Christians sing. As far as I know, there are not too many faiths whose adherents make congregational singing an integral part of their worship. But when Christians gather to worship, they inevitably sing. Colossians 3:16 gives Christians their orders: “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.” We love to do this, to join together to sing out our joy before the Lord. While our practices may vary from church to church and culture to culture, and while we express this worship through different words and in a great variety of styles, we all make it a part of our meetings.
But I think there is one part of this verse we tend to overlook: the “one another.” If I could distill this verse down to its essence I would do it like this: We sing from the gospel, for one another, to the Lord.
We are to let the word of Christ, the gospel, dwell in us richly. When we do that, there will be a natural outburst of joy, gratitude and worship that will express itself in song. We will sing out our praises with thankfulness in our hearts to God. This is good. This glorifies God.
What we tend to overlook is the part about teaching and admonishing one another. We all know there is a vertical dimension to our worship, where our songs give us a voice to sing to the Lord in praise or in petition, in expressions of wonder or in pleas for his favor. Most of us think far less about the horizontal dimension of worship, where we worship for the benefit of our Christian brothers and sisters. The least-sung song is the song we sing for one another.
Yet the Bible tells us that when we stand and sing as a community of Christians, we are teaching and admonishing one another. When we stand and sing, we are not only singing to God, but are also singing for one another. When I sing, I am teaching and admonishing you; when you sing, you are teaching and admonishing me. Your words come to my ear as instruction and correction. At least, they should. If I am listening, they do.
Do you sing for the people in your church even as you sing to the Lord? Do you stand ready to teach and be taught? Do you stand ready to admonish and be admonished by the words you will sing and the words you will hear from the people around you?
If we are to take this horizontal dimension seriously, we need to rid ourselves of the mindset that says singing is primarily a time for me and Jesus, a time for me to commune with the Lord as I sing to him. Yes, that happens and yes, it is good to sing out praises and to enjoy the sweet fellowship with the Savior. But my whole posture of body and posture of heart will change if I am aware that I am singing for you and you are singing for me. If this is the case, I will pay attention to the words, I will engage, I will look around, I will listen, I will worship as part of a worshipping community. Haven’t you known the encouragement of seeing others worship, of hearing their words in your ears?
Very practically, when I sing, “Come, Ye Sinners” I will be singing it with an awareness that those words are falling on sin-deafened ears as a call from me to the person who remains lost in his sin. “Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love and power.” So turn to him! Don’t delay! When I sing, “Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon his shoulders,” I am singing it for you, telling you to look to Christ and in his suffering and death to see the love of the Father, “that he should give his only Son to make a wretch his treasure.” Be encouraged by the depth of the Father’s love!
Christian, you have the great privilege of worshipping in song, and in that song, the joy of blessing and encouraging your brothers and sisters even while you glorify God. Sing from the gospel, sing for one another, and sing to the Lord. It will transform the way you worship.
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