There are many references in the Bible to the fact that the followers of Jesus Christ are a singing people. Paul wrote: “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). At the conclusion of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, the Bible says, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).
It was midnight in Philippi, when Paul and Silas, in chains in the local prison, prayed and sang. The biblical text reads, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). We know from this particular reference that spiritual songs were a witness to all in the jail that night. In particular the jailer, who was deeply affected by the songs and the prayers, asked how he might be saved.
Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” As you read on in the text you discover that what began in prayers and singing led directly to a great evangelistic event as the jailer and his household came to faith in Christ that very night and were baptized.
The Apostle Paul admonished the Ephesians: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:15-21).
Our joy is not in wine or some other substitute. Our joy is in Christ Jesus. He is the One who motivates us to walk circumspectly through an evil world. It is our relationship with Jesus that exceeds any substitute for the real thing. Our joy in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit within us is what puts the song in our hearts that finds expression in our communication through psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
James similarly expresses that our ability to communicate song flows from a heart filled with joy: “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
A familiar text from the Old Testament says, “Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation. Declare His glory among the heathen; His marvelous works among all nations. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: He also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the people are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (1 Chronicles 16:23-26).
These examples are but a few of many references in the Bible that make it clear — we who love the Lord are to be a singing people.
From the time I could hold my side of the hymnbook, while my mother held the other side, I have loved to sing. My favorite hymn in those earliest years was, “He Keeps Me Singing.”
I would sing it to the top of my lungs. I sincerely hope I didn’t disturb others around me with my uncontrolled singing, but I truly loved to sing. As I have grown in my love for Christ and my Christian journey, my appreciation for the place of music in worship, both personal and corporate, has grown.
Now, let me tell you why this is on my heart today. I just returned home last night from the Sons of Jubal Annual Retreat at our Toccoa Conference Center. This group of men, mostly ministers of music but with several pastors and other church staff folks and laymen, have come to be a great blessing in my life. These men clearly represent what we read in God’s Word about music and singing.
I want to say to our churches, if you have found a godly minister of music for your church, you have found a treasure. Please pray for these spiritual leaders and support their ministry of song as a blessing to our churches.
I would be remiss if I failed to express my gratitude for Jon Duncan and his outstanding staff. They have put a new song in our hearts as Georgia Baptists!