When I graduated from high school and began my undergraduate studies at Point Loma Nazarene University, one thing became very clear when it was time to find a local church congregation—there was a war going on in the Evangelical world about the style of music appropriate for congregational worship.
Although the arguments and division surrounding musical preference in worship had already existed for some time, my newfound independence as a young college student caused me to truly meditate on the core of the issue for the first time. Thankfully, God in His sovereignty through the Holy Spirit has given us biblical truth to inform our theology of worship:
…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the LordEph 5:18-19; cf. Col 3:16
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.Psalm 96:1
You can imagine how relieved I was to learn that God is pleased with a diversity of music! While Scripture doesn’t forbid believers from having musical preferences, these personal preferences are not to be the priority when approaching Almighty God in reverent worship.
Having spent the majority of my life singing songs in church, one of the things I enjoy most are new arrangements of traditional hymns. For centuries God has richly blessed the church with edifying music and lyrics, and I find it a great joy to participate in songs that have encouraged the saints throughout history.
A great example of this can be seen in the classic hymn, “The Solid Rock,” and its modern day equivalent, “Cornerstone.” While the music for each song, set by William B. Bradbury and Hillsong artists respectively, contains a different refrain, both utilize Edward Mote’s lyrics for the verses:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11). The author’s opening verse affirms that his hope is rooted firmly in the foundation of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Therefore, he will not trust in the most exquisite pleasures or his best spiritual days—“sweetest frames”—but rather build his hope solely on Jesus’ sacrificial death and righteousness.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil.
The darkness of sin that separates us from God is a common theme in Scripture. Christ came as Light to a dark world (Is 9:2; John 8:12), and those who trust in Him are transferred from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13).
Despite having redemption and forgiveness of sins (Col 1:14), Christians still struggle with indwelling sin (Rom 7:21-24) and have need to continuously approach the throne of grace in repentance in order to receive mercy (Heb 4:16). Additionally, Christians experience severe trials in this life. Jesus knew this to be true (John 16:33), and is the Anchor for our soul that enters within the veil to intercede on our behalf before God the Father (Heb 6:19).
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
A major foundational truth of our hope and salvation in Christ is rooted in His imminent return (Rev 22:20). At the sound of the trumpet Christ will gather His elect to Himself (Matt 24:31; 1 Thess 4:16-17), and having received the righteousness of God through faith in Christ (Rom 3:22) they will be presented to God as holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Col 1:22).
While I enjoy both musical settings, it is crucial that our interaction with either song is driven by our understanding of the text’s ability to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my hope that when you encounter one of these pieces that the doctrinal truths expressed in the lyrics bolster your desire to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.