Singing As a Means of Grace: Introduction

Music, Worship

Growing up, I was very into music. I studied classical piano and voice and composition. I taught myself guitar. Like so many people, music in many ways became an obsession and an idol – too much part of my identity and pride. But then God got ahold of my life in college – and humbled me and revealed himself to me in various ways. And one of the things God used was music. There was one Christian group on campus whose music was different. I’d never been a fan of Christian music. But this group sang songs with deep theological, thought-provoking lyrics…and they sang – really sang. They were sincere. Their hearts were engaged. They weren’t singing to perform; they weren’t singing to impress one another; they were singing to someone who was unseen with conviction. There was a reality to their singing that I had, as a musician, never seen before. I’d never seen people my own age having this reality of worship. It made a powerful impression on me. And pretty soon, what was being sung made an even more powerful impression on me. And I began to sing and sense and worship someone unseen.

In short, for me personally and experientially, God used spiritual singing as a means of grace in my life.

When Reformed Christians talk about the ‘means of grace’, they usually are referring to the corporate practices of the church – like prayer, Bible reading, preaching, Lord’s Supper and Baptism – that God has revealed as means and practices that lead to spiritual growth. They are the channels that God promises to use through the Spirit to build up and nourish God’s people. I want to argue that Christians need to recognize the place of spiritual singing as an important and Biblical means of grace.

Colossians 3:16 says,

“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 your hearts to the Lord.” (KJV)

Some translations end vs.16 with “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God”. But Paul mentions “giving thanks” (eucharisteo) in the next verse, 3:17. In 3:16, the word is simply “grace” (charis).

Gordon Fee writes,“The focus is not so much on our attitude toward God as we sing, but on our awareness of his attitude towards us…our standing in grace that makes such singing come from the heart.” Paul is saying, true spiritual singing requires an awareness of God’s grace. In the context of the verse, singing is one way of letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly, letting it sink into the experience of your heart. Therefore, clearly singing is a means of grace, of expressing grace in the heart and getting grace into your heart.

In the next few posts, we are going to explore why and how to use singing as a means of grace…

[Update: One Facebook commenter reminded me that the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith contains an extra article on Singing.  PCF Ch.23 says, “We believe that (Acts 16:25, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16) singing the praises of God, is a holy ordinance of Christ, and not a part of natural religion, or a moral duty only; but that it is brought under divine institution, it being enjoined on the churches of Christ to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; and that the whole church in their public assemblies, as well as private Christians, ought to (Heb. 2:12, Jam. 5:13) sing God’s praises according to the best light they have received. Moreover, it was practiced in the great representative church, by (Matt.26:30, Matt. 14:26) our Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples, after He had instituted and celebrated the sacred ordinance of His Holy Supper, as commemorative token of redeeming love.”]

(By: Matt Foreman)

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