Much has been written to answer the oft asked question “Why do we sing?” Simply stated, people sing because it is an intrinsically human thing to do. We sing because we are the image bearers of God and God sings (Zephaniah 3:17). As a church, we gather to exalt Christ in all His glory and our songs are a reflection of that purpose. For us, the redeemed, the singing of praises to our Lord and Savior is an outpouring of joy in the knowledge of who He is and all that He’s done. It is both a cerebral and visceral response of worship to the reality and nature of God.
From the time of Moses, the gathered people of God sing together. The apostle John tells us that Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. Paul instructs us to sing together in letters addressed to two early churches. Clearly, singing is an essential element of corporate worship. Why is this so? Why is corporate singing important, and what does it actually do? While there are countless personal benefits to be derived from engaging in this, I have here outlined four things Scripture teaches that come from our singing together.
Singing together expresses the condition of the heart, and ministers to the soul–
Singing together brings the full spectrum of human emotions into harmony with God’s inspired Word. Joy, peace, sadness, despair, fear—all these can be expressed and scripturally aligned by the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
For example, Psalm 42 is a psalm of desperation. It was written by a worship leader who is in the midst of deep despair. Yet, he is determined to offer continual praise to God. Throughout, the psalmist repeats this refrain:Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
Although by the end of the psalm his despair is not lifted, it is his constant praise and the reminder of God’s presence that serve to give him the strength to endure.
Similarly, in Psalm 59, David expresses great fear of men sent by the king for the purpose of killing him. At one point, David describes these men as dogs, hungry for his blood. But at the end, David expresses his trust in the power of God, his refuge.But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.
From this psalm, we see that the simple act of praising God can lift our hearts and tune our emotions in accordance with God’s character and attributes as revealed in His Word.
Singing together teaches and admonishes according to Scripture–
Colossians 3:16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Ephesians 5:18-19 is similar, telling us to speak to each other with singing as we are filled with the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that illumines Scripture to us. As His truth is expressed in the songs we sing, God’s Word is indelibly written on our hearts. From there, we carry it with us as we engage a sin-saturated world. The Word of God cast in melody writes His truth on our hearts in a manner that few things can.
We also see in these passages that singing praises takes our focus off of ourselves and places it where it should be. By singing from a thankful perspective we acknowledge God’s sovereignty and power, recognizing our total dependence on Him.
Singing together builds and demonstrates unity of the body–
The contexts of both New Testament passages above (Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19) speak of building and preserving unity in the body of Christ. Singing together in corporate worship unites the church under a single banner. When you consider a typical worship service, singing is one of the few, if not only, proactive expressions of unity that we collectively engage in. Certainly, the exposition of Scripture requires an active and engaged mind on the part of the hearers. However, at that moment, we are individually receiving and responding to what the preacher has studied and prepared.
When the church sings together, we become a choir engaged in joyful expressions of worship. Although the level of engagement may vary from person to person, and we are not all blessed with the same vocal ability, when we collectively sing we are unified in our proclamation of that which binds us together. The more we sing, the more unified we become.
Singing together pleases the Lord–
This is, perhaps, the most important reason for our singing together. Psalm 69:30-31 tells us that singing praises to God pleases Him more than the sacrifices that He Himself had prescribed as the nation’s expression of worship.I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the Lord better than an ox Or a young bull with horns and hoofs.
More than anything else, it should be our deepest desire to please God in our corporate worship. This is accomplished by worshipping Him in the manner that He has prescribed in His Word. With God’s pleasure as our purpose, we bring Him praises in song.
God has told us how we are to worship Him. He has prescribed to us those elements of worship which are essential and non-negotiable. Among those things are the public reading of Scripture, prayer, exposition of God’s Word, and the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. These elements, from pure hearts, join together in spirit and truth to make worship that is a pleasing aroma to our holy and sovereign Lord. This kind of worship is the church’s highest purpose.The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise, (Isaiah 43:21).