Redeemed people of God sing. We sing individually, as families and as the church. It is to be as spontaneous as breathing. If breathing is a natural response indicating life, singing is a supernatural response indicating new life in Christ.
The people of God are a singing people. A major section in the Bible is considered the Christian’s songbook, the Psalms. This is the book from which Jesus sang as part of the Passover meal on His way to the cross (cf. Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26 [the “hymn” they sang is likely from Psalm 113-118, the Hallel Psalms, i.e. the Psalms of praise]). This is also consistent with the teaching in the New Testament (cf. Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). It is also reflected in numerous hymnbooks and chorus books. In contrast, one has noted, atheists have no songbook. There is no one to thank and praise but oneself, so every song is a solo. Not so the people of God!
Our corporate singing reflects an eschatological reality. When by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are justified, the end-time verdict becomes a reality today so that we believe, live and experience life based on that truth. This has a profound impact on what and how we sing. There is a confidence, a certainty, an assurance in God that marks our corporate expression in song.
And even though that verdict of having been justified is a reality, which gives us confidence and assurance in God and His sure and certain promises, we do not yet live in the new heavens and the new earth. In the person and ministry of Jesus Christ the kingdom of God was inaugurated. There is a now-ness to the kingdom. But because we live between the first and second comings of Jesus, there is also a not-yet-ness to the kingdom. This means we are in the state of redeemed-but-not-yet-glorified, and though the effects of sin on this world are overcome in Christ, we await the final consummation when all will be made right.
Some of what we sing reflects the truth of having been justified, the presence of the kingdom in our lives individually and corporately. This is why it is appropriate to sing songs reflective of that truth, songs of praise, thankfulness, confidence, assurance, and certainty. But because we also live in the not-yet-ness of the kingdom, where we live with and not exempt from life in a fallen world, we express trust in the Lord in the midst of life, which consists of both good and bad, encouraging and discouraging, glorying in and groaning over, growing and grieving, rejoicing and weeping. Our corporate response in song ought to consist of both kinds of expressions.
As you reflect on the music you sing, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it consist of one kind?
- Do you provide opportunity to sing both?
- If one only or primarily sings songs that reflect the now-ness of the kingdom, at the expense of the not-yet-ness of the kingdom, what will be lost? (hint: This denies the reality that we still live in a fallen and broken world which has been affected by sin with hurts and pains and sorrows. It fosters a pollyanish existence in that Christians are afraid and ashamed to share their hurts, pains, struggles and sins with other Christians because all of these things are to be past. And it means we don’t long sufficiently for the return of Christ, the consummation of the kingdom, when, and only when, there will be no more death or crying or pain or sorrow (Rev. 21:4). At that point we will only and for always sing songs of praise and thanksgiving and honor and adoration.
- If one only or primarily sings songs that reflect the not-yet-ness of the kingdom, at the expense of the now-ness of the kingdom, what is lost? (hint: This denies the reality of the experience of having been justified, the eschatological, end-time verdict being a reality now. And it betrays in life the truth of the presence of the kingdom in the coming of Jesus as the gospel transforms lives. For now, these sorts of songs sung with the reality of the pain but with the certainty of God’s goodness who is working out His good and sovereign plan is acceptable worship (Heb. 12:28-29; 13:15-16). It is not a lesser than genre of corporate singing.)