On The Origin Of Words

The Question

From time to time, I have posed myself the question, “If the lyrics speak spiritual truth, does the origin of a worship song matter?”

Our Lord God is Sovereign over all the earth. He can and does use people who do not even acknowledge his existence for his perfect purpose. Must we only use communion bread from a Christian baker? Of course not. May we only use tunes in worship written by Christians? I don’t think so.

Words Matter

However, for those of us who might claim to be of Reformed Evangelical persuasion, words not only matter, they matter a great deal. From the time of creation in Genesis 1 our God is revealed to be a God who speaks. He speaks to us via his “word” the Bible and via his “word” Jesus Christ. Here are a few of the things the Bible has to say about this.

Hebrews 4:12 ESV "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Hebrew 1:1-2 ESV "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."

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

John 1:14 ESV "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

The Lord God is not like a dumb statue: he speaks. Not only does our Lord speak to us in words, but we also communicate with him through words in our prayers and in our songs of worship. He has ordained that it should be so, even though he already knows “the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.


I have at least 3 reasons for thinking about this.

  • Hillsong
  • Audrey Assad
  • Bethel Music


There are churches and other Christian gatherings that I have attended where songs originating from Hillsong have been used, not least of which being “Man of Sorrrows” and “Cornerstone”. Yet the Hillsong Chuches are part of the Word of Faith movement

Word of Faith is false teaching. Justin Peters talks about this here from which I have selected a few quotations.

"Hillsong church is Word of Faith"

"Brian Houston is a wolf"

"Some of their music is pretty good and a lot of churches sing their music."

"Granted, some of their songs are OK... the lyrics are doctrinally sound."

"Hillsong uses their music as a hook... they pull you into their theology through their music."

"I would never be comfortable singing a song from Hillsong in my church, knowing where it comes from."

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15 ESV) You will find good solid teaching in Hillsong Churches, in some of Brian Houston’s sermons, in Hillsong songs – that’s the sheep’s clothing. But you also find false teaching.

Audrey Assad

I can’t remember quite how I first became aware of the music of Audrey Assad. She has a remarkable voice. I think it may have been “How can I keep from singing?” that I first heard. I thought this was original work, but it turned out that it’s not. It appears in Sankey’s “Sacred Songs and Solos” (#255).

However, Ms Assad does have some original work such as “Even Unto Death” which I hold in high regard. Yet, having been brought up in a Presbyterian home, she is a firm Roman Catholic. Is it OK for me to use her music in personal devotions? Would it be OK in public worship?

Bethel Music

I was not aware of Bethel Music until it was mentioned by Tony Brown at our recent evening about false teaching and in particular the New Apostolic Reformation.

Again, would any of its songs which are doctrinally sound be acceptable for use in our worship.

On The Shoulders Of Giants

Not surprisingly, Bob Kauflin has written intelligently about this topic and I would strongly recommend that you read his article. You may not necessarily fully agree with his conclusions, but he will lead you into the areas you need to think about.


It goes without saying that we must not sing words we do not believe: worship must be sincere. Orthodox Christianity covers a wide range of beliefs. If we insist on only singing songs by people who are 100% in agreement with ourselves on every point, then each of us would have to write our own songs because there is no such other person.

We could say that a song is just a tool for worship. If the tool is perfect and does the job, does it matter who made it? I think that because our two-way communication with the Living God is by means of words, a song is more than just a tool and we therefore need to be more circumspect.

I’ll leave the final words to Bob Kauflin from his article above.

"Leaders are often concerned that singing one song will lead people in their congregation to YouTube or a website to hear more songs from the ministry/person. But if the people in your church know you choose songs based on their theology and not their popularity, it won’t be as much of an issue. Doing one song by an artist or ministry doesn’t necessarily mean you endorse everything about them, just as using a quote from a writer you don’t completely agree with doesn’t mean you commend their entire theological perspective."

"Bottom line, if you find a song that communicates biblical truth in a clear, uncompromising, beautiful, singable way, and your congregation is trained to value truth over popularity, you’re probably in a position to benefit from it. If you’re unsure, you’ve got plenty of other songs to choose from.