I love doctrine. Old, dusty, dense books give me joy. I’ve been accused of being too academic. I’m sometimes tempted to lecture more than preach.
And then I remember: we’ve been given doctrine to sing.
The best singing stays connected to truth. Songs drip with theology, loaded with truths from Scripture. Some of them wade into deep topics: the nature of God, the wonders of salvation, the brevity of life, and the reality of death.
But songs don’t let doctrine lie lifeless on the page. It’s hard to sing doctrine and yawn. Singing engages parts of the body other than the mind and sinks that doctrine deep into the heart. Good songs integrates the best of theology with our whole being. When we sing, something happens inside.
Songs in Scripture
Some truths can’t be expressed in prose. When Adam first glimpsed Eve, he erupted in poetry, maybe even song (Genesis 2:23). When God rescued Israel from Egypt, Moses and the Israelites sang a song to the LORD (Exodus 15). When David suffered and when David rejoiced, he sang.
I’ve sometimes struggled with the Psalms. I admit that I’m more at home in the epistles than in the poetry of Scripture. And yet I need the Psalms. They teach me how to think and how to feel. They give me words I can use in my prayers — sometimes words I would dare not use had God not included them in his Word. Psalms teach me to live all of life — including the hard parts — in God’s presence.
I’m amazed by the songs in the gospels. It seems that the birth of Jesus unleashed poetry and song in everyone: Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and the angels. The message is clear: the truth of Immanuel, God with us, is fine as a proposition but better as a song.
A few times, we read that Jesus sang. When Jesus ate his last supper before his death, they sang a hymn together. God the Son, on the way to the cross, sang. “I imagine our Savior much better suited as the silent recipient of adoration and worship (Revelation 5:6–14),” writes Tony Reinke. “But he also sings.”
When we catch a glimpse of heaven in Revelation, we witness singing. From beginning to end, Scripture doesn’t just inform us. It invites us to hear the music. We’re invited to sing.
Songs in the Church
When we started a new church, I wondered what role singing would play. I knew that we’re commanded to sing, but how would that work in a secular setting among young professionals?
I needn’t have worried. We need to sing. Something in us knows that we need more than information every week. We need to rehearse truths about God in song. We need to hear and respond, and sometimes the best way to do that is through song.
We’re commanded to address one another in song within the church (Ephesians 5:19). One of the ways that the word of Christ dwells within us is through song (Colossians 3:16). God does his work as we sing.
I’m grateful we haven’t only been given truths to believe. We’ve also been given truths to sing. God’s truth is too good to only think about it. Sometimes the best way to respond is to join the song that began centuries before we were born, and that will continue into eternity.