The Bible is the basis and foundation of everything I believe. This is why I reference so much Scripture when I write about music. There are at least 500 verses in the Bible that refer to music. The Bible instructs believers to praise God, “In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). God also says in Psalm 40:3 to sing unto Him a “new song.”
In Christian music, it is indisputable that the lyrics ought to be biblically sound and edifying to the believer. There is no question here. However, it is also important that the music be biblical to communicate the lyrics properly. It is easier to evaluate if the lyrics are biblical than if the music is biblical. When you get into the music itself, the qualifying elements in regard to biblical standards are not as easy to determine.
We know from Scripture that everything a Christian does should be pleasing to the Lord. Although there are Scripture references regarding music that imply style, the Bible does not specifically name styles of music that are pleasing to Him or not pleasing to Him. Does the Bible instruct us about the topic of music? Yes. Does it quote all the specific styles of music through all the ages? No.
The same is true about dress. Does the Bible teach us about dress? Yes. Does it quote all the specific styles of all the centuries? Obviously not! The Bible does not attempt to teach about every music or dress style of every culture through the centuries since the Word of God was given. There are many choices Christians have to make in regard to what they do, see, wear, and hear that are not referred to specifically in the Bible.
I agree with John Makujina in his book A Christian Philosophy of Music when he says:
The Bible has not written to us a catalog of prohibitions, but, even though sometimes it can be very specific, it often guides our behavior based on larger principles, world views, and theology as a whole. For God to cover every sin of every culture specifically would require a book the size of the state of Texas. Notice that the Bible says nothing specifically about current sins such as plagiarism, or hijacking, or internet porn, or gambling. These are condemned, rather, under wider principles required of us, such as honesty and not stealing, love rather than hate, chastity rather than lust, stewardship and industriousness rather than greed.
The Bible is filled with principles by which we make applications to guide our lifestyle choices. In fact, most of the Christian life is application of biblical principles. I want to mention that although the Bible principles remain constant, our applications will not always be exactly the same. We cannot judge (form an opinion or conclusion about) the person whose application differs from ours, because we are instructed to, “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). But at the same time we are instructed to prove (demonstrate truth by evidence or argument) what is acceptable as we are, “The temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (2 Corinthians 6:16). I am not to judge those who listen to rock music, but I am to prove the music itself!
Unfortunately, sometimes standards are passed from mature Christians to young Christians without communicating the biblical principles that the standards have been founded on. It is desperately important that biblical principles be taught so that young Christians can see why the standards have been formed; and through diligence they can form their own standards.
A scripture that my Dad has used for over 40 years in his music lectures is Ephesians 5:10, “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” This principle takes on more meaning as you read it in its context:
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:1-11)
These words are strong and clear in their meaning. It stands to reason that in areas of separation where the Bible is not specific, the principles will be applied in different ways. But there still must be standards. There is a belief among some that when Paul says, “All things are lawful for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12), he is referring to all lifestyle choices. Can this be possible when God is so explicit about letting all fornication and all uncleanness not be named among us? Is Paul saying “pornography” is lawful for him? Paul must be saying that things which fall within the realm of God’s high standards for the Christian are lawful.
In a day when men attempt to make all truth relative, we must remember that the Bible is definitive about the way a Christian should live.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise…. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is…Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Ephesians 5:15, 17–19)
It is true that all Christians are individually responsible to God for their choices and are not to judge each other. But this does not mean Christians should remain silent about an area of life that could be harmful to other Christians. In fact, I believe God wants us as Christians to take a stand against worldly matters. The bottom line is that even when our boundaries vary, we agree that boundaries should be set when it comes to matters of godliness or sensuality and analyze very closely all we say and do. I don’t believe God teaches us to just make sure we don’t go off the deep end, and that all else is relative and just a matter of preference.
So what does the Bible say about music? Does the Bible say specifically, “Do not listen to rock music or use CCM to worship?” No, but there are principles that can and should be applied to guide us regarding our music choices. Will the applications be different? Yes, somewhat. They probably won’t be vastly different though if we both agree that standards should be drawn in our music. But they will be extremely different if we choose to believe that all music is morally pure for the Christian.
With music, as with all standards, I try to err on the safe side of pleasing God and try not to offend Him in any way. When He gives me a principle, I know the principle is important to Him, so I’d better carefully apply the principle, search out all I do, prove what is excellent, and be obedient to scriptural principles.