Have you ever wondered why God desires his people to sing? Here are seven biblical reasons.
When you sing, you obey
Singing isn’t an option in Scripture. It’s a command.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… (Ephesians 5:18-19).
God’s people are not just invited to sing – we are commanded to sing. When we sing, we’re doing what God asks of us.
When you sing, you dig deep roots in the word
In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts us to let Christ’s word dwell in us, then tells us how to live out that command – firstly through teaching, but also through singing. Singing is one of the two chief ways that the word of God dwells in us richly.
So as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, we are promised that the word of Christ will dwell in us richly – which is what we should crave as believers.
Our singing is more than a warm-up for the sermon or a filler in the service. Singing stands alongside preaching as one of the two great ways God has ordained for His word to dwell richly in our hearts.
C.J. Mahaney calls church singing ‘take-home theology,’ because the best songs we sing together give us an easily memorisable, deeply biblical summary of important biblical truths. When we sing, we’re digging deep roots in the word.
When you sing, you build others up
In Ephesians 5:19, we’re taught that we build up fellow believers when we sing: ‘addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…’.
We see the same thing in Colossians 3:13-16. The exhortation to sing comes on the heels of bearing with one another (v.13a), forgiving one another (v.13b), putting on love (v.14), being at peace as one united body of Christ (v.15), and teaching God’s word to one another (v.16). When, together as a church family, we sing ‘In Christ alone, my hope is found!’, we hear confessions and testimonies of faith all around us. Singing matters. And it matters that we do it together.
But our songs also help unbelievers. In Psalm 105:1-2, the Lord calls the Israelites to be a light to the nations, and to do this he tells them, ‘Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!’ Think of the impact this has on someone who doesn’t know Christ. That’s why Timothy Keller says, ‘Good corporate worship will naturally be evangelistic’.
When you sing, you make war
You probably didn’t connect singing to warfare, but Scripture does. In Colossians 3, Paul challenges the Colossians to put sin to death. That theme continues as Paul encourages singing in verse 16. The implication is that singing helps a believer to kill sin. We see the same thing in Ephesians, where the command to address one another in song comes right on the heels of ‘[make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil’ (Eph. 5:16).
The more you think about this, the more it makes sense. Lifting your eyes, heart, mind and voice to heaven in song identifies you with Christ, and against Satan. It’s very hard to lie, be greedy or to look at something inappropriate when you’re ‘singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart’ (Eph. 5:19). A singing heart is at war with the work of the evil one and the power of sin, and will not easily give in to temptation.
When you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trial
We often think of singing when we’re happy and times are good, but singing also brings strength for trial. For example, in Acts 16, Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. What do they do while they’re in prison? Sing!
This is confirmed in the lives of persecuted believers. In the book Extreme Devotion, one pastor who was imprisoned for his faith said this:
When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us… They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments! When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank).
Singing strengthens us and helps us persevere in the face of trial.
When you sing, you walk a God-designed path to joy
Listen to these verses from the Psalms:
Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you (Ps. 5:11).
For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy (Ps. 63:7).
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! (Ps. 81:1).
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Ps. 95:1–2).
Do you see the relationship between singing and joy? Sometimes singing gives birth to joy and sometimes joy gives birth to singing. But joy and singing are persistently bound together. You can’t study one of those two biblical themes without encountering the other.
If you struggle for joy – sing! If you are joyful – sing! In God’s perfect design and in His perfect understanding of the human condition, He has bound together joy and singing for His people.
When you sing, you glorify God
This seventh biblical reason to sing sums up the other six. Obedience, digging deep roots in the word, building up others, making war against Satan and sin, persevering, finding joy in God – all these things bring glory to God, which is each person’s chief goal and purpose in life.
In Revelation 7:9-10, John glimpses eternity, with a great multitude of people from every tribe, people, and language singing before the Lamb, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ On that day, there will be a great multitude that no one could number, singing the song of the Lamb.
But we don’t just sing about God. Colossians 3 tells us to sing ‘to God’, and Ephesians 5:19 urges us to sing and make melody ‘to the Lord’. It is both to Him and about Him that we sing.
Singing has a unique way of bringing our heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction, singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God. As we pour out our hearts in song, He is lifted up, and He graciously lifts us up with Him. What better reason could there be to sing?
A longer version of this article is available at http://unlockingthebible.org/why-singing-matters/