What does the Bible have to say about singing? As Christians, we have spent many hours in debate, sermons and teaching sessions discussing Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, and rightly so, for they are the dominant passages regarding God's instruction for us to sing in worship. Unfortunately, most of our discussion of these passages has centered on what is not in the passages, namely instrumental music. Because of false religious practices, those discussions have been necessary, but we should never let our understanding of God's word be limited simply to what it does not say.
The focus of the two passages is on two interrelated things: 1) our thankfulness to God, which is in turn based on 2) our understanding of His word.
Consider that Ephesians 5 discusses being “filled with the Spirit,” and that phrase has also led to much denominational error. But if we let the scriptures interpret themselves, we see that Colossians uses almost the same terminology about singing, except that it discusses letting “the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” Thus, being filled with the Spirit is equivalent to the word dwelling in us. Careful, determined Bible study will fill us with God's Spirit as we seek to do His will.
That leads us to the other focus of the passage. Have you ever had someone do something for you that caused you to want to sing? Maybe you did sing for joy. Consider then what God has done for us. Because He was willing to send Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, we can be reunited with Him. That should make us want to sing!
Think that is too simplistic? Look at the Psalms. No one talks about wanting to sing more than David. In Psalm 5, he praises God for His ability to bring the wicked to justice, and he says, “Let all who take refuge in You be glad,/Let them ever sing for joy” (v. 11).
In Psalm 9, he says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;/I will tell of all Your wonders./I will be glad and exult in You;/I will sing praise to Your name, 0 Most High” (vv. 1-2). See how singing is tied to thanksgiving for the things God has done?
However, it should also be pointed out that this is not a superficial joy. We are not zombified “Jesus Freaks,” blissfully unaware that there are problems in the world. In fact, we should sing because we understand just how difficult are our problems. For it is only then that we learn to lean on God.
Again, consider David. At two of the lowest points of his life, he speaks of his need to sing praises to God. First, when he was being chased by King Saul, who planned to put him to death, he writes, “My soul is among lions;/I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,/Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows/And their tongue a sharp sword” (Ps. 57:4). Clearly, David is in trouble, but after discussing God's ability to deliver him from his adversary, he finishes with “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;/I will sing praises to You among the nations./For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens/And Your truth to the clouds./Be exalted above the heavens, 0 God;/Let Your glory be above the earth” (Ps. 57:9-11).
Even worse, when David finds himself caught up in the sins of adultery and murder, and he agonizes over what that sin has done (“For I know my transgressions,/And my sin is ever before me./ Against You, You only, I have sinned/And done what is evil in your sight” Ps. 51:3-4a), he is again brought to the point of singing by the goodness and mercy of God. “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, 0 God, the God of my salvation;/Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness./O Lord, open my lips,/That my mouth may declare Your praise” (Ps. 51:14-15).
Now, consider your own life. Are there times when you face obstacles that threaten to overwhelm you? Of course, there are. Are there times when, because of sin, your very soul is in jeopardy? Of course there are.
But consider your God. A God for whom there are no obstacles in this world too great to overcome, for He is the Creator of this world. A God who understands your deepest problems, even when you cannot vocalize them (Rom. 8:26-27). A God who has already overcome this world's greatest problem: sin (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
And when all has been considered, don't you want to praise God? Don't you want to sing?
“I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,/His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the past ten years nearly every letter, article or booklet I have written was prepared on some sort of computer. The spelling checkers that come with most word processors are both a blessing and a curse. They guarantee every word will be spelled correctly, but they can't tell if you used the right word. That's why I bought a grammar checker; it catches incorrect articles, tenses, and misused verbs and pronouns.
Sometimes I get in too big of a hurry to use the grammar checker, and I usually end up regretting it. Some time ago I sent a note to a man and mentioned the recent “lettering” I received from him (I meant “letter”). After I mailed my letter, I looked at a copy of it and the mistake jumped off the page! A few seconds of electronic proofreading would have saved the day, but I was too busy.
Have you ever considered the profound changes that would happen if preachers would run their sermon outlines through a grammar checker before they got into the pulpit?
It would definitely help Baptist preachers. They teach that all believers are the children of God. Here is a simple case of using the wrong tense of a word. The Bible teaches that believers have the “right to become” (future tense) the children of God (John 1:12). It might also help them with the mess they make of Acts 2:38. It would show them the phrase “for the remission of sins” expresses the force of both verbs, “repent and let every one of you be baptized.”
Do you think it could help our Catholic friends? Their adoration of Mary borders on idolatry. They reflect the attitude of the woman in Luke 11:27 who said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed you.” The reply of the Son of God destroys Mariolatry. Jesus said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). Yes, Mary was blessed in being chosen to bear Jesus, but He insists that “more” blessings rest upon “those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
A study of the language used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 would have prevented the Newark Episcopal Diocese (Hoboken, NJ) from ordaining an avowed homosexual as a priest. Paul spoke of homosexuals and sodomites in this passage and said “such were some of you.” I know what they used to be, but now they are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. These men repented of their sin before becoming the children of God.
Have premillennialists noticed that Jesus is now reigning? 1 Corinthians 15:25 says He is reigning now (present tense); premillennialists claim His reign will begin at His return (future tense).
Those who teach that you can get a divorce for “just any cause” would have trouble with Matthew 19:9. Jesus said the only reason for one to put away a spouse is “for sexual immorality.” Only the innocent spouse has the right to Scripturally remarry.
It would be interesting to see the changes that would take place if all preachers would “speak where the Scriptures speak and remain silent where the Bible is silent” and “call Bible things by Bible names.” But, speaking in Bible terms would be difficult for some — they would have to learn a whole new language. (http://www.padfield.com)