“…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs...” (Col. 3:16b)
I learn two things from this phrase taken from our text. First, our singing isn’t always about worship. Sometimes it’s about teaching and warning fellow believers. This means that our singing, especially public, non-congregational, must be doctrinally sound. God tells us in two places to “sing with understanding.” Psalm 47:7 seems to refer to congregational singing, and 1 Corinthians 14:15, to an individual. It’s just as ludicrous to sing about something of which you know nothing, as it is to speak about it. Because that’s what singing is all about: a message. As preachers used to say, “So-and-so will now bring us a message in song.”
Further, a good message needs to be heard. If I sing before others, my main objective is to make the song as personal and pertinent as possible. I want them to know I have not only prepared musically, but spiritually; and I could not make it any plainer or easier to be understood if I were sitting next to them. I truly believe that if my own heart is right, and I do nothing to (knowingly) draw attention to myself or my talent; if the message of the song is doctrinally true, set to music that enhances rather than hinders that message; and if I clearly get that message across—God, the Holy Spirit, will use that song to bless hearts.
Second, it’s obvious from this verse that from the early New Testament churches to Bible believing churches today, Christian music is not all alike. I won’t take time here to tell you how I differentiate in my own thinking between “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” I simply want to make the point that Paul took it for granted that when Christians get together to worship God and edify one another in song, the music isn’t all going to be the same. And if the churches then were anything like the churches today, some longed to hear only the Psalms, and some preferred the familiar, time-honored hymns, while others liked the new, more spirited, lively songs. (I’ve taken a little license here, but you get the idea.) J
Here’s the thing; if they preferred some preachers over others (1 Cor. 1:12), it’s safe to say they felt the same way about the music. And if believers today prefer different genres of music outside the church, why should we not assume they would prefer different ones inside? Could not Romans 14:20 apply here, as well? “For meat [music] destroy not the work of God.”
Well, this certainly turned a corner from yesterday’s thoughts on the first part of Colossians 3:16, didn’t it? I have a feeling the final installment tomorrow may be just as different from the other two.