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Question #98

Can we use notes and words not from the Bible in our singing?

Could you direct me to scripture that allows us to put musical notes to songs or to use songs that are not found in scripture.

The Answer:

Whether on the part of this inquirer or on the part of another who asked this inquirer, this question is often asked by those who wish to justify the use of mechanical instruments in worship. More likely than not, the originator of the inquiry knows that there is no verse of scripture that overtly speaks to the use of musical notes to songs or the use of songs that are not found in scripture. However, that does not mean that the use of musical notes or the use of words not found in scripture is sinful.

When God gives a command, everything that is necessary or essential to carrying out that command is authorized. If that were not the case the command could not be obeyed. God has commanded singing in worship. Musical notes are necessary and essential to singing; therefore, the use of musical notes is authorized. Words are necessary and essential to singing; therefore, the use of words is authorized. Mechanical instruments are not necessary and essential to singing; therefore, the use of mechanical instruments is not authorized. For centuries worship was acapella (as in the chapel), clearly establishing that singing can and has been done without mechanical instruments, clearly establishing that mechanical instruments are not necessary and essential. For more information on the Biblical teaching and history of music in worship, see Questions 7 and 35 on this website.

Since the use of musical notes and words is necessary and essential to obey God’s command to sing, the question then becomes whether it is sinful (a transgression of God’s command or law) to write them down. Certainly it makes no sense that their use is authorized but their recordation is written form is sinful.

The final issue is whether it violates scripture to use words that are not found in scripture. The answer to that question must also be “no,” with one caveat. No one contends that worship is study of God’s word (often called a “sermon”) is limited to the use of words found in scripture (by which I assume the inquirer means words taken directly from scripture in the same arrangement, i.e., the reading of scripture). In fact, if we must use the exact Biblical words as found therein, would we not by the same logic also be limited to the Greek? HOWEVER, IN NEITHER SERMON NOR SONG IS THE USE OF WORDS THAT TEACH THINGS CONTRARY TO SCRIPTURE JUSTIFIED OR AUTHORIZED. In worship in song we teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). ALL TEACHING, WHETHER SPOKEN OR SUNG, MUST BE IN HARMONY WITH GOD’S WORD.

Illustrative of this principle is the use of church buildings. When God commanded worship, that command necessitated a place of worship. God did not command a specific place or type of facility where that worship should be conducted. Therefore, the use of a church building as a place of worship is authorized. Worship has also been conducted in homes, fraternal halls, and school buildings as well.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)