As a follow-up to this previous question:

What is the biblical basis for singing in church?

Would worship be incomplete without song? Though their are examples of worship through song in the bible that doesn't necessarily mean to me that singing is a crucial component of worship.

Is it possible that it is entirely contextual?

For example, before the jukebox in bars we had drinking songs (aside: many of which have lent their tunes to the hymns churches sing today). That was just the standard form of communal entertainment at the time.

Maybe singing was just a convenient expression of communal worship in the early church and we've interpreted it to mean that we have to sing in every church service.

Does anyone see any flaws (biblically-based or otherwise) with this perspective?

P.S. I don't mean to rag on music. I happen to love the music in my church (so long as I can't hear myself sing :) ).

  • According to whom? there are various perspectives on what worship is and means. Is there one you'd like to hear from?
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:27
  • This is the tricky thing I've noticed about this site...I ask a question from my perspective wondering what other perspectives there are on the subject. I'd be interested to hear any perspective...I'm pretty sure SE doesn't limit the number of answers people provide.
    – user5154
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:31
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    @CCruz that's true, but the principal of Good Subjective, Bad Subjective outlined in that link suggests that there has to be some kind of narrowing convention to judge answers against. For the purpose of this site, every single answer would be equally correct.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:59
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    @CCruz: I think the idea is to encourage people to do some preliminary research before asking on C.SE. See, for example, this recent meta post, and the post from David Stratton linked in the comments. Doing some basic research first helps users formulate the best possible questions, and also helps avoid inadvertently asking LMGTFY-type questions. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 17:00
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    I've seen an interesting quote that's been attributed to Luther -- something to the effect that anyone who didn't like using music in worship was just plain evil (Luther tended to be very outspoken about his opinions). Apparently he also thought that the use of pipe organs in church was comparable to Baal worship, though I can't source the quote. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


From the Reformed Presbyterian perspective, I would say that the basis for all public worship (i.e., worship with the Lord's people on the Sabbath) is found in the Regulative Principle of Public Worship: all elements of pblic worship must have an express warrant in Scripture. Put another way, you can only do those things in public worship that God has expressly set down in Scripture. The basis for the Regulative Principle is the Second Commandment in Exodus 20:4-6 or Deuteronomy 5:8. I'll quote the first:

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Leviticus 10:1-2 shows how seriously God takes worship of Himself. It must be done His way. Now, I am not arguing, obviously, that God kills people who worship Him in unauthorized ways today. However, if something warranted the death penalty in the OT, I think we may infer that it's a bad idea, even in our time.

Now, contrary to some, I believe that the Regulative Principle does not end the matter, because now it becomes a question of "In Scripture, what has God commanded His people to do in public worship?" There are some (the Covenanters, dear brothers in Christ) who say that you should only sing Psalms in worship, and you should not use instruments (the so-called "exclusive psalmody, no-instruments position"). I am not of this view.

The practice of singing in public worship has express warrant in Scripture. Aside from a myriad of Psalms that command the people of God to sing praises to Him in worship, there are passages such as Colossians 3:16:

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The context of the phrase "singing psalms and hymns" is "teaching and admonishing one another", which can only realistically happen in the congregation. And there are other passages which command singing together.

Therefore, singing praises to God is considered an "element" of worship, to use the technical term often used in discussions of the Regulative Principle.


Allow me to answer this question via an illustration and another question.

Let's say there was someone who had an unhealthy emotional obsession with you. You tell your friends that you are concerned that this other person may even "worship the ground you walk on". Now, in this scenario, which of the following activities would make you more concerned that they worship you?

  • They sing you a song about how much they love you
  • They sing you a song about how how great you are
  • They spend a significant portion of their income, let's say 10%, buying gifts for you
  • They buy property on the town-common and erect a giant structure in your honor

That certainly is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. Clearly, all of these activities would be concerning, but I suspect some may be more concerning to you than others.

The Bible does not, itself, define what worship is. There are examples in scripture of people worshiping by singing, dancing, bowing, praising, and giving of gifts.

For instance, Genesis 24:26-27 shows an example of bowing and praising as a form of worship:

And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. And he said, "Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren."

And Matt. 2:1-2 describes how the wise men traveled to worship Jesus by giving him gifts:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."

Often we think of worship as being synonymous with music. Many churches even refer to the people leading the singing as the "worship leaders". Certainly music is a very common form of worship, but it is not the only one. I do not mean, nor intend, to denigrate music, as a form of worship, but we often forget that tithes/offerings and praise are also forms of worship.

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    Interesting scenarios, and an interesting answer, but it's not a great C.SE fit. We tend to look for more academic answers here, with references. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:54
  • I don't see how this is relevant to the question. (Sorry if you've missed the recent edits that I used to clarify the question). My question implies that song may not be necessary for worship. Clearly their are other ways to worship, but why do most (if not all) churches feel that they must include song?
    – user5154
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:55
  • @AdrianKeister Thanks for the input. I've been reading over some of the Q&A's trying to get a feel for what makes for good content on this site, so all pointers are welcome :) Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:56
  • @Steven: This is the place to go to find out about C.SE: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1927/…. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 17:39
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    @AdrianKeister Thanks again, very helpful info. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 17:51

Jesus said in John 4:22-23 "true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." Worship and praise extols God for His attributes and His actions (Revelation 4:8-11). Song is not a required mode for this, only spirit (in harmony with the Holy Spirit) and truth (in harmony with the word of God).

So you could have something like a cake baking worship session where you make cakes and cover them with praises to God for His attributes and actions, then give the cakes away or something. Or make praise pizzas (it's getting near lunch time- can you tell?) and give them to the homeless. Or make a mural that extols God and His virtues and portrays His actions and hang it up outside to praise God publicly. Run with it.

Just don't set something up where people are forbidden from singing; because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.