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I Will Sing


      Do you know what separates the saved from the rest of the world? A song. In Revelation 14:3, as John saw a vision symbolic of God’s servants, marked and set apart from those who were sons of disobedience, the Spirit included a distinction. The saints knew a song no one else knew. I am intrigued by this symbol, chosen by the Spirit to distinguish the saved and the lost. The saved knew this song. The lost did not. Singing has long been a part of worshipping God, mentioned as early as Exodus 15 and continues to be a part of worship today (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). I may not understand everything about the symbol in Revelation 14:3, but I understand this, what makes us different from the world is worshipping God and when God wanted to symbolize that difference, He chose singing. The important place of singing in the life of the Christian and in the corporate worship of Christ’s church is clearly demonstrated by this. I think we may sometimes take singing for granted without fully appreciating its place in our spiritual lives. Examine what scripture says about singing and its place in our lives.


I.         What was singing for?

A.      The most basic use of singing has always been to praise God, extolling His virtues, blessings, character, greatness, etc. Throughout the Psalms, statements about singing and praise are made (i.e. Psalm 7:17). Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise while imprisoned (Acts 16:25). Consider Psalm 8 as an example of praising God in song.

B.     Akin to the praise offered God was the thanksgiving His followers offered. When the command to sing was written in Colossians 3:16, it was commanded to be with thankfulness in our hearts. The first song recorded in scripture is a song of thanksgiving for delivering the children in Israel from Pharaoh through the Red Sea (Exodus 15). In Judges 5, the song of Deborah and Barak is also a song of thanksgiving.

C.     Singing has always been popular among mankind because it stems from, expresses and evokes emotion. We are not surprised to learn that singing, even as worship to God, has been used to express the emotions filling man’s heart. The overwhelming emotion we see expressed is joy (Psalm 5:11; 20:5). The scripture presents singing as the natural expression of the joyful heart (James 5:13). But we also see despair (Psalm 22:1), sorrow and regret (Psalm 51), etc.

D.     Singing was used to petition God. One of the most famous psalms, Psalm 51, was a petition for forgiveness. Psalm 5 is another example, petitioning for God’s help.

E.     We know singing is worship. Therefore, we automatically consider it a Godward activity. However, there is a manward aspect to singing which is also considered worship. As early as the conquest of Canaan, we see singing used to teach others. Deuteronomy 31:19 says the song recorded in Deuteronomy 32 was to be taught to the Israelites to be a witness for God against them. That is, it was teaching them something. Consider Psalm 1. Is it not a song of teaching? When Christians were commanded to sing, they were commanded to speak to one another in Ephesians 5:19 and teach and admonish one another in Colossians 3:16.

F.      Finally, consider I Chronicles 16:23. Singing was used to proclaim good tidings. I recognize the context here is an Old Testament one. However, we can see a parallel for the New Testament. We have heard enough lessons to know “gospel” means “good tidings.” Remember Romans 10:15 about the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things. One way that was done was in song. Consider a clear example in Acts 16:25. We don’t know the words Paul and Silas were singing. But it must have proclaimed some good news inciting the guard to ask how to be saved after the earthquake.

G.     Recognize this, when we sing, we are doing more than just singing. We are accomplishing something. We are working. We are praising and thanking God. We are proclaiming the Gospel to the lost and edifying the saved. Have you found yourself asking, “What job is out there for me to do in the church?” How about start with singing and I mean really singing. With each song, ask, “What am I doing with this song? Am I praising, thanking, expressing emotion, petitioning, edifying, proclaiming?” Singing is not a punch card activity to mark off our list of duties. We sing to accomplish something. Consider what you are trying to do in the song and sing it that way.

II.       Why do we sing?

A.      One of the most eye-opening points about singing is the reason God’s worshippers gave for singing. I am sure that in searching the entire Bible I have missed some of the reasons given, but I have compiled a list of 20. I will simply read these passages for you.

B.     Exodus 15:1 – Because God is highly exalted.

C.     II Chronicles 20:21 – Because of God’s everlasting lovingkindness

D.     Ezra 3:11 – Because God is good.

E.     Psalm 5:11 – For joy.

F.      Psalm 13:6 – Because God has dealt bountifully.

G.     Psalm 20:5 – Because of victory through God.

H.     Psalm 47:7 – Because of God’s reign and rule.

I.         Psalm 59:16 – Because of God’s strength.

J.       Psalm 59:17 – Because of God’s protection.

K.     Psalm 63:7 – Because of God’s help in our need.

L.      Psalm 67:4 – Because of God’s righteous judgment

M.     Psalm 71:23 – Because of redemption.

N.     Psalm 98:1 – Because God has done wonderful things.

O.    Psalm 119:172 – Because God’s commands are righteousness.

P.     Psalm 147:1 – Because it is good and pleasant.

Q.    Jeremiah 20:13 – Because of deliverance.

R.     Zechariah 2:10 – Because of God’s presence.

S.     Romans 15:9 – Because of God’s mercy and salvation.

T.      Colossians 3:16 – For thanksgiving.

U.     Hebrews 2:12 – To participate with Christ.

V.      When we sing, we must ask, “Why am I singing? Because it is that time in the assembly? Because God says I have to?” Check your motivation. Your singing will improve.

III.      What was sung?

A.      We are all very well versed in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. The church was commanded to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. While some strive to make a distinction between these three terms, the simple fact is there is little difference. They each represent a song and simply that, nothing more and nothing less. As when Marc Antony spoke to the same group calling them at the same time, “Friends, Romans, countrymen …”, so Paul says “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” but speaks of one thing: singing. However, these terms all demonstrate praise or singing things of spiritual value. We do not sing Top 40 hits; we sing spiritual songs of worship, praise and edification.

B.     Going beyond these oft referenced verses, some Old Testament verses provide answers. 

1.       Exodus 15:2; Psalm 118:14 – The Lord was their song. Can we say that, “The Lord is my song.” What does this mean? Clearly, it demonstrates a topic of singing, the Lord; that is, His character, nature, essence, works. All things that were bound up in what God is and what He has done should be our song. But more than that, the point is God is the topic because it is God who makes us sing. Not by force or by command. Rather, because of whom God is, we must sing. Singing is the natural response to God’s existence and work.

2.       Psalm 119:172 – God’s word was their song. Is it our song? Of course, the issue is not simply one of recitation of scripture. Rather, it is singing songs which correspond with God’s word. Singing songs which teach God’s will as He has revealed it in His word. We do not propagate our own ideas in song. We must restrict ourselves to God’s will.

IV.    How are we to sing?

A.      We often spend time answering the question how are we not to sing, that is we are not to sing with the accompaniment of mechanical instruments. The New Testament is clear and we are correct to teach and practice acappella singing.

1.       I have searched and searched the New Testament and cannot find mechanical accompaniment anywhere. But what has strengthened my resolve on this issue the most is noting how the Old Testament viewed mechanical instruments and accompaniment. Mechanical accompaniment was not just a part of the singing in the Old Testament. It was not something that the Israelites did in response to commands to sing. The Old Testament is clear in its commands to sing along with mechanical accompaniment. Psalm 98:5-6 is an example. Sing with the lyre and with the trumpets. The trumpet and lyre were not a part of the singing, they were things done in addition to and along with the singing.

2.       Additionally the Old Testament recognized a clear distinction between singing and playing. In I Samuel 18:6-7, the verse says the women did three things, the played their tambourines and musical instruments, they danced their dance and they sang their song. Notice the distinction clearly made in Psalm 87:7. There were those who sang and those who played. The Old Testament knew the distinction.

3.       Thus, in the New Testament we must ask, where are the numerous commands or examples for instrumental accompaniment? Is there even one? Actually there is. It is revealed in Ephesians 5:19. That instrument of melody is the heart. Psalm 84:2 teaches that was also a part of Old Testament singing. We recognize it is the only accompanying instrument we find authorized in New Testament worship. But this is not the most important thing about how we sing. Consider what the Bible says about how we sing.

B.     Colossians 3:16 says we must sing with thankfulness in our hearts. That is, we must sing with an attitude of thanksgiving. Notice this passage speaks not just of a particular type of song, but of an attitude of heart accompanying all our singing, whether we are praising God in song or edifying our brother. We must be thankful we are physically able to sing. We must be thankful God allows us to sing to Him and one another. We must be thankful for all we sing about. We must be thankful. What is in your heart when you sing? Bitterness or anger toward your brother? Apathy? Boredom? Resentment for the preacher? Irritation with the song leader? What fills your heart when you sing? Make it thanksgiving.

C.     I Corinthians 14:15 mentions singing with the spirit and with the mind. This passage is speaking in the specific context of spiritual gifts and their use in the assembly. Paul was saying that in the assembly tongues should not be used. His reasoning was, the spirit is involved but there is no understanding. Because miraculous spiritual gifts are no longer used, the point of this passage regarding singing with the Spirit does not apply to us. However, the rule that worship is something that is to be understood still clearly applies. When we sing, we must sing with understanding and understandably, so those around us can say the “Amen.”

D.     That is not to say our inner being, the seat of our emotions and feelings are not to be involved in our singing. That is taught in both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 when the heart is mentioned. We are not to be mouthing words. Rather, we are to be emotionally and spiritually involved in what we are singing.

E.     How do you sing?

V.      Miscellaneous comments on singing.

A.      Considering all we have learned in this study, we recognize singing is a natural response to salvation and God’s work for us and in us (Romans 15:9). We want to sing and enjoy singing, not because we are good at it. Not because it is fun. Not because it is pretty. Rather, because of what God is and has done. It is the natural response. It is one of those things that comes bounding forth out of our hearts like cheering when our favorite team wins the Super Bowl, but a thousand times greater. However, Proverbs 29:6 implies in its contrasting statement that being in sin, hinders our singing. That is, the one who gets involved in sin will rarely find that wellspring of motivation to sing. Perhaps the sin is bitterness and resentment with a brother, preacher or elder in the church. Perhaps the sin is selfishness in the home. Perhaps it is some moral sin. If you find you are not joyously wanting to sing … If you find yourself saying, “Oh man, its singing night …”, examine your life. I recognize our own societal concepts of singing may cause some, who are not in sin, not to participate with enthusiasm. If that is your case, consider these verses, recognize the message you are sending out and correct your action.

B.     Having said the above, just because we enjoy singing and do it with enthusiasm does not mean we are right with God. There are religious people worldwide who sing. They hold up their hands and when you witness their singing even the strongest in the doctrine of Christ are tempted to say that truly these have a relationship with God that might rival even the apostles’. Yet, they are lost and on a path to a devil’s hell. Isaiah 24:16 demonstrates this. They were singing “Glory to God.” They thought their relationship was strong or thought their singing and praise would make it so, but the righteous said “Woe is me.” Because in reality the world was dealing treacherously. Sing. Sing with all your heart. But don’t believe just because you sing praises you are right with God.

C.     Singing holds a unique place in our congregational worship today. One that when we realize it, we are shocked by those who do not participate enthusiastically. We are shocked by those who will skip a Sunday night assembly because “all” we are doing is singing. Singing is the only part of our congregational worship wherein each of us has the ability to participate equally. The leader may start the song, but he does not sing more than we do. The same people who don’t participate, often want to know what work they can do for the church. These same people want to know how to teach. These same people want to know how to pray. Start by singing with the congregation. When we sing these songs, your voice may not be as pretty as the person next to you, but we are not performing. When we sing these songs, you are on the same playing field as everyone else. You are teaching. You are praising. You are proclaiming. You are petitioning. You are not just being led. You are doing it. And you are doing it with Christ (Hebrews 2:12).

D.     As we conclude, I throw this grain out to you. One thing I found interesting, almost amusing was another word that was often related to singing in the Old Testament. Can you see the word in Psalm 65:13; 71:23; 81:1; 95:1; 98:4? I bring this up not to say we are commanded to be really loud and shout out the words at the top of our lungs. Rather, I bring this up to point out that mumbling is never linked with singing, so I encourage you to sing out. As Isaiah counsels in Isaiah 42:10-12 let us sing aloud and shout, praising and giving glory to God.


      For those who are not Christians already, you have had nothing to sing about today. Oh, you may have participated in the songs and may have enjoyed them, but you had no real reason to sing. I would like to encourage you to change that. Submit to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will be able to go on your way rejoicing as the Ethiopian eunuch did in Acts 8:39. And you will have reason to sing. Maya Angelou claimed she knew why the caged bird sings. I know why the freed Christian sings and I want you to know as well. Why not submit today?


Glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Franklin Church of Christ