Singing in Truth

When Christians gather corporately they often do so to sing. Sometimes it is only to sing. Singing has been conflated with the idea of worship. When Christian gatherings include singing and Bible teaching, worship time is the singing time which usually precedes the teaching. Even song leaders have been given the title “worship leader.” There has been much written about what kind of music is appropriate for Christians and as much as I like to think certain hymns are preferable to modern praise-and-worship refrains, my experience is that most people’s conclusions regarding appropriate music are based more on preference than anything else. Awful and good Christian music are like the wheat and the tares—they sprout side by side throughout the church age. Church leaders can develop rubrics to evaluate the appropriateness of their congregation’s music selection, but a certain level of subjectivity will remain. One thing I try to remember is that some of the best productions of “good Christian” music are presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Making music the litmus test by which to measure a church’s orthodoxy will provide insufficient data. Perhaps, though, it should be part of a more holistic assessment.

The school I work at has a bi-monthly “praise and worship” time during its chapel period. Recently I asked some students about the lyrics of a song we had sung:

When darkness seems to hide His face

I rest on His unchanging grace

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil

My anchor holds within the veil.[1]

The majority had no idea what “my anchor holds within the veil” meant. It is a reference to the direct access Christians have to God through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. The veil separated the temple’s “Most Holy” from its “Holy Place” (Ex. 26:31-35); the high priest entered into the Most Holy once annually on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of Israel (Lev. 16). When Christ died the veil tore in two (from top to bottom) because His death provides all who accept Him as Savior access to God, directly (Matt. 27:51; Eph. 2:18). When a student did know referenced what it meant, the other students quickly remembered and then they knew, and it didn’t take a minute.

Singing songs to God is part of worship and the standard is that we worship in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). We can’t worship in truth if we don’t know what we are saying. In Paul’s discussion on tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 he emphasizes the importance of praying with one’s spirit and one’s mind. He insists that churches who allow the speaking of tongues provide interpretations of the tongues. “…if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up” (1 Cor. 14:16-17). Song leaders should apply this passage to their ministry by taking the time to introduce the meaning of the songs they sing; this will enable the edification of the whole body and allow them to sing in agreement. Not only will making sure the words are understood edify the church, it will also provide a quick grid for the song leader. If he can’t explain the meaning of the song from the Bible, it probably isn’t one that should be sung.

[1] Edward Mote, Eric Lijero, Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan, “Cornerstone,” Hillsong Live.


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