This week John Anderson wrote our Sermon Application post. You can watch the sermon here.
This past Sunday, our Worship Pastor, Ben Wilson, taught from Colossians 3:12-17. Particularly, he looked at the vital elements of congregational worship, expressed in verse 16:
“Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
In short, Ben asked the profound question, “Why do we sing?” A study of Colossians 3:16 gives wonderful insights to this question.
As a brief foundation, it should be noted that Colossians, written by Paul, contains the thematic thread of the Supremacy of Christ. This theme, set in chapter 1, informs the entire rest of the letter.
“He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” Colossians 1:18-20a.
Throughout the rest of Colossians, Paul unpacks the realities believers are to live by based on the unmatched excellence of Christ and His reconciling ministry to the Church:
- Walk in him (2:6)
- Walk in him, seeing worldly philosophies for what they are: mere behavioral-modification techniques that deny the resurrection power of God, distract from Christ’s supremacy, and have “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (2:8-20).
- As new creations in Christ, seek the things that are above by putting to death sinful passions and putting on Christ (his compassion, patience, love, etc.) (3:1-14)
Based on Christ’s supremacy and the new life he gives believers, then, we have the first reason we sing: we sing in response to the Gospel. As Ben put it, “the Gospel fuels our worship”. Jesus, the Son of God, descended to earth to live a perfect, sinless life on our behalf, took the punishment for our sin, rose from the dead, ascended to be with God, and drew us to a true and vibrant relationship with himself. With this reality in mind, we cannot help but sing! The great truth of the Gospel causes a praising response. As Psalm 19:8 states, “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Worship, which includes congregational singing, must then have God’s revelation, and particularly the Gospel, as its foundation and driving force. As a formula: truth –> worship response.
Second, we sing for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Colossians 3:16 clearly teaches that as believers obediently let the word about Christ dwell in them, they will end up “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Congregational worship is instructive. That is, God uses congregational singing as a way for believers to minister to one another. Primarily, this instruction lies in the content of the lyrics of the worship song. Believers grow as others sing God’s wonderful truth to them.
Secondarily, in a corporate worship context, believers can teach and admonish one another in other ways by making use of the physical and visual realities of the local church gathering. For example, a family worshiping together can instruct a single young adult what family worship can look like. The same is true for the children in said family. They learn as they observe young, faithful singles worshiping the Lord. Worship in the local church is meant to be group-oriented and visual. Worship is not simply a private conversation between a believer and God. Since worship is often viewed only in this dimension, it is no wonder why so many churches turn down the lights for worship. It is because they have lost the idea that we sing to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Last, we sing to God. Just as faith has an object (Christ), so singing has a definite direction and end: our Lord Jesus Christ. The instruction believers give to one another is worthless if it is not done to praise and glorify God. In fact, Paul makes this point in Colossians 3:17:
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This same idea, the idea of living to praise and magnify the name of God, exists throughout Scripture and is the primary purpose of our being created. What a great gift God gives believers, the gift of an artistic sentiment, that they can sing, dance, instruct, and create all to God’s glory. These artistic and creative abilities point back to the Creator God.
May we meditate on the Gospel, sing for the edification of our brothers and sisters, and praise the Lord!
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” Psalm 96:1