When talking about music, there are two passages from Paul’s epistles that come immediately to mind. They are Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16. The two passages are below.
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
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.
These two passages are very similar in that they break down the songs that Christians sing into 3 divisions: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Although there is a very small group of people in the Church who struggle to read English and believe that this really means psalms, psalms, and psalms, most Christians realize that there is a variety of songs which the Church uses to worship. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner does not really mean in the original Greek breakfast, breakfast, and breakfast.) These two passages give us some guidelines as to what is pleasing to the Lord as we worship Him.
The Ephesians’ passage is geared more to the individual believer. Making melody in your heart with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is evidence that a person is filled with the Spirit or under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Christians sing to the Lord because of the joy that is in them. I think it should also be evident from this passage that those who are filled or under the influence of alcohol sing songs that evidence what is in their heart. Not only is music evidence of what is in an individual’s heart, music also has an extremely powerful pull towards either Christ or the world. I have taught my children many times that if they find themselves depressed, bitter, or angry to consider the music that they are listening to. Cut off the worldly music and replace it with Christ exalting psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and joy and thankfulness comes flooding back in.
The Colossians passage is geared more toward music in corporate worship. Please notice the “one another” in that passage. This passage gives us a few things to consider when deciding on what music is appropriate for corporate worship. First, the music in corporate worship should be packed full with the word of Christ or the scriptures. God’s words are written on our hearts as we sing them back to Him. Second, the music in corporate worship should teach the doctrines of the faith. Third, the music in corporate worship should admonish or strongly encourage believers to live out the Christian faith. In the second and third points here you can see both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Fourth, the music in corporate worship should evidence hearts that are filled with the grace of God or another way to say this is music that focuses the heart of the believer directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the fourth point here may be more subjective than the other three, the point is that if there is something about the music we as the local church are singing that causes believers to turn toward the world away from the beauty of God (whether it be style or content) than that music is not appropriate for corporate worship.