Why Sing (+Q&A) | Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16

We are in our “Why Church?” series, and today we answer the question, “Why Sing?” Why do we sing when we gather each week? Even beyond Sundays, why do we sing as Christians? Now, for clarity, I didn’t want to use, for this week, the question, “Why Worship?” And that’s because worship is so much more than just singing. In fact, you could really argue that this entire series is about how and why we worship, because we worship, ultimately, includes every way that we obey God.

Romans 12:1, for example: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” According to that verse, worship is presenting everything we are to God as a living sacrifice. So obviously, worship involves far more than just our voices. And yet we so often confuse the two. We hear “worship” and think “singing,” when in fact not only is everything we do when we gather worship, but it’s hopefully geared toward helping you live a lifeof worship; a life that is presented to God as a living sacrifice—much like Adam said in his video, surrendering everything.

So, today: One small part of worship is found in singing praises to God. So, we ask the question: why do we sing, according to God’s Word? Yes, it’s part of how we worship God, but are there more specific reasons? The first, most obvious answer is:

 

  1. God has commanded us to sing in His Word.

We sing because God has told us to sing! That’s the most obvious answer. Did you know that there is actually no command given more often in the Bible than the command to sing? There are over 400 general references to singing in the bible, but, there are also dozens of times throughout the Old and New Testaments where we see the commandto sing. In the New Testament, there two explicit references I want us to look at this morning.

The first verse is Ephesians 5:19, page 99 in the blue New Testaments. In Ephesians 5 [to give some context here], Paul is in the middle of the practical side of this letter. Ephesians is very neatly split up: the first three chapters emphasize who we are in Christ. What is true about us because of what Christ has done for us. Then, the last three chapters are about how would should live in light of who we are in Christ. What should our lives look like as children of God? And so, in the middle of this second half of Ephesians, we come to chapter 5 verse 19. And let me start with verse 18 and read through verse 21, to get the full sentence:

Ephesians 5:18-21

Verse 19, in particular, again: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” That’s the first command we see to sing in the New Testament.

With those words in mind, let me also take you to the 2ndimperative we find in the New Testament telling us to sing: Colossians 3:16. In Colossians 3 [a little bit of context], Paul is writing about the new self that we’re to put on as new Creations in Christ. We put to death the things of the flesh and of the world, and we put on, almost like new clothing, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And in the middle of describing this new self in Christ, he writes this, verse 16:

Colossians 3:16

These two verses are the mains ones I want us to focus in on. And first and foremost, we see from them that God has commanded in his Word for us to sing! We just saw this. So, whydid he command us to?  Whydoes God want us to sing? Reason # 2:

 

  1. We sing in response to who God is and what He has done.

There are several parallels between these two verses we read, and one of them was a strong emphasis on thankfulness. Ephesians 5:19-20 | “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.” “Giving thanks always and for everything to God.” I love that!

When was the last time you broke out in a made-up song thanking God for everything?! I can’t help but think of Jacob, who, every once in a while, when I ask him to pray and thank God for things, he’ll walk around, literally, thanking God for everything! Thank you for the trees, and thank you for my bed, and thank you for my Spider-Man shirt that I love. Terrible melody, but he doesn’t care! Hopefully, our thankfulness is more developed than just our possessions. But, do we break out in song just thanking God for being God? Do we break out in song because of what’s he done for us, especially in Christ? Do we break out in song because of what he’s doing in us and in the world today?! That’s probably the one thing to add to number 2, here. We sing in response to what He is doing! Who God is, what he has done, and what he is doing!

Listen, I know at times we don’t feel like we have much to be thankful for. But can I tell you something for which we can always be thankful, because these three things do not change?! Who God is, what He has done, and what he is doing.

It’s also there in the 2ndhalf of Colossians 3:16: “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” You know, the goal with singing is to give outward expression of what is happening in our hearts and minds. It’s easy to think we can do all of this just in our minds, to think that we don’t need to sing it out loud, and that’s true to an extent: the most important thing is where your heart is at. But, there’s a reason God wants us to verbalize it! Why? Because we are human, and we need to engage our senses, including our hearing, when we are praising God.

We’ll talk more about that in a minute, but I want to give you my favorite verse for this particular reason to sing, ok? It’s Psalm 147:1 | “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” I love that! “It’s fitting; It just makes sense!” Listen:

God created Adam and Eve and everything in all of creation and it was good. But Adam and Eve rebelled against their all-wise and all-benevolent God and chose instead a path that would make them gods of their own lives. Every man and woman who has ever lived since then has been inclined toward evil. Before sending the flood, God “saw that that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Paul writes, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

To understand our depravity, to see ourselves laid bare before God with nothing of merit, [if you knew my sin, church, my past, every bit of it], and then to see God make a plan to redeem mankind through his Son Jesus. The magnitude of love shown for us in Christ despite our utter shame and selfishness and greed and lust and all types of sin and rebellion. To see God’s love for us: listen to me—we have reason to sing! Yes?! It just makes sense to SING! It is fitting!

How deep the Father’s love for us;
How vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son;
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss;

The Father turns his face away.

As wounds which mar the chosen One;

Bring many sons to glory.

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

No matter how crazy life is, no matter how scary the future feels, or how insecure your situation might be, for believers in Jesus Christ, it just makes sense to sing. The 3rdanswer to the question, “Why Sing?” And this one is so often neglected:

 

  1. We sing to build one another up.

Look again with me, at these two verses we started with. Ephesians 5:19- “addressing one anotheris psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Even in Colossians 3:16, catch the context in which we sing: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

In context there in verse 16, I think it’s safe to say that one of the ways that we teach one another, and encourage one another, is by singing to one another. This “one-another” aspect of singing in the church is so neglected, it’s sad. But that’s the context of verses 13 through 16. This is such a beautiful thing that we often miss. Did you know that when we come together for corporate singing, we don’t actually want you to think merely in terms of you, individually, singing to God. We don’t want to set an atmosphere, merely, where you, alone, as an individual, can connect with God. That’s certainly part of it! Don’t misunderstand me! But corporate singing is about singing as the bride of Christ, together, to God!

I love that we see both the individual and corporate nature of singing in Ephesians 5:19. “addressing one anotherin psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, [there’s the corporate nature of it] singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart [there’s the individual nature of it].” Let me share with you a few small ways that this affects how we do corporate singing here at Raintree:

  1. We leave the lights on.There’s nothing wrong with turning the lights down; we’re not condemning that at all. But, we want you to see each other. Why? Because that’s part of the joy of corporate worship! We’re here together. By God’s grace, there are other Christians here to help build me up even in just singing! That’s why it’s ok to look around occasionally, and smile at each other while singing! What an encouraging sight this is! Now, if you’ve never really done that, try not to start next week by just staring at everyone with a really big smile on your face or something. Try not to do that, you might creep some people out. But, we want you to see each other, and see that these people are here for God’s glory, and for our edification. To build us up.
  2. We keep the volume reasonable.In other words, we want you to hear each other. Yes, the good singers and the bad! We don’t want the music so loud that you can’t hear each other at all. Because this isn’t just about your experience between you and God, this is about our corporate, together, worship of God. Hopefully you’re singing on your own throughout the week. But this is a time where we’re together, so we should hear each other. Now, just so you know, we’re working on better balancing our worship team with the drums. Some weeks are louder than others, because we haven’t been able to bring down the drums all that well, so if you see a used, like acrylic drum shield for sale somewhere, or for that matter, a full electric drum kit somewhere, let us know. We’re going to be picky, but we’re working on that. Just so you know.
  3. We choose songs that, hopefully, reinforce our corporate identity.Matt Hansen and I have talked in-depth about the kind of songs we want to use on Sundays. Matt doesn’t lead every week, but he’s over organizing our worship team, including the several worship leaders we have leading out on Sundays. And we’re trying to choose Christ-centered, biblically-sound, theologically-rich songs. And maybe, for some of you, that makes you think we should be singing nothing but traditional hymns. Let me just say, there arenew worship songs that fit this description! Great ones! And Psalm 96:1 tells us to “Sing to the Lord a new song!” There’s beauty in new songs. Some of you could write some new songs, not so you can try and make it big, but just for your family, or for us as a church family. But, Christ-centered, biblically-sound, theologically-rich songs, hopefully, will reinforce our corporate identity, who we are as a local body of Christ. And in that context, we build one another up.

That brings us to the fourth answer to the question, “Why Sing?”

 

  1. Singing is one of God’s means of teaching His people.

This is really building off what we just talked about with building one another up, but I wanted to be specific on this part. I want you to look, one more time, at Colossians 3:16- “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, how? By teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

If you want God’s Word to dwell in your heart, this Word that we talked about in-depth on week one of this series, this Word that’s alive and active—if you want it to live in your heart, sing it! This is one of the best ways we learn! Why do you think we came up with the ABC song? Or the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because we can learn through singing!

We see repeatedly in the Bible God using music to teach his people. You realize psalms are songs right? He instructs parents, in particular, to teach their children songs that help them to learn about who He is and what He’s done. In Deuteronomy 31, just for one example, Israel was heading into the Promised Land and God told Moses to teach the people a song. Why? Well, in Deuteronomy 31:21 God says, “And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring).” No matter the pain and suffering and hardship God’s people were going to experience, even in the Promised Land, they could sing these songs that would remind them of God’s faithfulness.

Singing can help us remember. It teaches and reteaches us things we so easily forget. We want you to learn songs, and then sing them throughout the week, and for those of you with children, to teach them some of these songs. We hope to have a limited group of core songs for Raintree. Every week, at least two of the songs we sing will be from this list. In fact, you can pick up a copy of our current list of “core” songs, right back there on the sermon notes table as you leave. Why are we doing that? To help us to learn and to teach our children and just sing on your own throughout the week.

You see, singing is not only something we do in response. It’s something we do to teach ourselves. To wake ourselves up. If you ever get here on a Sunday and just feel like singing would be inauthentic, so “I’m just not going to sing.” I’d actually encourage you to do the opposite: SING, and in so doing, MAKE WAR on your indifference! If you ever get to do a study on singing in the Bible, you’ll probably notice that there are times when joy brings about singing, but also times when singing brings about joy! It’s a two-way street!

In the middle of a work day, and you are not in a good place. Sing! If you can’t sing out loud, sing in your heart. While driving, sing! Even just acapella! When you are joyful, bust it out! When you’re not joyful, bust it out! Singing reminds us of who God is and what he has done and what He is doing NOW! It brings us back to our reason for hope! My hope is not dependent upon how great or how terrible my day is going. My hope is dependent upon Christ who died and rose again for me. Sing it!

My hope is built on nothing less;

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Or, a more recent one we’ve sang: “I will build my life upon your love, it is a firm foundation…I will put my trust in you alone, and I will not be shaken…” It almost feels like your building a building, step by step.

When you’ve been beat up and just need to hide in the Lord for a moment, sing: “Rock of ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee.” When you feel discontent and like you want something more, or you feel entitled to more than you have, sing! “All my life long I had panted for a drink from some cool spring, that I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within. Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved.” If you struggle with doubt, or wondering about losing your salvation, and yet you know you’ve placed your faith in Christ alone. SING!

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.

No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

I said a few weeks ago that we must be preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. Well, guess what? We also need to be singing the gospel to ourselves every day. We need to sing of God’s faithfulness that does not sway with the times or with our performances or with American politics or anything and everything else that changes about the world. God does not change. He is faithful, and he will always be faithful. We need to sing in response to that truth, and we need to sing to teach and re-teach ourselves this truth.

 

Conclusion

In a very real sense, all singing we do here when we gather and as God’s universal church all over the world, all of this singing is choir-practice, in a sense. It’s practice for a heavenly choir to come that you and I will be part of. And don’t worry, for those of you who can’t sing: we will have glorified bodies. I think that includes a glorified voice! Revelation 7:9-12-

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

We sing in response to who God is, what He has done, and to remind ourselves of what He IS doing. We sing to persevere, not only persevere as in survive, but persevere in fulfilling God’s purposes on the earth while we are here. We go out and fulfill the Great Commission, and live as God’s children in a crooked world, letting the grace of God just shine from us: as we defend the defenseless, and feed the poor, and care about those that no one seems to care about, as we live like Christ. What’s one way to remember that God is active now, and that we are called to be part of what he’s doing in the world? We sing, and re-sing, practicing for the day when people from every nation, tribe, people and language will all worship in song together before the throne of God.