Have you noticed that our songs often tell a different story from our own thinking or preaching? When Paul discussed the whole theme of singing praise to God he gave us two very similar quotes both of which are important for this study. in Colossians 3:16 he said, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you, teaching and correcting each other in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.” Then in Ephesians 5:19 he said, “Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord.” In both statements we are challenged to sing praise to God, to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, to sing to each other and to make certain that we have grace in our hearts as we sing. In Colossians Paul notes that our singing is one way that we teach and correct each other in the process. If singing is a form of teaching that means that what is said in the song is extremely important. If the words to the song aren’t correct then we ought not to be singing it. Also, if the words in the song don’t really express the intentions and desires of my heart I don’t need to be singing it.
It seems to me that we worry far too much on the things on the edges of singing praise to God and not nearly enough about what is extremely vital. Some read these verses and walk away from it seeing the fact it doesn’t mention the use of instruments to accompany singing and so their take away point is that singing has to be unaccompanied by instruments to be right. Is that the point Paul is making in this text? It may have some significance but I don’t think these verses are really on that topic. They are about what we sing. Our songs are to be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They are a matter of teaching and encouraging and correcting each other so it is vital that what is said in the song be exactly right. If what we sing isn’t true it won’t make a lick of difference whether or not there were instruments in use.
Think of songs you’ve sung lately in worship and praise to God. I’m not concerned about whether they are new songs, choruses, or a song written by David over 3,000 years ago. I’m wondering about the content. Is it telling the truth to each other?
Some songs don’t tell the truth in that they aren’t really saying what the Bible teaches on a theme. You can’t spice it up and make it tell the truth. I remember many years ago when a Brother by the name of Ellis Crum put out a song book. In he had had gone through the old songs that had been written for a hundred years and changed the words to make them fit what he felt was right. One I remember was the song, “When we all get to heaven.” He didn’t think that was true that all would get to heaven so he changed it to “When the saved get to heaven.” Personally I thought it was a better song left alone. In all of our singing in worship and praise to God we ought to try to sing the things that harmonize with what God teaches us in His word.
The other part of this point is that sometimes a song teaches the truth as to what the Bible says, but it isn’t true of us and so we can’t sing it and mean it. How can one sing “Amazing Grace” when what they really believe in is amazing works? How can we sing “Trust and obey” when we don’t really trust God to handle things and we aren’t ready to obey His will? How do we sing, “Lord lead me on” when we won’t allow God to lead us but are determined to go our own route all along? How do we sing, “Lord, make me a servant, make me like you” when we really aren’t interested in serving anyone? Now I fully understand the song is meant to encourage us and push us in the right direction. But if I’m not even attempting to follow what I’m singing it would be more honest to just not sing at that point until I can get my mind wrapped around the idea of doing what I sing. Great songs should remind us of ways we need to do better, to love more and to trust God more deeply.
Shall we sing now? Let’s do so with our whole heart.