I moderate a confessional theological discussion forum on the internet called the Puritanboard.com. I have been doing it for about 10 years now.
From time to time things really stretch me to have to learn about stuff I think I already know about. Well, I aint always as smart as I think I am. Right now we are having a discussion about Singing the Book of Psalms as worship in Church. Some Churches only sing songs that are from the 150 songs in the book of Psalms from the Bible. I am a member of one of those Churches. It is a historical position that has been lost. Someone asked me for a reason why most people now today do not do that. I noted that the practice has gone away because of men redefining words, adding unlikely historical context, allowing cultural preference to real facts, and seeking to add things not required and regulated by God in the scriptures. It may be a difference of eisegesis compared to exegesis, personal feelings covering the truth, an uninspired unregulated addition to things that have been regulated and commanded (the Normative Principle being mistaken for the Regulative Principle of Worship). That was my answer to this person’s question.
I believe in something called the Regulative Principle of Worship. What God commands is what should be done. We shouldn’t add to it or take away from it as Aaron’s sons did in the Old Testament. I took this off of Wiki-pedia because it was correct, Leviticus 10:1–2 shares this sobering account, stating, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (wikipedia) Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book by the name ‘Gospel Worship’ which defines the worship God commands and accepts from his people. If you have a chance it explains the Regulative Principle of Worship in an excellent way.
I want to share another thing. I posted this during the discussion.
I am not trying to be argumentative. Just informative. This is a hard topic. There is a lot of emotion concerning the topic because it has to do with our affections and desiring to please the God we Love.Look, I understand that emotion. It is hurtful and hard to understand. The first murder took place because God didn’t accept Cain’s offering. That had to do with Worship. This was a hard topic for me to understand and listen to for many years as was the topic concerning pictures of Christ. I understand the frustration. I have no condemnation for anyone here. I just want to help be informative and encouraging.
I have been recommending a book for others to get. Dr. Dennis Prutow’s book Worship 101 which discusses a lot of these things and is edifying to all despite their position concerning Exclusive Psalmody. There is a lot of ignorance about this topic. At one time the Church mainly sung the book of Psalms in meter. That was all they sang. The Early Church sang the Psalms mostly exclusively. The early Reformed Church did also. One reason was that the book of Psalms is made up of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Those are three distinctions of songs found in the Old Testament book of Psalms. Paul commanded the Church to sing these songs in Ephesians and Colossians and called them the Word of Christ. It was what the Hebrew Church Sang. It was fully what the New Covenant Church sang as it was commanded to.
A wonderful woman, Jeri Tanner, on the Puritanboard posted this.
“Paul uses “Psalms” as the rest of the NT uses it, to refer to the canonical book of Psalms. The word “hymn” in the NT is also used in reference to the canonical book of Psalms: see Matthew 26:30, where Christ and the apostles’ singing of the Hallel Psalms is referred to as “hymning”; and Acts 16:25, where Paul and Silas’s praise in jail is referred to as “hymning.” (There is absolutely no reason to think that Paul and Silas sang anything other than the canonical Psalms.)
Another consideration re: your last sentence: the Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehilliam,” “praise.” It was “the Book of Praises.” Yes, the church before David always sang the praises of God and they were always and only prophetically inspired songs. The Holy Spirit guided the process of canonizing the final songbook for the church in the book of Tehilliam (or Psalms as the Greek translates it).”
This has been a very confusing situation for many who are first learning of this. What do we do with our Hymn books? Aren’t we commanded to sing these Hymns from the Bible? It is hard for many to hear or learn from.
I made the following plea to those in the discussion. https://puritanboard.com/threads/singing-uninspired-songs.93520/page-3#post-1141442 Get Denny’s book. Read it. It will inform you. It will encourage you no matter what you think about Exclusive Psalmody. This book is a book about Worship. It will cover topics like what Worship is, why is worship important, and what is the Regulative Principle and why should we care about it. A small portion of the book is given to answering objections to Singing the book of Psalms Exclusively. Since that is the topic we are discussing right now I will post that small portion of Dr.Prutow’s book to help others understand things I needed to have answers to as a young man.
Anyways, Here is the first installment to my blog on this topic. One thing that is found as an objection is We can’t sing about Jesus. Just be patient and learn if you have the time.
OBJECTIONS TO EXCLUSIVE PSALMODY
O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth …. ~ PS. 96:1; 98:1
THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PSALTER
THE OBJECTIONS TO EXCLUSIVE PSALMODY boil down to one basic complaint: The Psalter is insufficient for New Testament praise. When people exclaim, “But I want to sing about Jesus,” they mean, “Psalms are insufficient for my praise.” Some also take the position that the Psalms often speak about the Father, but have little reference to the Son. Others point out that the Psalms themselves teach that believers are to sing new songs, and therefore, instruct them not to confine their singing to those old songs. Then too, who wants to sing about Old Testament Types? It is of course far better to sing about the New Testament realities. There are many Scripture songs outside the Psalter, including hymn fragments imbedded in the New Testament. The presence of these hymn fragments shows that New Testament believers ought to sings songs outside the Psalter.
Add to these objections, the fact that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 have nothing to do with public corporate worship. Then too, texts like 1 Corinthians 14:15 and 26 speak about newly-inspired songs sung in the New Testament Church.
Professor Scott Sanborn insists exclusive Psalmody is insufficient for New Testament praise. He writes that the mystery of Gentile inclusion in the church, specifically revealed to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:4-6), is not present in the Psalms. Dr. Vern Poythress and Dr. Leonard Coppes insist that the regulative principle is fulfilled in Christ along with other aspects of the ceremonial law. Confining praise to the Psalter is, therefore, outmoded and contrary to Scripture. Dr. T. David Gordon goes a step further. The Psalms themselves command believers to sing about all the deeds of God, which presumably includes the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Confining worship song to the Psalter is, therefore, positively sinful to Dr. Gordon.
Each of these objections will be answered, seeking to show that the Psalter is sufficient for New Testament praise. Along the way, it will also be shown that these objections fail to appreciate the real beauty of Psalmody, that is, its subjective element meshed with its eschatology.
I WANT TO SING ABOUT JESUS
This objection means, “I want to sing about Jesus like modern hymns and choruses do.” Of course, the implication is that Psalmody is insufficient. Furthermore, Dr. Leonard Coppes asserts, “The Old Testament psalms focus preeminently on the Father. While it is true that they also speak of the Son, they do not speak of him as pointedly and clearly as does the New Testament.”(1) The response is twofold.
Note how the Apostle Paul speaks about Christ. “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11). Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23. In context, Yahweh declares every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess Him.
Is it not I, the LORD [Yahweh]? / And there is no other God besides Me, / A righteous God and a Savior; / There is none except Me. / Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; / For I am God, and there is no other. / I have sworn by Myself, / The word hasgone forth from My mouth in righteousness / And will not turn back, / That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance [LXX confess] (Isa. 45:21-23).
From the apostle’s perspective, Jesus is Yahweh; Jesus is Jehovah. He is God Incarnate. Paul brings out this truth with the confession that Jesus Christ is LORD. He also connects Jesus and Jehovah in Romans 10:9 and context, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” He goes on in verse 11, quoting from Isaiah 28:16, “For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’” Paul then quotes Joel 2:32, “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Rom. 10:13). The LORD to whom Paul points in Joel 2:32 is Yahweh. Paul calls his readers to confess that Jesus is Yahweh, that Jesus is Jehovah.
From this perspective, when believers sing, “The Lord is King! Let all the earth be joyful,”(2) they follow the Apostle Paul and make the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. When Christians sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd,”(3) they confess Jesus Christ to be the great and good Shepherd of the sheep (John 10:11, 14, 16). They sing to Him! In doing so, they follow the teaching of the New Testament. They follow the teaching of the Apostle Paul.
Note that the New Testament frequently uses the Psalms to preach Christ. The New Testament quotes the Psalter 82 times.(4) Consider Romans. To accentuate the depth of human depravity in Romans 3, Paul quotes from Psalm 51:4 and Psalm 14:1-3. He adds quotes from Psalms 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; and140:3. In chapter 4, Paul turns to the subject of justification by grace through faith in Christ and quotes Psalm 32:1-2. He also uses Psalm 117 as part of his rationale for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:11).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, Psalm 22 is used to present the details of Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:24). Psalm 16 is used to preach His resurrection (Acts 2:24-28, 31; 13:35). Psalm 2 is used to explain the opposition of Rome and Israel to Christ and His Kingdom (Acts 4:25-26). Psalm 110 is used to preach Christ’s ascension and heavenly reign (Acts 2:34-35). Psalm 68 is also used to proclaim Christ’s ascension (Eph. 4:7-8). Psalm 118:26 is used by our Lord to predict His coming again (Matt. 23:39). Hebrews 1 uses Psalms 2:7; 45:6-7; 102:25-27; and 110:1 to present Christ as God and Creator. Hebrews 10 uses Psalm 40:6-8 to present Christ as the once for all sacrifice saving us from our sins.
When believers sing, “Therefore kings now heed this word: Earthly judges, come and hear. Rev’rent worship give the Lord,”(5) they exhort earthly rulers to bow before King Jesus. When Christians sing, “The earth you founded long ago; Your mighty hand the heavens made,”(6) they confess Christ as the Creator (Heb. 1:10). In singing the Psalms, believers do sing about Jesus. The Psalter is quite sufficient for the New Testament age.
Granted, the traditional language of Western hymns is not used in singing the Psalms, nor is the popular language of modern gospel songs and choruses used. The language of Scripture is used, language said to be outmoded and designed for an earlier age. By what standard? A standard designed by those objecting to Psalmody, a standard foreign to Scripture. This objection argues that words “made by an act of human will” are superior to, or at least equal with, words not “made by an act of human will, but [by] men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Pet. 2:21). Words, it must be added, specifically set forth by the Spirit for singing the public praises of God. On this count, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America stands with the venerable Geerhardus Vos with regard to the Psalms and recognizes that “a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”(7)
This objection, settling, as it does, on the objective standard of a form of words or language, appears to ignore the subjective principle imbedded so deeply in the language of the Psalms. Vos again rightly states “that the Psalms reflect the experimental religion of the heart, which is unvarying at all times and under all circumstances …(8) The Psalter is, therefore, sufficient for New Testament praise.
Used by permission from Dr. Dennis Prutow
. 1. Leonard J. Coppes, Exclusive Psalmody and Doing God’s Will as It Is Fulfilled in Christ (NP: The Author, n.d.), 23.
- The Book of Psalms for Worship (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant, 2009), 97A.
- Ibid., 23D.
- The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1983), 897-898.
- The Book of Psalms for Worship, 2C.
- Ibid., 102D.
- Geerhardus Vos, “Songs from the Soul,” Grace and Glory (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1994), 170, italics added.
- Ibid., 171.
Prutow, Dennis. Public Worship 101: An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Worship, the Elements of Worship, Exclusive Psalmody, and A Cappella Psalmody (Kindle Locations 6383-6393). Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.