Worship as Language: A Biblical Analogy

In unfolding the argument about generational memory, contemporary issues, and biblical grounding in application, it might be helpful to track back over to part 1 and part 2.

And for the sake of this reading, take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 (http://esv.to/1Co14.1-25).

Trombones in Syntagma Musicum (1614-20), by Mi...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the Apostle’s chief concerns as he writes to the church in Corinth is preserving authentic worship amidst a rapidly changing landscape of believers.  Paul places the use of spiritual gifts squarely under the banner of love (v. 1).  We should earnestly seek to use our gifts, but they must be in the context of love.  For the sake of the argument, I am employing the second meaning of the Greek word glossa which is normally translated tongue, but I am using its variant, language.  Paul is saying that one who speaks in a language (foreign to the people) only edifies himself.  He will go on to draw the comparison in verses 10 – 11 of the dangers of speaking in a foreign language with no understanding.  Using ones gifts properly will serve to edify, exhort, and console the whole church… It is for their encouragement (vs. 3).  It is essential to point out that the significance of prophesy is not the gift itself, but the fact that the gift has been contextualized to the people.  It is for the good of the community, because it has been made accessible to the community.  Those gifted in the church are not to use their gifts for their own self interests, but they are to build up the whole body (vs. 4-5).  Paul then goes on to discuss the use of tongues as meaningless jargon versus tongues being used in conjunction with “revelation or knowledge or prophesy or word of instruction.”  Whether by clear teaching (vs. 6), clear notes of a flute or guitar (vs. 7), a bugle to rouse troops for battle (vs. 8), or finally clear speech uttered by the mouth that is understandable by all (vs. 9), Paul’s chief concern is that it be intelligible and that it be profitable to the whole assembly, not just to a few.  As mentioned earlier, Paul addresses the cultural concern of relating to someone who speaks a different language than you, and how unproductive it will be to try and carry on such a conversation (vs. 10-11).  He closes his argument in this section by reiterating the need to edify the church through the use of gifts (vs. 12).  The following verses (13-19) are strong words from the Apostle that speak sharply and distinctly to the issue of condescending to the language of the people, so that they might receive the necessary instruction.  Paul concludes by saying that (in this case prophesy and tongues) are not primarily to serve man, but to serve the church and the kingdom.

Throughout this section of the correspondence to Corinth, Paul is being very careful to say that we should not be using our gifts to serve out our own self interests.  We should be using our gifts to expand the kingdom; we should defer to one another, esteeming others over ourselves.

But what of the musician?  Certainly those who are trained should do everything in their power to educate the layman, to raise their affections, to broaden their horizons, and to stimulate their passions.  But does this mean unilateral statements that unequivocally say that one brand or form of music is better than another?  Certainly this cannot be the case.  We, as members of the priesthood, who have been called out to serve the body with our gifts of music, should not dare to put our taste above those of others, right?  Or should we?  Granted that Bach and Beethoven are composers whose technical precision is unparalleled in today’s realm.  But why does our culture not speak the language of the symphony, the pipe organ, and the cantata anymore?  What happened in music that caused such a dramatic shift?

I am a pastor, a husband, a father, and a lover of Jesus. I am also an unpredictable blogger, who can go for several years without blogging a thing, and then inexplicably write a book. Perhaps this is one of those times.

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Posted in Worship Matters
2 comments on “Worship as Language: A Biblical Analogy
  1. […] following is part 4 of our series on Worship (and Music) as Language. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for the back story. Image via […]

  2. […] language is coming to an end; for a recap of all the posts, they are linked here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Image by jrossol via […]

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