How many times have you worshiped in the assembly following which you heard, or might have said, “Boy was that beautiful singing!” Honestly, I have both heard it and said it myself. And, rightfully so. Some of the most beautiful singing in the world occurs in the church with absolutely no mechanical instruments involved! Furthermore, I am one who likes beautiful singing.
However, I got to thinking about it and wondered if God looks at our singing in that way. Does He put stress on the beauty of the voices that are singing or on something else? Will He accept singing that we would describe as something less than beautiful? Does the beauty of a Christian’s voice have anything to do with whether or not he (or she) is pleasing God in such?
Obviously, it seems to me that God does not place the emphasis on the beauty of what is offered to Him, whether it is singing, praying, preaching, giving, etc. That can be seen simply by noting Jesus’ condemnation of what the Pharisees did in Matthew 23.27, 28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Conclusion: it takes more than the “beauty” of what we do to be acceptable to the Lord. As far as our singing in worship is concerned we can have the most beautiful voice in the world and be unacceptable to God if we are not living a faithful Christian life.
We can glean much about the emphasis that God places on our singing when we view several passages…
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.” The context of this verse is miraculous singing given by the Holy Spirit and singing it in the assembly in a language that others can hear and benefit. It seems that from this passage we can learn at least two things.
- - Our singing today must be authorized by the Holy Spirit. Whatever we do in our singing in worship must be patterned after what the Holy Spirit has revealed in the Word.
- - Our singing must be done so that others can understand it. Understanding of the messages in our songs is just as important as understanding the messages presented from the pulpit!
Ephesians 5.19. “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It seems to me that there are at least four things in this passage that will help us.
- - Our singing involves “speaking.” That is what God wants. Notice that nothing is said about a mechanical instrument.
- - Our singing involves “speaking to one another.” That would involve everyone singing. How could I be speaking to another in song when I am not participating in it?
- - Our singing involves “making melody in your heart.” It is crucial, I think, to understand that there is an instrument involved in our singing to the Lord. It is the heart, that is where our melody is to spring forth.
- - Our singing is “to the Lord.” All worship, including our singing, is directed to the Lord. While we do benefit from the songs that are sung, we also are offering them to the Lord in our worship.
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.” At least two more things can be said about singing in this verse.
- Our singing involves “teaching.” All one has to do is to glance through our song books to see many great sermons preached in our songs. When we get away from the teaching aspect of our singing and substitute other forms of music (humming and other sounds made with the mouth, hands, etc.), then our singing is not approved by Christ.
- - Our singing involves “admonishing.” To admonish is “to put in the mind; warn.” It seems to me that our songs, in many respects, parallel our preaching. We are both to teach and warn in our preaching as well as to teach and warn in our singing!
Let us remember that “beautiful” singing to the Lord involves at least those things mentioned above. And, let us strive to have more “beautiful” singing in the church. Think about it!
- Kevin Williams preaches for the Walnut Grove church of Christ in Benton, KY. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org