Songs Without Notes: A Meandering History of Hymnals and Vocal Music, with Rant — Part 6


From the comments:

Bob wrote,

Put another way, edification is sacramental as well.

Exactly. In fact, I’d add “… and especially.”

The common definition of a sacrament accepted by the Reformed and Roman Churches is that of an outward and visible sign, ordained by Christ, setting forth and pledging an inward and spiritual blessing.

R. J. Coates, New Bible Dictionary, 1996, 1034.

In the Churches of Christ, “sacrament” is frowned on as a word because it’s not found in scripture. But neither is “Trinity,” “preacher,” “church treasury,” “verse,” or “hymnal.” Alexander Campbell urged us to refer to Bible things by Bible names (amen), but sometimes it’s helpful to expand our vocabulary.

Protestants traditionally limit “sacrament” to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but this comes largely by paring down the Catholic Church’s list of seven sacraments. In fact, there are far more things in Christianity that meet this definition.

For example, the assembly is sacramental as it’s a visible sign of the church. The assembly is not the church (not all gather in the same place at the same time), but the assembly reveals the church’s presence. Is there a corresponding inward, spiritual blessing? Of course.

(Matt. 18:20 ESV) 20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Do we want Jesus to be among us? That would indeed be sacramental. But that requires that we gather together. But being “gathered” doesn’t mean standing next to a stranger listening to a song leader or preacher.

We also find the word translated “gathered” in —

(Matt. 25:35 ESV) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

To be “gathered” is not merely to be in the same room or even in the same room worshiping God. We aren’t gathered unless we’re gathered as a community that welcomes one another. Perhaps a modified translation would help —

(Matt. 18:20 ESV) 20 “For where two or three are [welcomed] in my name, there am I among them.”

But we treat the assembly as primarily focused on the vertical element — our worship to God. After all, not one of our Five Acts of Worship is pictured as primarily horizontal — welcoming — in intent.

That is, we unconsciously treat the assembly as the NT replacement for Jewish temple worship — by unspoken assumption. Indeed, we call what we do “acts of worship,” although this is not how the NT describes the assembly.

The assembly is not the NT analog to the Temple. Rather, the NT uses Temple language with regard to daily living.

(Rom. 12:1 ESV)  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

(1 Pet. 2:4-5 ESV)  4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 

Wayne Grudem comments as to 1 Pet 2:4-5 —

As priests, believers offer not the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but spiritual sacrifices, which the New Testament elsewhere identifies as the offering of our bodies to God for his service (Rom. 12:1), the giving of gifts to enable the spread of the gospel (Phil. 4:18), the singing of praise (Heb. 13:15), and the doing of good and sharing our possessions (Heb. 13:16). These varied examples encourage us to think that anything we do in service to God can be thought of as a ‘spiritual sacrifice’ acceptable to God, a continual sweet aroma that ascends to his throne and brings him delight. With this New Testament perspective on ‘sacrifice’, all the Old Testament passages about sacrifices can be read in a new light.

Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 6; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 106-107.

The NT language regarding the assembly is far more analogous to Israel journeying through the wilderness together, following the Presence of God. It’s the wandering-in-the-wilderness passages that refer to Israel as God’s ekklesia. We’re not “called out” of our homes to gather to worship. We are called out of slavery to journey to the Promised Land together, led by God himself — and as we journey, we journey together — a nation without borders or even a fixed location. We are in exile from our enslavers and not yet in the Land of Milk and Honey,

And as we travel together, as a community of God, we gather together to encourage and edify each other — which includes being strengthened by God’s great might and his word as well as worshiping together.

Or to put it more practically, God does not have self-esteem issues. He doesn’t need us to worship him to satisfy some divine need for adulation (in contrast to pagan religions). Rather, he calls us to assemble for our sakes. The NT passages place far more emphasize the horizontal aspects of the assembly over the vertical elements. 1 Cor 14 very heavily focuses on mutual edification. The only reference to “worship” in that chapter is worship by a visiting unbeliever!

Just so, we have —

(Heb. 10:24-25 ESV) 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This passage will surely be included in the “Church of Christ Preacher Greatest Hits” collection — and yet it speaks solely toward the horizontal elements of the assembly.

God calls us together so that we’ll be together — which is the best way for us to edify and encourage each other. We worship because we love God and, being together, find the desire to praise our Lord irresistible. It’s not that we don’t worship in the Sunday morning assembly, but that worship is a natural product of our being assembled for mutual edification. When I see my brothers and sisters praising my God with joy, I’m drawn in to join them. But the edification/encouragement of the assembly is much bigger than that.

And so one of the problems with many approaches to the assembly is their over-emphasis on verticality. If I can’t hear my brothers and sisters sing, the leaders respond that God can hear us sing, and that’s really the point. No, it’s not. I can sing to God in my car all alone. And the guys on the Christian radio station are better than the worship leaders at my church. I can listen to Andy Stanley or Rick Atchley in my car. But I can’t encourage and be encouraged in my car all alone.


And yet we have members who take offense if we talk to each other while awaiting the beginning of church services. They consider it “irreverent” — as though God would take offense at talking in his sanctuary (oops: auditorium). Of course, the loudest, most boisterous place in Judea was the Temple. Imagine the sounds of hundreds or thousands of sheep being slaughtered and then roasted over the altar, of thousands of pilgrims praying aloud to God, a choir of Levites singing psalms, worshipers ascending the steps chanting psalms, a full orchestra of Levitical instrumentalists, rabbis teaching their disciples, and men and women crying shouting “Hallelujah” as they find themselves in the presence of God Almighty!

But what about —

(Hab. 2:18-20 ESV) 18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.

The command to “keep silence before him” isn’t speaking of the Temple service. Rather, the entire world is commanded to be silent. Why? Because unlike the pagan idols, our God speaks, and we need to be listening.

The Lord is in his holy temple: this refers primarily to the Lord’s “temple” in heaven rather than to the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem (compare Psa 11:4; Micah 1:2). So his holy temple in this context means “the temple in heaven which belongs to the Lord.”

The appropriate response from man to the holy God is silence: let all the earth keep silence before him. TEV makes it explicit that all the earth means “everyone on earth,” and that before him means “in his presence.”

David J. Clark and Howard A. Hatton, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Habakkuk, UBS Handbook Series, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 112.

“Keep silence” is the Hebrew for “hush”! Habakkuk is saying, “Shut up and listen.”

And so, the assembly is sacramental in that our gathering brings Jesus present among us. But Jesus doesn’t join us to be worshiped — although we will and should worship him. He is present to be with his family — because we are his beloved brothers and sisters: people he died to save, meaning people for whom he died just so he could be present with us for all eternity.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

From the Comments: Further on whether the scriptures are sufficient

HolySpirit7Following up yesterday’s post, reader David commented,

If there has been no personal indwelling of the Spirit directing and guiding Christians since the death of the apostles then, the New Testament is highly suspect. Early churchmen collected, sifted, and sorted through hundreds of writings for three hundred years or so to finally settle on the canon of Scriptures we have today. Some of the writing of the NT were never doubted, but some were. There is no good reason to accept the complete NT we have today as the word of God except by faith in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of men of the church. Deny the personal indwelling of the Spirit in Christians, you undercut faith in the Bible as God’s word.

I thought this was an excellent point. I added, Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Divorce & Remarriage: Reading in light of covenant theology (Part 2)


Reader Gary mentioned an article by Hugo McCord on Matt 5:32, which neither of us has found. I responded —


I can’t find the McCord article, and what I have found from McCord is rife with legalistic assumptions.

Nonetheless, all commentators note that Matt 5:32 says, in the English and the Greek, that the first husbands “makes” the wife he puts away an adulteress (passive voice). Even without the passive voice, the “makes” plainly places the moral fault on the first husband. Only a rank legalist would then impose penalties on the wife for actions that Jesus says are not her fault.

We think she sins because she’s still married to the first husband, which Jesus not only doesn’t say, he says she’s married to the second husband — which we deny to fit our legalistic theories, preferring theory to scripture (not you, the traditional school of thought). Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Bear’s Den: “Elysium”

Brother do you believe in an afterlife
Where our souls will both collide
In some great Elysium
Way up in the sky
Free from our shackles, our chains
Our mouths, our brains
We’ll open all the gates
And we will walk careless
Straight into the light Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Divorce & Remarriage: Reading in light of covenant theology (Part 1)

divorce5In response to the readers’ questions, I wrote a series of comments dealing with how we should read the Bible’s passages regarding divorce and remarriage in light of the covenant theology we covered in last year’s series on “How to Study the Bible.”

That is, we must not assume that Jesus repealed the Torah and enacted a new law. Rather, in the Gospels, Jesus is interpreting Torah — not under the new covenant but as it should have been interpreted then and there.

In 1 Cor 7, Paul takes the teachings of Jesus and applies them in the Christian context — but Paul is also not making new law. Rather, he taking the principles found in Jesus’ words and applying them in a world where some people aren’t children of God and some are, where one spouse is and one spouse isn’t, etc.

The rules don’t change. Rather, different covenants present different circumstances for applying the same principles. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From the Comments: Aren’t the Scriptures All-Sufficient?

HolySpirit7Jeff R asked,

It’s the one’s that believe that this indwelling is personal and DIRECT, meaning that the Spirit directly influences them apart from God’s word that I have a problem with. They in effect are denying that the word of God is all sufficient. The Bible teaches us that it is. Why do people like this idea of a direct operation of the Spirit for mankind today?

Jeff argued from,

(2 Tim. 3:16-4:1 ESV)  16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Divorce & Remarriage: 1 Cor 7:10-11

divorce5Christopher writes,

One thing you have failed to do in your responses, Jay, is explain how 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 squares with your theology.

Here are two earlier posts on that subject: here and here.

(1 Cor. 7:10-11 ESV)  10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband  11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. 

These offer a much more thorough explanation than I’ll offer here, but because I’m sure other readers have had the same question — here’s the short version: Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From the Comments: Is direct operation of the Spirit essential? Part 2

HolySpirit7As is so often the case, the OT sheds light on the NT.

As we covered in a series of posts last year called “The Salvation of the Jews,” we concluded that the Jews, just like the Christians, are saved by the terms of God’s covenant with Abraham. They were saved by faith just as we’re saved by faith. (I’m not going to repeat the argument here in the comments.)

But in the OT, the Spirit was only given to prophets, judges, kings, and a few artisans. Most people did not receive the Spirit. Was the Spirit essential to the Jews’ salvation? Well … what’s the story? Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Robbie Seay Band: “Baptize Me in the River”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canyon City: “Flicker”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment