As we come to part three of our series I want to briefly review parts one and two. The reason for this is because parts one and two form the foundation from which the rest of the topics in our series flow. If we don’t understand one and two, we won’t understand three through six. our first two questions, What Do I Do with My Mind? and What Do I Do With My Heart?, can be summed up in John 8:32: You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. When we fill our minds with the truth of God, our hearts are set free in Him.
Understanding this will dictate the way we approach God with our physical body, offered up to Him as a living sacrifice. So with hearts and minds opened and turned toward God in worship, we let flow the beautiful truth of His word by using our voices as instruments of praise. In other words, we sing. But this singing is purposeful. It is not simply an emotional response to who God is and what He has done.
There are countless passages in the Old Testament that deal with singing, but there are surprisingly few in the New Testament. Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples, there is much joyful singing in Revelation, Paul sang in prison, but instruction on proper singing in the New Testament is confined to two similar passages, here in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3.
Here they are:
…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:19-20 ESV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
In these two passages we are given the foundation for a twofold purpose in congregational singing. There is a vertical purpose and a horizontal purpose.
Our vertical purpose is to sing and make melody to the Lord with all thankfulness and praise. When we sing, we sing for an Audience of One. God is the object of our praise and the goal of our affections. We sing to God in joyful response to who He is and what He has done.
We sing of His justice:
I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
(Exodus 15:1 ESV)
We sing of His salvation:
Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
(1 Chronicles 16:23 ESV)
We sing of His love:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
(2 Chronicles 20:21 ESV)
We sing of His righteousness:
I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalm 7:17 ESV)
We praise God for His power:
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalm 21:13 ESV)
There is no end to the works and attributes of God so there is no end to the reasons for which we give Him thanks and praise. So the first and primary purpose of our songs is to joyfully respond to the great glory and grace of our almighty God.
The second purpose that we see from Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 is one that is often overlooked in our understanding of corporate worship, but it is so sweet. Notice that we are to speak to one another in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual songs. This may sound like we sing for others the way we sing to God, as if He were not our Audience of One. But that is not true. God is indeed the only one to whom we sing.
So what could it mean to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?
Listen to these verses:
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Psalm 95:1-2 ESV)
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12 ESV)
Do you see it? We do not sing to each other in the sense that we become the object of each other’s song, we sing to one another so that we may sing with together. We praise the name of God in the midst of the congregation so that others may be reminded of God’s glory and grace and encouraged to join with us in the praise our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Think about it: Are you more encouraged to sing when others around you are passionately proclaiming the glories of Christ, or when we are all standing around silently watching as the band plays songs to God?
When we come to the chorus of “How Great is Our God” we say:
How Great is our God!
Sing With Me!
How Great is our God!
When we are joined together in heart-felt joyful praise of God, we are living out Paul’s desire in Romans 1:12 that they be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. So we sing to God our prefect, holy Audience of One, and we sing to encourage one another to be free in worship, proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.