ROBERT >> Today we want to learn about another important aspect of the worship of the church you read about in the Bible: Singing. Why was the church you read about in the Bible a singing church? What kind of music did they use in their worship? What does the Bible teach us about their singing?
>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> The church you read about in the Bible was a singing church. From the very beginning in Acts 2:47, the Bible says, They were praising God and having favor with all the people, and day by day the Lord added to the church those that were being saved.
In Acts 8:39 we read about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. And when we came to the knowledge of Christ and was baptized into Jesus Christ, the Bible says, He went on his way rejoicing. He started out his Christian life singing.
In Acts 16:25 we read about Paul and Silas, who had been beaten with rods because of their preaching, placed in the inner cell of the prison. But at midnight, even in the midst of their suffering, they were praying and singing hymns to God.
And I want you to notice the association of singing with prayer like there in Acts 16:25. We see from this the importance of singing and that singing is a part of our worship to God just like prayer. It’s put on a level with prayer.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 14:15 the apostle Paul tells us not only to pray with the spirit and understanding, but also to sing with the spirit and understanding.
In James 5:13 the Bible tells us, Is anyone suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
And so I wonder if we realize just how important singing is to our song service, that it’s not just something to take up time; it’s a vital part of the worship itself. And yet some we know will talk and they’ll laugh and they’ll move about, they’ll come in the last minute, and they’ll miss major portions of the song service. Do we treat prayer, do we treat the rest of our worship this way? And have we limited singing to church? Do we sing in our homes?
I love spending hours with brethren in the home just singing together. Many of you watching on television today are able to take a song book and sing together with family and friends or just sing with yourself and the Lord. Sometimes when I’m going on trips, I’ll pray to God, I’ll be thinking about the Lord. I always pray with my eyes open when I’m driving.
But sometimes I’ll be preaching down the road going to some congregation to preach to them, and there’ll be cows out on the side of the road, and I just start preaching to the cows. Sometimes I’ll start singing. I love to sing. I always be sure to sing with the windows up so not to start a stampede of those cows.
But folks, we need to realize that worship is something that’s not just limited to the four walls of church building. When you go out to visit other Christians, sing with them and pray with them and study God’s word with them.
Just recently, I was visiting in the home of one of our members. And before we left, I always like to have a prayer, and so we were going to pray together, and she said, I also want us to sing a song, and she got out her song book, and she taught me a new song, and there we learned how to sing together before the Lord. Make singing, like prayer, a regular and important part of your life. I want us to do something else this morning. I want us to consider what the Bible says about how that church sang.
And I want us to read two passages, Ephesians 5:18-19, and then also I want to bring in a parallel passage, Colossians 3:16, because from these two passages we’re going to learn what happened when that church sang, what was involved in the singing of that church.
So let’s read first of all Ephesians 5:18-19. Here the Bible says, 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. You see here in this passage how instead of being filled with wine, being filled with intoxicating drink, he said you need to be filled with the Spirit of God. And he said to do that, we need to be speaking to one another and singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.
Now look at a parallel passage. Look with me in 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. So where Ephesians said be filled with the Spirit, the Colossian letter says let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. And where Ephesians says, Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, Colossians says, Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Where Ephesians tells us to sing and make melody in our hearts, here in Colossians we see we’re to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.
So let’s look closely at these two passages, you may want to mark them in your Bibles, and let’s see what it is that’s really involved in the singing that God commands for his church. Notice three things with me today.
Number one, we are to be speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. You see, when we sing, we are to communicate to each other. The words of the song are to provide teaching, as we read in the Colossian letter, Teaching and admonishing one another.
Teaching God’s word. Admonishing, warning and encouraging one another to keep the commandments of God, to live the Christian life. And so the emphasis here is on what we sing. We sing psalms, this poetry that’s put to music; and hymns, songs of worship that really focus on God; and spiritual songs, not earthly, fleshly songs, but heavenly songs.
You see, the focus is on the content of the song, the words of the song, the meaning of the song so we can speak, so we can teach and admonish one another. It’s not so much about how well we sing as what we are singing. And so it’s important that we concentrate on the message. And that way, the discouraged are going to be lifted up.
We sing songs like, Stand Up For Jesus. I know it thrills me every time we sing this song. I can hardly sing it sitting down. Once a dear brother who was blind and hard of hearing stood up when the song was announced. The man said, Let’s sing Stand Up For Jesus, and he took that literally, and so he stood up. And the man next to him stood up, and then some others began to stand up, and so I stood up, too. And before long, the whole congregation was standing up for Jesus.
Families that have lost loved ones are comforted with songs like What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
Sinners are persuaded to accept Christ to songs of invitation like There’s Power In The Blood or Just As I Am, Amazing Grace. When we’re singing, it’s not a time to be getting ready to go, but to sing with the desire to see the lost come to Jesus. And how the church is moved to greater service with songs like To The Work, To The Work, or Send The Light.
And so you see how if we will really get involved in the message, concentrate on the content and the meaning of the song, how this can truly move God’s people in the work of God and in the worship of God. There’s great power in singing to God when we are truly speaking to one another. You see, this is the horizontal aspect of worship. Certainly we’re singing to the Lord, the vertical aspect, we’re rejoicing to him and worshiping him; but as we do that, we’re also, as the Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25, Considering one another, to stir up one another to love and good works, exhorting or encouraging one another.
And notice also God’s command to sing here is reciprocal and mutual. Speaking one to another, he says. He says, Teaching and admonishing one another. It’s reciprocal. It’s mutual. We all are to participate in the singing together. The commandment is for every Christian.
I know many want to come to worship and listen to a solo or hear a singing group or a choir; but we must not think of worship as a time to be entertained by others, by those on the stage; but rather God is the audience in our worship, and we are the performers. The church is the choir. And so we understand that the first part of God’s command to sing and what it’s really all about is speaking one to another, teaching and admonishing one another.
But now let’s notice point number two: Singing. Not only are we speaking to one another, teaching and admonishing one another, but we do that by singing. Every Christian ought to want to sing. You show me one that doesn’t, and I’ll show you one who has something wrong with his relationship with God. Christians sing. And they sing because they have something to sing about, like that Ethiopian we mentioned earlier who was baptized, and he went on his way rejoicing. God has put a song in our hearts, too.
When you come to know forgiveness and salvation in Christ, you cannot help but to praise the Lord. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. I suppose the problem with some of us is not that we don’t want to sing, but that we don’t think we can sing. It’s embarrassing to us, perhaps. I understand that.
I remember when I was younger, just a teenager growing up, and I loved to sing and wanted to sing, and I remember when we were practicing some songs before service one day, the song leader, he heard me singing, and he came over by me, and he bent down and he said, Robert, you’re singing the girls’ part. Well, hey, I didn’t know what part I was singing. I just sang all the parts. But that didn’t really matter. I remember my voice cracking, I remember missing notes, and there’s so many times when I don’t get it just right. But God understands that, and we all understand that.
But listen, God’s not interested in how beautiful you sound or how well you keep time. He just wants you to let go and sing because you can’t help but to do anything else. In Psalm 95:1 the Bible says, O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. You remember when we read earlier about Paul and Silas singing from their prison cell after having been beaten with rods? Oh, it must have been a horrible night for them. And yet, according to Acts 16:25, they were praying and they were singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Now, do you think Paul and Silas cared about the timing of their songs or the harmony or how well they sounded to the other prisoners? No. But their singing was so powerful, it set off an earthquake that led the prison guard and his family to be baptized into Christ that night. You can read that beautiful story in Acts chapter 16, how the jailer, realizing that God was involved in all of this, fell down before Paul and Silas and asked what to do to be saved. And that night they taught him the word of the Lord, and before it was over, he and his household were baptized into Christ. They were rejoicing in their new-found faith and the new life that they found through Jesus.
I want to challenge you to start singing like you’ve never sang before. I know there are Christians who sit in the pews of the church every service who never sing. And reading the words and mumbling, that’s not going to get it, either. We’ve got to open our mouths and plainly sound out the words if we’re going to speak to one another and if we’re going to fulfill God’s command to sing. God wants his people to sing.
Still, there is a final point I want us to consider today. Not only speaking one to another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, teaching, admonishing one another, not only singing, opening our mouths and singing these songs to the Lord, but making melody in your heart to the Lord. Yes, the Bible says we need to make melody in our hearts. We need to sing with grace in our hearts, as we read in Colossians 3:16. Some, they want to make melody on musical instruments. But did you know that the church you read about in the Bible never used musical instruments to worship God? No, the only music they ever used was singing. In fact, the word acapella literally means the music of the church.
But you might ask, does it really matter? Does it matter whether we sing with an instrument or without an instrument? It does. Because you see, in worship, we are seeking to please God and not ourselves. It’s not about what we want, but what God wants. Think about it. Only singing can fulfill God’s command to speak, to teach, and admonish one another. That’s the only kind of music that can do that. Musical instruments cannot do that. In fact, often they drown out the singing and sometimes replace it altogether.
Not only that, but when God says to make melody, he tells us the instrument that must accompany our singing. The heart. Not the harp, H-A-R-P, but the heart, H-E-A-R-T. Our songs must arise from a deep resource in the vocal cords. They must come from a heart that’s filled with the grace of God.
As Paul wrote, I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:15. This means that the sentiment of the songs must be the sentiment of our hearts. Our hearts must be in tune with the words that we sing.
Do we really mean what we sing?
Can we sing Sweet Hour Of Prayer and content ourselves with three minutes a day?
Can we sing Blessed Be The Tie That Binds, and let the least little offense sever it?
Can we sing Serve The Lord With Gladness, and complain about all we have to do?
Can we sing, I Love To Tell The Story, and never mention it?
Can we sing, Cast Thy Burdens On The Lord, and then worry ourselves into a nervous breakdown?
Can we sing, There Shall Be Showers Of Blessing, but refuse to recognize them?
Can we sing, Give Me The Bible, and never read it?
Are we just reading and reciting and going through the motions, or do we really mean what we sing deep down within our hearts? We often sing the song, I Know That My Redeemer Lives; but do you know he lives? Then sing it. Tell us about it.
Oh, if we could just learn to sing like that, to sing with joy in our hearts that God has forgiven us, to sing with love for God because he sent his only son, to sing with thanksgiving for all God does for us, to sing with the assurance and confidence because we are his children, to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. That’s what God wants for his church.
The church we read about in the Bible sang, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord. That’s what God wants for his people today.
A friend of mine grew up in a denominational church with all the special music. And one Sunday they decided to have a first century day, just go back and worship like they did in the church of the Bible, with congregational singing. My friend was so impressed with the spirituality of this kind of worship that he suggested to his preacher they do this every week. His preacher suggested he go to the church of Christ.
And you know, he did. He saw no entertainment, but a real commitment to the Bible. After six months, he realized a number of things. He realized that his confession was wrong. He had made a confession about his sins, and he had brought these sins before the Lord. He knew he was a sinner. But he had not confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, his Lord, his savior. He realized that his baptism was wrong. He had been baptized thinking he was already saved, just as a sign or a symbol of his salvation; but he learned that Jesus said, He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that disbelieves shall be condemned, that Jesus said if we truly believe in him, we’ll be baptized so that we can be saved.
He learned that baptism was for the remission of his sins, so that he could be forgiven, as we read in Acts 2:38. And so he got up and he was baptized, and he washed away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord, just as we read in Acts 22:16. In humble, penitent faith he was buried with Christ in baptism so he could be raised with him to walk in newness of life, as Paul described it in Romans chapter 6.
My friend also learned that his denominationalism was wrong. He was reminded of the prayer of Jesus that all of the disciples of Christ be one in John 17:20-21. He learned that there’s one body over which Christ is head and over which he is savior, the church, Ephesians 4:4 and Ephesians 5:23. He learned that all the saved are added to the church. And so there’s one body of Christ that consists of all of the saved, of which Christ is the savior, of which he is the head. And so he came out of denominationalism, and he was baptized into Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-27 tells us that we’re all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And so being baptized into Christ, at the same time, he was baptized into his church, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:13. We’re all baptized by one Spirit into one body. You see, he just wanted to be a Christian, a member of the spiritual body of Christ, the church.
Let us all say today with the psalmist, I’ll sing to the Lord as long as I live; I’ll sing praise to my God while I have my being, Psalm 104:33. Perhaps you can’t say that today because you’re not a Christian. If you do not know the Lord as your savior, you’re without a song. And perhaps some of you once sang the song of salvation, but are no longer singing that song. Sin in your heart has caused you to lose that song.
This is what happened to king David when he sinned with Bathsheba and he tried to cover it up. But later he repented, and in Psalm 51 he writes these words in verse 8, Make me hear joy and gladness. And in verse 12 he says, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. And in verses 14 and 15 he says, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness; O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. If you don’t know this rejoicing in the Lord, then please let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.
>> Unto the hills around do I lift my longing eyes. Oh, whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise? From God the Lord doth come my certain aid; from God the Lord, whom heaven and earth hath made. From every evil shall he keep thy soul, from every sin. Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in. Above thee watching, he whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth, yea for ever more.
>> I know that my redeemer lives and ever prays for me. I know eternal life he gives from sin and sorrow free. I know, I know that my redeemer lives. I know, I know eternal life he gives. I know, I know that my redeemer lives. I know that over yonder stands a place prepared for me; a home, a house not made with hands, most wonderful to see. I know, I know that my redeemer lives, I know, I know eternal life he gives, I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
ROBERT >> I want to thank you so much for watching our program today. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you would like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you would like more information about the lesson today, or if you would like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053. You may e-mail us at email@example.com. Or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966. Also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv. Remember, all our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.
>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace. From the toils that bind me it will bring release. Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so, showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall, sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all. Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the shadow o’er me rise and swiftly go. When my heart is weary, when the day is long, sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song. Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam. Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall, sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.