Singing is an important part of the Christian assembly. Two different but similar passages address the subject – Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. Colossians 3:16 “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.” Ephesians 5:18-20 “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The one passage states “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” while the other states “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”. Notice that both scriptures address singing to one another. These passages do not specifically say that this singing is in the assembly, but what better place to sing to one another than in the assembly. One of the primary purposes for singing in the assembly would be to speak to each other, and to teach and admonish one another – in other words, to build each other up and encourage each other. Congregational singing can do that. It is a special way that we speak to each other and encourage each other based upon our common faith and common mission in life. We are admonished in Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Singing is one way to stir each other up for love and good works. Good songs that we sing are based upon spiritual principles found in the Bible; therefore singing is a form of teaching. For example, a number of songs are about the grace of God and how we have done nothing to merit this grace. Other songs admonish us to remain faithful and have love and good works.
I have been in large assemblies with beautiful songs and beautiful voices singing in beautify harmony and I can testify that it is a powerful emotional experience. We are encouraging each other and praising the Lord together. The fellowship that we share in that experience is extremely encouraging. But I have also been in small assemblies; sometimes the harmony is not so beautiful or the singers may not sing on pitch. But if those of us who sing are singing from the heart words of encouragement or praises to the Lord, it still is edifying.
While we sing to one another, we also sing to the Lord: “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” and “making melody in your heart to the Lord”. Any thanksgiving or praise should be heartfelt and addressed to the Lord. Hebrews 13:15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Singing is one way we worship the Lord when we praise and thank Him for what He has done for us.
Do not be guilty of “going through the motions” and not paying attention to what you are singing. You may have sung a song a hundred times before and have memorized all of the words so that when you sing it again, the words come from your mouth but your thoughts are somewhere else. 1 Corinthians 14:15 “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” It is important that your singing be from the heart, with your spirit, and with understanding of what you are saying. Sometimes it may take an extra effort on your part to concentrate on what you are singing so that you mean what you sing.
Psalms are generally understood to be taken from the book of Psalms in the Bible. Hymns are songs of praise addressed to God. Spiritual songs are songs with a spiritual message. This covers a wide range of songs found in a typical “hymn book”. It is my observation that many of the songs in our hymn books fall under the category of spiritual songs. While they are good, I encourage you to have a large portion of your songs be songs of praise and worship of God. We have an example of a song of praise in Revelation 15:3-4 “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, o King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.’”
There are multiple examples of singing in the Bible. The Israelites sang a song of praise when they were delivered from Egyptian bondage. The book of Psalms contains the words of 150 songs. It is interesting to note that after the last supper, Jesus and His apostles sang together. Matthew 26:30 “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” This implies to me that singing together was a common practice in the first century.
No mention is made of choirs or performances by soloists or small groups. No mention is made of bands. I don’t see Biblical singing as something we sit back and observe for the purpose of entertainment. Biblical singing is something that we each have the opportunity to join in together. The purposes given in the New Testament seem to be to encourage each other and to worship the Lord.
You don’t have to wait for an assembly to sing. You can sing by yourself, maybe even while taking a shower! James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” It seems natural for someone who is happy to start singing. Such a person is encouraged to sing psalms or praises to the Lord rather than to sing a song of the world. When you sing by yourself, you can encourage yourself and also worship the Lord.
I encourage you to encourage your fellow Christian and worship the Lord with your singing.