Question #17: What about the other “songs” in the Bible? Is it ok to sing other inspired portions of Scripture?

Question #17: What about the other “songs” in the Bible? Is it ok to sing other inspired portions of Scripture?


22 thoughts on “Question #17: What about the other “songs” in the Bible? Is it ok to sing other inspired portions of Scripture?”


    VII. An objection answered. It is said that other songs than those contained in the Hebrew Psalter were sung in temple and in synagogue services. The late Dr. Edgar, of Belfast, in his little book, “Progressive Presbyterianism,” Prof. Heron, in “The Belfast Witness,” and Dr. D. F. Bonner, in the columns of “The Westminster” (Philadelphia), make much of this objection. They seem to attempt to make the impression that there was much of this extra-Psalter material used in the Old Testament Church. But when one takes his pencil and puts down all which any and all of them cite, he is surprised at the meagerness of the material over which they make so much. Here is the sum of their findings. On the Sabbath days, the two songs of Moses, contained respectively in Deuteronomy xxxii. and in Exodus xv., were chanted in addition to the Psalm service of the day. On this point Dr. Lightfoot, in his “Temple Service,” says: “On the Sabbaths themselves there was an additional sacrifice, according to the appointment. Num. xxviii. 9, 10. And at the time of this additional sacrifice the Levites sang Moses’ song, in Deut. xxxii., ‘Hear, O heavens, and I will speak,’ etc., but they sang it not all at one time, but divided it into six parts, and sang one part of it every Sabbath; and so in six Sabbath days they finished it, and began again. Thus did they at the additional morning sacrifice; and, at the evening sacrifice, they sang Moses’ song in Exodus xv.” This Dr. Lightfoot gives on the authority of Maimonides, in Tamid, cap. 6. The song of Habakkuk also was probably sung. This we infer from the superscription, though there is no account, either in Scripture or in the Talmud and Mishna, of its having been sung. Prof. Heron claims the songs of Hezekiah were sung. This claim is based on a line contained in Hezekiah’s song of thanksgiving composed on the occasion of his recovery from sickness:
    “Jehovah is ready to save me:

    Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments
    All the days of our life in the house of Jehovah.”
    (Isa. xxxviii. 20, R. V.)

    The Hebrew word here rendered “sing,” wherever it occurs in the Bible, except three times, is translated “stringed instruments.” The word rendered “we will sing” should be rendered “we will strike”; Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon gives no other meaning for it. The verse is properly translated:

    “Jehovah is ready to save me:
    Therefore my stringed instruments we will strike
    All the days of my life in the house of Jehovah.”

    Cheyne, Delitzsch, George Adam Smith, Orelli, Blake, the Cambridge Bible, the Encyclopedia Biblica, and, indeed, all modern commentators translate the verse as I have given it. Prof. Heron’s argument is based on what is certainly a mistranslation of this verse.

    Dr. Edgar gives eight extra-Biblical lines which he claims were sung as a doxology on the Day of Atonement. Dr. Edersheim quotes eleven extra-Biblical lines which he claims were sung in the temple service.

    It is significant that the evidence for the use of these nineteen lines of extra-Biblical material in the song service of the temple is so precarious that the great authorities refuse to make claim for their use. Dr. Lightfoot, the great authority on the temple service, says not a word about them in his monumental work, “The Temple Service,” though he set for himself the task of giving all that was connected with the subject, writing a book of more than two hundred pages on the subject, quoting the Talmud and Mishna, Maimonides, and all the Jewish authorities with great accuracy and fulness.

    Now what have we, on good authority, as having been sung in the service of the temple in addition to the Psalms? The two songs of Moses, and probably the song of Habakkuk—all three of them inspired material, and all found in the Bible. How much basis this little mite for the making of hymn-books of human composition for use in the worship of God! There might have been a dozen other inspired songs sung in the temple without affecting our position in the least. These songs of Moses and Habakkuk were inspired songs. Our claim is for an inspired Psalmody. We are not averse to the singing of inspired songs wherever found, such as the songs of Moses. We do not believe that they will ever be sung. The singing of inspired songs other than the Psalms has never been a practical question. It will never be a practical question, for there are less than a score of such songs in the entire Bible that could be sung. The raising of this question of the singing of inspired songs other than those found in the Psalter has always been a mere quibble. Those who have raised it have never attempted to have them sung. They have never desired to have them sung.

    Then the fact that from all the songs prepared by inspired men in Old Testament times one hundred and fifty were selected to form a manual of praise is indicative of the fact that divine wisdom has been exercised in the selection. This is significant. The Psalms were gathered into a book for the express purpose of making a manual of praise for use in the public and private worship of God. Everyone, so far as I have ever heard, who believes in an inspired Psalmody is perfectly satisfied with the selection that has been made by divine wisdom. Moses, Hannah, Habakkuk, Jonah, Hezekiah, and others wrote ‘songs, which for historical reasons were retained in their historical place in the Canon, but which were omitted from the permanent praise book of the Church for reasons which seemed good to the divine mind. Doubtless other inspired songs were written and, possibly, for a time sung by the Old Testament Church. For reasons which seemed good to divine wisdom these songs, if there were any, were omitted from both the Psalter and the Canon. Paul wrote epistles to the churches. All of these were inspired. Many of them have been included in the New Testament for permanent use. Others were not included, and are lost, this for reasons which seemed good to a superintending Providence. There are twenty-seven lost books quoted in one or other of the thirty-nine Old Testament books. Doubtless some of these were inspired, but none of these twenty-seven books were included in the Bible, for reasons which seemed good to the Holy Ghost. Habakkuk, doubtless, uttered other prophecies than those contained in his three chapters, and Obadiah others than those contained in the twenty-one verses in his one-chaptered book; but they are not bound up in the Bible. The fact that other Old Testament books and other of Paul’s inspired epistles were once used by the Church, but are not now in the Bible, gives the Church no sanction for making new books of Scripture. The fact that other inspired songs were once made, and possibly sung, gives the Church no authority to make other songs as substitutes for the Psalms of the Psalter.

    1. Quote:
      “The raising of this question of the singing of inspired songs other than those found in the Psalter has always been a mere quibble. Those who have raised it have never attempted to have them sung. They have never desired to have them sung.”

      I do not believe I raise this question as a quibble. I believe it is a legitimate and serious question. I do desire to have such songs sung and wonder why they are not.

      It seems to me that this question is crucial for EP, since it has such a direct bearing on what someone can or cannot sing in worship. If the 150 selections in the canonical Psalms are truly the exclusive songbook for God’s people, then someone must satisfactorily explain the clear examples of inspired songs sung by God’s people that are not found in such a manual. If however, God’s people are only limited to “inspired” songs, that covers a considerably broader range of material than the Psalms would.

  2. Welsh,

    I also don’t necessarily agree with the above statement that it is a quibble to ask about the other songs. I was adding the information for our discussion.

    I do agree that this is an important question. If I were attending a church where the Ten Commandments were sung, I would sing them as well. I would sing them because I don’t believe God would be offended by my offering of His Word in song. He is offended by the words of men replacing his own, especially when they are not authorized for holy worship. Ultimately, this should be the debate within our churches, whether or not to sing other portions of Scripture or just the Psalms themselves. How the uninspired works of men ever came to be placed upon the same level as God’s Word is beyond my understanding.

    Some Psalm singers would object to singing songs outside of the Psalms because they believe these texts were not meant to be sung. As a result we would be using God’s Word in an inappropriate way. I hold the view that the Psalms were intended for singing without question. I am not really sure about the rest, so I would avoid them in worship. However, I do realize that other able men have a slightly different view of which inspired texts are intended for worship. I would have a really hard time abstaining from singing God’s Word in worship. Considering the terrible state of worship in our age, I would want to give my encouragement to any church that looked to God’s Word for its worship song.

    The fact that some of these portions of Scripture were once used in some form of service to God is almost certain. What I and others are not sure of is whether or not these songs are still intended for Christian worship. We can find other good things in God’s Word that we would not use in worship, so I understand the exclusion of these texts so that we can focus on the Psalms alone. The Psalms are unique, the Psalms are inspired and there is no question that they were intended for our singing in worship.

  3. That’s a different take on it than I have heard from some people I personally know who hold to EP. The impression I had been getting from them on this question was that they viewed the Psalms as a “songbook” (by our more modern definition of the word) that had been handed down with the rest of our bibles. The problem I see with this line of thinking is that it anachronistically imposes a modern definition of “songbook” onto the ancient biblical text, as if the 150 Psalms were the only thing in the Bible that were set to music and therefore the only thing anyone could be capable of singing.

    An important piece of evidence to consider is that some of the other “songs” in Scripture are largely compilations of previous songs. For example, the “Song of Moses and the Lamb” in Revelation 15 is really a compilation of rearranged quotations or allusions to several Psalms, (Psalm 111:2; 139:4; 86:9-10; 98:1-2), but it also contains a reference to Jeremiah 10:7 (“Who will not fear you, O King of the Nations!”).

    If the Scripture does not authorize the singing of other inspired songs, then why are other inspired songs sung in Scripture? It seems like the practice of God’s people in the Scriptures should have greater authoritative bearing on today’s worship than post-biblical historical precedence would.

    I will agree that the Psalms possess a certain “uniqueness.” Their unique nature is such that they are the by far the most quoted OT passages by NT writers (both in terms of the number of quotes, and in terms of percentage accounting for the length of the book itself). However, the Psalms are not the ONLY book authoritatively quoted by NT writers. This piece of information seems to suggest that the Psalms have a primary but not necessarily exclusive role when it comes to inspired singing.


  4. Welsh,

    I also hold the view that the Book of Psalms is a “songbook” for our use in worship. The Hebrew title of the gathering of the Psalms is called tehillum or literally “praises”. Michael Bushell’s newest edition of Songs of Zion on pages 21-24 specifically defends the idea that the Psalms were used as a “songbook” in the worship of God.

    What I was defending above is the idea that a different argument is used to say “let’s sing anything in the Bible” vs. “Let’s sing anything we want”. The insistence upon inspired hymnody is a biblical hermeneutic that cannot be denied. It is the first line of argument, that only that which is given by God is worthy and approved for the offering up in worship. The second line of argument concerns the question “which inspired texts ought we to sing?”

    The proper line of questioning puts us with only the Bible on the table before us as a possible source of worship song. All other works fall away because these works do not meet the qualifications of use in worship, whereas the Bible itself does. Now that we have limited our worship song to biblical texts, the question is narrowed to which texts are to be used.

    As I stated above, I think there is some question about the use of Habakkuk and the Song of Moses in worship (while there is no question about the use of the Psalms). Although they are inspired texts, the fact that they are not included in the section of the completed canon of Scripture called “praises” makes me think that they are not. While they may once have been used, it is certainly possible that they are no longer for our use. This is not a giant leap in logic since there are many things that may seem appropriate for our use in worship that are not for our use today, i.e. musical instruments, choirs, etc. See also here Bushell’s description of the sensual nature of Old Testament worship in contrast to simplistic New Testament worship (pages 156-160). It would not be too hard to see our worship limited to only one portion of Scripture.

    Another point to consider is that many of the themes (and even portions of the texts themselves) are included in the completed Psalter [as you stated above]. Look at the Song of Moses itself and you will find many of the same phrases in one or more of the Psalms. Far from being an argument for singing other portions of Scripture, it seems to me that this “connection” bolsters our defense of the Psalms only in singing. In other words, it isn’t as though we are greatly deprived in some way by omitting the Song of Moses from our singing. The same type of reasoning is used by those who say we are depriving ourselves of singing the name of Jesus by only singing the Psalms. This is, of course, absurd since the name of our Lord is all throughout the Psalms. I think it would be counterintuitive to look at these other Scriptures as being necessary for our worship, as though the Psalms are somehow deficient without the inclusion of the other texts. The Psalms are combined together for a divine purpose and we ought to see them as complete.

    I think a host of other problems come along with seeing the Psalter as somehow being an inadequate collection for our worship song. It seems natural for me to think that God allowed some inspired songs for a limited time and others for use perpetually after the canon was complete. Again, this type of pattern is something we see over and over throughout the history of God’s dealing with His people.

    You asked “why are other inspired songs sung in Scripture?”. They could be present simply to show how the Psalms themselves were developed or how they are connected to the other portions of Scripture. They could also be recorded for historical reasons. Even if we do not know why they are recorded, our conclusion cannot be to say “they are in Scripture, so it must be that they are intended for singing”. This is the position that makes me a little uncomfortable.

    For example, I have been in churches where the Lord’s Prayer is set to music. This one is really tough for me! Here is my reasoning: The prayer was given as a model prayer for the disciples to use, it was not given to sing. However, it may have been sung at other times even by the Apostles themselves. Many of the Psalms are prayers that we sing. Is it always ok to sing prayers? I know that offering the Lord’s Prayer before the throne of God cannot be offensive to God, but what if I use it in an unlawful way? Faced with this dilemma in the past, I have routinely resorted to singing along with the rest of the congregation even though singing the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t flow with my theology regarding the exclusive use of the Psalms in worship. The fact that it confuses me presses me back to EP. With EP, I sing until the cows come home with no worries whatsoever. It pleases me that we have such a concern for the use of God’s Word that we are quibbling over the use of the Lord’s Prayer!

    Anyway, just a few thoughts…

  5. From The Psalms the Divinely Authorized and Exclusive Manual of Praise by James Kennedy (The Psalms in Worship by John McNaugher) pages 60-62

    “Ours is not a question as to what is the consensus of the Church; nor as to what is most effective and acceptable with the masses; nor is it primarily a question of inspiration and an inspired hymnology. Inspiration has an important bearing, and, as we hold, is an essential prerequisite to the making of songs of praise. Yet there are inspired songs in the Word that are not for the service of praise. Our question is narrowed down to this: What has God appointed to be sung in His worship? What is the will of God? We will endeavor to show that the Psalms contained in the Psalter are appointed to be the exclusive manual of praise. If we shall be able to show, first, a clear appointment for the Psalms, and, second, that no other songs have this appointment, we will have established our position.

    I. Were the Psalms authorized in the Old Testament worship? There are very few who deny such appointment.

    1. Praise in songs did not form a part of the regular worship of God’s people until the time of David, that golden age of the Theocracy. [Singing praise does not seem to have formed a part of Patriarchal worship except on certain great occasions that especially called for praise, when someone under the impulse of the Holy Spirit uttered a song to celebrate the event. We have instances of this in the songs of Moses, Miriam, Deborah, and others. These fugitive pieces were not for permanent use, and found no place in the authorized collection.] …

    The objection that songs outside the Psalter were used in God’s worship, as the songs of Moses, of Hezekiah, and of Habakkuk, is no sanction for singing extra-Biblical hymns. And if there were uninspired songs used at times, they are only exceptions and infractions that prove the rule. When United Presbyterian choirs sing anthems taken from other sources than the Psalter, it does not prove that we are not exclusively Psalm-singers. If it could be proved that there was no singing in the synagogue, which we deny, it would not invalidate this argument, for it would still be true that whatever singing of praise was practiced then, whether in the temple or at the Passover, these were the songs authorized for use.”

  6. From The Psalms in the Old Testament Church by Rev. J.D. Irons (The Psalms in Worship by John McNaugher) p 96-98

    “Not only does the Psalter fit every requirement of the praise service of the Old Testament Church, but it does so to the exclusion of all other songs. In all the history of the Jews, both sacred and profane, there is not the slightest trace of any other body of praise. It is true there are songs found in the Mishna and Talmud which purport to have been used by the Jews in their praise service, but there is no good evidence that these are earlier than the days of Christ, and even if they were earlier than His day and were used in connection with the Psalms, or even to their exclusion, their absence from the inspired Book is their condemnation. They are to be classed with the sacrifices offered in the days of the prophet Malachi, when they placed polluted bread upon God’s altar, and offered the torn and the lame and the sick for sacrifice. They are to be placed on a level with the traditions which received the severe condemnation of Christ because they made void the Law. These so-called songs of the Talmudic books compared to the songs of the Psalter are as the torn and the lame and the sick compared to the unblemished sacrificial lamb that God ordained.

    There is reason to believe that divine guidance extended not only to the composition of the songs of the Psalter, but also to their collection. We hold the Psalter to be inspired as to every song, that there cannot be a single uninspired ode within its number. To accomplish this result required divine guidance. Admit that the Psalter is wholly inspired, and there is no escape from the conclusion that its collection was supervised unerringly by God. What is excluded from the Psalter is evidence of this, as well as what is included. In the inscriptions of the Psalms there are two ascribed to Solomon. That these are Solomon’s is denied by some of the critics, but others who are equally scholarly say there is no good reason to call their Solomonic authorship in question. If they are genuine, then the care of selection is manifest, for Solomon wrote one thousand and five songs; yet out of all the number two only are selected for a place in the Psalter. At any rate, out of all the songs of Israel, numerous as they doubtless were, only one hundred and fifty appear in the sacred manual.

    Again, the evidence of divine guidance appears from the fact that there are some inspired songs in the Old Testament that do not find a place in the Psalter. The songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, and Habakkuk are songs of praise to God, yet they are not included in the volume of sacred song. If this were an oversight, then erring men compiled the Psalter, and if they erred in the omission, we have no assurance they did not err in making the collection, and consequently confidence in the inspiration of the Psalter is wrecked. If they did not err, then it follows that something more is needed than the inspiration of a song to entitle it to a place in the Psalter; it must have divine appointment.”

  7. From The Suitableness and Sufficiency of the Psalter for Christian Worship by John Henderson (The Psalms in Worship by John McNaugher) p 189-190

    “When God gave the Psalter, He did so in order to meet the needs of His worshiping people. Evidently the Psalter came to be what it is by a process of gradual growth, by the compilation, finally, out of the material at hand, of a collection for permanent employment by the Church as its matter of praise. It is not our contention that this Book contains all the songs that God ever gave for His people’s use in their approach to Him. It is quite possible, as alleged by some, that in the earlier history of divine worship by men there were songs given by God for temporary use, which, for good reasons, were not preserved in the collection we call the Psalter. This collection, which is the Hymnary of the Church Universal, is what it is, therefore, by the “survival of the fittest,” determined, not through natural, but supernatural, selection. The Psalter is therefore a development under divine supervision, as is the entire Bible, and at all stages in its development its full adaptation to the end designed must be taken for granted.”

  8. From The True Psalmody, the authors are quoting from John Taylor Pressly’s work A Review of Ralston’s Inquiry into the propriety of using an evangelical Psalmody in the worship of God (1848) found here on page 88

    “And it is a fact which deserves particular notice, that some of the songs contained in the Book of Psalms, are found likewise in other parts of the Bible. The eighteenth psalm is found in the Second Book of Samuel, and the ninetysixth, and the parts of some other psalms, are found in the Second Book of Chronicles. Other songs, such as the song of Moses at the Red Sea, the song of Deborah and Barak and others, found in different parts of the Bible, are not transferred to the Book of Psalms. And the question naturally arises, Why is this distinction made? Why are some of those songs, which are found in other parts of the Bible, introduced likewise into the Book of Psalms, while others have no place in that collection? I can conceive of no answer so satisfactory as this; that the Book of Psalms being designed for permanent use in the worship of God, those songs have a place in this book, which, in the estimation of Infinite Wisdom, were best adapted to the edification of the church in all ages.”

  9. I’m sorry Mark, but I don’t see this distinction clearly spelled out in the Bible. There is a big difference between arguing for inspired singing and arguing for “Psalms Only.” Where is the Scripture that demonstrates such a limitation? With so many examples of inspired songs other than the Psalms being sung in the Scripture, it seems like circular logic to simply dismiss these as being included “only for historical purposes.”

    I would add that history carries virtually no authoritative weight. Just because a group of worshippers sang “Psalms Only” to the exclusion of all other inspired songs does not mean that the bible teaches or even implies this as a necessity. Where is the justification for imposing a modern definition of a songbook onto an ancient canonical text?

  10. Welsh,

    Our exclusion of the other “songs” of Scripture is because they are not a part of a group of clearly defined songs authorized for singing. The same zeal we have for the Psalms in singing cannot by necessity be applied to the others songs, simply because they do not bear the stamp of approval that the Psalms are emblazoned with. There will always be uncertainty over those songs outside of the Psalter. This seems to me to be reason enough to omit them from our singing in worship. But the omission should not be a great source of difficulty for you or anyone else, because we are singing many of the same phrases [mentioned above] in the text of the Psalms. We also are quite comfortable with omitting things from worship since we are governed by the RPW. As I will state below, we do not approach these other songs with the certainty with which we approach the Psalms.

    A couple of points to note:

    1) The other songs were clearly used in some fashion before the canon of Scripture was complete. This is a very strong point to consider in the question we are examining. During the time of the formation of the Old and New Testaments it was common to receive new revelations from God. Revelation was by implication not limited to the written text that we know today as the Bible. This is important because revelation could come from any apparent source, i.e., the mouth of a donkey or a sinful king. Now we would not expect this type of revelation because the canon is complete. This matters because the principle is established that songs that were scattered and used in pre-canonical times from various sources may not be the songs that are intended for use once the Book of Psalms is completed. Now we believe the completion and limitation of the Psalms is a critical measuring rod for New Testament worship. The fact that the other songs are outside of the Psalter should command our attention. Why are they not within the book labeled as “Praises”?

    Granted, the songs outside of the Psalter are still inspired. This is so very important [and why I am tempted to sing them when the opportunity arises] but we must consider their original intent and whether or not our (good) desire to use only inspired texts simply isn’t specific enough for determining what we sing in worship. There is another test to put upon the song, that test is to determine its intent and who is supposed to use it, when is it supposed be used and by whom is it to be used? If we don’t know the answer to these questions, how can we authorize them for use in worship? Remember, we do know the answer to these questions when we approach the Psalms. This is a crucial line of distinction to draw between the Psalms and the Song of Moses.

    2) We do not necessarily know the use of some of the songs in question. What was their purpose? Simply because they were recorded for posterity does not mean they are for our use. I think this is a point that is missed by those who want to sing every text that might be a song in the Bible. Just because a prayer, a song or an event is recorded in Scripture does not mean that that portion of text is for our use in the same way it was given to its original recipients.

    Welsh, I understand your position and I am certainly sympathetic to it. This question is not one that I think we can answer with complete authority. I do, however, think that we have cleared the highest hurdle in the debate over worship song, that being the distinction between inspired texts and uninspired texts. As I have stated, I am not sure that I am ready to get all bent out of shape over my brethren who want to sing other inspired songs in the Bible. I am comfortable with the label of Exclusive Psalmody because I know that the Psalms are ok to sing, of that there is no debate.

  11. I think I understand a little bit more where you are coming from. However, I have a couple more thoughts.

    If everything you’ve said is true, I would be extremely uncomfortable adopting the label “Exclusive Psalmody.” Maybe this is just a semantics thing, but it seems that there’s a big difference between saying that the Psalms are “ok to sing” and saying that they are the only source of legitimate Christian liturgy. I haven’t spoken to a single Christian about this yet who objects to the singing of the Psalms. What I have heard objections to is the notion that Psalms should be sung to the exclusion of everything else, including every other inspired song. Yet you say this is a matter of “uncertainty” and that we cannot answer the question with “complete authority.” If we cannot do such, where is the justification for restricting the worship of God’s people in such a way?

    As to the “intent” of the songs, it is clear from Deuteronomy 31:19-22 that the Song of Moses was intended to be sung by Israel as a “witness” against them. There does not appear to be any basis for this “intent” becoming obsolete upon the closure of the OT canon. At the same time, this “Song of Moses” was not included in the book of “Psalms.” It logically follows that if A) The song of Moses was commanded to be sung by Israel as a nation, and B) the Song of Moses is not in the Psalter, then C) the Psalter could not have been the exclusive manual for Israel’s praise, closed canon or none. There is also nothing implicit in the changeover from OT to NT that suggests that the Song of Moses should be abandoned as a practice, especially since Paul still uses it in Romans 10 as a witness against the Jews–this time of their rejection of the gospel.

  12. The “second Song of Moses” (Deuteronomy 32) was not given, even in its original context, as a worship song, but as a song of warning to the children of Israel. It was not given to be “sung to the Lord” but as stated in Deuteronomy 31.19-22 as a witness of the Lord speaking to His people, against them. It is clear from the Lord’s stated use of this song that it was never intended by Him to be a song “vertically oriented” that is, going up to Him as an offering of the lips (Hebrews 13.15) but a song of witness and warning from Him to His people. I agree that the song has continued relevance not only for OT Israel, but for all those who, after calling upon the Name of the Lord, forsake Him for other gods, be they the idols of some other religion, mammon, etc.

  13. Welsh,

    One point of clarification, when I spoke of uncertainty I was speaking about the use of the “song of Moses”, not the Psalms themselves. Since the song of Moses has a use that is not the same as the Psalms [as Rev. Ruddell has stated above] it would be against the Regulative Principle of Worship to press a song into a worship service that is not intended for worship. Just because a song exists in Scripture does not mean it is intended for our use. If a case could be made for the use of the Song of Moses, there is still an element of uncertainty surrounding it. Again, we do not have this problem when we [properly] restrict our song to the Psalms themselves.

  14. Whether something is “vertically” or “horizontally” oriented is irrelevant. The Psalms contain several selections that appear to be more “horizontal” than “vertical,” yet no one denies they are of use for worship because they are inspired. The same would be true of the Song of Moses, except for the fact that some have decided ahead of time to go ahead and restrict the definition of “worship” to the book of Psalms. Where is the justification for such a restriction?

    This is starting to look dangerously like a circular discussion. To recap:
    “We can’t know if the Song of Moses is appropriate for worship. Therefore we should be safe and sing Psalms only.”
    “But Israel clearly sang it on a regular basis as a command from God.”
    “Yes, but that wasn’t ‘worship,’ because it was not in the Psalms.”
    So we know only the “Psalms” can be used for worship, because we can’t know whether other songs were used for worship at all, because those other inspired songs are not in the “Psalms.” Is this circular reasoning? Where is the justification for such a restriction?

    Never mind the fact that Paul said to “Let the word of Christ dwell within you richly, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16). Now am I to believe that by “word of Christ,” Paul actually does not have in mind any words that Christ spoke, but instead ONLY the OT book of psalms? When did the “Word of Christ” cease to at least include the words of Christ? Where is the justification for such a restriction?

    If there is not a more concrete and biblical answer than, “We can’t know the intent of those other inspired songs,” then I’m afraid the restriction from “Scripture Only” to “Psalms Only” is thoroughly unwarranted from a biblical perspective. Unless I have missed something, the bible nowhere gives any hint of an indication that inspired songs are to be arbitrarily distinguished between “worship” and “not worship.”

  15. Welsh,

    I can understand your wrestling with our reasoning here, but I think the argument presented by EP is solid. If we are following the RPW we can only use what God has authorized in worship. To continue this reasoning, it would mean that even God’s Word should be used as it was intended. Why is this particular point so difficult to embrace? Would we want to pray the prayer of Nebuchadnezzar or sing the words spoken by Balaam’s donkey? Would we sing the genealogys of Scripture or the creation account in Genesis? It seems most likely that we would say no to these questions because our discussion revolves around those portions of Scripture labeled as “songs”. Is it so illogical to conclude that even certain songs have certain uses?

    I think this discussion is so very helpful because we are being forced to examine how we use God’s Word. Even if our ultimate conclusion is that the EP position is too restrictive, we will be forced to come to that conclusion through the principles of the RPW. It is my belief, however, that the RPW will drive a person to Psalms alone because God in his perfect sovereignty has gathered them into a collection for our singing, a place where the Song of Moses does not find a home.

    Being inspired isn’t good enough for worship. It has to be what God wants to hear.

  16. Depending on the piece of scripture. I have never heard of a song in the bible that doesn’t. You have to be careful with song of Solomon as the context of those poems are highly erotic and explains SOLOMON’S love to HIS beloved. Many mis-interpret this as God’s love for us which is not what the book is about at all. If I found other pieces of scripure that corroborated with this theological hiccup that I’ve seen a lot of I would not feel sonstrongly about what I just said. Things that help establish corporate music/songs for worship.

    #1 Does this honor God? If the answer is yes you have something to begin with
    #2 Does this clearly have the Christian creed in it? If yes then you have done very well so far.
    #3 Is it biblically sound ad or accurate?
    • This is the biggest fault I have seen in many songs. The tune is great and so is intent but scripturally it does not measure up with how accurate it is when tested by God’s word.
    #4 Singability.
    • Sometimes we make songs too wordy and too musically complex. When making something that we wish to be sung corporately keeping it simple makes for great results.

    These are four things that I’ve listed that I can confidently rely on while songwriting in honor of your God, our lord, and our Saviour. May the lord bless you.

  17. I’ve been thinking about the “Inspired Songs” position recently. I may post a thread on the PB too at some point concerning this. But for now, I notice that Paul says to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Thus, doesn’t that authorize us to sing other portions of Scripture that are labeled “songs” and are clearly “spiritual” (e.g., the Song of Moses and the Lamb)? Similarly with “hymns”? Granted, exegetically, suppose Paul was referring to the Psalter; but we do acknowledge canonical process in the Scripture (and indeed, such an acknowledgement is required to arrive at EP), so couldn’t Paul’s words also apply to those other portions of Scripture labeled as “songs” and “hymns”? Also granted, such “songs” or “hymns” may not look like they were intended to be sung by the Church, but my argument is that Paul’s words give that intent for anything that purports to be a “song” or “hymn” that is also clearly “spiritual”. The Psalms definitely purport themselves to be “songs”, “hymns”, and “psalms,” but there are other portions of Scripture that purport themselves to be one term or another.

    Just some wondering out loud. I don’t think I’ll leave the EP position for IP anytime soon, because of all the other strong evidence EP has, but it is good to consider these sorts of things.

  18. Steve,

    Those are good points to make in this discussion. As to whether or not Paul could be referring to other canonical songs in the phrase “Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”, I suppose it is possible.

    It seems to me, however, that his including these three things together is most clearly a reference to the titles of the Psalms. I would also add that the phrase used by Paul does not give us a blanket statement to use all biblical songs in worship, because it would seem that some songs were never intended to be used in worship. Paul’s phrase doesn’t transform the former non-worship songs into worship songs. For example, it doesn’t appear to me that the Song of Moses is given in the context of worship. Notice also, that even though the SoM is not a worship song, it contains worshipful phrases that are later repeated in the (authorized) Psalms themselves. So, in effect, we are singing the SoM, though in a proper and more formal way.

  19. Oh sorry! I was referring to the Song of Moses and the Lamb of Revelation 15 in my post; not the Song of Moses in Exodus 15.

    I’m not sure why Paul’s phrase doesn’t transform songs that do not appear to be intended as worship songs into worship songs. Clearly, the songs must be “songs”, as Paul’s phrase states. Clearly also, the “songs” must be of a “spiritual” quality, which rules out just picking anything that labels itself a “song.” Perhaps an example will help clear up my line of argument: When we argue that Paul’s phrase refers to the Book of Psalms, we note that the Book of Psalms purports itself to be (and is labeled as such by the Bible outside the Psalter) the sorts of compositions Paul mentions. We also note various other identifications within Ephesians and Colossians (like, we note that whatever Paul is referring to is Spirit-inspired, and is Messianic cause the “word of Christ”). From there, we conclude that only the Book of Psalms has all these qualities, so that must be what Paul is referring to.

    My argument (though it actually appears I have two arguments) is that there may be other songs in Scripture that fit these qualities–in particular, being labeled a “song” or a “hymn” (though interestingly, usually other Scripture songs are labeled “songs”). Though Paul may have originally only have been referring to the Book of Psalms in his writing, we acknowledge a canonical process, so it is possible to apply his words to singing songs outside the Book of Psalms. For example, when Paul talks to Timothy about Scripture, though he was referring to OT Scripture at the time (since nothing else was existent), we acknowledge that what Paul tells Timothy about Scripture applies to anything that has the quality of Scripture, and so we know that such is true of NT Scripture that had not been written yet at the time. This argument from canonical process works especially well for stuff like the Song of Moses and the Lamb, which had not been written yet, yet seems to have the qualities of the songs that Paul tells the Ephesians and Colossians to sing. Though when we look at the context of Revelation that such a song was indeed (presumably) an approved example but it is not clear whether such was intended as a worship song for the Church to sing, we note that the qualities of the song fit Paul’s words and so conclude that Paul had authorized the singing of that song.

    That was my first argument. It appears my second argument took the idea of canoncial process and either worked backward (hence allowing other songs in Scripture that fit Paul’s phrase), or argued that Paul’s phrase was not referring to the Book of Psalms only, because there are other songs in Scripture that have the qualities Paul mentions (namely, they are of inspired quality, are Messianic, and purport themselves to be “songs”). I’m not sure which of those arguments I was making: it’s possible I was making both (in which case, I had three arguments).

    So now returning to where I started: Why doesn’t Paul’s phrase turn these songs that do not seem they were intended to be sung by the Church into songs that are supposed to be sung by the Church? It seems something takes priority: The context the songs were given in, or Paul’s phrase. Why choose one to take priority over the other?

    One way to defeat the argument I have given, is similar to what you’ve mentioned: that the three terms must be taken together. Thus, it is not merely something that purports itself to be a song of inspired quality, but also a hymn, and not only a hymn, but also a psalm that we must sing. Why must the three terms be taken together? And if they must be taken together, it seems there are some psalms that do not purport themselves to be all three.

    I hope that in my answer I have not missed something important in what you have said.

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