Among all the things Churches of Christ are noted for is singing which is usually at the top of the list. We are known for our acapella singing or singing without instrumental accompaniment. Next to baptism for the remission of sin singing is the second most discussed and debated issue.
Singing has a prominent place in Scripture. In one form or another, it is mentioned approximately 400 times and 50 times as a direct imperative. An Old Testament example is Psalm 96:1-3: “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”
The Bible affirms that God sings. In Zephaniah 3:17 we read, “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with SINGING.” Jesus sang with His disciples after inaugurating the Lord’s Supper: “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out on the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30). The apostle Paul affirmed to the church in Corinth that understanding must be at the heart of our worship, including singing: “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will SING with the spirit, and I will also SING with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). In Acts 16: 25 we read where Paul and Silas were singing in prison: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and SINGING hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening.”
THE POWER, BLESSINGS, AND BENEFITS OF SINGING
Singing as presented in Scriptures is not just a form of fleshly entertainment or used to fill in a time slot on a schedule. For the Christian and person who desires to please God and reap the benefits of singing, here are several positive observations about the power, blessings, and benefits of singing. Therefore, singing is more than an exercise in four-point harmony or a response to “Shall we sing?”
Here are several dynamics involved in the power, blessings, and benefits of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs:
- When we sing we are obeying the command of the Lord to sing and make melody in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:26).
- We sing words and words have meaning and the challenge is that singers may differ in what a word may convey to them. This is why the command to “sing with the understanding” is important. Jesus said, “But I say to you that every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36, 37).
- Singing words help us to remember the lyrics (words) as well as the messages of the song. We often find ourselves singing songs at unusual moments, which is a blessing of memorizing the song.
- Singing has the power to touch all of our emotions, which God created us with the ability to express what’s inside our hearts. We cry at funerals, rejoice in song when a person obeys the Gospel. We are stirred to action by a song related to ministry, etc.
- Singing is a tool to instruct others with. Paul wrote: 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” (Colossians 3:16). Thus we see again that both the song leader and the singers KNOW the words and use them to teach and encourage fellow-members.
- Singing is an act which is a demonstration of the bond of love and unity among Christians in the assembly (Hebrews 10:25). As we look at one another while singing we realize the mutual blessing we are sharing in
- Singing is a positive and biblical way to encourage one another, which is one of the reasons for the assembly (Hebrews 10:24). It is also one of the major reasons a Christian doesn’t want to miss an assembly—he will be encouraged and he will encourage others.
- Singing is not restricted to a specific time, place, or given order. Since we are to “worship God in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23, 24), we may sing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs when we are moved to do so—on the land, sea, or in the air, we may lift our voices in song.
- Singing is an affirmation in lyrics (words) that you subscribe to the words you are singing as well as believe in the truth expressed in them. This is why we ought to spend time studying songs just as we spend time in studying Scripture.
- Singing is a powerful tool for attracting others. Many times people upon visiting an assembly for the first time will be attracted and encouraged by the singing, causing them to ask questions and return.
BEWARE OF HYPOCRITICAL SINGING
Since Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 commands us to sing with meaning and understanding, we must guard against falling into the trap of simply mouthing the words of songs without any real heart, meaning, and application to ourselves. Since we are teaching each other we must know and apply what we are teaching unless we fall into the trap of “saying and not doing”—being a hypocrite.
Here are a few songs we need to examine carefully how well we mean and apply them after the song is finished:
- WE SING: “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and are content not to attend prayer meetings and special seasons for prayer; we pray only when there is a major need in our lives, etc.
- WE SING: “Onward Christian Soldiers” and seldom leave the confines of the church building. We’ve changed it to “Inward Christian Soldiers.”
- WE SING: “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” but seldom show our love for Him by obedience.
- WE SING: “Amazing Grace” and live like we are under the Law of Moses.
- WE SING: “There Shall Be Showers of Blessings” and see rain as a hindrance to our plans.
- WE SING: “We’re Marching to Zion” but fail to drive to the church building for services.
- WE SING: “I Love to Tell the Story” but never mention Christ and the Gospel.
- WE SING: “Throw Out the Life Line” and are content to throw out a fishing line.
- WE SING: “Cast Thy Burdens on the Lord” and worrying ourselves into ulcers, etc.
- WE SING: “Serve the Lord with Gladness” and complain about having to do too much.
- WE SING: “Trust and Obey” and know we aren’t really doing the “obey” part.
- WE SING: “I’ll Fly Away” but live like we’d like to stay put, etc.
This sampling should help us to be continually aware of what we are singing. Words have meanings and especially when we are offering them to our heavenly Father as the fruit from our hearts expressed through our voices.
May we never forget that singing which is to self, others, and to God must meet His approval. It is more than four-point harmony—it may include “Making a joyful noise unto the Lord.”