“Music is the vernacular of the human soul.”
This quote sums up one of the most misunderstood qualities of music. It is this property of music that has caused many people to underestimate its power including (sometimes especially!) Christians. This is a critical topic because the direction you choose to take with your music will set your life down a corresponding path.
Now don’t get me wrong, music is a wonderful thing. God created music and he intends for us to use it and enjoy it. However, some perspective might be in order. Consider the following verse:
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
This verse is telling us that not only has God created music, but that he made them specifically for his pleasure. Essentially, the purpose of music is to please God. Now of course the devil will take anything that God designed for good and promote his twisted version. Our job as Christians is to find out what music pleases God and incorporate that into our lives as a method of praise and worship both personally and in the church. This will be much easier to do after consulting with the ultimate guide, the Bible.
So what does the Bible have to say about music?
1. Music affects the spirit world
The very first thing that you must realize is that music is so much more than just the words. Good proof for this argument is the abundance of music that is widely available with no lyrics, and alternatively music can be enjoyed even if the lyrics are in a different language.
“Music is the universal language of mankind” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Bible includes many examples of how music was used to create some change in the spiritual world. One of the best examples of this occurs in I Samuel:
1Sa 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
In this example, the Bible is clear and explicitly states that when David played with his hand and evil spirit departed from Saul. David is renowned for his prolific song writing and the Psalms are a testament to this fact, however in this case the Bible is careful to mention that there were no lyrics. It was simply the music itself that caused the evil spirit to depart.
Another great example is found in 2 Kings:
2Ki 3:15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
In this example the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom were gathered together to go to war against Moab, but ran into some difficulty along the way and sought out the prophet Elisha for guidance. What is notable here is that Elisha specifically asked that a minstrel be played and as a direct result of that music the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha! Note that the Bible is clear that the minstrel simply played. There was no singing, but the music itself is what brought on the hand of God.
In these two examples we see that music was used to bring on God’s anointing and to drive away evil spirits. The next logical thought process is that if there is a certain kind of music that will drive away evil spirits then there must be a kind of music that will attract them. Later we’ll look at some specific ways to differentiate between these two types.
2. The Devil wants to use music
We know that God has designed music for a specific purpose. In Colossians, we’re told that one of the ways we are to use music is to teach and admonish.
Col 3:16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
It should come as no surprise that Satan himself wants to use music, but in a very different way. In fact, although the devil is quite good at tempting you in every area of your life, he is especially good at using music as his tool of destruction. Why is this? Consider the following verse.
Eze 28:13Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
In this passage, the Bible is referring to Lucifer before he fell from heaven. One of the key phrases in this verse is that tabrets and pipes are listed as two items that the devil was specifically created with. Satan’s was created for the purpose of playing music. It is this verse that has led me to believe that perhaps Lucifer was the song leader in heaven. At any rate, music is something the devil is especially good at and he will not hesitate to use to destroy lives.
Another verse that reinforces this idea is shown below.
Isa 14:11-12 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Imagine after the end of World War II when Hitler was finally defeated. It would not be unreasonable to say, “Hitler, you and your military are defeated!” Why? We could say this because military accomplishment was something that defined the man. In this example at the defeat of Lucifer, the only attribute we see mentioned is the noise of his viols! In short this verse is saying, “Lucifer, you and your music are defeated!” These two verses make it very plain that Satan is defined by music and it only makes sense to think that he will use it heavily during his time on earth lead people away from Christ.
So we know music is spiritual, and we know both God and Satan want to use music to their own ends. This must mean that there are two types of music – God’s music and Satan’s music. Notice that we haven’t even begun to say anything about the lyrics! So how do we distinguish which type of music is holy and which kind is satanic?
3. How do you discern between good and bad music?
This question deals with the skill of discerning between different types of music. This is where the rubber meets the road. When you listen to a song, which elements can you listen for to discern the spirit of the music? I suggest that you use the following principle to guide you. As you put this method into practice it will become easier and easier to distinguish between good and bad music. Also if you are living close to God, your conscience will also aid in making these decisions.
First you must understand that music is made of 3 separate parts. They are:
It is the proportion of these three elements that determines whether the music pleases God. Consider the following verse from Ephesians:
Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
The Bible is telling us that the melody of the song is the most important part and should play a dominant role in Christian music. In this verse, “melody” is linked to “spiritual songs” meaning that the melody will appeal to our spirit.
The next component of music is the harmony. This part of music appeals to our mind and intellect and gives the music richness and body.
The last part of music is the rhythm.
Exo 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
When Moses came back down from Mount Sinai, only to find that the Israelites had become backslidden and were worshipping idols he remarked that it sounded like the noise of war! The music of the backslider will be dominant in rhythm and this is true of all of Satan’s music. In God’s order, all three components should be prioritized in the following order:
God’s Music = Melody > Harmony > Rhythm
The Devil has reversed this and his music can be recognized in the reverse order.
Satan’s Music = Rhythm > Harmony > Melody
Rap music is an extreme example that illustrates the point nicely. It has absolutely no melody and is entirely rhythm! Most rock bands have a large emphasis on drums and rhythm guitar and melody is downplayed. There really should only be just enough rhythm in a song to keep it moving along. An addition of a backbeat is one of the key characteristics of a song that does meet these requirements. No song requires a backbeat.
The rock and roll community agrees with this very sentiment. Billy Joel once said,
“It’s got a back-beat you can’t lose it.”
Every time you hear a new song, evaluate the song and see which of these three elements is dominating the song. Listen for superfluous backbeats and rhythm that is added unnecessarily. These are markers for a song that does not please God.
4. What about the lyrics!
Lyrics are an important part of music but it is very easy to discern between the good and the bad in this area. Use the Philippians 4:8 test:
Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Another important point is that although it may not be wrong to have lyrics that are very simple, remember that one of the purposes of music is to teach and admonish. Songs should have good doctrinal messages in them. The best example of this is the book of Psalms. Many of the old hymns are rich in doctrine, while the newer songs that come out today are watered down “praise songs” that repeat the same words over and over.
5. What about CCM?
CCM is simply taking the music that the world listens to and adding “Christian” words. Since we know that it is the music itself that sends a message, this is obviously wrong. Even if somehow the music didn’t matter, we shouldn’t seek to pattern ourselves after the world.
2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
All things include the music to which we listen.
Psa 40:3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
When we become saved, we need to learn a new song and begin to enjoy the music that pleases God. CCM is a tool that the devil uses to steal the hearts of the young people in our churches. Many ignorant parents assume that because it’s “Christian” it’s ok.
Never underestimate the power that music can have in your personal walk with Christ. Many times the very first thing that will mark a backslider is their music. Use the Bible as a guide to discern between the good and the bad and remember to make sure the music you listen to emphasizes the parts of the song that pleases God.