Substance for Singing
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in you hearts to the Lord.” Col. 3:16
This little word is quite characteristic of Paul’s epistles. As we consider it we think of submission, obedience, yield. God invites us to give opportunity to, permit, and not prevent. We often prevent the Word access to our lives by indifference. The Word will run, take free course, and be glorified in us if we will just “Let.”
“THE WORD OF CHRIST”
The Scripture in its entirety is the Word of Christ,” including the whole scope, for Jesus is God’s thought and theme from beginning to end. In history, symbol, and in character, He is the Alpha and Omega of divine truth.
What dwells in us? Only that which we take in. While on the earthly scene, we daily feed ourselves something. There are those things which our eyes see, our ears hear, and our minds comprehend. As we assimilate our natural food it becomes part of us.
This is also true in the spiritual realm. You may have heard the expression, “you are what you eat.” The Word of Christ must be taken in, in order to dwell in us.
In Psalm 45:10, we hear the admonition to the bride and queen to be, hearken consider, incline thine ear. In Revelation, chapters two and three, we read repeatedly, “He that hath an ear let him hear, what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” God will write indelibly on our hearts and minds the Word we take in. We should count it a privilege to be able to allow Christ’s enriching message ample room in our innermost being, so that we give unrestricted liberty not as to a visitor, but as to a resident. We need to be so familiar with the Word that it not be a stranger to us or in us, but rather enjoy a certain at homeness in our being.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us and guides our lives by the Word abiding within. His work may be gauged by the Word we know in our hearts. He brings us into experiences and situations that call forth the application of that which abides within. He produces the growth by which we grow up into Christ in all things by that indwelling Word. Spiritual growth is stunted when some hear the Word outwardly but fail to heed the Spirit; others drink in of the Spirit in a measure, but ignore the Word.
It is God our Father that gives us the capacity to allow His enriching Word to abide abundantly, and as we take it in He is always increasing it. Oh, how unsearchable is the wealth of His abiding, life-giving Word! His truth bounds in us, in order to regulate our ways, words, and walk.
“IN ALL WISDOM”
This phrase points to and qualifies the “teaching and admonishing.” This fact clearly follows that the only teaching and admonishing in divine wisdom is by the indwelling Word. Some seem to think that to admonish means to warn and reprove, but it also carries the thought of encouragement.
This phrase and the rest of the verse teaches us some of the practical and beneficial results of the indwelling Word. We are able to share Jesus with others by this measure. If we are not taking it in individually we are unable to profitably teach and admonish others collectively or one on one.
“IN PSALMS, HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS”
Paul admonished that this great ministry be carried out in his day. Thank God this has been going on for a long time in assemblies around the world. The truth we teach the children has been taught by song as well as other means. The special songs when sung in the Spirit and are scriptural, and clearly understood have often ministered grace to the hearers. Psalms are generally sung to instrumental accompaniment. Hymns are songs of praise usually addressed to God, composed by believers. Spiritual songs (odes) are designated by the word “spiritual.” This should qualify all of our singing. It is quite possible for the same song to be all three. As scriptural songs, they are the outward expression of the indwelling Word. We appreciate spiritual songs instead of the carnal (fleshly) singing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t inspire unscriptural songs, those out of harmony with the rightly divided Word of truth.
The Holy Spirit indies our singing playing on our heart strings. To me there is nothing more uplifting than congregational singing of the truth in the Spirit. I felt the saints in our meeting here greatly admonished me, during my wife’s two month convalescence with a broken neck (in 1970), by their song selection. I enjoy observing the song selection being directed by the Holy Spirit, instead of a preplanned program.
“SINGING WITH GRACE”
A sad condition seems to creep into congregational singing at times. We seem to be prone at times to miss the message and the spirit of the song we are singing. It often comes from singing by habit or from either being thoughtless or preoccupied. This ought not be true, Lord help us. Believers sometimes sing happy joyous songs with the longest faces, as a sister once said; “Notify your face if you are happy.” People sometimes sing solemn songs with thoughtless hilarious clapping. I feel hand clapping is a good expression of praise and worship, but it seems to fit some songs more than others. The point I am trying to make is that we should be mindful of the “words” we are singing. We sometimes sing songs of freedom, with tenseness, or songs of steadfastness, with an attitude of laxity.
Oh, let us sing “with grace in our hearts to the Lord.” This is the key to good singing as far as God is concerned. This singing is not dependent upon musical knowledge nor great vocal ability. When our singing comes from thankful hearts it sounds sweet to our loving Father. We sing in harmony with heaven when He puts His grace into our hearts. Where the Word of Christ is dwelling, our hearts with grace are swelling, let us sing with one accord, the highest praises of our glorious Lord.