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Worship Through Singing

Part 4 of our series Worship Service Vision.

Worship Through Song

1. Biblical

2. Authentic and New

3. God centered

4. For one another

5. Practical

a. New and Old

b. Reinforce Sermon Text

1. Biblical

What we sing matters, for you get a lot and learn all a lot about God, the bible, you learn about theology in the songs you sing. Now there are a lot of good worship songs and hymns, that are biblical and rightly summarize and articulate Christian Truth. Now there are also some songs that are no so good, songs that may be confusing theologically, or theologically shallow, usually songs that focus on us and or feelings and personal experience rather than God and Scripture truths, or outright wrong and contrary to Scripture. This is true of old and new songs.

As someone also notes “Of course, bad hymns have been written. But one of the advantages of hymn-singing churches is that most of the really, really bad ones have been filtered out of circulation by decades or even centuries of scrutiny. But we also have a clear disadvantage. Those bad hymns that remain do so because they’ve found a stronghold in our hearts and repertoire that is not easily broken.”[1]

As your pastor, I want to teach you the word, and so I also want to teach you the word correctly through the songs we sing. And Mark along with Kay and the rest of the worship team, do a great job of picking biblically sound songs.

Besides being biblically sound, which is the most important, we also take into account other considerations.

2. Authentic and New

For instance, the choice between familiar and unfamiliar songs. And here I think a good balance between old and new songs is the way to go. The old songs, have their own sense of beauty, depth, and associated memories. While the new songs have their own sense of beauty, and can bring new theological insights, and can make new memories, and can be used as effective outreach to a younger generation or different community.

Psalms 33:1 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous ones; praise from the upright is beautiful. Psalms 33:2 Praise the LORD with the lyre; make music to him with a ten-stringed harp. Psalms 33:3 Sing a new song to him; play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout.

As one writes “And they are to do it with instruments, as if the human voice by itself is not enough.[2]

As one commentator notes “Every time the godly meet together for the praise of the Lord, they have further reasons for singing to him. The renewal of his loving acts in behalf of his own gives rise to a response of gratitude in a “new song” (v. 3).. “A. A. Anderson, 1:261, writes: The same old words could allude to fresh experiences of God’s providence[3][4]

That “new song” simply means that every praise song should emerge from a fresh awareness of God’s grace. H. C. Leupold says that a new song is “one which springs freshly from a thankful and rejoicing heart.”3 P. C. Craigie calls it “the ever-new freshness of the praise of God.”4 Alexander Maclaren adds, “There is always room for a fresh voice to praise the old gospel, the old creation, the old providence.”5[5]

3. For One Another

As our songs are ultimately directed towards god, there is also a sense of togetherness, as in

Eph 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord,

As one comments “their hearts are in harmony with their words.[6]

As we sing to God, our singing to another serves as an encouragement and way to teach one another how to praise God as well. Like in Ps 95:1 Come, let’s shout joyfully to the LORD, shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation!

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We should be centered around the Word of Christ, as one commentator writes - It would “dwell richly” in their fellowship and in their hearts if they paid heed to what they heard, bowed to its authority, assimilated its lessons, and translated them into daily living.”[7] Let God’s word be at the center of our lives and of our worship.

We are to teaching and admonishing, which similar to teaching, or warning one another in all wisdom, and also singing to God with Psalms (likely a reference to the OT Psalms); hymns, (which is a religious song, and perhaps like many think parts of Col 1:15ff were part of early Christian hymns – “Col 1:15–16 Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:16 For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him.”

And some ways we can balance and blend old and new songs is through songs that have a new tune for the same historical lyrics. –

hymn 21 o for a thousand tongues to sing

contemporary o for a thousand tongues to sing

Then we also have contemporary hymns like In Christ alone by Getty and Townend – and I really like this song, its easy to sing, its theologically rich,

Till on that cross, as Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied” and “The Father turns His face away.” It’s so controversial that the Presbyterian Church of America dropped it from its official hymnal because they, and other churches, don’t accept the theology of penal substitution, which is the belief that God has a burning rage bent against mankind that is mitigated by Jesus. There is a case to be made for this theology and against it, but if you want your church to be inclusive, it might be best to stay away from such controversial music.

At the same time, congregations will be helped by understanding that many of the tunes they are accustomed to singing were not originally attached to the words they know (e.g., “Amazing Grace”)[8]

Because newton wrote it in 1772, and over the years it was associated with more than 20 melodies, and it wasn’t until 1835, was it set to the tune we know today.

All hymns were “contemporary” when they were written. Some hymns we now consider noble were considered edgy in their day (e.g., Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”). Keeping the church rooted in its worship history and reaching toward its worship future is never without challenges, but those rooted in and reaching for gospel priorities will have the greatest potential for meeting those challenges.[9]

5. Practical

Another consideration in song choice, is the ease in which the congregation can sing along, For there are some songs out there that are biblically correct, sound really good, but require advanced singing skills, of which most of us do not have.

Another consideration is choosing songs that will flow with the service, as in times of of rejoicing, or more somber reflective, moments, or songs that can tie in with the sermon passage.

For example songs that mention healing, flowed and helped build up and flesh out our understanding of Jesus’ healing or songs that mention God’s authority over the wind and the rain, and the storms, when I preached on Jesus calming the storm last week. We’re all great songs that add to the overall worship and learning experience. In which the songs and sermon reinforce one another.

[1] [2] James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 286. [3] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 318. [4] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 318. 3 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 295. 4 Craigie, Psalms 1–50, 272. 5 Maclaren, Psalms 1–38, 1:314. [5] James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 286. [6] Brooke Foss Westcott and John Maurice Schulhof, eds., Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: The Greek Text with Notes and Addenda, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London; New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909), 82. [7] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 157–158. [8] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 299. [9] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 299.

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