Thursday, August 26, 2010

Singing and Teaching

It seems to me there are two extremes in evangelicalism today. Churches seem to lack balance. I have noticed it mostly with singing and teaching. What I mean is I’ve noticed the extreme of churches driving people’s emotion through music that lasts the majority of the service time and then spend a brief time in God’s Word many times lacking any depth. But I’ve also noticed the other extreme that focuses so much on teaching that the music is of little significance. I think there is a devastating effect in both extremes. Scripture tells us: “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” (Col. 3:16). Paul packs a lot of meat in one passage of Scripture but I love the way he puts things together in this passage.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” To the original audience this refers “to the teaching about Christ as well as the words of Christ himself, which were part of the oral traditions passed on to believers in the early years after Christ ascended to heaven, before the Gospels had been written” (ESV Study Bible). We are challenged by Paul to let Christ’s words dwell in our inner being. This challenge is for believers. Unbelievers cannot worship God in spirit and in truth because they do not submit to God’s authority. They desire to serve self rather than striving to obey God’s Word. Paul is clearly talking to those who have been given the desire, by the Holy Spirit, to know Christ. If the original audience was striving to let Christ’s words dwell richly in them without the Gospels than how much more should we desire to meditate upon God’s Word given to us.

“Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” We know from the Proverbs that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. All believers should have an accurate knowledge of God where we stand in awe of his holiness but also fear his awesomeness. Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27). Paul is instructing us to teach and admonish one another in the fear of the Lord. This comes through biblical teaching and biblical council. These are things that ought to be done with one another as the body of Christ. Only through the word of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts will we humbly submit to the teaching and admonishing of one another.

“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” God’s Word is clear that we are to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs but what does that look like today? Many of the psalms have been placed to music. Many of the hymns of old are still being sung (although not hymns from that time period). Many great spiritual songs are being sung and being written these days. It seems like God is doing a great work with music for his glory and our encouragement. Paul says in Ephesians to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).

From this passage we can see the significance of dwelling upon God’s Word through teaching and singing. The two go hand and hand. Those who just sing without the balance of being richly taught God’s Word may not be singing in response to God’s greatness but rather just enjoying music that is stirring up emotion. On the flipside those who are being taught deep truths from God’s Word may find music to just be into for the teaching rather than responding to God’s greatness. Both teaching and singing are significant according to Scripture. The teaching should complement the singing and the singing should complement the teaching. If both are allowing us to dwell upon the greatness of God and his great work of sending his Son to make atonement for our sins then we need to have a balance of singing and teaching “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Grace upon grace,
JRL

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!! Love you.

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