Singing our theology

“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.” ­ – Colossians 3:16

“…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” – Ephesians 5:19

The church sings her heresies long before she preaches them. So a wise man once said. Music “preaches” a theology to us without us knowing it. More often than not, congregants turn to the hymn page without thinking too long or hard about the words that they are singing. Yet singing is our act of worship, our act of adoring God for who He is and what He has done for us. And as we finish the worship service, going back to our homes, we may subconsciously begin to whistle or hum the tunes to the songs we sang in service. And yes, we may even continue singing them, the words beginning to form in our minds from memory. Of the songs we sing repeatedly, most of us can probably rattle off multiple verses without too much thought. Yet what is the significance of this?

Its significance comes in the fact that while we repeat those words, those words do not come as vacuous poetry that sounds nice. Words have meaning, and as those who have gone through a catechism, or done large sections of memory for classical schools like Classical Conversations, the meaning of those words can easily seep into our lives, and begin to influence the ways we think, and even what we believe to be true. This is why heretical, cultic institutions like Bethel actually target the music industry. People may easily be able to spot Bill Johnson’s heresy when he teaches, but they still sing Bethel’s music in their service. And so their congregants imbibe Johnson’s theology, a theology that leads away from the true gospel of salvation from sin unto new life with Christ and toward a prosperity-driven, mystical “gospel” that is akin to sorcery. Of course, Bethel is not the only culprit.

Such concepts, and many more, seep their way into our lives if this is what we sing. It is especially dangerous for our young people, who remember the words to the songs they sing long before they carefully listen to and imbibe the messages of sermons. But good worship music can do the opposite. When we sing good worship music, we begin to think of God not as a genie to grant us wishes, but as “A Mighty Fortress” to hide us from the darts of the enemy, as the “Fount of Every Blessing,” recognizing that all good things, spiritual or physical, come from Him. We remember that our salvation comes “In Christ Alone,” that “Jesus Paid it All,” and that because of Him we can stand before the throne, for we have “a Strong and Perfect Plea.” We then know how we ought to respond, crying “Crown Him with Many Crowns!” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!” And in our praise filled response, we take up our sword, the Scriptures, and hear “Onward Christian Soldier” as we march forward.

These are but a few of the great hymns of old. This does not even get to the fact that God Himself has given us one hundred and fifty songs, infallible and inspired: the Psalms. If we are trepidatious about this song or that song, with a psalm from the Bible, we can rest easy that all it says is true. And the Lord has blessed, and continues to bless us, with musically inclined men in the church who have created great tunes to sing these psalms by. So we have no excuse to indoctrinate ourselves and our children with bad theology, or adulterate our worship of the living, true God with falsities that go against His Holy Word. And on that note, I shall leave you with the first line to one of my favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation”:

“How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith, in His excellent Word!

What more can He say, than to you He hath said?

To you who for refuge, to Jesus have fled!”