The Regulative principle

Worship, Psalm Singing and Grape Juice by Scott Bushey

“There is nothing more perilous to our salvation than a preposterous and perverse worship of God.”
~John Calvin to Sadoleto

I want to start off by saying that the subject of the Regulative Principle of Worship is an oft times misunderstood doctrine of the church. Most laypeople have absolutely no idea that it even exists. Most leadership were educated in the principle while in seminary but fail to apply the idea in their respective churches. When they do apply it, it is based on a normative understanding and not the word of God. In the Old Testament church, particularly the Levitical Priest, the way the priest came before God directly affected his living or dying. The priest understood this. Coming into the Holy of Holies had it’s responsibility. Yet, in light of these facts, in our age, we being now part of a holy priesthood through Christ, we oftentimes stroll into church as if we are dropping into a friend’s house down the street. The Regulative Principle corrects this lackadaisical approach to God and His commanded worship. It awakens that which is sleeping. It helps illuminate God’s royalty, holiness, majesty and kingship. It is truth! God is not your buddy from down the street and to consider Him such is sinful. With this in mind, we approach this study tenderly and with prudence. Additionally it was posed to me recently that by holding my position on the Regulative Principle and Exclusive Psalmody, in essence I was saying that everyone who does not hold to the same mentality, is in sin. I believe that statements like this, although true, are not helpful as the goal of both camps is to honor God.  There is only one truth; being Presbyterian and holding to infant baptism is akin to saying to all ‘credobaptists’ that they are in sin for not placing the sign upon their children; this is as well true. In the same light, the ‘credobaptist’ says the same of those in the paedo camp. However, any hope of dialoging with the contrasting camp would be strained on both ends if either of us come at our doctrinal positions by rebuking the person out of the gate with these truths. This is a delicate subject and hence we approach it in love. It is with this heart, I continue here. Please consider prayer before you continue reading.

Lev. 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.  2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.  3 And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying:‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. 


Deut. 4:1 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you.  2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.


Deut. 12:29   “When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land,  30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’  31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.


Deut. 28:1 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.  2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:


Acts 7:44, Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.


Hebrews 8:5, They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

You can see from the scriptures mentioned that God commands a particular way He is to be worshipped; that worship must be seen in light of God’s law. In God’s law is His character. The law is one of God’s perfect attributes. You cannot separate this idea from our understanding of God and the Regulative Principle. It is part and parcel. Let’s look at a few scriptures from which the doctrine of the Regulative Principle is derived:

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that tin Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”  21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

What Christ was telling this Samaritan woman was that the worship she understood was no less than will worship; she worshipped what she ‘did not know’. Christ was, in essence, rejecting that type of worship. How many in this age do the same thing by presumptuously redefining what the scriptures command? There is only one way to worship God. There is only one truth. You either possess truth or you don’t. A half truth is no less than a lie. This woman was misled. Her understanding was skewed and the result, no less than disastrous. Think continuity. God is immutable; His law unchanging. How many, in the realm of Christianity, worship in so many different ways? Most in these circles believe that as long as the heart is right towards worship, it is allowable. Did not this Samaritan woman think along the same lines and yet the Savior rebukes her. God’s Regulative Principle is much like His character, unchanging and consistent. Worshipping in spirit without truth is ‘strange fire’ and fruitless worship!

In Exodus 20:25, the Lord makes clear that innovations are profane. He prescribes exactly how He is to be worshipped:

25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.

Another perfect example is Saul’s autonomy and presumption:

1Sam. 13:5   Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven.  6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits.  7 And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.  8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.  9 So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering.  10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 1Sam. 13:11   And Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash,  12 then I said, “The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”  1Sam. 13:13   And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

Samuel was perfectly clear with how Saul was to wait for his arrival, yet in his anxiety, he became corrupt.

We can see clearly that there are limitations and prescriptions in worship.

The Reverend Matthew Winzer helps greatly here by providing additional scriptures on how one gets to the doctrine of the Regulative Principle:

The subject is often considered within a theological framework. E.g., the sufficiency of Scripture, the transcendence of God, the Mediatorial work of Christ, the object of faith, the nature of worship, the institution of the church, the limits of church power, etc. Such doctrines, consistently understood from a reformed perspective, require the regulative principle of worship. Any examination of Scripture should bear in mind the regulative import of these doctrines.


Other Scriptures worth considering within this theological framework:


  • Matthew 6:9, 10, God’s glory, will and kingdom are the aim of worship.
  • Matthew 28:18-20, Christ’s commands direct and limit the church’s commission.
  • Romans 14:23, the necessity of faith.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:11-16, the necessity of divine revelation.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, the stewardship of the ministry.
  • 1 Corinthians 11, especially verses 2, 18, for the importance of ordinances and coming together in the church, and verse 23, for the elements of worship being commands of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 14, especially verses 37 and 40, for the authority of apostolic commandment and the principle of doing all things decently and in order.
  • Galatians 5:1-6, for the connection between unappointed acts of worship and being led astray by false doctrine.
  • 1 Timothy 3:15, how one behaves in the house of God matters.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17, the sufficiency of Scripture to equip a man of God in all good works.
  • Hebrews 11:6, the necessity of faith to please God when coming to Him.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-10, especially verse 5, where the service of the saints is to offer spiritual sacrifices.
  • 2 Peter 1:18-21, the supremacy of the Word over personal experience.
  • 1 John 4:1-3, the duty to test the spirits (including those who introduce new forms of worship) to see whether they be of God.
  • 1 John 5:9, 10, the dependence of faith on divine testimony.
  • Jude 3, 4, contending for the faith against those who turn the grace of God into a license to do their own thing.

The Kingship of God

When we consider worship, we must consider who we are worshipping. We must consider what the King demands when we approach. It is not open to speculation. Earthly kings demand a specific decorum from their servants, how much more the King of all creation?

Look at Psalm 104 and see how King David understood kingship:

Psa. 104:1   Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty, 
2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. 
3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters,
Who makes the clouds His chariot,
Who walks on the wings of the wind, 
4 Who makes His angels spirits,
His ministers a flame of fire. 
5 You who laid the foundations of the earth,
So that it should not be moved forever, 

And here in Psalm 96:7-9

Psa. 96:7   Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;*
tremble before him, all the earth!

Very few of us get this. Yes, we acknowledge God as King, but often in a misconstrued fashion; we see no further than the end of our noses. We are trapped within the confines of our own intellect and culture. We relate to our President as a king of sorts and in most situations, consider our President to be highly deficient. Though God’s word tells us to give honor to our kings, we honor them in a fashion ascribed to mere men, many times misapplying the same fundamental to the King of all creation. In fact, since we are having this discussion on the Regulative Principle only proves my point. Why is it that we need to be reminded of these facts? What was it that Jesus said to Peter after Peter confessed Jesus as ‘the Christ’?

Matt. 16:13   Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Peter got it. Not being able to understand the gravity of God’s Kingship may be a result of the Holy Spirit not imparting this information to you.  You might consider this in light of what we are discussing.

Is it possible that we are offending God by how we worship Him? Is it possible that we could be found like the son’s of Levi and punished with death for that assault? Would it be a first? This distinction is important and should cause us to tremble. God’s law is perpetual; much like His character. The Lord does not grade on a curve when it comes to His commands. Nothing goes unnoticed.

Psalm 10:13“…….and say in his heart,You will not call to account”? 14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands;

Look what happened to Israel when they built their golden calf:

Ex. 32:2   And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”  3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”Ex. 32:5   So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.”  6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.Ex. 32:7   And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”  9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!  10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

The Lord was not happy with their will worship. His anger burned bright to the degree He intended to kill them all. How many times we worship in the same vanity. This passage should speak to our hearts. There is only one way God has prescribed to worship Him. Notice how Aaron covers this sin: “ And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” 

Many times, believers confuse the fact that we are told we can come boldly before the throne of grace and get it all tied in an antinomian knot.

Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

When it comes to the worship of God, everything we believers do should be based on the biblical principle known as the Regulative Principle of Worship.. Worship is not left up to the imagination of men. God is a God of plan and purpose and nothing He does is by chance nor is it left up to men as to how they worship Him. Think for the moment what kind of God this would be if He left this decision up to the creature. Would it not be a bit irresponsible and presumptuous if God were to do so, after all, truth can only be found in God; our thinking is also imperfect. God is perfect and everything that He does is good, right, correct and holy. Approaching God, yes boldy, still must be correct! You get that? Coming boldly before the throne of God must be done in a prescribed fashion. It must be correct! The exhortation to approach boldly cannot be seen in the light of irresponsibility. The boldness we have, the full confidence we are told we can possess is based on God’s word, not our prideful imaginations. Coming boldly in an erred fashion is presumptuous and arrogant. In fact, it is antinomian. Do not mistake antinomianism for grace. In the age of grace, we still have God’s law.

Yes, In Christ we have access

R. C. Sproul writes:

Not only must we draw near to Christ, we must draw near to Him in confidence. This does not mean that we come arrogantly demanding forgiveness as a right. We draw near in confidence not because of our own “rights” but because of the person and work of Christ. We are confident because God, who was not obligated to redeem us, nonetheless promises to forgive us if we submit to Christ. Drawing near in confidence means that we firmly believe God’s promise of grace in Christ.

Cain and Abel brought sacrifices. They as well had bold access. Why was Cain’s sacrifice rejected? Many will say because He did not act in faith in his offering; this is true, but there is more. In that faith, men are called, according to God’s word, to have fruits that are according to that faith which was given to us to act upon. What did James say? Show me a man without good works and I will show you a man without faith (James 2:17)? Even though the scriptures do not show that God gave Abel insight into His Regulative Principle, it is implied. Much like the Son’s of Levi, there are no specific directives given them other than a fire they were given that came down from Heaven; but they knew. The brothers’ only job was to keep the same fire God gave them burning 24/7, to which they failed greatly at (Lev 10:1,2). In the same fashion, Cain knew that the sacrifice that was commanded was to be bloody. Abel got it! He understood. Cain decided to take matters into his own hands and amend the doctrine as if the command needed improvement; maybe he was lazy and didn’t prepare accordingly? This says much to us in this age; we need to prepare for the Lord’s day. The Westminster Directory for Public Worship addresses this:

“THE Lord’s day ought to be so remembered before-hand, as that all worldly business of our ordinary callings may be so ordered, and so timely and seasonably laid aside, as they may not be impediments to the due sanctifying of the day when it comes.The whole day is to be celebrated as holy to the Lord, both in publick and private, as being the Christian sabbath. To which end, it is requisite, that there be a holy cessation or resting all that day from all unnecessary labours; and an abstaining, not only from all sports and pastimes, but also from all worldly words and thoughts.That the diet on that day be so ordered, as that neither servants be unnecessarily detained from the publick worship of God, nor any other person hindered from the sanctifying that day. That there be private preparations of every person and family, by prayer for themselves, and for God’s assistance of the minister, and for a blessing upon his ministry; and by such other holy exercises, as may further dispose them to a more comfortable communion with God in his public ordinances.”

How many today do the same thing as Cain? We don’t understand what the Lord’s day actually is or how we are to worship God rightly. We add all sorts of aberrant things to our worship, things that have not been ordered by God. We call unholy things, holy. We sing the songs written by imperfect men and expect God to be pleased with us even though the Lord has provided us with a songbook; we use grape juice in lieu of wine even though it is crystal clear that the Passover was the preamble to the Lord’s Supper and wine was ordered for that. We embrace things we see as novel, like intinction, when nowhere in scripture is it advocated. We take God’s mercy for granted, presumptuously thinking that He would not in this age strike us dead in our tracks for these offenses. How many churches take up offerings during the call to worship? Is that ordered? Yes, we are told to offer up gifts but they have no place in corporate worship during the official call.


For more on the subject of offerings during the worship service, go here:

Offering is not an Element of Worship


The Westminster Directory for Public Worship reads:

“The collection for the poor is so to be ordered, that no part of the publick worship be thereby hindered.”

The custom in Scottish churches was to have an offering box near the church door.

Rowland Ward wrote:

“An act of the Church of Scotland Assembly in 1648 actually forbade the collection during the service as “a very great and unseemly disturbance of Divine Worship.”[7] With large congregations and few fixed pews, one can understand this. [7] W.M. McMillan, The Worship of the Scottish Reformed Church 1560-1638 (London: James Clarke & Co., 1931), 123. Collection at the church door had long been customary although obviously not universal in the 1640s.” (Richard A. Muller & Rowland S. Ward, Scripture and Worship: Biblical Interpretation and The Directory For Worship, p. 114)

Clapping and salutations

Should clapping be considered a pious act? Scripture calls for us to clap, no?

Psa. 47:1   Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!

Yes, scripture tells us to clap, but I would suggest that it should not be done in any manner except for the glorification of God. As well, did not the Apostle Paul tell us to use the ‘amen’ as a way of believers agreeing? Would it not be more appropriate for us to say a hearty amen in lieu of clapping? I am taking into consideration here that clapping is cultural. I am not discounting this fact. However, if an unbeliever is observing, wouldn’t it be more of a witness if we say amen?The Amen’s are a validation of truth. It expresses ‘surety’.

Calvin writes:

It is known, that Amen is a Hebrew word, derived from the same term from which comes the word that signifies faithfulness or truth

Since we are spiritual people, we need to think spiritually and use spiritual tools that are at our disposal. Well, you might inquire, ‘Scott, isn’t clapping for the expertise of the choir or musicians giving God glory for the gifts He has given to the creature?’ This question can be answered, but not in this paper. I do not intend to address instruments and choirs now. Clapping for the congregations that are unified, singing in praise to God, I would give a hearty, yes! However, the congregation as a whole is being clapped for; no particular person or persons; in my humble opinion, this would be biblical and allowed. Clapping for the preachers message? Yes! But how often does that happen? Never? I have never seen a congregation clap after the pastor preached as a result of the power of the Holy Spirit. Sad, but true. The crux of the matter is the Regulative Principle and one’s heart and where the clapping is directed. Since it is the leaders responsibility to create a right environment in relation to the Regulative Principle, they might do better in that if this occurs during the call to worship, and the clapping is erred in it’s direction, it would cause us to break the Regulative Principle and people fall into sin. You notice that even when you are not inclined to clap, you still participate in the thing due to the cultural mandate on it. In other words, if a particular act causes one to stumble, in prudence and fear we should remove it for that reason alone. I only mention the taking up of the offering and clapping as an example of how we have adopted unscriptural practices into God’s worship. There are many more, but these are a few items that were worth mentioning.

There is no middle ground; as mentioned previously, God does not grade on curves; He does not take into consideration one’s knowledge base; all are commanded to know of the Lord when it comes to His commands and how He is to be worshipped. This is exactly why He has given us Elders, so that they can lead us aright. One is either ‘normative’ when it comes to worship or regulative. Example: Do you celebrate ‘holy’ days when the biblical calendar calls for none except the Lord’s day?

Look at what Westminster documented in their ‘Directory’:

Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.

THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for publick fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.As no place is capable of any holiness, under pretence of whatsoever dedication or consecration; so neither is it subject to such pollution by any superstition formerly used, and now laid aside, as may render it unlawful or inconvenient for Christians to meet together therein for the publick worship of God. And therefore we hold it requisite, that the places of publick assembling for worship among us should be continued and employed to that use.

All of us should consider that no day is above the other; however, since no day is elevated above the Lord’s day and no day other than the Lord’s day is commanded, we should stick to that. Again, prudence.

Listen to what the Prophet Isaiah says about all of these things:

 Is. 29:13   Therefore the Lord said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

Greg Price helps us understand how the Regulative Principle is to be understood:

In other words, every religious practice or symbol in the worship of God’s people must have a divine warrant from God’s Word either by (1) command; or by (2) authorized example of the apostles; or by (3) good and necessary inference. Let us briefly consider how these three means of establishing divine warrant operate in Scripture.(1) Divine warrant established by command is plain enough. When the inspired apostle commands Timothy: “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), we rightly conclude that preaching from the Scripture each Lord’s Day is a commanded element of worship. Again when the Lord commands: “This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:25), we have the express prescription from Christ to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as a required element of worship.(2) Divine warrant established by authorized example of the apostles also requires our obedience in matters related to worship. For example, there is no explicit command for New Covenant believers to gather to worship God on the first day of the week. However, as we search the Scripture, God makes it clear to us by authorized example that since Christ was raised on the first day of the week (“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week . . .” Mk.16:9), and since Christ met with His apostles on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:19), and since the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church on the first day of the week as they were gathered to worship (Acts 2:1, cf. Lev. 23:15-16), and since it was the practice of apostolic churches to meet for worship on the first day of the week (“Now on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread . . .” Acts 20:7), and since it was the practice of apostolic churches to collect their offerings for the poor and needy on the first day of the week (“on the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside . . .” 1 Cor. 16:2), we conclude that the Word of God requires worship for all New Covenant believers on a first day Sabbath rather than on a seventh day Sabbath. If, for example, we should find in the New Covenant an approved example of the apostles burning incense in the worship of God, that would be sufficient warrant to require the burning of incense in worship on the Lord’s Day. The authorized example of the apostles is as morally binding as an express command from the lips of Christ.(3) Thirdly, divine warrant for liturgy in worship is established by good and necessary inference. In fact, divine warrant established by good and necessary inference requires our obedience as much as a direct command from God. For example, there is no explicit command in the New Testament, nor is there even an explicit authorized example of an infant receiving water baptism, and yet by good and necessary inference from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we conclude that God requires all New Covenant believing parents to bring their infant children to Christ in order to have the covenant sign of water baptism placed upon their heads. We derive such a good and necessary inference from these truths: (1) God established His covenant with Abraham and his seed; (2) God gave circumcision as the visible sign of the covenant to Abraham and his seed; (3) the covenant God made with Abraham and his seed continues into the New Covenant period; (4) Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to the infants of believing parents; (5) the children of believing parents are addressed as “holy”; and (6) whole households were baptized in the New Covenant period just as households were circumcized in the Old Covenant period. The good and necessary inference of infant baptism has the exact same authority from God as does a command from God. Or consider this good and necessary inference. All churches that I know of include women in the Lord’s Supper and yet it is not based on an explicit command nor even on an authorized example from Scripture, but rather on a good and necessary inference drawn from the truth that since God has authorized women to be baptized in the New Covenant (Acts 16:15; Gal. 3:27-28), those women who profess faith in Christ may also be admitted to the Lord’s Table.

Wikipedia helps:

The regulative principle of worship is a 20th century term used for a teaching shared by Calvinists and Anabaptists on how the second commandment and the Bible orders public worship. The substance of the doctrine regarding worship is that only those elements that are instituted or appointed by command or example in the Bible are permissible in worship, or in other words, that God institutes in the Scriptures everything he requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is prohibited. The term “regulative principle” is less frequently broadened to apply to other areas such as church government (Thornwell, 1841-2), but in this sense it becomes synonymous with the principle of sola scriptura.

The Regulative Principle is often contrasted with the normative principle of worship which teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship, as long as it is agreeable to the peace and unity of the Church. In short, there must be agreement with the general practice of the Church and no prohibition in Scripture for whatever is done in worship.

. . . it finds expression in confessional documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the London Baptist Confession of Faith.

. . . Likewise, some have applied the regulative principle to argue for exclusive psalmody, which allows for singing only from the Book of Psalms and excludes any hymns or other non-Biblical songs. Many early Calvinists eschewed musical instruments and advocated exclusive psalmody in worship, and this practice typified Presbyterians and other Reformed and Calvinist churches for some time.

Objection: ‘Scott, you have misunderstood Westminster! You have redefined what they think in regard to the regulative Principle. They did not hold to it as strictly as you do’.

Response: You are sadly mistaken. In fact, they were more strict than I. I assume you are referring to Dr. Crampton’s conclusion in his paper entitled, ‘Exclusive Psalmody’. In the paper Crampton says:

First, it should be stated that even if the majority of the Westminster Assembly were exclusive Psalmodists, it does not follow that one is non-confessional if he is not an exclusive Psalmodist. Chapter XXI of the Confession does not denounce the use of inspired or uninspired hymns and songs; it merely refers to the “singing of psalms”.

Here is where Crampton makes a dreadful mistake in presuming that just because the divines did not make mention of psalm singing only in this portion of the document that they therefore endorse the practice of adding man made songs. Since Crampton is a theologian, we can assume he understands hermeneutics. The same treatment he uses to get to conclusions when ‘searching the scriptures’, he fails to apply here. He is normative in his approach, obviously. He leans on the idea that since the document does not denounce the use of uninspired song that it is allowed; in light of section 5 of chapter 21, it is quite clear that the Divines endorsed only one form of song. If Westminster had no preference, acknowledging that the preference is based on the word of God, they would not have even included ‘singing Psalms’ only. Notice how Westminster denoted the idea in chapter 21:

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

Dr. Richard Bacon writes in response to Crampton’s claim:

The correctness of Dr. Crampton’s statement depends, however, upon the specific meaning of the Confession. If by “Psalms” the authors intended “the 150 canonical Psalms and no others” then one certainly is non-confessional if he is not an exclusive Psalmodist. But how might we know the specific meaning of a 350 year old document? One way would be to examine the practice of the authors. Why does Dr. Crampton want to exclude such evidence from the debate? Could it be that he knows that an examination of the church of Scotland in 1647 would reveal a church that was actively ridding herself of all unauthorized hymnody?

To understand the level of piety that Westminster held in regard to the Regulative Principle of Worship one needs look no further than the Confession, the Directory for Publick Worship and the remaining subordinate documents that they wrote and embraced. To believe otherwise is no less than silly. In our age of liberalism, even the most pious believer cannot be compared to these men. Their culture and day, when contrasted to ours, reveals much. keep in mind, they had no computers, hand held telephones and televisions. Their time was entirely devoted to their occupations, reading, writing and the studying of God’s word. They had less distraction. We need to consider these things in light of assessing their documents that the church uses and embraces.

Well, you might be thinking, “Most churches use grape juice in their Lord’s Supper and sing hymns. Are they all wrong and in sin?”

This is true, most churches do use hymnals and use grape juice. But as you will find as you read this paper, as Jesus once said, “but from the beginning it was not so.” Matt 19:8

The Regulative Principle is based on the commandments of God:

Ex. 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Worshipping the one true God in an illicit fashion is no less than idol worship and a direct break in the 2nd commandment. In essence, will worship.

Isaiah warns of this type of thinking:

65:2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
According to their own thoughts;
3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;
Who sacrifice in gardens,
And burn incense on altars of brick;
4 Who sit among the graves,
And spend the night in the tombs;
Who eat swine’s flesh,
And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 Who say, “Keep to yourself,
Do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!’
These are smoke in My nostrils,
A fire that burns all the day.
6 “Behold, it is written before Me:
I will not keep silence, but will repay—
Even repay into their bosom—
7 Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together,”
Says the LORD,
“Who have burned incense on the mountains
And blasphemed Me on the hills;
Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”

Paragraph 1 of chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession says:

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

Read again what the second portion of this chapter reads as it holds the key:

“But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself”

There are two schools of thought about governing the worship of God: Normative and Regulative.

Normative: Anything that God does not clearly deny in His word is allowable.
Regulative: Only what God has clearly commanded in His word is allowable

I was at one time ‘normative’ in my approach to worship. In essence, what that amounted to in my case was a lack of understanding of the principle. For example, I believed it was better to sing just the Psalms only for the sake of prudence. I did not think it was an actual sin to sing the hymns. My church sang the Psalms periodically and I felt that that was sufficient. In summary, I sang hymns for ‘prudence’ and ‘sufficiency’. My error was that I had created a God of my own imagination by breaking the 2nd commandment, not to mention the other commands that were related. I have studied the Regulative Principle for years. Matt McMahon and I created the Puritanboard together; the Regulative Principle was one of the main theological points of discussion.  I have my own webpage called I have plenty of links on that doctrine on the site. It was not until recently that God used His word and historic confessions to change my mind from normative to regulative. I thank Him for that. This change was a major shift in my theology. I contrast this to the shift that came when I understood the difference between my initial Arminian views of scripture and God revealing truth through reformed understandings. I want to be clear here; I am in no way saying that those who hold to a normative principle are by and large abandoning fully the Regulative Principle of Worship; they are to a degree, of course. However, most of those who call themselves ‘reformed’ are redefining it, the best way they know how to, not intentionally, mind you, but based upon their previous interactions with the doctrine and those who educated them, this is where they are. One is only as good as their theology. I was there once. All of our theologies are a ‘work in progress’. One might be able to claim a narrower view versus a wider understanding. Read some of the words of the reformers on the principle:

William Cunningham [in his Historical Theology, Volume I, pp. 65, 66]

anything which is imposed upon the church as binding by God’s authority…must be traced to something contained in, or fairly deducible from, Scripture. Unless Scripture proof be adduced, we are entitled at once to set aside all claim alleged upon our submission. If God really fitted and intended the written word to be the only rule of faith and practice, and has made this known unto us, He has thereby not only authorised but required us to reject or disregard anything obtruded upon the church as binding that cannot be traced to that source.

Cunningham [The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, pp 33, 34]

“the truth of this principle, as a general rule for the guidance of the church, is plainly enough involved in what Scripture teaches concerning its own sufficiency and perfection as a rule of faith and practice, concerning God’s exclusive right to determine in what way He ought to be worshipped, concerning Christ’s exclusive right to settle the constitution, laws and arrangements of His kingdom, concerning the unlawfulness of will worship, and concerning the utter unfitness of men for the function which they have so often and so boldly usurped in this matter. The fair application of these various scriptural views taken in combination, along with the utter want of any evidence on the other side, seems to us quite sufficient to shut out the lawfulness of introducing the inventions of men into the government and worship of the Christian church”

The Reverend Hugh Cartwright writes in regards to John Murray’s position:

John Murray [Collected Writings, Vol. I, p. 168] draws attention to “some texts in the New Testament” which he says “bear directly on this question: Mark 7:7,8: ‘Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do’; Jn. 4:24: ‘God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth’; Col. 2: 20-23: ‘… which things indeed have a show of wisdom in will worship….’; 1 Peter 2:5: ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’”. He asks: “Where does the Holy Spirit give us direction respecting that which He approves and leads us to render? The answer is: only in the Scripture as the Word which He as inspired. This simply means that for all the modes and elements of worship there must be authorisation from the Word of God….”.

The Normative principle is problematic in that it swings wide open the barn door; how would one discern where to limit the action of this type of thinking. For instance, when it comes to worship music: If you are of the mindset that uninspired music in worship is acceptable, what tool do you employ to gauge what you should use in worship? Where do you draw the line in the sand? Content? Your senses? Who wrote it? Vineyard, Jars of Clay? Hymns? How can we say that one form is more acceptable to God than another? When we say that the hymns are more appropriate than Vineyard we show an ignorance in that there is nothing essentially in either genres that set it apart, one from the other, other than culture; one is contemporary and the other not. You will notice that in our church, we have a mix of contemporary songs, i.e. Getty and Townend and the Trinity Hymnal. If we sway toward more contemporary style, we could work Vineyard music into the mix easily. The members by and large would not miss a beat as we have already prepped them for a shift of sorts by playing songs like, ‘In Christ Alone’, which in my opinion, sounds just like Vineyard-type stuff. So let’s say we are continually shifting. In 5-10 years, we will be playing U2 in our worship. Don’t think that this idea is not germane to our situation. That’s how this stuff happens; slowly, insidiously. Are you following me? This is exactly why we stand on God’s word and what it provides for us. We don’t shift. We do not presume. We remain constant as God is constant. Yes, I know, you are rationalizing. You don’t want to let go. I understand, I was once there. All of our rationalization must be according to God’s command in how He is to be worshipped and that alone. God did not ask us for our help, nor our opinion when He created the world. He know’s whats best for us and has left us the manual. We need to heed it lest we perish.

Trinity Hymnal vs Contemporary Music

I know of men who are quite pious and reformed yet use the hymns. They would surely balk at using Vineyard music in their churches. Many times they could be heard mocking those who use this type of worship music. Are they right in their thinking? What would they use in regard to argumentation against using it? How would they support, biblically, their choice of hymns over vineyard-type stuff? Inspired vs uninspired? Both genres are uninspired! Content? I have found plenty of Vineyard stuff that is biblically sound, not taking into consideration their Arminianism which is at the basis of their writing. Many of the hymn writers were aberrant. Take for instance the Trinity Hymnal; Isaac Watts and his anti-trinitarian view. What about Horatio Spafford and his rabid Arminianism? Jane Leeson and her Roman Catholicism? How about Unitarian Dora Greenwell? Samuel Stennet was a 7th day Baptist. Are you familiar with ‘Jumpers’? One writer in the Trinity Hymnal by the name of William Williams was a jumper:

a designation applied to some Welsh religionists of the [eighteenth] century who introduced into their worship the practice of dancing and jumping … William Williams, the famous Welsh hymn-writer … advocated and adopted the practice. The jumping usually followed the sermon, and was preceded by the singing of a verse of some hymn, which was repeated again and again, sometimes forty or even more times. The jumping was accompanied with all kinds of gestures, and often lasted for hours (vol. 2, pp. 1214-1215). *From Angus Stewart’s paper

The Trinity Hymnal has women who held the office of preacher erroneously: Mary Dagworth James, Jemina Luke, to name a few, not to mention the number of other female writers in the hymnal. I have spoken about this issue in the past in regard to worship. If a woman wrote the hymn, that woman is essentially teaching as we read and sing the lyrics. Scripture is sanctifying for the saint; it is constantly teaching us. To deny what we sing as less than academic would fly in the face of this biblical truth. The same can be said of prayer; when a woman prays openly in a corporate setting, she is assuming the position of leading to a degree; all the men are listening and quite possibly, being taught by her and what she prays. Pastor Fred Greco writes of prayer:

Prayers are authoritative and teaching by it’s very nature.

For example: When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, what does it teach us?

Pastor W.J. Mencarow writes:

After reading Hymns, Heretics and History, which makes the point that singing is a powerful form of teaching, and churches that would never allow women to teach men (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) nevertheless sing hymns written by women. I looked in the most recent (red) Trinity Hymnal, which as you know is used by many Reformed churches, to see if there were any hymns with lyrics written by women. There are at least 86. There may be more — some of the first names are initials. That represents 13% of the total (742). Those songs attributed to “The Psalter” are 75 in number (10%). So there are more hymns with words written by women in the Trinity Hymnal than there are Psalms, or even what may be paraphrases of Psalms. Also, there are 35 hymns written by Isaac Watts, who at the least had unorthodox views of the Trinity and seems closer to Arianism.

More here: Should Women Keep Silent?

One of the hymn writers in the hymnal is said to be lesbian:

In her personal life, she had some friendships “of singular depth and intensity,” and one in particular with a “gifted friend” (a woman). Waring destroyed most of the correspondence between them, and (in the words of the biographer) “of the few which remain, none are suitable for publication.” This suggests a relationship which in 1911 (when the memoir was written, in the year after Waring’s death) would have been thought shocking … a love between the two women that could not be revealed but which gave nothing but pleasure (Watson, The English Hymn, pp. 446-447, 448). The English Hymn *From Angus Stewart’s paper

My whole point in citing these issues with the Trinity Hymnal is to show that these hymns are no more worthy of worship than those of Vineyard et. al. Both are uninspired and both are full of calamity, a calamity that the people of God should do without, if not just based on these facts alone. Should the people of God, those who acknowledge that we are to ‘worship in spirit and truth’, endorse and entertain lyrics from men and women that are the antithesis of truth? The fact that the Trinity Hymnal allows for this type of thing says much. Is error ever from God when it comes to how we are to worship Him? Could one charge those who practice exclusive psalmody in the same light? Impossible. This is the crux of the argument. Reader, do not miss this fact. The fire of the hymnal is obvious, it is strange. There is no way around that. If God is perfect and He commands to be worshipped in truth, how is it we are comfortable in approaching Him with imperfection?

Look what Jesus says:

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

The Greek explains:

GK G237 | S G225   ἀλήθεια   alētheia   109xtruth, Mk. 5:33; love of truth, sincerity, 1 Cor. 5:8; divine truth revealed to man, Jn. 1:17; practice in accordance with Gospel truth, Jn. 3:21; 2 Jn. 4 truth.

Silence, Necessary Inference and Circumstance


One might argue that some of the things I am pointing out are not within the confines of scripture and should be considered ‘a circumstance of worship’. Surely ‘circumstances’ should be considered. For example, the microphone that the Pastor uses or the pews we sit comfortably in. This is explained further in the following references:

The Westminster Confession:

WCF 1.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man´s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

Richard writes:

“A circumstance of worship is something “common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed” (WCF i.6). By this is meant those things needful to facilitate the worship of God and/or those things that are to accompany the worship of God but do not, in and of themselves, formally constitute worship. There are two types of circumstances, the first are regulated and the second are unregulated.

Regulated circumstances of worship
These are circumstances that are regulated by God and include:
(1) The Sabbath day or Lord’s Day (Genesis 2:2, 3; Exodus 20:8-11; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10);
(2) Headcovering (1 Corinthians 11:1-16);
(3) Women in silence (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35); and,
(4) Ministry, i.e. only men who have been ordained can preach and publicly read the Scriptures (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
(5) Weekly communion.

Unregulated circumstances of worship
Unregulated circumstances would include:
(1) The time the services are held;
(2) The seating used; and,
(3) The building, or, where the service is held.

The distinction between ‘Regulated Circumstance’ and ‘Unregulated Circumstance’ must be considered. Those things which we attempt to say that assist in our worship, i.e. the pews or microphone do not have any direct bearing on the worship itself. For instance, if we had to stand because we ran out of chairs, the worship would not suffer. The problem here is when one does not define these distinctions alongside the word of God and open the idea up to human rationale. Thats a can of worms that will never run out of worms. For instance, one could not say that the hymns help us as they are in direct rebellion to the command of God to sing the Psalms. We could not say like Rome that stained glass images assist us as they are a direct break in the second commandment.

William Young writes:

[Jeremiah] Burroughs [Gospel Worship] adopts the standard Puritan distinction of elements and circumstances of worship, terming the latter “natural and Civil helps.” “It is true that there are some thing in the Worship of God that natural and Civil helps, and there we need not have any Command: As for instance; when we come to worship God the congregation meets, they must have a convenient place to keep the Air and weather from them: now this is but a natural help, and so far as I use the place of worship at a natural help, I need have no Command.” A further important distinction is made between those natural circumstances just described and significant circumstances or ceremonies which require a warrant. Further developing the example of a place of worship, Burroughs writes: “But if I will put any thing in a Place beyond what it hath in its own nature, there I must look for a Command. For if I account one place more Holy than another; or to think that God should accept of worship in one place rather than in another: this is to raise it above what it is in its own Nature. So that when any Creature is raised in a Religious way above what it hath in it by Nature: If I have not Scripture to warrant me I am therein Superstitious. It’s a very useful rule for to help you: If any Creature that you make any use of in a way of Religion beyond what it hath in its own Nature, if you have not some warrant from the Word of God (whatsoever specious shew there may be in it) it is superstition.” (Ibid.)

John Girardeau writes:

There is a respect in which the church has discretionary power in this department, but it is one which does not in the slightest degree affect the nature and organization of her government. It lies not in the sphere of the supernatural, but altogether in that of the natural. The Westminster Confession very precisely defines the extent of this discretion. It is restricted to “some circumstances concerning the government of the church common to human actions and societies.” It is designed to speak more particularly of this “doctrine of circumstances” under the topic still remaining — that of worship — and it is here dismissed with a single remark. It is clear that circumstances which are common to human actions cannot be anything which is peculiar to church actions, and those which are common to human societies cannot be anything distinctive of the church as a certain kind of society. They are circumstances belonging to the temporal sphere — time, place, decorum, and the natural methods of discharging business which are necessities to all societies. They do not appertain to the kind of government which the church ought to have, not the mode in which it is to be disposed.

This, then, is the extent of the discretionary power of the church in the sphere of government: She is to add nothing to, to take nothing from, what Christ has commanded in the Scriptures. All her needs are there provided for. She must have a divine warrant for every element of her polity and every distinctive function of government. Her laws are given; her officers are given; and the mode in which those laws shall be administered, and those officers shall act, is given. She can, consequently, make no laws — her power is limited to declaring and applying Christ’s laws; she can create no offices — her power is expressed in electing the persons to fill those that Christ has appointed; she can institute no new mode of government — her sole power lies in employing that which Christ has ordained. Her power and her duty alike are summed up in absolute conformity to the Written Word.

The public worship of the church, in a wide sense, includes the reading of the Scriptures, preaching, prayer, the singing of praise, the administration of the sacraments, contribution of our substance to the service of God, and the pronunciation of the benediction. In a stricter sense, its elements are prayer and singing. It will not be disputed that these modes of worship are revealed by Christ in His Word. If so, the church has no discretionary power to introduce any others or to change in any respect those which Christ has warranted. The theory that whatsoever is not expressly forbidden in the Word the church may do, involves the monstrous assumption, that in matters of positive institution uninspired wisdom is of co-ordinate authority with the revealed will of God. The power that adds to or abridges them, that changes or modifies them, must either be equal to the original appointing power, or be shown to be delegated from it. Neither of these positions rests upon a shadow of proof from the Scriptures. But whatever others may think on this subject, our doctrine is definitely settled. The Westminster Confession distinctly enounces the principle that whatsoever, in connection with church-worship, is not commanded, either expressly or implicitly, is forbidden. Its language is: “The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.” This is the doctrine of our own Constitution, our accepted exposition of the Written Word — that only what Christ has commanded can the church enforce or permit; that what He has not commanded is not allowable; that the only sphere in which the church possesses discretionary power is that of commanded things, within which she may act, beyond which she is not at liberty to go one inch.

But, in this sphere of commanded things, what is the extent of her discretionary power? This is a question which is to us, as a church, one of present, practical import. It is one of the points at which we are in especial danger of being caught off our guard — this is a gate through which the Trojan horse is sought to be introduced into our holy city. It is a real, living issue, What power has the church within the sacred, the divinely-scored circle of commanded things — of revealed duties? This being the question, the answer, for us, is most precisely given in our Confession of Faith. After stating the mighty principle of the limitation of power within the things prescribed in Scripture, it proceeds to say: “There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and the government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.” Since then, by her Constitution, the charter which defines her rights, limits her powers and prescribes her duties, the discretion of our church is astricted to “some circumstances concerning the worship of God common to human actions and societies,” it is a question of the utmost consequence, What is the nature of these circumstances? Dr. Thornwell puts the case so clearly, and yet so concisely, that we quote a portion of his words in answer to this very question: “Circumstances are those concomitants of an action without which it either cannot be done at all, or cannot be done with decency and decorum. Public worship, for example, requires public assemblies, and in public assemblies people must appear in some costume and assume some posture . . . . Public assemblies, moreover, cannot be held without fixing the time and place of meeting: these are circumstances which the church is at liberty to regulate . . . . We must distinguish between those circumstances which attend actions as actions — that is, without which the actions cannot be — and those circumstances which, though not essential, are added as appendages. These last do not fall within the jurisdiction of the church. She has no right to appoint them. They are circumstances in the sense that they do not belong to the substance of the act. They are not circumstances in the sense that they so surround it that they cannot be separated from it. A liturgy is a circumstance of this kind . . . . In public worship, indeed in all commanded external actions, there are two elements — a fixed and a variable. The fixed element, involving the essence of the thing, is beyond the discretion of the church. The variable, involving only the circumstances of the action, its separable accidents, may be changed, modified or altered, according to the exigencies of the case.” Such is the doctrine of one who was a profound and philosophical thinker, a man deeply taught of the Spirit, and a master of the Presbyterian system, the doctrine of Calvin and Owen, of Cunningham and Breckinridge, the doctrine of the Reformed Church of France, of the Puritans of England, and of the Church of Scotland, the doctrine to which, by the grace of God, the practice of the Free Church of Scotland and of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, in an age of growing laxity, still continues to be conformed.

There are three criteria by which the kind of circumstances attending worship which fall under the discretionary power of the church may be determined: first, they are not qualities or modes of the acts of worship; they are extraneous to them as a certain kind of actions; secondly, they are common to the acts of all societies, and, therefore, not peculiar to the acts of the church as a particular sort of society — they are not characteristic and distinctive of her acts and predicable of them alone; and thirdly, they are conditions necessary to the performance of the acts of worship — without them the acts of this society could not be done, as without them the acts of no society could be done.

It is submitted, with all modesty, that this line of argument ought to be conclusive with Presbyterians, at least, against ranking instrumental music in public worship as one of the circumstances common to human actions and societies which fall under the discretion of the church. Consequently, to justify it, it must be proved to be one of those directly commanded things which the apostles taught the church to observe. To take that ground is to contradict the unbroken evidence of history from the apostolic age until the middle of the thirteenth century. The force of this consideration lies here: there having been a tendency in the church from the earliest age to depart from the simple institutions of the Gospel, it is utterly unaccountable that she should have become more simple in her worship after the apostles fell asleep than she was under their personal teaching. It is clear as day, the human heart being what it is, that if the apostolic churches had been accustomed to this mode of worship it never would have been eradicated. The natural tastes of men all forbid the supposition. The elimination of instrumental music from the worship of Christ’s house by the best churches of the Reformation, by the English Puritans and the Church of Scotland, was the result of an effort to purify the church and to restore her to what they conceived to be the simplicity of apostolic practice. In this matter, we have relapsed from their reformed position. But if the use of instrumental music in the New Testament Church be not either directly commanded in Scripture, or indirectly as one of the circumstances common to human actions and societies and lying within the sphere of commanded things, it only remains to consider it a clear, substantive addition to the divinely revealed rule of faith and duty in the Written Word; and then it is prohibited. The issue is: Either we must prove that it is one of the things expressly or implicitly commanded by Christ, or admit that it is forbidden. The latter alternative is the doctrine of our Standards; and, if so, the inference as to what our practice ought to be is too apparent to be pressed.

In light of what I have presented above; try and think, element of worship vs circumstance. They are not one and the same and should not be confused to be. For instance, do the pews help us in worshipping God? You might reply, ‘Yes, of course we are comfortable. I would ask, in the Old Testament church, didn’t Israel stand for hours on end in the sun worshipping God without comfortable pews, yet their worship was still according to the Regulative Principle. The fact that they had to stand for hours in the burning sun was irrelevant.

Neh. 9:1 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.  2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God.

James Henry Thornwell helps here:

Dr. Thornwell puts the case so clearly, and yet so concisely, that we quote a portion of his words in answer to this very question: “Circumstances are those concomitants of an action without which it either cannot be done at all, or cannot be done with decency and decorum. Public worship, for example, requires public assemblies, and in public assemblies people must appear in some costume and assume some posture . . . . Public assemblies, moreover, cannot be held without fixing the time and place of meeting: these are circumstances which the church is at liberty to regulate . . . . We must distinguish between those circumstances which attend actions as actions — that is, without which the actions cannot be — and those circumstances which, though not essential, are added as appendages. These last do not fall within the jurisdiction of the church. She has no right to appoint them. They are circumstances in the sense that they do not belong to the substance of the act. They are not circumstances in the sense that they so surround it that they cannot be separated from it. A liturgy is a circumstance of this kind . . . . In public worship, indeed in all commanded external actions, there are two elements — a fixed and a variable. The fixed element, involving the essence of the thing, is beyond the discretion of the church. The variable, involving only the circumstances of the action, its separable accidents, may be changed, modified or altered, according to the exigencies of the case.”

The pews and microphone are circumstances of worship; they assist God’s people but are not elements as worship can be done without them if need be. The little cups we use when we pass the Lord’s Supper are circumstantial; they assist us in distributing the sacrament. However, if we had none on hand, we could still keep the regulative Principle by using a single goblet for the whole congregation if need be. The trays we use for distribution of the elements are another example; they help, we don’t necessarily need them, neither are they commanded. Try and see clear of the differences.


Where the scriptures are silent, that is, not literally written out, not derived via necessary inference, we are silent. In regard to worship, If it is not commanded, we do not do it. Again, watch for presumption when it comes to God. Uzzah presumed to touch the Ark and look what it got him:

2Sam. 6:6   And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.  8 And David became angry because of the LORD’S outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.

You will notice that even David became angry with the result of this break in the Regulative Principle; ‘David became angry’. How many of us do the same when God’s word does what it does best, that being a refining fire. Much like David, much sin remains; we get upset with our maker over that what He knows is right for the creature. It is not like He wills that what is fruitless towards us. How would we know what is for the betterment of us. If not for the law of God, we would not know what is sinful. Our frames are as dust and one can see the silliness of David’s response which is much like ours often.

Matthew Henry writes:

The anger of the Lord was kindled against him (for in sacred things he is a jealous God) and he smote him there for his rashness, as the word is, and struck him dead upon the spot. There he sinned, and there he died, by the ark of God; even the mercy-seat would not save him. Why was God thus severe with him? 1. The touching of the ark was forbidden to the Levites expressly under pain of death—lest they die; and God, by this instance of severity, would show how he might justly have dealt with our first parents, when they had eaten that which was forbidden under the same penalty—lest you die. 2. God saw the presumption and irreverence of Uzzah’s heart. Perhaps he affected to show, before this great assembly, how bold he could make with the ark, having been so long acquainted with it. Familiarity, even with that which is most awful, is apt to breed contempt.David’s anger was kindled. It is the same word that is used for God’s displeasure, v. 7. Because God was angry, David was angry and out of humour. As if God might not assert the honour of his ark, and frown upon one that touched it rudely, without asking David leave. Shall mortal man pretend to be more just than God, arraign his proceedings, or charge him with iniquity? David did not now act like himself, like a man after God’s own heart. It is not for us to be displeased at any thing that God does, how unpleasing soever it is to us. The death of Uzzah was indeed an eclipse to the glory of a solemnity which David valued himself upon more than any thing else, and might give birth to some speculations among those that were disaffected to him, as if God were departing from him too; but he ought nevertheless to have subscribed to the righteousness and wisdom of God in it, and not to have been displeased at it.

As shown, presumption is wrong and Uzzah suffered greatly for it! We should stick to what God’s word says and that alone. Since the determination and keys fall to the leadership, it is ultimately their issue:

Deut. 18:20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.

Necessary Inference:

Necessary Inference or Good and Necessary consequence is not silence. Many things are found in scripture by this hermeneutic. It is not silence and the distinction needs to be made. Consider these things in relation to how we have come to our doctrine on the Trinity, women taking the Supper, 7th day Sabbath changing to the Lord’s day Sabbath on the first day of the week, mode of baptism, church polity, membership, the Regulative Principle, to name a few. The difference between silence and Good and Necessary consequence is obvious. We get to a conclusion using the whole Canon. Think of it as a process of deduction.

The Psalms vs the Scottish Psalter

Objection: ‘The Scottish Psalter, or other renditions of the Psalms are not the actual word of God but paraphrases of it. You Exclusive Psalmodist’s are doing nothing different than us when we sing hymns. The hymns are a summary of scripture just like your Psalter is a summary!’

Response: Not true. To begin with, I again refer you to the section of this paper that specifically addresses the Trinity Hymnal and similar examples of hymnody. Yes they are man made, it is the renditions of theology as men understand it, many of them aberrant. Utilizing a poor translation of God’s word, i.e. The New International Version of the bible is still God’s word and inspired. There are degrees of translations. Some are better than others. Yet, they remain inspired. The hymnal can never claim this and that is the difference. The Scottish rendition of the Psalter is no less the word of God. Example: If I was to read Calvin from the pulpit, would you receive it with the same authority as if I was singing from the Scottish Psalter? Of course not! If I read from the Scottish Psalter, would you receive that in the same light as if reading from God’s word? If you understand the distinction I am making, of course. One is the extrapolation of a man and the other a paraphrase of Gods actual words. Again, think along the lines of different translations of the bible. All are derived from the original languages. They are unified in theology and doctrine. One could not say that about Calvin’s extrapolation of the scriptures or any other man for that matter.

Here are some quotes from the venerable dead on the issue:

…more plaine, smooth and agreeable to the Text than any heretofore…
(General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1650)

…yet the other version [i.e. the 1650 ‘Scottish’], so exactly perused and amended…with long and great labour, is so closely framed according to the original text, as we humbly conceive it will be useful for the edification of the church. (Westminster Assembly)

The Psalms are perfected, the best without doubt that ever yet were extant (Robert Baillie)

(It) has come through the hands of more examiners…(Its accuracy) is good compensation to make up the want of poetical liberty and sweet pleasant running which some may desire.
(Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie in correspondence with the Scottish Church)

But surlie now, in anno 1650, we have, through the rich blessing of God upon the long travails of many faithful and painful brethren, expert in the Hebrew and poesie, the most exact, near, and smooth paraphrase [i.e. metrical version, not loose rendering as the term now implies] of the psalms (a part of the intended uniformitie) that ever the Christian world did afford. (John Row)

External Testimony “The best which we have seen.”
(Richard Baxter)

…and to us David’s Psalms seem plainly intended by those terms of Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs, which the Apostle useth, Ephes. 5.19, Col. 3.16. But then ’tis meet that these Divine composures should be represented to us in a fit translation, lest we want David, in David; while his holy ecstasies are delivered in a flat and bald expression. The translation which is now put into thy hands cometh nearest to the
Original of any that we have seen, and runneth with such a fluent sweetness, that we thought fit to recommend it to thy Christian acceptance; Some of us having used it already, with great comfort and satisfaction.”
Subscribed by Thomas Manton, Henry Langley, John Owen, William Jenkyn, James Innes, Thomas Watson, Thomas Lye, Matthew Poole, John Milward, John Chester, George Cokayn, Matthew Meade, Robert Francklin, Thomas Dooelittle, Thomas Vincent, Nathanael Vincent, John Ryther, William Tomson, Nicolas Blakie, Charles Morton, Edmund Calamy, William Carslake, James Janeway, John Hickes, John Baker, Richard Mayo.

The metrical version of the Psalms should be read or sung through at least once in the year. It is truly an admirable translation from the Hebrew… (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)

The Scottish Version of the Psalms is not perfect, nor is the English version of the Bible; but both are so near perfection, and so interwoven with Christian faith and feeling, that it is a question of the gravest character whether either of them should be changed. (Dr. John Edgar, 1798-1866, Professor of Theology, Presbyterian Church of Ireland)

The above quotations taken from Dr. David Silversides paper entitled, “The Development of the Scottish Psalter“. You may read it in it’s entirety for further help.


Grape Juice?

Matt. 26:26   And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Matt. 26:27   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.

It would seem obvious that Christ used wine in the Lord’s Supper. This doctrine is not found by using Good and Necessary consequence. It is not an issue of silence. You notice that Jesus refers to the element as ‘fruit of the vine’. This was without a doubt an Old Testament reference. Think like a Jew for the moment. The Passover was being celebrated. The Passover was the foreshadowing of Christ, His sacrifice and the Lord’s Supper. Wine was the typical drink of that age and used for the Passover. This fact cannot be denied. Food for thought, if you hold to the idea that grape juice is an acceptable option, think in light of what Christ says about His ‘drinking’ of  the ‘fruit of the vine’ in glory. Is it possible that He serves the church Welch’s grape juice at the feast in glory? The thought is preposterous! This error was spawned in aberrant groups initially, i.e. Tatians, Gnostics and later in the Temperance movement. Interestingly, even during prohibition, the government allowed for churches to continue using wine in the Lord’s Supper.

‘Fruit of the vine’

For those of you who believe this biblical statement allows for the use of grape juice in the Lords Supper, would you as well believe it is ok to use these vine fruits in the supper if you wanted?

1) Kiwi.
2) Cranberry
3) Watermelon
4) Cantaloupe
5) Dragon Fruit
6) Passion Fruit
7) Honey Dew
8) Pumpkin.
9) Tomato.

Argument: Previous hx of alcoholism, allergy to components of wine.

Response: Alcoholism: Are you a new creation in Christ? Is He that is in you greater than he that is in the world? Surely, there were believers in the initial stages of the church that were alcoholics. Do you see any mention of believers falling back into alcoholism after partaking in scripture? 

Allergy? This may fall under a ‘providential hinderance’. Do you see anyone in scripture where a believer had an allergic reaction to the elements? What about the present day ‘gluten free’ movement? Most people, based on studies I have read, are allergic to gluten; much of this is based on the fact that grain is not the same as it was in the days of the earlier church. The processes have been changed. The genetics have been tampered with….

In H. Bavinck’s Dogmatics he writes:

Second, the association of the Lord’s Supper with a meal is strongly evidenced by the food and drink distributed and enjoyed in it. The signs of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper have no more been arbitrary or accidentally chosen than the water in Baptism. In the sacrifices of the Old Testament, flesh and blood were of primary importance, since they typologically pointed to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yet the Lord’s Supper itself is not a sacrifice, but a memorial of the sacrifice made on the cross, and expresses the communion of believers with that sacrifice. For that reason, Christ did not choose flesh and blood but bread and wine as food and drink in the Lord’s Supper, to indicate thereby that it is not a sacrifice but a meal-a meal on the basis of , in memory of, and as an exercise of communion with, the crucified Christ. To that end, the signs of bread and wine are eminently suited. In the east, they were regular constituents of a meal. Everywhere and at all times even now they are easy to obtain. They are the chief means for strengthening and rejoicing the human heart (Psalm 104:15) and a graphic symbol of the communion of believers with Christ and one another. “

As well, William Sprague issues a scathing rebuke:

Another way in which men make themselves over-wise on this subject is bymodifying the ordinance to suit their own views; especially by inculcating the doctrine, or adopting the practice, of dispensing with the appropriate elements, or of substituting something in place of them, which the scripture does not warrant; or to come fully to the point which I now have more particularly in view, and on which the movements of the present day will not allow me any longer to be silent — THE EXCLUSION OF WINE FROM THE LORD’S SUPPER. Do you say that it is impossible there should be any danger of such extravagance in an enlightened community like this, and that I am giving a false alarm in expressing the opinion that there isdanger? You shall know then the grounds of my apprehension, and judge for yourselves of their validity.

Remember that no authority is worth a rush, that contradicts the plain declarations of Christ and his apostles, as they are found in the New Testament. And I ask how the blessed Founder of our religion — a religion designed for common people who can only judge the meaning of scripture, by the principles of common sense — I ask how it was possible that he should have instituted this ordinance to be observed in the Church forever, and spoken of the fruit of the vine, and nothing else, as one of the elements, if, after all, he meant wine and water, or tamarind water, or molasses and water, or anything else than that which his words properly and exclusively indicate. I say, brethren, you have no occasion for Hebrew learning, or Arabic learning, than plain English, to settle this question. The Master himself has settled it; has settled it for the obscurest peasant as truly as for the most eminent biblical critic. And no man, no body of men, has a right to call in question the Master’s decision.

More here from Sprague: Danger of Being Over-Wise

The following citations lends a hand:

Excerpt on the elements: “Given For You”, Keith A. Mathison, Pp 301-304

“The Testimony of the ChurchWe have already mentioned that wine was universally used by the entire church for the first 1,800 years of her existence. During those years, there was never any suggestion that another drink should be used. In the early church, for example, we find clear testimony to the use of wine by such men as Justin Martyr (The First Apology, 65) and Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor, 2.2). In the eighth century, the Synod of Constantinople bore witness to the continued use of wine in the Lord’s Supper.At the time of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, there were disagreements over virtually every other issue related to the sacrament, but there was no disagreement over the use of wine. All of the churches continued to teach that bread and wine are the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper. Martin Luther taught this in his Small Catechism of 1529, and the Lutheran church continued to teach it in the Augsburg Confession (art. 10). The Anglican church taught the use of actual bread and wine in the Thirty-nine Articles (art. 28). Even the Anabaptists continued to teach this in the Dordrecht Confession of 1632 (art. 10).IN the Reformed branch of the church, the use of wine was taught and practiced by John Calvin. It was also taught in the great six-teenth-century Reformed confessions, such as the Belgic Confession (art. 35), the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 79), and the Second Helvetic Confession (chap. 19). The use of wine is also clearly taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. This Confession teaches that Jesus has appointed his ministers to “bless the elements of bread and win” (29.3). The Larger Catechism repeatedly declares that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine (Qq. 168-69, 177). Every Reformed theologian form the time of Calvin forward taught that bread and wine were the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper. This teaching is found in the writings of Robert Bruce, William Ames, Francis Turretin, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Jonathan Edwards, Herman Witsius, Charles Hodge, AA Hodge, Robert L. Dabney, WGT Shedd, BB Warfield, John Murray and Louis Berkhof, among many others.The use of wine in the Lord’s Supper not only is unanimously taught by all the Reformed theologians and confessions from the sixteenth century forward, but also is explicitly taught in modern Presbyterian directories of worship. The Book of Church Order of the PCA, for example, is clear in its teaching that the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine……The PCA’s directory of worship is in perfect agreement with her doctrinal standards. Both the Confessions and The Book of Church Order clearly declare that the proper elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine, not bread and grape juice.It may come to a surprise to some, but even the great theologians and confessions of faith in the historic Baptist church taught that bread and wine were the proper elements to be used in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Great Baptist theologians such as John Gill, John L. Dagg, and James P. Boyce all taught that wine was to be used in the Lord’s Supper. The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 closely follows the wording of the WCF when it says, “The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine.” (30.3). The Southern Baptist Abstract Principles of 1859 says, “The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ to be administered with the elements of bread and wine…” (art. 16). Even the BF&M, written in 1925, long after the beginning of the temperance movement, declares that bread and wine are to be used in the Lord’s Supper (art. 13).Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper was simply a non issue for Christians. Agreement on the matter was so universal that most confessions and theologians in the history of the church mention the subject in passing, as if they are simply stating the OBVIOUS (emphasis added – ldh). They do not even bother to present arguments for the use of wine because no one had ever suggested that anything else be used. They consider the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper to be as biblically self-evident as the use of water in baptism. The nineteenth-century theologians, such as the Presb. AA Hodge and the Baptist John L. Dagg, who were the first to be confronted with the question, were adamant in their refusal to change the elements of the Lord’s Supper in order to pacify the legalistic spirit of the age.”


Martin Luther writes:

No. 5509: A Substitute for Wine in the Sacrament? Winter of 1542–1543 “When somebody inquired whether, when a sick person wished to have the sacrament but could not tolerate wine on account of nausea, something else should be given in place of the wine, the doctor [Martin Luther] replied, “This question has often been put to me and I have always given this answer: One shouldn’t use anything else than wine. If a person can’t tolerate wine, omit it [the sacrament] altogether in order that no innovation may be made or introduced. Is it necessary for a person who is dying to have the sacrament again at the last moment?“Formerly it was said that he who has consumed one kind should think that he has consumed both. Why shouldn’t we say, ‘If you have taken neither, think that you have taken both’?”Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 54: Luther’s works, vol. 54 : Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (54:438). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The term ‘wine’ is not actually used in the passages of scripture on the Lord’s supper; ‘Fruit of the vine’ is used. Philip Schaff, ed. A Religious Encyclopedia of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal and Practical Theology, 1887:

“The expression the “fruit of the vine” is employed by our Savior in the synoptical Gospels to denote the element contained in the cup of the Holy Supper. The fruit of the vine is literally the grape. But the Jews from time immemorial have used this phrase to designate the wine partaken of on sacred occasions, as at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath. The Mishna (De. Bened, cap. 6, pars 1) expressly states, that, in pronouncing blessings, “the fruit of the vine” is the consecrated expression for yayin. . . . The Christian Fathers, as well as the Jewish rabbis, have understood “the fruit of the vine” to mean wine in the proper sense. Our Lord, in instituting the Supper after the Passover, availed himself of the expression invariably employed by his countrymen in speaking of the wine of the Passover. On other occasions, when employing the language of common life, he calls wine by its ordinary name” (p. 2537-2538).

John D. Davis. Illustrated Davis Dictionary of the Bible, 1973:

“Fruit of the vine, the designation used by Jesus at the institution of the Lord’s Supper … is the expression employed by the Jews from time immemorial for the wine partaken of on sacred occasions, as at the Passover and on the evening of the Sabbath (Mishna, Berakoth, vi. 1). The Greeks also used the term as a synonym of wine which was capable of producing intoxication (Herod i. 211, 212)” (p. 868).”

Gerhard Kittel, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1967:

“It is obvious … that according to custom Jesus was proffering wine in the cup over which He pronounced the blessing; this may be seen especially from the solemn genema tes ampelou [fruit of the vine] … which was borrowed from Judaism” (Vol. V, p. 164).

T.K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black. Encyclopaedia Biblica, 1903:

“In the Gospels we find wine designated ‘the fruit of the vine’…, a periphrasis doubtless already current in Jewish speech, since it is found in the time-honoured benediction over the wine-cup in Berakh 6.1…” (p. 5309).”

William Lane. The Gospel According to Mark, (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 1974:

“By his prophetic action in interpreting these familiar parts of the ancient paschal liturgy Jesus instituted something new in which the bread and wine of table-fellowship become the pledge of his saving presence throughout the period of time prior to the parousia and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in its fulness” (pp. 507-508). “The cup from which Jesus abstained was the fourth, which ordinarily concluded the Passover fellowship. The significance of this can be appreciated from the fact that the four cups of wine were interpreted in terms of the four-fold promise of redemption set forth in Exod. 6:6-7: “I will bring you out … I will rid you of their bondage … I will redeem you … I will take you for my people and I will be your God” (TJ Pesachim X. 37b). Jesus had used the third cup, associated with the promise of redemption, to refer to his atoning death on behalf of the elect community. The cup which he refused was the cup of consummation, associated with the promise that God will take his people to be with him. This is the cup which Jesus will drink with his own in the messianic banquet which inaugurates the saving age to come. The cup of redemption (verse 24), strengthened by the vow of abstinence (verse 25), constitutes the solemn pledge that the fourth cup will be extended and the unfinished meal completed in the consummation, when Messiah eats with redeemed sinners in the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 14:15; Rev. 3:20f.; 19:6-9)” (pp508-509).”

Norval Geldenhuys. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 1951:

“All that is taught in Matthew, Mark, and I Corinthians xi in the original Greek is that on the occasion of the Passover the Saviour instituted the Holy Communion by giving bread and also by giving wine” (p. 554).

R. C. H. Lenski. The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, 1946:

“The efforts that are put forth to read wine out of this account are unavailing. Because oinos, the word for “wine,” does not occur, the presence of wine is at least gravely questioned, which means practically denied. Luke’s “the fruit of the vine”… the lovely liturgical term for the wine that was used in the Passover ritual, which Matthew makes even more specific by writing “this fruit of the vine,” the one that was regularly used in the Passover and was used at this Passover by Jesus, is misunderstood by these commentators, for they assert that grape juice fits this phrase better than does wine – although such a thing as grape juice was an impossibility in April in the Holy Land of Christ’s time. It could be had only when grapes were freshly pressed out, before the juice started to ferment in an hour or two” (pp. 1043-1044).”

Joachim Jeremias. The Eucharistic Words of jesus 1966:

“Jesus and his disciples drink wine at the Last Supper … the annual festivals provided an occasion for the drinking of wine, especially the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles); the drinking of wine was prescribed as part of the ritual of Passover…” (pp. 50-51).”…to genema tes ampelou (‘the fruit of the vine’) for ‘wine’ is in the Judaism of the time of Jesus a set liturgical formula at the blessing of the cup, both before and after the meal” (p. 183).”

PCA Book of church order

58-5. The table, on which the elements are placed, being decently covered, and furnished with bread and wine, and the communicants orderly and gravely sitting around it (or in their seats before it), the elders in a convenient place together, the minister should then set the elements apart by prayer and thanksgiving.

The Directory for Publick Worship reads:

“After this exhortation, warning, and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so conveniently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it, the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before him, (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups,) having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer.Let the words of institution be read out of the Evangelists, or out of the first Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, Chap. 11:23. I have received of the Lord, &c. to the 27th Verse, which the minister may, when he seeth requisite, explain and apply.Let the prayer, thanksgiving, or blessing of the bread and wine, be to this effect:”With humble and hearty acknowledgment of the greatness of our misery, from which neither; nor angel was able to deliver us, and of our great unworthiness of the least of all God’s mercies; to give thanks to God for all his benefits, and especially for that great benefit of our redemption, the love of God the Father, the sufferings and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, by which we are delivered; and for all means of grace, the word and sacraments; and for this sacrament in particular, by which Christ, and all his benefits, are applied and sealed up unto us, which, notwithstanding the denial of them unto others, are in great mercy continued unto us, after so much and long abuse of them all.To profess that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ, by whom alone we receive liberty and life, have access to the throne of grace, are admitted to eat and drink at his own table, and are sealed up by his Spirit to an assurance of happiness and everlasting life.Earnestly to pray to God, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation, to vouchsafe his gracious presence, and the effectual working of his Spirit in us; and so to sanctify these elements both of bread and wine, and to bless his own ordinance, that we may receive by faith the body and blood of Jesus Christ, crucified for us, and so to feed upon him, that he may be one with us, and we one with him; that he may live in us, and we in him, and to him who hath loved us, and given himself for us.”

Article 35 of the Belgic Confession reads:

“To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood.”

The Second Helvetic Confession reads:

“Likewise, in the Lord’s Supper, the outward sign is bread and wine, taken from things commonly used for meat and drink; but the thing signified is the body of Christ which was given, and his blood which was shed for us, or the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. Wherefore, the water, bread, and wine, according to their nature and apart from the divine institution and sacred use, are only that which they are called and we experience.”

First National Reformation in Scotland, Confession of Fatih 1560

 “For Christ Jesus said, Take, eat, do ye this in remembrance of me. By which word and charge, he sanctified bread and wine, to the Sacrament of his holy body and blood, to the end, that the one should be eaten, and that all should drink of the other, and not that they should be kept to be worshipped and honoured, as God, as the Papists have done heretofore.”

Question 78 of the Heidelberg Catechism reads:

Question 78
Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
Answer 78
Not at all: (Matthew 26:29) but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5) so the bread in the Lord’s supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; (Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 10:16,17,26-28) though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, (Genesis 17:10,11,14,19; 12:11,13,27,43,48; 13:9;1 Peter 3:21; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4) it is called the body of Christ Jesus.

The Westminster Larger Catechism reads:

Q. 168. What is the Lord’s supper?
A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.Q. 169. How hath Christ appointed bread and wine to be given and received in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper?
A. Christ hath appointed the ministers of his word, in the administration of this sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to set apart the bread and wine from common use, by the word of institution, thanksgiving, and prayer; to take and break the bread, and to give both the bread and the wine to the communicants: who are, by the same appointment, to take and eat the bread, and to drink the wine, in thankful remembrance that the body of Christ was broken and given, and his blood shed, for them.

The London Baptist Confession of 1689

30.3 In this ordinance the Lord Jesus has appointed his ministers to pray and to bless the elements of bread and wine (so setting them apart from a common to a holy use), and to take and break the bread, then to take the cup, and to give both to the communicants, participating also themselves.1

  1. 1Co 11:23-26; Mat 26:26-28; Mar 14:22-25; Luk 22:19-22

The Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Quest. 96. What is the Lord’s supper?
Ans. 96. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worth receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Luther’s Smalcald Articles:

VI. Of the Sacrament of the Altar.
Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.

The Scottish Confession of Faith:

“And therefore it is that we flee the society of the Papistical kirk, in participation of their sacraments: first, because their ministers are no ministers of Christ Jesus; yea (which is more horrible) they suffer women, whom the Holy Ghost will not suffer to teach in the congregation, to baptize. And, secondly, because they have so adulterated both the one sacrament and the other with their own inventions, that no part of Christ’s action abides in the original purity: for oil, salt, spittle, and suchlike in baptism, are but men’s inventions. Adoration, veneration, bearing through streets and towns, and keeping of bread in boxes or buists [chests], are profanation of Christ’s sacraments, and no use of the same. For Christ Jesus said, Take, eat, etc. Do ye this in remembrance of me.[1] By which words and charge he sanctified bread and wine, to be the sacrament of his body and blood, to the end that the one should be eaten, and that all should drink of the other; and not that they should be kept to be worshipped, and honoured as God, as the blind Papists have done heretofore, who also committed sacrilege, stealing from the people the one part of the sacrament: to wit, the blessed cup.”

The Thirty-Nine Articles (1572)

XXVIII.  Of the Lordes Supper.

The Supper of the Lord, is not only a signe of the bue that Christians ought to haue among them selues one to another: but rather it is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christes death. Insomuch that to suche as ryghtlie, worthyly, and with fayth receaue the same the bread whiche we breake is a parttakyng of the body of Christe, and likewyse the cuppe of blessing, is a parttakyng of the blood of Christe.Transubstantiation (or the chaunge of the substaunce of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lorde, can not be proued by holye writ, but is repug-naunt to the playne wordes of scripture, ouerthroweth the nature of a  Sacrament,  and  hath  geuen occasion to many superstitions.

The Irish Articles of religion

93. The change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, commonly called Transubstantiation, can not be proved by holyWrit; but is repugnant to plain testimonies of the Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to most gross idolatry and manifold superstitions.

The Savoy Declaration ch 30

The Lord Jesus hath in this ordinance appointed his ministers to pray and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

Robert Shaw’s exposition on the sacraments:

The parts of a sacrament are two–the sign and the thing signified. The sign is something sensible and visible–that may be seen and handled. Thus, the outward sign in baptism is water, which is visible to us; and the outward signs in the Lord’s supper are bread and wine, which are also visible, and which we can handle and taste.III. The right manner of dispensing the sacrament of the supper is here declared.1. The minister is to read the word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use. In instituting this sacrament, according to the evangelist Matthew, “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it.” – Matt. xxvi. 26. Some have observed, that it is not necessary for us to understand this as signifying that Jesus blessed the bread, for the pronoun it is a supplement; and as the word rendered blessed sometimes means to give thanks, thanks, especially as the evangelist Luke employs the phrase, “he gave thanks,” they conclude that the two expressions are in this case synonymous; and that we are to understand that Jesus blessed, not the bread, but God, or gave thanks to his Father. We are of opinion, however, that the pronoun ithas been very properly introduced by our translators after the word bread, as it is unquestionably repeated with the utmost propriety after the word brake; and we conceive that the order of the words requires us to understand that Jesus blessed the bread. Nor is there any more difficulty in apprehending how Jesus blessed the bread, than in apprehending how God blessed the seventh or the Sabbath-day.–Gen. ii. 3, Exod. xx. 11. Indeed, the two cases are exactly analogous;–God blessed the seventh day by setting it apart to a holy use, or appointing it to be a day of sacred rest; Christ blessed the bread, by setting, it apart from a common to a holy use, or appointing it to be the visible symbol of his body. And while it belonged exclusively to Christ, as the Head of the Church, to appoint bread and wine to be the symbols of his body and blood, yet we are persuaded that the servants of Christ, in administering the Lord’s supper, are warranted, according to the institution and example of Christ, to set apart by solemn prayer so much of the elements as shall be used from a common to a holy use. That there is a sense in, which the servants of Christ may be said to bless the elements, seems plain from 1 Cor. x. 16, where Paul denominates the sacramental cup “The cup of blessing which we bless.” It is not pretended that any real change is thereby made upon the elements, but only a relative change, so that they are not to be looked upon an common bread and wine, but as the sacred symbols of Christ’s body and blood.

Fisher’s Catechism:

QUESTION 96. What is the Lord’s Supper?ANSWER: The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointments his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

The Catechism of the Church of Geneva (for children)

 Q341 M. But why is the body of our Lord figured by bread, and his blood by wine?S. We are hence taught that such virtue as bread has in nourishing our bodies to sustain the present life, the same has the body of our Lord spiritually to nourish our souls. As by wine the hearts of men are gladdened, their strength recruited, and the whole man strengthened, so by the blood of our Lord the same benefits are received by our souls.

Lutheran Larger Catechism:


Many heretical groups even hold to wine in their understanding of scripture:

Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Only the ones who belong to the 144,000 anointed partake of the emblems (i.e. eat from the bread and drink from the wine). Thus they show they belong to the second covenant and are one with Christ. According to the Watchtower-doctrine, the anointed one is apparently under ‘a command’ to partake of the bread and wine (Gal. 6:16; Watchtower 1985, March 1, Question From Readers).

Roman Catholics:

1346 The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity:- the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and general intercessions;
– the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.

Objection: Some believe that the grape juice that they replace the prescribed wine with is acceptable based on the idea that as soon as oxygen hits the juice, fermentation begins at the molecular level, hence, even grape juice should be considered appropriate for the Lord’s Supper. Two things to note:

1) The only place in scripture where we see any instance of grape juice is in Acts 2:13:Acts 2:13   Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” The Greek word for this ‘new wine’ is:

Mounce Greek Dictionary:

GK G1183 | S G1098γλεῦκος gleukos   1xpr. the unfermented juice of grapes; hence, sweet new wine, Acts 2:13*


gleukos: sweet new wine

Original Word: γλεῦκος, ους, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Transliteration: gleukos
Phonetic Spelling: (glyoo’-kos)
Short Definition: sweet wine
Definition: the unfermented juice of grapes; hence: sweet new wine.

6 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.

The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Nu 6.

6 Then the Lord spoke to Moses , saying , Speak to the children of
3068 1696 413 4872 559 1696 413 1121
Israel , and say to them : When either a man or woman 1 consecrates an
3478 559 413 1992 6381 176 376 802 3588
offering to take the vow of a Nazirite , a to separate himself to the Lord , b
5087 5088 5139 5144 3068
he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink ; he shall drink neither
5144 4480 3196 7941 8354 3808
vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink ; neither shall he
2558 3196 2558 7941 3808
drink any grape juice , nor eat fresh grapes or raisins . All the days of his
8354 3605 6025 4952 3808 398 3892 6025 3002 3605 3117 1931
2 separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine ,
4480 5145 398 3605 3808 834 6213 4480 1612 3196
from seed to skin .
4480 2785 5704 2085

The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Nu 6:1–4.

*Compare the differences in this passage between wine, strong or similar derived drink and grape juice.

3196. יַיִן yayin (406b); from an unused word; wine:—banquet(1), grape(1), wine(136).

Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

6025. עֵנָב enab (772a); from an unused word; a grape:—grape(1), grapes(17), raisin*(1).

Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

4952. מִשְׁרָה mishrah (1056a); from 8281; juice:—juice(1).

Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

**When we consider the positive command for the elements of the Lord’s Supper, why is there confusion?

Some Jewish thought on wine:

Matt. 26:26   Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and wafter blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the* covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Is the Lord’s Supper entirely commemorative? The Mormons serve water with their bread. I assume they see it as a total commemoration. Would it be illicit to offer and receive the sacrament in the wrong order: the cup and then the bread? When Jesus mentions, ‘fruit of the vine, He is referring to an old testament phrase that had it’s origin in the Passover. When the Rabbi’s use it, they are referring to alcoholic wine as well. It cannot be confused with anything other than Alcoholic wine.

Kyle Butt writes:

“In light of the fact that there are many different “fruits of the vine,” how are we to understand the New Testament phrase, “the fruit of the vine,” that Jesus used during the Last Supper just before His death. Is it possible to identify which “fruit of the vine” was used to produce the drink of the last Supper? And if so, how does the identification of that specific fruit affect the observation of the Lord’s Supper today?

The phrase “the fruit of the vine” is used in only three places in the New Testament:

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:27-29).

Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:23-25).

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:17-18).

In order to identify the specific “fruit of the vine” referred to by Jesus, we must analyze the words of the phrase in light of how the first-century audience would have understood them. The Greek word translated “vine” in these three instances is ampelos. Arndt, et al., define the term as “vine, or grapevine” (1979, p. 46). In virtually every instance in the Bible when the term is used, it refers to a grapevine. For instance, in James 3:12 several Bible translations render the word ampelos as “grapevine.” The New King James version reads: “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?”. In Revelation 14:18, we read: “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’” Notice that the term “vine” is used, then modified by the phrase “for her grapes…,” obviously referring to a grapevine.

Another Greek term relevant to this discussion is ampelōn, deriving from the same word as ampelos. Arndt, et al., give as its almost universal meaning, “vineyard” (p. 47). References in the New Testament using the term to denote a vineyard filled with grapes include Matthew 21:33-41, Mark 12:1-11, and Luke 20:9-16. In fact, the only reference in the New Testament where the term might mean anything other than a vineyard of grapes is Luke 13:6, where the term could possibly mean “orchard” (Arndt, et al., p. 47), specifically an orchard of figs. Since figs, however, are never referred to as the “fruit of the vine,” nor would a fig tree be classified as a vine, then this possible exception to the term “vineyard” has no bearing on the definition of the “fruit of the vine.”

Indeed, the terms “vine” and “vineyard” are so universally associated with grapes and wine made from grapes, that William Smith, under the entry for the word “vine,” wrote: “The vines of Palestine were celebrated both for luxuriant growth and for the immense clusters of grapes which they produced” (1870, 4:3446, emp. added). In Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W.E. Vine included the following statement with his definition of “wine”: “In instituting the Lord’s Supper He [Jesus—KB] speaks of the contents of the cup as the ‘fruit of the vine.’ So Mark 14:25” (1997, p. 1232). In The Expositor’s Greek Testament, A.B. Bruce summarized Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:29 in the following words: “It is the last time I shall drink paschal…wine with you. I am to die at this Passover” (2002, 1:312).”

The Talmud shows that wine was used:

Compare wine and grape juice to the festival of Purim:

Following the same vein of thought as when we consider grape juice during the Lord’s Supper, would it be wrong to use Cognac or Brandy in the supper as both are wine products? One of the issues related to morphology of the elements is that if we allow for small distinct changes, we again, open the door fully for other changes. How could we tell the Charismatics that they cannot use AC/DC songs in worship and using Brandy in their Supper if we have also proposed a change? The same mentality we use when we utilize non alcoholic juice gives them warrant to use Brandy. The argument is self defeating. The same way we use non inspired lyrics gives them the same right as well.

Would it have been alright for the israelites to use just any animal in the Passover feast? All animals had blood that could have been shed, right? Presumptions got Nadab and Abihu killed. God is specific in what he commands and prescribes.

2) Remembering that the scriptures are sufficient for the man of God and addresses every issue of life……

2Tim. 3:16   All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

For the sake of the following statements, I felt it prudent to just make mention of what Sola Scriptura is and how the Reformed understand it:

The Westminster Confession, chapter 1; Of the Holy Scriptures.

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Quest. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Ans. 2. The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,(1) is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.(2)(1) II Tim. 3:16; Eph. 2:20.
(2) I John 1:3-4.

The Belgic Confession

Article 3: The Written Word of God: We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of men, but that holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as Peter says. Afterwards our God– because of the special care he has for us and our salvation– commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit this revealed Word to writing. He himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law.
Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures. ^1 2 Pet. 1:21Article 4: The Canonical BooksWe include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all.In the church of God the list is as follows: In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses– Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon– Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song; the four major prophets– Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets– Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. In the New Testament, the four gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul– to the Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven letters of the other apostles– one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.Article 5: The Authority of ScriptureWe receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith. And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them– not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God. For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.2TI 3:15-17. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. GAL 1:8-9. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 2TH 2:2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.JOH 6:45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.1CO 2:9-12. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Question: Since worship is not an act of circumstance, how is it that those that hold to sola scriptura, deny it when using uninspired hymnals?

Answer from opponent of Exclusive Psalmody: “Our singing need not be inspired just like our preaching is not inspired.”

Response: You have made a flaw in your distinction; Preaching and singing are not one and the same.

WCF 21:5

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

According to the WCF, there are three elements of worship: reading of scripture, preaching, singing of psalms.

The 2nd Helvetic Confession reads:

“THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor…, for they shall all know me” (Jer. 31:34), And “Neither he who plants nor he that waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (I Cor. 3:7). For although “No one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father” (John 6:44), And unless the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, “He shall tell you what you ought to do.”

INWARD ILLUMINATION DOES NOT ELIMINATE EXTERNAL PREACHING. For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the same one, by way of commandment, said unto his disciples, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). And so in Phillippi, Paul preached the word outwardly to Lydia, a seller of purple goods; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman’s heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, after a beautiful development of his thought, in Romans 10:17 at length comes to the conclusion, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God by the preaching of Christ.”

At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will, Even without the external ministry, for that is in his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.”

The other thing to note is that the church does not have a direct command to sing anything but ‘inspired’ songs. When it comes to ‘preaching’, which is not the same thing as singing, we are commanded to preach from God’s word which is inspired. It is the exposition which we can consider non inspired; illuminated, but not inspired. 

The Reverend Matthew Winzer writes:

“Another point worth considering is that the congregation as a whole does not preach, but one preaches and the rest listen and judge what is said. The same applies to prayer. In sung praise, however, the congregation sings together as one. This necessitates having a form that all sincerely believe is warranted by the Word of God and can be followed wholeheartedly. As such, it is more akin to reading than to preaching or prayer. And what is read in public worship? The answer is, that which God has inspired — the Scriptures.”

Wine vs Grape juice, cont…..

We must consider the fact that since the Greek word used in Acts 2:13 denotes an unfermented juice, it shows that juice of this nature cannot be confused with wine that is fermented as the scriptures do not confuse the two, they are obviously different. It’s clear that it is either fermented or unfermented. You see no indication of a transitional period. i.e. ‘fermenting’ in scripture. The Bible, God’s word, does not tell us that this ‘juice’ was in transition, as was posed to me in this objection. Fermentation takes time for the yeast to activate and that is only accomplished after the juice has reached a room temperature and has sat for a season of time. Since grape juice is produced in factories, much of the product has been treated to bypass possible spoilage. For instance, the way wine ferments is by the natural yeast, bacteria and mold on the skins; you will notice that most wine makers crush the grapes and all remnant and dregs are kept in the batches. This helps with the production of the wine. When a grape juice is prepared, the final product is ‘washed’ so as to remain in the same state as when bottled. To think that processed grape juice has an equal vigorous molecular ability to ferment without the benefits of the skin and yeasting is far reaching at best as it was not produced with fermentation in mind. To attempt to usurp the regulative principle under this idea is greatly flawed and should be avoided. The order of Passover was wine and we should stick to that.

The elements of the Lord’s Supper are not a result of circumstance. The scriptures clearly call for bread and wine. Do you notice that they do not call for ‘wine and bread’? It’s important to note that the Regulative Principle even calls for accuracy in that the elements are distributed in a proper order; the bread and then the wine. How would you feel if the pastor gave you the wine first? The scriptures do not call for distributing them in that fashion. What about intinction? You do understand that those that argue against intinction argue for the Regulative Principle; some of those that argue against intinction, shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by then using grape juice in lieu of wine. Neither group are submitting to the Regulative Principle. You might think, ‘Does it matter if we intinct or use grape juice or if we get the wine before the bread?’ You know it does and it would not sit well with you if they came to you in such an illicit manner. Since one of pillars of the reformed faith is Sola Scriptura, the actual identity of the elements and manner in which they are distributed are of the utmost importance. The Lord’s Supper is an act of worship and doing any of these abberant things is ‘strange fire’.

Example: You and your wife are celebrating your anniversary; it is your 25th anniversary! You plan an elaborate night for the two of you. You make reservations for the best restaurant in town. Limo driver and tuxedos, etc. You are picked up and driven to the restaurant. Your wife is moved to tears. You are seated in a beautiful candle lit table for two by the maitre d’. The waiter arrives and asks if you would like a beverage. You ask for their best wine. He returns with ‘Welch’s Grape Juice’ in tow. Both you and your wife are a bit confused. He goes on to tell you that ‘this is the finest, freshest wine they have in house; all natural ingredients and a special process of fermentation that most don’t appreciate!’ He pours it and leaves. You both sit there and think that you are in an episode of Candid Camera or the Twilight Zone. You know it isn’t wine and no matter what anyone tells you, nothing will change your mind. When we substitute grape juice for wine in the supper, we are directly attacking the command of Christ.  We do not trust God and amend His prescription. If we change the element, what else will we change? This is just the beginning.

The other distinction that is important here is that when we believers attempt to make a distinction that is not biblical, it takes into consideration all that we hold dear. It gives allowance to redefine a myriad of other things. Could not the Mormons use the same mentality in their use of water for the supper, after all, is not wine essentially water for the most part? If we subscribe to rationalizing one doctrine of Christ, why not others? For example, can my 11 year old daughter purchase wine legally? Grape juice? Think about the distinction that society places of the differences. How is it if we came into a court of law and, prior to the judge sentencing me for drunk driving, I was to tell him, ‘Your Honor, It was nothing more than grape juice I had ingested!’ He would order a psych evaluation for me immediately. God’s Spirit gives us discernment. We know the difference and should not attempt to usurp the authority of the Spirit in this case as it is grieving to Him!

Charles Spurgeon’s book review of The Wines of the Bible: an Examination and Refutation of the Unfermented Wine Theory by the Rev. A. M. Wilson. (reviewed 1877, The Sword and the Trowel, p. 437)

“‘UNFERMENTED wine’ is a non-existent liquid. Mr. Wilson has so fully proved this that it will require considerable hardihood [courage, fortitude] to attempt a reply. The best of it is that he is a teetotaler of more than thirty years’ standing, and has reluctantly been driven ‘to conclude that, so far as the wines of the ancients are concerned, unfermented wine is a myth.’ While total abstainers are content to make no assault upon the cup used at the Lord’s table, they work harmoniously with all who seek the welfare of their fellow men; but when they commence warfare upon that point they usually become more factious [artificial] than useful: everything is then made subordinate to their one idea, and the peace of the church is disregarded. It is well, therefore, that one of themselves should protest against carrying a principle to extremes, and best of all that he should do so by showing that the theories which have been advanced are utterly untenable [indefensible]. We wish the utmost success to the abstinence cause, and, therefore, trust that there will be no pressing of the question of unfermented wine at the Communion, for it will not promote the cause, and will create much heartburning, and, worst of all, it will be contrary to the Divine precedent. The question is not necessary to the temperance [moderation] movement, and we wish it had never been raised. Mr. Wilson has written the thick volume now before us to settle the matter, and we believe that he establishes beyond reasonable debate that the wines of the Bible were intoxicating, and that our Lord did not ordain jelly or syrup, or cherry juice to be the emblem of his sacrifice.”

The Psalms for singing; God’s song book to us!

Consider the Psalms and why God gave them to us. Is the Psalter not part of the inspired word of God? Is it not a songbook for God’s people? Is in not more prudent, pious and safe for God’s people to sing the God breathed words of scripture; Does not God deserve to be worshipped in this manner? Is He not worthy? The previous comment was an intentional digression; I only am appealing to the logic of mere men when I ask these questions. The real question to consider is do you fear God? Do you not understand that God has commanded you in how to worship Him? We are commanded to worship in spirit and in truth-there is only one truth, all others are lies. God’s word is truth. We know this. Are the hymns truth? They cannot be as there is only one Bible, not two. Does God accept blemished sacrifices? No. God prescribed how we are to approach. The hymns are like driving into traffic blindfolded, not to mention that many of the writers held to heresy! Who in their right mind would drive into traffic blindfolded? Yet, every Lord’s day, most churches do just that. As mentioned earlier, one of the pillars of the reformed faith is sola scriptura. We hold to the idea that we submit to every jot and tittle of God’s precious word. We hold to the idea that if the scriptures are silent, we are silent; where they speak, we hold firmly to those things. It is interesting to note that when it comes to the songs we sing, we abandon sola scriptura. The Psalms fall under sola scriptura, hymns do not. Would we allow for the pastor to preach heretical things from our pulpits? Of course not. Would we let a heretic get behind our pulpit? Absolutely not. Why is it we would sing questionable songs in our worship services in light of the fact that God has given us a perfect songbook. If we are truly sola scriptura and we believe God’s word is sufficient for the man of God in all aveniues of faith and life, why would we want to sing anything other than His word? The fact that I am writing this paper is quite suspect. It is hard to imagine that those that consider themselves reformed are arguing against singing Psalms. God’s word is perfect, right, correct, Holy; believers love the words of God, yet, the hymns are accepted more fervently. Think about this. God’s word saves. Can the hymns save? Sure God can use whatever means he wants to save His people. However, God cannot lie nor can he act against His law, hence men can not determine to use a means outside of that has been revealed. Men have been saved over the ages reading and singing the Psalms; why would we waste any time otherwise by singing man made songs that have no inspiration and no quality to sanctify men, to save a man? If you knew that God preferred you sing inspired music only, would you continue singing hymns? This was exactly my situation; The Lord showed me truth and I responded accordingly. May God be true and every man a liar.

Rom. 3:4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”

You might ask, “Scott, where are we commanded to sing the Psalms?”

Folks that hold to exclusivity of Psalm singing derive the idea from sola scriptura and God’s regulative principle;  They sing the Psalms because they find a prescription for it in scripture; they don’t sing songs outside of the 150 psalms because they do not see such a clear warrant to do so. No warrant, we avoid it.

1Chr. 16:9 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;Talk of all His wondrous works!


Psa. 95:1   Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.


Psa. 98:5 Sing to the LORD with the harp,With the harp and the sound of a psalm


Psa. 105:2 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;Talk of all His wondrous works!


Eph. 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,


Col. 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


James 5:13   Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.


Notice how we can see the clear command to sing the Psalms. Nowhere in the canon do we find the command to sing anything otherwise. I know what you are thinking, ‘Scott, Eph 5 and Col 3 says, ‘hymns and spiritual songs’. I address this item later on in this paper.

 John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

One of the great things I have learned about psalm singing is that it creates a continuity amongst God’s people. When we all sing the same thing, we are unified. When Christ prays, ‘Father that they may be one’ he means this. Yes we are one in many other ways, but when we speak of worship, it should be unified. Psalm singing creates this. Imagine for a moment that when we gather on the Lord’s day we all sing. Would it not be a glorious thing if when we gather, all the saints around the globe are singing the same songs?  How would this not be glorifying to our God. Holy words, lifted by the saints of God to His nostrils, not a bunch of contrived songs, many by aberrant men and woman.

Objection: “I don’t think Westminster meant exclusive Psalm singing when they make mention of ‘psalms’.

Response: The meaning of “Psalms’ in the context of the Westminster Standards: The Meaning of Psalms in the Westminister Standards

In his Exposition of the Confession of Faith (1845) Robert Shaw teaches that the “singing of psalms” in the Confession of Faith means the biblical Psalms.

3. Singing of psalms. This was enjoined, under the Old Testament, as a part of the ordinary worship of God, and it is distinguished from ceremonial worship.—Ps. lxix. 30, 31. It is not abrogated under the New Testament, but rather confirmed.—Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16. It is sanctioned by the example of Christ and his apostles.—Matt. xxvi. 30; Acts xvi. 25. The Psalms of David were especially intended by God for the use of the Church in the exercise of public praise, under the former dispensation; and they are equally adapted to the use of the Church under the present dispensation. Although the apostles insist much upon the abolition of ritual institutions, they give no intimations that the Psalms of David are unsuitable for gospel-worship; and had it been intended that they should be set aside in New Testament times, there is reason to think that another psalmody would have been provided in their room. In the Book of Psalms there are various passages which seem to indicate that they were intended by the Spirit for the use of the Church in all ages. “I will extol thee, my God, O King,” says David, “and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.”—Ps. cxiv. 1.


As for public prayers, there are two kinds: the one consists simply of speech, the other of song Now, what Augustine says is true, namely, that no one can sing anything worthy of God which he has not received from him. Therefore, even after we have carefully searched everywhere, we shall not find better or more appropriate songs to this end than the Psalms of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And for this reason, when we sing them, we are assured that God puts words in our mouth, as if he himself were singing through us to exalt his glory.

Objection: “if we preach from the 66 books of the Bible, why can’t we also sing from the 66 books of the Bible instead of restricting ourselves to the book of Psalms?”

For one, the Psalter was made for singing and specific to worship; the remainder of God’s word was not. Secondly, we are ‘commanded’ to sing the Psalms-we can see that clearly, nowhere in scripture can we find a command to sing the rest of scripture. Since there is no command, we do not do it! Are you normative or are you regulative.

My pursuit of truth has lead me to believe that the only singing God’s people should sing are derived solely from the word of God, i.e. The Psalter. One might inquire, ‘Scott, what lead you this way?’ Simply put, as I studied over the years, always eager to do what God commands, in my studies of the Regulative Principle, this is the path that the Holy Spirit drove me into. I was convinced that there is only one truth and via that truth, embrace God’s word alone for worship. It should be all believers goal and pursuit to seek perfection; yes, we are perfect in Christ, however, this does not discredit the command as all believers should pursue perfection via God’s spirit in sanctification. Why would Christ tell us to be perfect if it was not possible? We should resemble perfection.

Matt. 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Does singing the Psalms make one perfect? Of course not. However, it does perfect our worship as it is the worship God commands. In the same light as the command to be perfect, believers are told to ‘go and sin no more’. Well we know no one is without sin. What does the scriptures say about that idea? If you believe you have no sin, the truth is not in you’, yet we are commanded to ‘sin no more’. We need to see the balance. In that, if there is one iota of doubt that singing uninspired music may be an affront to God, we should avoid it at all costs. Think sin and imperfection vs appropriate worship and perfection-God’s word is perfect. We can’t mess that up! We need to consider this approach as it is prescribed whereas, hymn singing is not.

Having shown earlier in this paper that the Trinity Hymnal is far from perfect with it’s anti-trinitarian, seventh day baptist, Arminian, female writers, why would this not strike us bluntly between the eyes? What is it that rails against our thrice holy God that keeps us singing these calamities? If singing the Psalms glorify the Lord, teach us truth and sanctify the saint in a way no human composition could, we should run to it with open embraces and subscribe whole heartily, for prudence sake alone, never mind the chance of getting struck dead in our tracks. One may need to check one’s heart on the issue. Is scripture sufficient? Are hymns sufficient? if the hymns are insufficient, in what ways are they deficient? Does God accept lame sacrifices? Why is it we think we can approach a perfect God with an imperfect act of worship? Think sanctification. Does not God’s word sanctify the saint? Do hymns have the capacity to sanctify? If you answer yes, you are sorely mislead as the only thing sanctifying in this life is God’s word. You might reply, ‘Scott, the hymns are based on scriptural premises; some of them even have portions of scripture paraphrased’. That may be true, however, it is still not the word of God and even if they had a pseudo-sanctifying effect, again, why would we want to replace that which is perfect with the imperfect? has God commanded us to sing uninspired songs?

It was told to me recently that singing the Psalms is difficult. My answer to that is God will perfect that difficulty. It is only difficult due to the idea that your spirit is at odds with singing the Psalms. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. He will guide our singing like he guides our prayers.

Rom. 8:26   Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I have heard the argument, ‘I don’t think God’s word tells us to just sing the Psalms; I’m not buying that!’. We are commanded to sing the Psalms! Old Testament Israel sang the Psalms. Jesus sang the Psalms. The apostles sang the Psalms. If the church was not commanded to sing the Psalms why did those noted submit to singing them? Did not God include in the canon of scripture the songbook? Why would God have included a songbook if it were not His intention that we sing them? The early church sang the Psalms, religiously. It was not until the anti-trinitarian Isaac Watts decided that God’s word was no longer sufficient and he then penned his first hymn. Think about it; inspired vs uninspired singing. Why do I desire to sing the Psalms? Because I am a lover of God and His beloved word. Do you love the words of God? You do, but not enough to put away your hymnal and sing His words? This is no less than silliness.

Objection: “When the pastor preaches, his message is not inspired! In that, it being that the preaching is during the call to worship, why can’t we sing non inspired song in like manner?”

Answer: This is true. A few items to address: We know that the means of grace are the word, sacraments and prayer. When the word is preached, it is infallible and inspired-the preacher is reading the actual words of God. The extrapolation of those words, by the pastor is not inspired but illuminated.  As well,  Preaching and singing are not one and the same. My good friend Rocky Simbajon does the idea justice when he says:

“[T]he Psalms should not be equated with preaching. We know that the Psalms have the following criteria (1) they are God’s Word, and (2) they are inspired. Preaching and exposition on our pulpits do not qualify those criteria. But there is a close similarity of preaching and singing. We are not allowed to sing the uninspired words of men, just as we are not allowed to preach from the uninspired words of men. The only difference between preaching and singing is this, that we preach from the 66 books of the Bible, whereas in singing, we only sing the songs, the inspired songs of the Church, that is.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 21:5

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

According to the WCF, there are three elements of worship: reading of scripture, preaching, singing of psalms. 

The 2nd Helvetic Confession reads:

THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor…, for they shall all know me” (Jer. 31:34), And “Neither he who plants nor he that waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (I Cor. 3:7). For although “No one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father” (John 6:44), And unless the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, “He shall tell you what you ought to do.”

INWARD ILLUMINATION DOES NOT ELIMINATE EXTERNAL PREACHING. For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the same one, by way of commandment, said unto his disciples, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). And so in Phillippi, Paul preached the word outwardly to Lydia, a seller of purple goods; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman’s heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, after a beautiful development of his thought, in Romans 10:17 at length comes to the conclusion, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God by the preaching of Christ.

At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will, Even without the external ministry, for that is in his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.”

The other thing to note is that the church does not have a direct command to sing anything but ‘inspired’ songs. Comparing the two, preaching and singing God’s word are totally different. When it comes to ‘preaching’, which is not the same thing as singing, we are commanded to preach from God’s word which is inspired. The same goes for singing the Psalms. It is the exposition of scripture which we can consider non inspired; illuminated, but not inspired. 

The Reverend Matthew Winzer writes:

Another point worth considering is that the congregation as a whole does not preach, but one preaches and the rest listen and judge what is said. The same applies to prayer. In sung praise, however, the congregation sings together as one. This necessitates having a form that all sincerely believe is warranted by the Word of God and can be followed wholeheartedly. As such, it is more akin to reading than to preaching or prayer. And what is read in public worship? The answer is, that which God has inspired — the Scriptures.

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs

The war wages on in regard to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16; What one fails to do when interpreting these scriptures is they erroneously work their own presuppositions into their hermeneutic. One needs to think like a Jew! Think of it this way; you will find nowhere in scripture a command to sing anything but inspired song during worship until these epistles were penned (of course, if you hold to that position). Since the church participates as a congregation, it is not up to the leaders to put any words into the mouths of it’s congregants without a direct command from God; the words we offer up are to be sung in unison-they are an incense to God. If you do your own word study on these terms, using the Greek, Hebrew and Septuagint, you will come away with a better idea of what these words actually mean.

G.I. Williamson helps here in understanding the phrase:

The proper interpretation of scripture terms requires that we discover, not what we mean by these terms when we use them today, but what the inspired writer meant when he used them. And it is one of the oddities of biblical interpretation that this rule is commonly observed with reference to the term ‘psalms’, and commonly disregarded with respect to the terms ‘hymns’ and ‘songs’. For the fact is that all three of these terms are used in the Bible to designate various selections contained in the Old Testament Psalter. In the Greek version of the Old Testament familiar to the Ephesians and Colossians the entire Psalter is entitled ‘Psalms’. In sixty-seven of the titles within the book the word ‘psalm’ is used. However, in six titles the word ‘hymn’ is used, rather than ‘psalm’, and in thirty-five the word ‘song’ appears. Even more important twelve titles use both ‘psalm’ and ‘song’, and two have ‘psalm’ and ‘hymn’. Psalm seventy-six is designated ‘psalm, hymn and song’. And at the end of the first seventy two psalms we read that ‘the hymns of David the son of Jesse are ended’. (Ps. 72:20.) In other words, there is no more reason to think that the Apostle referred to psalms when he said ‘psalms’, than when he said ‘hymns’ and ‘songs’, for the simple reason that all three were biblical terms for psalms in the book of psalms itself. We are in the habit of using the terms ‘hymns’ and ‘songs’ for those compositions that are not psalms. But Paul and the Christians at Ephesus and Colossae used these terms as the Bible itself uses them, namely, as titles for the various psalms in the Old Testament Psalter. To us it may seem strange, or even unnecessary, that the Holy Spirit would use a variety of titles to describe His inspired compositions. But the fact is that He did so. Just as the Holy Spirit speaks of His ‘commandments and his statutes and his judgmentss’ (Deut.. 30:16, etc.), and of ‘miracles and wonders and signs’ (Acts 2:22), so He speaks of His ‘psalms, hymns and songs’. As commandments, statutes and judgmentss are all divine laws in the language of scripture; as miracles and wonders and signs are all supernatural works of God in the language of scripture; so psalms, hymns and songs are the inspired compositions of the Psalter, in the language of scripture itself… The New Testament evidence sustains this conclusion. On the night of the Last Supper Jesus and His disciples sang ‘an hymn’ (Matt. 26:30). Bible expositors admit that this was ‘the second part of the Hallel Psalms (115-118)” which was always sung at the Passover. (New Bible Commentary, p. 835.) Matthew called this psalm a ‘hymn’ because a psalm is a hymn in the terminology of the Bible. To the same effect is the Old Testament quotation in Hebrews 2:12, in which the Greek word ‘hymn’ is quoted from Psalm 22:22. In this quotation from an Old Testament psalm, the word ‘hymn’ is used to denote the singing of psalms because the Old Testament makes no distinction between the two. But if Scripture itself says that psalms are hymns, and that hymns are psalms, why should we make any distinction between them? If we grant that the Apostle used biblical language in a biblical sense there is no more reason to think that he spoke of uninspired hymns in these texts (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19) than to think that he spoke of uninspired psalms, because hymns are inspired psalms in the holy scriptures.


Matt. 26:27   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matt. 26:30   And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

You will notice that the word ‘hymn’ is used here in the Greek. Keep thinking like Jew. Were there anything written in this day that was uninspired and used in the worship of God? Of course not. When we are speaking of Christ, you know that can’t be true! When the word hymn is used here, it refers to the Hallel.

The Pillar New testament Commentary amplifies this idea:

The meal concluded with the singing of a hymn. It was the custom at Passover to use Psalms 113–118, which were called the “Hallel,” and it is not improbable that Jesus and his little band sang one or more of those Psalms on this occasion. Psalms 115–118 seem to have been sung at the end of the meal.

Brian Schwertley writes:

Before we consider the question of how these passages relate to public worship, we first will consider the question “what does Paul mean by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?” This question is very important, for many advocates of uninspired hymnody (who claim to adhere to the regulative principle) point to this passage as proof that uninspired hymns are permitted in public worship by God. When examining passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, one should not make the common mistake of importing our modern meaning or usage of a word, such as hymn, into what Paul wrote over nineteen hundred years ago. When a person hears the word hymn today, he immediately thinks of the extra-biblical non-inspired hymns found in the pews of most churches. The only way to really determine what Paul meant by “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is to determine how these terms were used by Greek-speaking Christians in the first century.When interpreting religious terminology used by Paul in his epistles, there are certain rules of interpretation which should be followed. First, the religious thinking and world view of the apostles was essentially from the Old Testament and Jesus Christ, not Greek heathenism. Therefore, when Paul discusses doctrine or worship, the first place to look for help in understanding religious terms is the Old Testament. We often find Hebrew expressions or terms expressed in koine Greek. Second, we must keep in mind that the churches that Paul founded in Asia consisted of converted Jews, Gentile proselytes to Old Testament Judaism (God-fearers), and Gentile pagans. These churches had a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. When Paul expressed Old Testament ideas to a Greek-speaking audience, he would use the religious terminology of the Septuagint. If the terms hymns (humnois) and spiritual songs (odais pheumatikais) were defined within the New Testament, then looking to the Septuagint for the meaning of these words would be unnecessary. Given the fact, however, that these terms are rarely used in the New Testament and cannot be defined within their immediate context apart from a knowledge of the Old Testament, it would be exegetically irresponsible to ignore how these words are used in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. When we examine the Septuagint, we find that the terms psalm (psalmos), hymn (humnos), and song (odee) used by Paul clearly refer to the Old Testament book of Psalms and not to ancient or modern uninspired hymns or songs. (Exclusive Psalmody: A biblical Defense, Brian Schwertley)

Prof. John McNaugher writes:

As even a glance at their contents shows, the epistle to the Ephesians and that to the Colossians are closely alike. About half of the verses in the former have parallels in the latter, and there are other resemblances as well. This twinship is explained when it is remembered that the two letters were written at the same time and to communities similarly circumstanced. Among the coincidences in thought and language are to be numbered the texts under study, which almost repeat each other.

Turning to these duplicate exhortations, it appears at once that they are of peculiar interest in that they yield a glimpse of the simple worship of primitive days … True, the question has been raised whether they have to do with worship at all, whether Paul is not touching merely upon the intercourse of believers in their family life, at their love-feasts, their social gatherings, and other meetings, and suggesting mutual edification by song. On this mooted point the common verdict is that the main, though not exclusive, reference is to the stated services of the public assembly, which seem to have been of a free and elastic nature. That worship, as well as joint instruction, is in mind is indicated by the concluding words in each citation—“singing with grace in your hearts unto God,” “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

With the foregoing inquiry answered, it may be added as beyond doubt that all the resources of the early church as regards her treasury of sacred song are embraced in the “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” here mentioned. In the three terms the inventory is evidently complete. Here then are classical passages which must be consulted in connection with any investigation into the hymnology of the apostolic period, passages which have a decisive bearing, therefore, on what compositions may be employed properly in the ordinance of praise.

As to their meaning, there has been pronounced disagreement. The advocates of uninspired songs in worship look on them as strongholds, arguing therefrom that in the age of the apostles the Psalter was supplemented by new lyrics, and that therefore, as a necessary consequence, the legitimacy of the modern hymn is established. Some writers on this side declare themselves in a very dogmatic way, dismissing lightly the idea of contradiction. On the other hand, it is alleged that there is no cause for supposing that Paul’s “hymns and spiritual songs” were anything different from the canonical Psalms, and that there is no license here for the use of other devotional pieces than the Psalms in the worship of God. The latter is the view which will be upheld in this exegesis. It challenges the opposite interpretation as being but a surmise, and offers a series of substantial reasons for its own correctness.

To begin with, it should be realized that present usage as regards the debated terms plays no part in fixing their sense. One can be misled by the seemingly familiar phraseology, and think forthwith of the hard and fast distinction now made between Psalms and hymns. But we are deciphering what was penned in A. D. 61 or 62, long centuries before any of the uninspired productions in the hymnals of today were extant. In order, therefore, to make these lines intelligible, we must transport ourselves back into that past to which Paul and his readers belong, and there undertake our exposition with open-mindedness and cautious discrimination.

As an approach toward identifying the poems intended by these designations, there is clear evidence at hand that all of them were divinely inspired, indicted under the extraordinary influence of the Holy Spirit. Preliminary to what is deemed decisive proof, certain considerations which go to make this important claim a strong probability may be adduced.

1. First, in these verses the direction given is not to prepare or provide songs of praise, but only to sing them. On this we must be permitted to insist. But in the absence of an express warrant for so doing, would not these Asia Minor Christians have been chary about writing original hymns for rendition in worship, when the Psalter, written on the mountain-tops of inspiration, and full of the things of God, was everywhere, as is allowed, a congregational handbook? Is it likely that any, self-advised and unaided, would have had the temerity or the desire to attempt such an innovation? [A Special Exegesis of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 Prof. John McNaugher, D. D., LL.D., Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA]

Michael Bushell writes and amplifies what Schwertley and McNaughter are saying:

Page 217:

There are only a few passages in the New Testament that have a direct bearing on the question of what songs we should sing in worship. Most of them can be found conducting a simple survey of the terms used in the New Testament to express the idea of song. There are only three verb forms, along with their substantives, that need to be considered. The words are psalmos (ψαλμός), ōdē  (ὧδή ) and humnos (ὕμνος). They are commonly translated psalm, son and hymn respectively. It almost goes without saying that these three musical terms did not necessarily mean the same thing to new testament readers as they do to us now.

The meaning of the religious terms used in the New Testament were condition to a large extent by the usage of those terms in the Septuagint , the Greek version of the Old Testament in common use at that time.

Psalmos (ψαλμός) occurs some 87 times in the Septuagint, some 78 of which are in the Psalms themselves, and 67 times in the Psalm Titles.

Humnos (ὕμνος) occurs some 17 times in the Septuagint, 13 of which are in the Psalms, 6 times in the titles. In 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah there are some 16 examples in which the Psalms are called “hymns” or “songs” and the singing of them is called “hymning”. Philo (d A.D. 40) frequently designates certain Psalms as “hymns”. The historian Josephus also repeatedly alludes to to the Psalms as “hymns”.

 Odee  (ὧδή ) occurs some 80 times in the Septuagint, 45 of which are in the Psalms, 36 in the Psalm titles.

“Psalm seventy-six is designated ‘psalm, hymn and song.’ And at the end of the first seventy two psalms we read ‘the hymns of David the son of Jesse are ended’ (Ps. 72:20). In other words, there is no more reason to think that the Apostle referred to psalms when he said ‘psalms,’ than when he said ‘hymns’ and ‘songs,’ for all three were biblical terms for (the) psalms in the book of psalms itself.”[20] To ignore how Paul’s audience would have understood these terms and how these terms are defined by the Bible; and then instead to import non-biblical modern meanings into these terms is exegetical malpractice.

The other item to consider when we are looking at these scriptures is biblical repetition or what is called ‘Triadic expressions’. Take for instance:

Is. 6:3 And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory!”

*Rev. 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,who was and is and is to come!”

Exodus 34:7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Matt. 22:37   Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’

Iniquity and transgression and sin (Ex. 34:7)
Statutes and judgements and laws (Lev. 26:46)
Anger, wrath, and indignation (Ps. 78:49)
Supplications, prayers, intercessions (1 Tim. 2:1)
Signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12:12)


The Westminster confession ch 21:5

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

The directory for Publick Worship:

  • Of Singing of Psalms.

IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.

  • Of Publick Prayer before the Sermon.

AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm,) the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they, may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:

  • of Prayer after the sermon:

The prayer ended, let a psalm be sung, if with conveniency it may be done. After which (unless some other ordinance of Christ, that concerneth the congregation at that time, be to follow) let the minister dismiss the congregation with a solemn blessing.

  • Of the Sanctification of the Lord’s day:

That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in publick, be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons; especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard, and catechising of them, holy conferences, prayer for a blessing upon the publick ordinances, singing of psalms, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, and such like duties of piety, charity, and mercy, accounting the sabbath a delight.

  • Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting:

Before the publick meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:

  • Concerning the observation of days of Publick Thanksgiving:

And, because singing of psalms is of all other the most proper ordinance for expressing of joy and thanksgiving, let some pertinent psalm or psalms be sung for that purpose, before or after the reading of some portion of the word suitable to the present business.

Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order:

The Singing of Psalms and Hymns51-1. Praising God through the medium of music is a duty and a privilege.
Therefore, the singing of hymns and psalms and the use of musical
instruments should have an important part in public worship.51-2. In singing the praises of God, we are to sing in the spirit of worship,
with understanding in our hearts.51-3. It is recommended that Psalms be sung along with the hymns of the
Church, but that caution be observed in the selection of hymns, that they be
true to the Word. Hymns should have the note of praise, or be in accord with
the spirit of the sermon.

*I only include the portion from the PCA Book of Church order to show that the document tells it’s congregations to sing the Psalms in their services.

R. Barrow writes:

Concerning the early Church, Bushell notes that, “The introduction of uninspired hymns into the worship of the Church was a gradual process, and it was not until the fourth century that the practice became widespread.”6 G.I. Williamson further points out that a “second noteworthy fact is that when uninspired hymns first made their appearance, it was not among the orthodox Churches but rather the heretical groups… If the Church from the beginning had received authority from the Apostles to make and use uninspired hymns, it would be expected that it would have done so. But it did not. Rather it was among those who departed from the faith that they first appeared.”7 This historical testimony raises a number of interesting questions for those who claim to adhere to the regulative principle of worship and yet maintain the use of uninspired hymns in public worship. First, if the Psalter had been insufficient, why was there no command to produce new songs for worship, only commands to sing that which was already in existence? Second, if a new manual of praise was necessary, why was it that the Apostles did not write any new songs under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Third, why is it that we do not find even one “hymn” fragment among all the early church writings that have survived to this day. Moreover, there is not even one mention of the use of uninspired “hymns” among orthodox Christians until they began to be written in reply to the heretical “hymns,” which had not surfaced until late in the second century?8 Fourth, why was there still strong opposition to the introduction of uninspired hymns well into the fifth century? The Synod of Laodicea (A.D. 343) and the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) both opposed the introduction of uninspired “hymns.” In addition to this Bushell states that “as late as the ninth century we find appeals to the earlier Councils in support of a pure psalmody.

Michael Bushell writes in regard to the reformed moving away from where Rome took the church in the regard to their worship style:

The Scottish Reformer John Knox not surprisingly followed Calvin in this matter, and the Reformed Church as a whole followed their lead. “This meant that at a stroke the Reformed Church cut itself loose from the entire mass of Latin hymns and from the use of hymnody in general, and adopted the Psalms of the Old Testament as the sole medium of Church praise.”11 Hence forth to be a Calvinist was to be a Psalm-singer. For some two and a half centuries the Reformed churches as a rule sang nothing but the Psalms in worship…. The metrical Psalter was born in Geneva where it was nurtured and cherished by all who embraced the principles of Calvinism. [Songs of Zion, p. 131, 132.]

Barrow continues:

Furthermore, the importance that Calvin placed on Psalm singing can be seen in the following account,When Calvin and Farel were banished from Geneva (April 23, 1538) for refusal to submit to the liturgical practices which the Council had taken over from Bern, they appealed their  case to the Synod which met at Zurich on April 29, 1538. At that time they presented a paper drawn up by Calvin containing 14 articles specifying the terms upon which they were willing to return to Geneva. They admitted that they had been too rigid and were willing to concede a number of the disputed practices… But on several other points they stood firm. They insisted on… the more frequent administration of the Lord’s Supper… and the institution of the singing of Psalms as a part of public worship (emphasis added).13This was an extremely bold stand for truth, and, as we know, Calvin returned to Geneva, and Psalm singing commenced. As he matured, Calvin insisted on, and instituted, the practice of the exclusive (acappella) singing of Psalms in Geneva’s public worship.14 Another interesting historical note concerning the development (and strength) of Calvin’s arguments against uninspired hymns is placed in context by the following conclusion reached by Bushell,Calvin knew, as well as we ought to know, that in the last analysis a “counsel of prudence” and a “case of conscience” amount to the same thing. In worship-song, as in other things, God deserves the best that we have to offer. No pious man can in clear conscience offer up one sacrifice of praise to God when prudence dictates that another would be better. Calvin says as much in the passage which we just quoted. How one can read Calvin’s conclusion that “no one can sing things worthy of God, unless he has received them from God Himself” and yet conclude that “he had no scruples of conscience against the use of human songs” is quite beyond our comprehension. These sentiments, which Calvin borrows from Augustine (on Psalm 31, sermon 1) and takes as his own, are at the very heart of all arguments against the use of uninspired hymns in the religious worship of God. Calvin’s own practice, his insistence on the inspired superiority of the Psalms, and his defense of the Regulative Principle, all point toward the unavoidable conclusion that Calvin limited himself to the Psalms… because he thought it would have been wrong to do otherwise. The Reformed Church as a whole followed him in this belief and clung to it tenaciously for over two centuries. Modern Presbyterian worship practice has no claim to Calvin’s name at this juncture. Calvin would have wept bitterly to behold the songs sung today in those churches which claim to have followed in his footsteps… the fact remains that in practice the Genevan Reformer was as strict a Psalm-singer as ever there was.  [PSALM SINGING IN SCRIPTURE & HISTORY-pages 3&4 Puritan Hard drive]Bushell summarizes our survey of Reformed thought,It is remarkable that, in spite of the absence of any creedal constraints and in spite of the influence that must have been exerted on the Reformed Church by other communions where uninspired hymns flourished, the practice of exclusive Psalmody in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches was so uniform for two centuries after the Reformation that there exists today no undisputed evidence of ecclesiastically sanctioned hymnody in their services of worship during that period.  [PSALM SINGING IN SCRIPTURE & HISTORY-page 5 Puritan Hard drive] [Songs of Zion page 172]

Bushell extrapolates on Psalm 19:

The law of the Lord, we are told, is perfect. It is sure. It is right. It is pure. It is true. It is sweeter than honey and more to be desired than gold. When we read this magnificent Psalm we should do so with the understanding that the Psalter is in these words praising itself. The Psalter itself is a repository, in lyrical form, of the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandments and the judgments of the Lord. The Psalter is perfect, sure, right, pure and true. Ask yourself if it would ever be appropriate to heap such praise on the words of an uninspired man. [Quotation taken from Book review of Songs of Zion, page 14 by A. B.]

In Matthew Henry’s preface to the Psalms he writes:

Though singing be properly the voice of joy, yet the intention of songs is of a much greater latitude, to assist the memory, and both to express and to excite all the other affections as well as this of joy. The priests had a mournful muse as well as joyful ones; and the divine institution of singing psalms is thus largely intended; for we are directed not only to praise God, but to teach and admonish ourselves and one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, Col. iii. 16. 2. “”See what a good master we serve, and what pleasantness there is in wisdom’s ways, when we are not only commanded to sing at our work, and have cause enough given us to do so, but have words also put in our mouths and songs prepared to our hands”.”And methinks it is a great comfort to us, when we are singing David’s psalms, that we are offering the very same praises to God that were offered to him in the days of David and the other godly kings of Judah.””Let good Christians divide them for themselves, so as may best increase their acquaintance with them, that they may have them at hand upon all occasions and may sing them in the spirit and with the understanding.

George Bancroft, The Apostolic Church and the Gospel Ministry, pp. 223-224:

Some promoters of singing hymns may differ with the [OPC] majority and minority reports, alleging that perhaps the phrase “singing of psalms” in the Westminster Confession of Faith may not mean that only psalms are to be employed in public worship. Some Presbyterians have argued that the term ‘psalms,’ being a lower case ‘p’ might refer to psalms and hymns. In the original 1648 edition of the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God, the upper case ‘P’ in the term ‘Psalms’ was consistently used;16 but regardless of which edition is used with consistent upper or lower case, it will make no difference to the true intent of the writers and signers of the Westminster Standards. The following Westminster documents consistently speak of singing psalms, with no mention of hymns: Westminster Confession of Faith (ch. XXI, sec. V), Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church Government (Of the Ordinances in a particular Congregation), and the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God (Of the Sanctification of the Lord’s Day, Of Singing of Psalms). Acknowledging historic Presbyterian familiarity with the Synod of Dordrecht Church Order (1618-19) and the distinction made between psalms and hymns, in all fairness to legislative intent interpretation, the ‘psalms’ or ‘Psalms’ in the Westminster Standards must be biblical psalms of praise.In the later editions of the Westminster Standards, biblical psalms of praise, were commonly referred to as ‘psalms.’ In the reading of the Scriptures, in the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God, it references exposition of the portion of Scripture read: “let it not be done until the whole chapter of psalm be ended” (Of Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures). Regarding public preaching, it speaks of some ‘text of scripture’; it further orders the use of “some chapter, a psalm, or book of the holy scripture” (Of the Preaching of the Word). In the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, there are parallel and coordinate directives to read or sing a ‘psalm,’ but no directive to sing a hymn. We find this same employment of the term ‘psalm’ or ‘psalms’ in the Authorised King James Version to refer to the Book of Psalms (see Luke 24:44).The London or Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) deliberately altered section V, of the chapter, Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day, to read “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” The Baptists understood the legislative intent meaning of the Westminster Confession of Faith to be psalms only, as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are used as proof-texts for the “singing of psalms with grace in the heart” (West. Con. ch. XXI, sec. V). The Baptists, therefore, decidedly rejected the historic Westminster Presbyterian interpretation of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. The 17th century Westminster Presbyterians interpreted, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) to the Book of Psalms. 16 The Westminster Standards, An Original Facsimile (Audubon, New Jersey: Old Paths Publications, 1997).

Bancroft does well showing that the penners of the London Baptist Confession clearly understood that Westminster was exclusive in their approach to worship using the Psalms alone as that is exactly why they added the portion to their document which reads: ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’.

Objection: “If we sing the Psalms, we would never use the name of Jesus in our singing-thats just not right!”

Response: I was challenged on the idea that the name of Christ was not in the Psalms and that if we sing the Psalms exclusively, we would never sing Jesus’ name. I was astonished at this statement; The psalms carry the weight of all of scripture in their writings. There is more of the Messiah in the Psalms than any other writing outside of the book of John and the Epistles. Men were saved in the Old Testament reading the Psalms!  The gospel is there in it’s fullness. Yes, we do not see the name ‘Jesus’ in the Psalter, but is that really an issue; there are no commands that say we are to sing the name of Jesus. We are to pray in Jesus’s name, yes. We see that command. When Christ gave us the commission He did not tell us to baptize in Jesus’ name.

I am in the process of reading an excellent book on the subject called, ‘The Songs of Zion’ by Michael Bushell. Mr. Bushell is the creator of the software program ‘Bible Works’. I wasn’t aware of this prior to reading the book. He deals with this subject better than I ever could. I recommend this book, highly. Get it if you can. I will use  some of Bushell’s throughts here:

Bushell tell’s us in his book that there are a few things to consider when we think along these lines;

The name “Jesus” is used more than 500 times in the Gospels in talking about Jesus, but with one possible exception, it is never used by the apostles or His close friends in addressing Him directly. The name “Jesus” appears on the charge above His head on the cross, and He is addressed with the name “Jesus” by the blind Bartemaeus and the ten lepers. He is addressed very rarely as “master” and “Rabbi” and countless times as “Lord”, but He is never addressed as “Jesus” by His followers. The only clear exception to this rule that we could find is in the prayer at the end of Revelation where we find the name “Lord Jesus”.In Bushell’s book, he goes into detail about how Christ’s name; he says, ‘The name “Jesus”, which occurs in our English bibles is the Anglicized form of the Greek word ,Iēsous (Ιησοῦς), which in turn was the Greek rendition of the Aramaic or hebrew name of jesus. In Hebrew, The name of jesus would have been Yeshua which is a contracted form of Jehoshua. However, it is generally thought that Jesus spoke Aramiac and His name would have been an Aramaic name. The Aramaic name would have been something like ‘Yesu’ but there are so many dialects of Aramaic that there is no way to know for sure how it would have been pronounced 2000 years ago. The point is, we don’t really know how to pronounce the real name of Jesus. it has gone form Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English and the pronunciation has changed at every step along the way. So we obviously can’t obsess over the letters J-e-s-u-s as if they are the name that we would have heard in Judea two thousands years ago.

Bushell goes on to illuminate the covenant name for God, the proper name for Jesus, that being ‘LORD”, as that is how He is addressed by his disciples and followers. It would follow then, the name of Jesus is properly apprreciated as “LORD” in both new and Old Testaments, especially in the Psalter. The Psalter is not deficient in this area and to think otherwise is problematic theologically for those who stick to this claim.

Scott, What about the verse in Revelation that speaks of a ‘New Song’ we will be singing?

Rev. 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

Rev. 14:3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.

These passages are ‘new’ in that what is emanating from the mouths of the church universal is new. It is from spiritual bodies. It will be a song coming from glorified bodies in due time. All the saints will sing uniformly. It will be akin to one large chorus of perfection. Our minds will be as one. Our worship will be pure and correct. It will be directed to the lamb in a way it never was. Glory be to God! In that way, it is new. Compare that which believers are exhorted within the book of Revelation and that which is commanded in the Psalms themselves. In glory, believers will be now ‘face to face and ‘changed’; in that way we will be singing ‘new songs’. In regard to the Psalms and their exhortations, two items to consider: 

1) If the Psalms are commanded to be sung, by God’s immutable command, and they are, the command to sing something ‘new’ outside of those Psalms and the command would be contradictory and confusing. Nowhere are we commanded to sing anything other than the Psalms, it would not follow, that God amends and abrogates that command in light of that which He has already commanded.

2) When contrasted to the statements in the book of Revelation, the ‘new song’ has to do with our being. We will be fully new in glory and in the book of Psalms, the new song is often accompanied by filling of the Holy Spirit and regeneration or sanctification.

1 Cor 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 

Calvin writes:

“secondly, That it is not befitting, that it should be a dead contemplation, but that we should be transformed by means of it into the image of God; and, thirdly, that the one and the other are not accomplished in us in one moment, but we must be constantly making progress both in the knowledge of God, and in conformity to His image, for this is the meaning of the expression — from glory to glory.” 

In this way, we are always singing ‘new songs’ even though they are the same songs….


Isaiah 38:20 “The LORD was ready to save me;Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instrumentsAll the days of our life, in the house of the LORD.”
Rev. 19:1 After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!

What do you think we will sing in Heaven? Do you believe it will be uninspired song? Do you believe that the cup that we will share at the feast will be filled with grape juice? So much more can be said on the issues of the Regulative principle, Psalm singing, elements, etc. More men with a greater acumen than I have done it better justice than I have attempter to here in this paper. These are my thoughts, along with some of the great men of faith, our beloved confessions and creeds. I do not claim to have it all figured out. I am but a man. I pursue God’s truth with a vigor today. I pray the Lord that He never lessen His claim on my life. As the Psalmist writes:

Psa. 27:4 One thing I have desired of the LORD,

That will I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the LORD

All the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the LORD,

And to inquire in His temple.


~For additional edification: Music and the Worship of God by Dr. Richard Bacon:



Another one: A Response to T. David Gordon’s Critique of Exclusive Psalmody by A. Kuehner:




I pray this paper is a blessing to your heart.