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.
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
16:25). Consider Psalm
8 as an example of praising God in song.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Why do we
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.
– Because God is highly exalted.
– Because of God’s everlasting lovingkindness
– Because God is good.
– For joy.
– Because God has dealt bountifully.
– Because of victory through God.
– Because of God’s reign and rule.
– Because of God’s strength.
– Because of God’s protection.
– Because of God’s help in our need.
– Because of God’s righteous judgment
– Because of redemption.
– Because God has done wonderful things.
– Because God’s commands are righteousness.
– Because it is good and pleasant.
– Because of deliverance.
– Because of God’s presence.
– Because of God’s mercy and salvation.
– For thanksgiving.
– To participate with Christ.
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.
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
these oft referenced verses, some Old Testament verses provide
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.
– 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
How are we
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
How do you
comments on singing.
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.
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.
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
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
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ