In Spirit and in Truth (5)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
Alton Howard once declared: “Whatever you can preach about, I can sing about” (Our Garden of Song, page 277). Some of my earliest memories are of singing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Could a child’s spiritual training possibly get a better start than that? On the mission field, too, young Christians have learned almost as much through song as they have through sermon. The “word of Christ” lives “richly” in their hearts, because of the songs they sing.
Which is why our songs must be deeply, thoroughly Biblical. Some songs offend because they teach falsely. Others because they simply teach nothing. Their thought content is a thousand miles wide and an inch deep.
Songs “teach and admonish,” or at least they should. Teach what, you might ask? Rocket science? We know better! A “spiritual song” teaches us God’s acts in history, his creation and his redemption. They also teach us of our responsibilities to him and to each other.
When we sing, there is a conversation going on. We remind each other that only at the cross are “our burdens rolled away.” We shout to the world that “He arose a victor from the dark domain.” We comfort each other with the knowledge that in spite of troubles, it can indeed be “well with our souls.” We urge each other to “take time to be holy,” or to “Yield not to temptation.” We remind ourselves of the damaging effect of “angry words.” Songs are not just the filler between the Lord’s Supper and sermon. They are all vital for our spiritual survival.
Some voices rise, angelic and beautiful, before the throne of God. Others are, well, harmony-challenged! If your voice does not blend in harmony, sing, for your heart must be in tune with God. If it cracks with age, sing, for the Lord hears the harmony of the heart. If your youthful voice is breaking, sing, for the words will break the heart down, and place it in unison with God.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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4 thoughts on “In Spirit and in Truth (5)

  1. My judgment is that many if not most of the great songs of days past were written by preaching brethren. There was a message! Many of today’s songs are written by music directors of one kind or another and it is the music that is emphasized. I have sat through a number of services??? recently and could not sing with understanding. Yes, the “music” was spirited, but the overall effect was, for me, negative. A good example is the modern song “God Is Love,” where it takes two song leaders and the various parts are an insult to my spiritual ears. I’m hoping that those “old European” songs will still be around for a long while. / Respectfully /JO

  2. I have always sung out as a child, quiet loudly,much to my Mother’s dismay, Jesus Loves Me this I know for the Bible tells me so. All through the years reaching to the age of 73, even tho’my voice now breaks, I love to sing Jesus Loves Me and thousands of songs in praise to Our Wonderful Savior.
    I love our old songs but I love the new faith and praise songs also. I’m positive our Lord loves them all.
    We need to SING IT OUT!!!SING IT OUT!!!!!
    We need to be encouraged about our singing.
    Thank you for this article,
    God continue to bless you
    Dot Moore

  3. So many people are against change. I recall reading that even the restoration movement leaders who wrote so many songs had their work criticised.
    Many new songs are written from the Psalms — how do you argue with that? Many new songs speak more clearly about our relationship with God than some older songs with archaic language.
    Hymns do not have to duplicate sermons. You would likely chide a preacher for lack of depth if he kept preaching the same sermons week after week.
    While we need to remember our older brethren and their musical heritage, we should avoid elevating old songs to some level of almost “inspiration” because some are more comfortable with them.

  4. Thank you, several of you, for your good comments.
    Every old song was new once; every new song will be old one day. The date of its writing is not as important as its content. Is it Biblical? Does it teach God’s way (Colossinas 3:16; Ephesians 5;19)?
    Certainly songs drawn from the Psalms have much to commend them. Many of our newer songs do just that. Older writers such as Isaac Watts also drew heavily from the Psalms. Every generation enriches the church’s collection of hymns.
    God’s richest blessings,
    Stan Mitchell

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