Sing to the Lord!

“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 104:33).

God created man with the ability to sing. Singing gives words wings and expresses the deepest feelings of our heart.

Singing is the music God has prescribed for His church.

During the historical period of the New Testament and for six hundred years thereafter, singing was the only music used for worship in Christendom.

That is why “a capella”a (Italian for “as in the chapel”) is the designation in music terminology for singing without instrumental accompaniment.

It was not until 666 A.D. that Pope Vitalianus I introduced instruments in the apostate Roman church.

Not only are Christians instructed to sing, they are also told to whom they are to sing, what they are to sing, why they are to sing, and how they are to sing. Not all singing is acceptable to God.


What is singing?

To sing is to vocalize words in melodious tones with rhythmic emphasis. The melody and the rhyme enliven the words, adding depth to their meaning.


To Whom do Christians sing?


Christians sing to the Lord!

“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); “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Christian singing is heart-felt worship directed to God.

Worshipful singing was also directed to the Lord in the Old Testament. Many elements of Old Covenant worship (such as sacrificing animals, burning incense and playing music instruments) have no place in the spiritual worship of the New Testament. Singing, however, is a form of worship found under both covenants.

“I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (Psalm 7:17).

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1, 2).

“Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!” (1 Chronicles 16:9).

“Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (1 Chronicles 16:23, 24).

Christians sing to the Lord!


What do Christians sing?

We sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).

Because these terms overlap, they are often used interchangeably. Yet there is some distinction.

A hymn is a song of praise. A psalm is a poem that is sung as worship. A spiritual song is a song about a religious topic.


Why do Christians sing?

Christians sing to glorify God not to entertain man. Although Christian singing is directed to God, it also serves as a confession of faith to unbelievers, and as teaching for believers.


Christians sing to glorify God.

As already indicated in several Scriptures, we sing to worship and praise God. When we lift our voices to God in songs of praise, the spirits of others are also lifted.


Christians sing to confess their faith to the nations.

In his victory song, David says, “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (2 Samuel 22:50; see also Psalm 18:49).

Paul quotes this verse to prove that the message of the Messiah would be for all nations: “And thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name ” (Romans 15:9 NET).

Jesus sang songs of praise with His disciples (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) and now, two thousand years later, the church of Christ is still singing praise to God as a confession of faith to the nations.


Christians sing to instruct one another.

“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).

In a prophetic Psalm the Messiah says: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Hebrews 2:12).

Followers of the Messiah also instruct their brethren in the assembly as they sing praise to God.

Christians sing on other occasions as well: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).

At midnight, in a dark prison cell at Philippi, with feet fastened in the stocks, with backs beaten by many lashes of a whip, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Christians sing to glorify God, as a confession of faith to non-Christians, and to instruct one another.



How do Christians sing?

Paul says, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).


Christians sing with the spirit.

Jesus explains that true worship must be in spirit and truth: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24). Thus singing, as a form of worship, must be in spirit and truth.

Worship must come from the heart to please God. That is why Christians sing and make melody in their heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19); that is why they sing to the Lord with grace in their hearts (Colossians 3:16).

David understood that singing must come from the heart: “I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart” (Psalm 9:1).

God listens to the tone-quality of the heart, not the tone-quality of the voice.

Christian singing wells up from the heart and ascends in worship to God.

Someone who sings a religious song to glorify himself or to entertain man, rather than in the spirit to the Lord, is not singing in a way that pleases God.


Christians sing with understanding.

Christian singing is understandable melodious speech. It is “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19); it is “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).

What does Paul mean by, “I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15)?

The assemblies at Corinth were disorderly. People were speaking in languages no one understood, and several people spoke at the same time.

In dealing with this problem, Paul emphasizes an important principle: Public worship must be understandable and edifying.

“Unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air” (1 Corinthians 14:9). “In the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

This also applies to singing: “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Paul wanted to speak with understanding so others could be taught. Thus, to sing with understanding means to sing in such a way that people understand the words and are edified.


Sounds without meaning do not edify.

“Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Edification is a building up, an increase in spiritual insight resulting from instruction.

Through this Scripture God excludes meaningless sounds from the Christian assembly. Sounds without meaningful content do not edify.

This explains why God omitted music instruments from Christian worship. Music instruments are neither spiritual nor intelligible, they do not give instruction.

Paul compares someone without love to music instruments: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Sounding brass and clanging cymbals were used in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 29:25, 26), but lifeless instruments are not suitable for worship in spirit and truth under the New Covenant.

God’s requirement: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26) and the related condemnation of meaningless sounds in the assembly also preclude hand-clapping and the imitation of instruments with the voice. Such body and throat noises are not spiritual and do not have meaningful content.

Christians use the voices God has given them to sing with the spirit and with the understanding. They do not pollute their worship with sounds devoid of meaningful spiritual content.


What have we learned?

Singing is the music God has prescribed for His church. Christians are told to sing, and they have been given precise instructions. They sing to the Lord. They sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing serves to glorify God, as a confession of faith to non-Christians, and as instruction for believers. Christians sing with the spirit and with the understanding. What is sung must be understandable. All things must be done for edification. Meaningless sounds do not edify and are unsuitable for worship in spirit and truth.

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2). Sing to the Lord! Amen.

Roy Davison

Endnote:

a Italian for "in the manner of the chapel," literally "according to the chapel," originally “alla capella” or “alla cappella.”

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)