Christian Worship and Women Singers

Questions and Answers

Questions

Is it Scriptural and right for a woman to sing “Christian” songs in public? Is it right for one to listen to a woman singing “Christian” type of songs?

Answer

Christian worship and women singers. A question relating to this subject is not addressed directly in God’s holy Word, but the Lord expects us to use the principles of Scripture to deal with this type of issue.

We are aware that there are a plethora of different choices in the category of “Christian” music. One person may consider something Christian but the next person wouldn’t. Thus it is hard to know just what we mean by “Christian” when it is used as an adjective in “Christian Music.” Not all of these choices are pleasing to God. In fact, surely most are displeasing to Him, regardless of the intention of the singers and regardless of the popularity of a given style of music.

Several principles would be of help in deciding what to do about recorded music (or even music we would listen to “live”). Scripture would give principles:

First, God would want us to choose songs or hymns that reflect Biblical truth. Jesus said that “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). Truth is one of the hallmarks of truly Christian music.

Second, God wants us to sing songs that reflect an inner devotion to Him. The Lord Jesus, in the same context as the above passage, said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It is not only important that we worship in truth, but also in “spirit,” apparently meaning with the right frame of mind and heart.

Third, God would want us to sing songs in a language that we understand. Paul the apostle said that “in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). God wants us to communicate so as to be understood by others (and ourselves, as well).

Fourth, God wants us to sing so as to be worshipful toward Him. Again, Paul speaks to this: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Notice that the singing is directed to God. This may particularly refer to “prayer songs.”

Fifth, God also would want us to sing to the Lord Jesus. Paul writes, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Generally, in Paul’s writings, “Lord” is a reference to Jesus Christ rather than to God the Father.

Sixth, God would want us also to sing for the benefit of others who hear us singing. In both of the previous scriptures, notice that the singers are singing to “one another.” Many songs are not specifically prayer songs but are meant to edify others who listen. We “teach” others through our singing.

Seventh, God wants us to sing in the Spirit and according to His Word. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says to “be filled with the Spirit” and then to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Further, in Colossians 3:16, Paul says that “the word of Christ” is to “richly dwell within” us, and then we sing songs. Both the Spirit and the Scriptures are vital in our worship.

Eighth, God appears to want us to sing a cappella, or vocally rather than with the use of instrumental music. We are aware that instrumental music is not specifically condemned, but the fact is that all of the references to singing in the New Testament are ones that are unaccompanied. Early church history would also give evidence that the early Christians sang without instrumental music, thus it would be wise for us to follow the same lead.

While there may be other principles, these are probably among the leading ones. As for the question that introduced our subject, it might be good for us to notice that men (males) are to lead publicly in prayer rather than women (1 Timothy 2:8; the Greek makes this clear). We think that this would apply also to singing, especially singing prayer songs. In other words, if it is wrong for a woman to lift her voice in prayer in a mixed group, it would also be wrong for her to sing prayer songs to God in such a context. (Would it not be quite legalistic to argue differently?)

Further, women are not to “teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12). They are to “receive” rather than give “instruction” and this is to be done “with entire submissiveness” (v. 11). This would suggest that women are not to take a lead in worship in song either.

We also read that “women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Why? “It is improper for a woman to speak in church” (v. 35). This is based on the Lord’s own words and will (v. 37). It may be objected that it is possible for a woman to sing publicly without it being an actual assembly of the body of Christ. While this is true, surely the Lord would not want us to legalistically hold to such a distinction. We can easily see the Lord’s intention here and we should honor it. (There may be a place for a woman to sing in a group of women.)

Recorded music was unknown in New Testament times, thus the issue found in the question at the beginning is not directly addressed in the Scriptures. In keeping with what God has revealed, we would suggest that it is the part of wisdom and Godly discernment for even recorded music to reflect the teachings we have examined above. Perhaps if a recording of a lone woman singing apart from a group or instrumental accompaniment is found there would be a place for such a recording. Or we may choose to forego even this type of singing.

Christian worship and women singers. . . . Although many don’t consider this subject at all, some people have voiced concern as to what God thinks of this practice. God delights in women who are willing to submit to the teachings and practice of Scripture! He also would find delight in women who honor His teachings on this subject. Regardless of the looseness found in the religious world around us, let us be content to submit to God’s Holy Word in this matter and every other matter!

Richard Hollerman

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