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Saturday, February 29, 2020

2020.02.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 3:16

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to have dwell in us (Colossians 3:16)? In what manner? To that end—what are we to do to one another? In what three things are we to teach and admonish one another? What are we to do with these psalms and hymns and spiritual songs? What are we to have in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:19)? To whom are we to sing?
What an amazing thing is congregational song! Toward ourselves, others, and the Lord.

Toward ourselves, congregational singing is an appointed means by which Christ’s word dwells in us richly. Not just in a way that gives us knowledge, but in a way that makes us wise to use and respond to that knowledge.

Toward one another, congregational singing is a privilege that the Lord Jesus has given to us—that we might be used by Him in this building up of one another in wisdom. When the congregation sings, even little children are teachers and admonishers in the unity of the whole. We learn from Hebrews 2:12 (and the fact that Colossians 3:16 calls it “the word of Christ”) that it is the Lord Jesus Himself who does the work through us, and this is a great privilege!

Toward the Lord, we sing. He has chosen to glorify Himself through our worship. And this is the highest privilege of all.

Now, there are two things that this verse presents as necessary for us to participate in this amazing privilege: Scriptural content and Spiritual life. Scriptural content—if Jesus is the true Singer in our worship, and it is the word of Christ that we sing, then we must sing that which comes from Him—the Bible.

And what is one way that we know that He wants us to sing Bible? Well, He has put songs right into His Bible! “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” translates three words that are used in the titles of many Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the Colossians would have used. Psalms (3-9, 11-15, 19-25, 29-31, 38-41, 43-44, 46-51, 62-68, 73, 75-77, 79-85, 87-88, 92, 94, 98-101, 108-110, 139-141, 143), Hymns (6, 54-55, 61, 67, 76), and Songs (4, 18, 30, 39, 45, 48, 65-68, 75-76, 83, 87-88, 91-93, 95-96, 108, 120-134).

The question arises whether this list is exclusive (we must sing only these), or inclusive (these are examples, because the Lord wants us to sing from all Scripture).

There are two reasons to believe that it is inclusive. One is that if it is exclusive, then we couldn’t sing Psalms that the Greek OT labeled “Instructional” (32, 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, 142), or that had no category in their superscript, or in some cases any superscript, at all (1-2, 10, 156-17, 26-28, 33-37, 56-60, 69-72, 86, 89-90, 97, 102–107, 111–119, 135–138, 142, 144–150).

The other reason is that the primary command is to let the word (singular!) of Christ dwell in us richly. We ought to sing from all parts of the Bible, for it is all His Word.

That is the Scriptural content of congregational song. But this verse also teaches us that we must sing with true Spiritual life: “grace in your hearts.” There’s no amount of mere outward form that can do what congregational singing is designed to do: only the power of almighty God at work within us.

How, then, should we sing in congregational worship? As those who are participating in a great work of God. Making His word to dwell richly in ourselves. Teaching and admonishing others. And glorifying the Lord in song. We must sing with grace in the heart—grace to adore the Designer of such glorious worship, grace to trust the truths of His Word, grace to obey the commands of His Word, grace to stir up our feelings toward Him, and form our choices and desires as we sing.
What should you aim at for yourself in congregational song? For others? For the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH22C “Amid the Thronging Worshipers”

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