Singing the Name of Jesus
[This letter was written in October, 1999, to members of our church who live in another town and attend a Psalm-only church from time to time. It was revised slightly to fit this format.]
Dear M_____ and K______
Exclusive Psalmody is not an expression of obedience to the Regulative Principle, but is in fact a violation of it because it forbids the name of Jesus in our songs. Music is central to worship, and the RP requires that nothing that is commanded in Scripture is to be forbidden.
When only the Psalms are permitted, then the content of the rest of Scripture is excluded from our songs, and our music is deprived of much of the Word of God. How dare anyone forbid the church to sing of her Redeemer, to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving “unto Him who has loved us and washed us from sin”!
Psalm 138 is a great Messianic Psalm that speaks of all the kings of the earth that will “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear “the words of thy mouth.” The spreading of the Gospel will be the occasion of “worship toward thy holy temple..., for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” This prophecy is fulfilled in Gospel days, and results in singing of the gospel “ways of the Lord.” Paul did not require the Gentiles to become Jews, and didn't require Jewish worship.
The Ideas are Inspired.
Not only are the words of Scripture inspired, but the Scripture in all its parts, including the ideas. (Verbal and Plenary) To say that the Psalms are the only inspired hymns is to deny that the content, or the ideas, of the rest of Scripture is inspired. We insist on Verbal Inspiration, but we also believe in Plenary Inspiration. To deny inspiration to the ideas of Scripture is to deny Scripture. When I sing of being washed in the blood of Jesus, although the words are not inspired, yet the content is. In fact, Paul tells us that we are just beating the air if our words do not carry signification (I Corinthians 12)
The Gospel is the Gospel, even if it be spoken in English, in Spanish, or in Zulu. The idea that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and the Way, the Truth and the Life is revealed truth and will save the soul even if not spoken according to the exact words of Scripture. Thus, when we sing such things, we are singing revealed, inspired truth. Although we reserve the idea of verbal inspiration to the original Hebrew and Greek, it is not true to say that the ideas are not God's word because they are spoken or sung in English. How can it be sinful to sing in church that Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so?
This heresy involves people in all kinds of contradictions. They preach in their own words, they witness in their own words, they pray in their own words--they just forbid people to sing in their own words. This is a bondage that they impose on the people of God, contrary to the Regulative Principle, which forbids us to forbid what God has commanded.
We have been commanded to lift our souls to the Lord and praise Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Singing the Name of Jesus
Romans 15:9 says that the Gentiles were to “sing unto the name of Jesus.” Romans 15:16 says that Paul ministered to the Gentiles that “the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable.” It is wrong not only to circumcise the Gentiles and force them to live as the Jews did, but it is also sinful to force the Gentiles to offer up Jewish sacrifices that omit the name of Jesus.
True sacrifices are from the heart and are verbal, spiritual sacrifices which alone are acceptable to God. It is simply wrong to truncate such sacrifices to make them conform to a Jewish model. How could “Moab is my washpot” be preferable to “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain”? Both are inspired Scripture.
In I Corinthians 14, Paul says that we are to “sing with the understanding” for the edification of the church. Just as we are to pray with the understanding, and preach with the understanding, so we are also to sing with the understanding, for the purpose of convincing the unlearned (vs. 23). If the gospel cannot be sung with gospel clarity, then what good is singing in the church? Will they not say we are mad?
Colossians 3:16 says that our singing is to be with
grace, because of the Word of Christ that dwells in us. Are only the Psalms the
Word of Christ? Can't we sing, “Come
unto me,” and “God so loved the world,” and “Blessed be the Fountain of
Blood”? Is the Word of Christ to dwell
in us in the first of the verse, but not to be sung according to the end of the
sung in private where it will not be an offence to God in the church? How dare these people impose such chains upon worship?
Verse 17 says that everything is to be done in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father, by Him. Is our singing excluded from the Name of Jesus? Must we muzzle our hearts, stuff our mouths full of the Psalter, and pretend that the church is not the house that Jesus presides over as a Son in His own right, and use the forms and customs of the house of Moses? (Heb. 3). [Might I say here, that I love the Psalms and at least half of the singing at Trinity Covenant Church is taken from the Psalms.]
Hebrews 2:11 and Psalm 22
Heb. 2:11 says that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Psalm 22, and that Jesus will sing the praises of God in the church. He came to “declare the Name of God” to His brethren. To declare the name of God is to display His attributes and identity. Are we to pretend in our singing that Jesus is not God, and refuse to sing about Him by name? The idea is absurd.
The saints in Revelation 15:3 sing both the song of
Moses and the Song of the Lamb. If we sing only the song of Moses, then in our music we are claiming that the
Lamb has no song, that joy and gladness is only the gladness of those who wait
for the bridegroom, not the joy of the
bride, who is married and has consummate joy.
That is a message that is repugnant to the Gospel.
M____ and K____, I know that it is difficult for you, where heresy is a distinctive of the church. Do not yield to the heresy. Continue in sweetness to bear witness, and love and do good to the saints, for there are certainly saints there. Refuse to allow the heresy to drive a wedge between you and the saints, but do not yield to the error.
The error is a Jewish one, but deadly none-the-less. It is rejected by the vast majority of Presbyterians and was rejected by the OPC many years ago. It is good to sing the Psalms it is evil to forbid the church to sing the message of the New Testament.
Trinity Covenant Church
6050 Del Paz Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80918