I sometimes wonder if song/worship leaders should be giving the same disclaimer as preachers: “Compare the songs we sing to the Scriptures. You’d be my friend if you let me know if anything we’ve sung is out of harmony with the word of God.”
While we are very quick to talk about the need to listen to sermons with an open Bible, might we ought to do the same in our singing? We tend to let hymns bypass the filter of God’s word, either because we assume that’s what a hymnal editor is for (which is partially true) or because we’re not sure it really matters, so long as we’re trying to praise God with what we sing.
From a biblical perspective, whether our musical expression is scriptural matters. Consider the activities that are going on as we sing, as described in Colossians 3.16.
- We let Christ’s word dwell in us richly.
- We teach and admonish one another.
- We sing with grace (thankfulness) to God.
Let’s ask this question: can we do any of these things with words not in accordance with Scripture? If we are singing words contrary to Scripture, is it Christ’s word dwelling in us? If we are singing words contrary to Scripture, is our teaching and admonishing profitable? If we are singing words contrary to Scripture, are we being thankful?
I would almost go so far as to say that it is more important that our songs be scriptural, than our sermons. Two reasons:
- As a practical matter, we are more apt to remember the songs we sing than the sermons we hear. Music has that effect. Also, we are likely to only hear a specific sermon one time; how many times do we sing some of the songs in our repertoire?
- Singing involves active participation on the part of the congregation. We may be active listeners during a sermon, but we are not ourselves teaching the false doctrine (unless we’re the preacher). When we sing, we are actively proclaiming whatever it is we are singing.
This week, we’re going to look at the subject of scriptural content. Later in the week, we’ll look at some specific expressions that tend to raise eyebrows. In our next installment, we’ll look at how we ought to handle a hymn that we determine does contain unscriptural content.