Is All Christian Music Considered Worship?
By Annette Griffin, Crosswalk.com
All humans worship. We can’t help it. Each of us is equipped for adoration the moment the Creator knits our inward parts together and leaves His fingerprints on our DNA (Psalm 51:6). Even when our ignorant or hardened hearts refuse to acknowledge the rightful recipient of our worship, our souls still demand an outlet; that’s how idolatry is born.
But even if the Almighty had never breathed life into humanity, worship would still exist. The heavens declare, the sky proclaims, the rocks cry out, the trees clap, and the waters roar—all for Him. Why? Because God’s glory deserves and drives true worship.
What Does it Mean to Worship ‘in Spirit and in Truth’?
True worship is the all-consuming byproduct of seeing God for who He truly is.
When speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus informed her that, “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.” What did He mean by that? What had hindered Spirit-led, truthful worship up to that point? The answer is as old as time.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve had no need for an instructional guide to show them how, when, why, where, and who to worship. They walked with God daily. They knew Him. They heard Him. God’s presence was so constant in the Garden of Eden, that the first couple felt the need to physically hide from God after they had sinned (Genesis 3:8).
Genesis mentions no rituals or religious requirements for worship prior to the fall because Adam and Eve had an acute awareness of God’s glory, through the privilege of His very near presence. They were His offspring. He was literally the reason they “lived, moved, and had their being.” Worship was inevitable, given Adam and Eve’s first-hand knowledge of God’s splendor, beauty, and matchless worth.
But when Satan launched a smear campaign against God’s character, the deception took root in Adam and Eve’s hearts. Spiritual darkness quenched the light of their knowledge of God, and sin thrust humanity from God’s Holy presence.
When sin estranged God from humanity, worship became complicated. Blood sacrifices, rules, and regulations were established to grant temporary access, but worshipping Him in ‘Spirit and in truth’ was impossible. How can you authentically worship someone you don’t know? And how can sinful man ever know an “unknowable God,” whose Holiness demands perfection?
Even after God initiated a temporary plan of atonement through the Old Covenant law, only a select few were permitted to experience God’s glory or enter the Holy of Holies. But soon all that would change (Hebrews 9).
Jesus’s death on the cross tore the veil that had kept humanity at bay from God ever since Adam and Eve’s sin. When we accept Him as our Savior “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory” is restored to every Believer (2 Corinthians 4:6).
What does this have to do with worship? Everything!
We can now worship God in “Spirit and in Truth,” (John 4:21-23) because Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” He is the Spirit, and He is the truth. Through Him, our sight is restored and we can once again enjoy fellowship with God.
When our unveiled eyes are fixed on Jesus, our innate drive to worship finds its rightful home. Our heart, body, will, and life falls prostrate under the Holy weight of God’s glory. And from the overflow—our mouth testifies. This is true worship (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Polina Panna
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
Worship is a lifestyle for born-again Believers. But for the remainder of this article, we’ll focus on one aspect of worship, as it relates to our musical response to God’s revealed glory.
Something about lyrics set to melody must please our Heavenly Father because He places a huge emphasis on musical worship in scripture. God provided detailed instruction and special provisions for the Levite music ministers (1 Chronicles). He gave us a whole book of worshipful Psalms for meditation and reflection. He made sure scripture included the sacred deliverance songs of His people (Ex 15:1-21, 1 Sam 18:6-7, Judges 11:34). And the most significant event in the history of the universe was heralded by multiple singers (Luke 1:68-79, Luke 1:46-55, Luke 2:29-32). Songs are important to God.
Ephesians 5:18, tells us that songs should be important to us too. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”
Psalms are a collection of Holy Spirit-inspired songs that originate from the Book of Psalms in the Bible. With a central theme of worship, these songs help Christians see God’s sovereignty, mercy, grace, and provision through the lens of ancient Jewish leaders like David, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and the sons of Korah.
Hymns are worshipful human-created songs that inspire praise, admiration, and gratitude. The lyrics often contain doctrine or scripture that points to the divine attributes of God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn together after the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30).
Spiritual Songs offer a more general expression of faith. These songs can include testimonies, spiritual observations, exhortations, encouragement, or praiseworthy faith narratives. The Israelites testified to their deliverance from Egypt with a spiritual song (Exodus 15).
Any song that is grounded in truth and points to the greatness of God can be edifying to a Believer if our focus is right. But worship is different. When we keep in mind that musical worship, like all worship, is an outward expression of the inward revelation of God’s glory, our worship style takes a back seat to the condition of our heart.
Perhaps that’s why Paul begins his musical instruction to Believers with, “Be filled with the Spirit,” and ends with this final thought, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19).
Is All Christian Music Considered Worship?
Some of today’s Christian music may seem worshipful in tone and sentiment, but it’s important to examine the message before we choose a song to pour out our worship to God. Here are three simple questions to help you determine if a Christian song should wear a worship label:
1. Is the song grounded in truth? Do any of the lyrics stand contrary to the Word of God? This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. If our musical worship is to reflect the overflow of Spirit and Truth living inside us, it must resonate with the truth on our lips (Psalm 19:14). True worship echoes God’s own words.
2. Who is the hero of the song? Some Christian songs spend so much time recounting personal spiritual victories that they neglect to identify the Victor. When the hero of a song is anyone other than God, it’s not a worship song—it’s secular at best and idolatrous at worst. Testimony songs are great as long as the central focus is on what God has done. Not on what any human did—or can do—with God as their sidekick (Matthew 5:16). God is the central theme of true worship.
3. To whom are you singing? Worship belongs to God alone. Not only should worship songs reflect God’s truth and proclaim who He is, but they should also be directed to God. Songs that encourage us and other Christians in our spiritual walk are edifying and useful, but they can’t technically be classified as “worship.” True Musical worship is seeing God for who He is—then using music to tell Him what we see and what it means to us.
What Can a Worship Team Do to Lead Others into True Worship?
Show us Jesus. Just show us Jesus. He will cleanse. He will prepare. His Spirit will lead.
What if … we forget the laser lights and instead rely on The Light of the world to capture our attention? What if … we ditch the smoke machines and de-fog our cluttered brains so that the authentic smoke (Exodus 40:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14) of God’s glory could fill His house? What if … we reserve the motivational speeches for TED Talks, and allow The Word to speak our hearts? What if … seekers and Believers really just want to see the One our souls have always longed to worship?
Please, cancel the show—just show us Jesus. True worship is the all-consuming byproduct of seeing God for who He truly is (Revelation 5).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/FTiare
Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.