble as they confront the enemy and will not suffer defeat, as did the Israelites. The Lord will “. . . break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely”. (Hosea 2:18). God has purposed victory and peace as we sing songs of victory.

c. Bring us Closer to the Lord.

Song of Solomon 2:12-14. This passage, speaking prophetically of the end time where the coming of the Bridegroom is anticipated, describes it as a “time of the singing” (2: 12). The cry of God’s heart is given, “let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice” (2:14). As we sing spiritual songs unto the Lord, our voice is sweet to Him.

Verse 14 then mentions the “secret of the stairs” of spiritual ascent to God. We discover the secret of spiritual ascent as we sing spiritual songs amidst God’s people.

d. Uplift the Defeated Spirit.

Psalms 25:1, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul”. When David was downcast, he began to sing songs of praise unto the Lord. Even when David did not feel like singing, he had disciplined his spirit to sing praise unto the Lord. The result was that his soul was spiritually uplifted.

Isaiah 61:3. Isaiah here speaks of our exchanging a “spirit of heaviness” for a “garment of praise”.

e. Bring the Presence and Glory of God.

II Chronicles 5:13-14. As the musicians and singers praised the Lord in song, the Temple was filled with the cloud of God’s glory. The priests could not minister because of the profound presence and glory of God. This was God’s response to the ministry of praise in His house. God’s presence is always associated with the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3).

f. Testify to others of the greatness of God.

Psalms 92:1-3. As the believer sings spiritual songs, the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord is shown forth to others (vs. 2). The testifying in song to God’s greatness was sung every morning and every night.

g. Quicken the Prophetic Word.

II Kings 3:11-16. King Jehoshaphat desired a prophetic word to give him direction. He inquired for a prophet (vs. 11 ), and Elisha was brought forward. Elisha sought for a minstrel to be brought to him so that he might be able to prophesy, “And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him” (vs. 15). The anointed music quickened the prophetic word to Elisha, then he prophesied the Word of the Lord.

I Samuel 10:5-6, 10. A company of prophets is seen as coming down a road, proceeded by those who played psalterys, tabrets, pipes, and harps. The result was that by the proceeding of anointed music, not only did the prophets prophesy, but also the spirit of prophecy came upon Saul, and he prophesied. It was the presence of anointed music that quickened the prophetic word to Saul and the prophets.

The anointing of God’s Spirit abides within His people (I John 2:27).

We need not wait for the anointing to “hit” us in the service to sing spiritual songs. One releases the anointing by faith.