“In Christ Alone” A Philosophy of Worship Music, Part 2

Larry BruceWorship CornerLeave a Comment

Sing a new song to the Lord ;
sing his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea with all that fills it,
you coasts and islands with your inhabitants.

Isaiah 42:10

If you have been reading these entries in the Monthly, you are familiar with my pursuit to make our gathered worship as full as possible with songs that praise God from whom all blessings indeed flow. From the trimming down to a concise library of songs for worship to now introducing new music, this task is something I do not take lightly. The charge is scriptural, and I lean on the words from St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesian church where he gives meaning to ministry: “to build up the church”.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-15

In all I do, I continue to ask myself, “does this build up the church?”

I thought I would try to over the next few months share something of a deep dive into why we sing the songs we have, and how I select new music for worship. Using the umbrella question above I’d like to begin with the consideration of Worship as Confession (or proclamation). In his Simplified Guide to Worshiping as Lutherans, Rev. James Waddell adequately explains that “What we speak and sing in worship proclaims openly to the world the truth of Christ as this is given in Scripture.” If false teaching or error creeps in through lyrics, then we find ourselves in the realm of idolatry and communicating a message other than the Gospel of Scripture (i.e. worshiping culture, comfort, prosperity).

As a first line of defense against worship that does not build up the church, I dive deep into song lyrics and the intent of the songwriter in communicating (confessing and proclaiming) the Gospel of Christ that comes from Scripture. Some songs, such as “In Christ Alone,” are obvious in declaring in beautiful melody how, “Till on that cross as Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied / For every sin on Him was laid / Here in the death of Christ I live.” Listen for yourself below.

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Unfortunately, some really good songs communicate a gospel that is a little more thin, leaving the worshiper hoping for something that Scripture does not promise. For instance, popular on Christian radio, Blessing Offor’s song, “Brighter Days,” proclaims that “I swear that love will find you in your pain / I feel it in me like the beating of life in my veins / I know there’s gonna be some brighter days.” Positive and encouraging, but does this build up the church? Without any mention of Jesus, or proclaiming His work for us, this is praise for false hopes in the present. Cancer isn’t always healed, dementia doesn’t go away, and the hope in Christ is for the eternity He won for us on the cross. That is our Gospel that we proclaim at Redeemer and is why the songs we sing communicate and proclaim what we believe about Jesus Christ.

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