Hymns with Purpose

May all who use these hymns experience, at all times, the blessed effects of complying with the Apostle Paul’s injunction (Eph. 5:18, 19), “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Yea, may they anticipate, while here below, though in a humble and imperfect strain, the song of the blessed above, who, being redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, are standing before the throne, and singing in perfect harmony with the many angels about it (Rev. 5:9-12 and 7:9-14), “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever. Amen!”

Moravian Hymnal (1789)

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The Ministry of Song 11

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to Your name.”

And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”

And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol Him.”

And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
even He who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in Him will the Gentiles hope.”  (Romans 15:5-12)

The theological point is the bringing of the Gentiles under God’s mercy, so they can share together with Jews in the hope that is in Christ, as the final quote in the catena declares, “The root of Jesse shall come, and He who rises to rule the Gentiles. In Him the Gentiles shall hope”(Rom. 15:12; cf. Is. 11:10). But the choice of Paul to use worship texts  is more than a matter of finding useful texts regarding the Gentiles. It places the proper outworking of the passage in the actual united worship of the Roman believers.

—John W. Taylor, “The Lord’s Supper in Romans: The Common Meal and United Worship in Romans 14–15 as Demonstration of the Gospel,” 12

The Ministry of Song 10

What is too rarely seen by commentators is that the discussion of singing and the glorification of God, in [Romans] 15:5-13, most likely comes about because Paul still has in mind the same gatherings of the Roman believers [cf. the discussion about common meals in chapter 14], which combine, at a minimum, eating together, and singing together. In Romans  15:5-7 we read, “May the God of endurance and encouragement  grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The unity which Paul has been calling for is to be expressed in united praise, here described literally as glorifying God “with one mouth” (en eni stomati). The outworking of Jews and Gentiles welcoming one another “for the glory of God,” is to glory God with one another. And this is expressed in particular through spoken or sung praise.

—John W. Taylor, “The Lord’s Supper in Romans: The Common Meal and United Worship in Romans 14–15 as Demonstration of the Gospel”

The Ministry of Song 9 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me) 5

When Paul urges us in Colossians 3 to “let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts,” he goes on to say that we’re to do that as we “make melody to the Lord in [y]our hearts” and as we sing and instruct each other in our praises. Now maybe it’s right that our noses should be in our hymnbooks when we’re singing; but it’s spiritually right that we should also have an eye to our brothers and sisters and be praying, “O Lord, sanctify these words I’m singing, in order that my brothers and sisters may be so instructed in their truth, as their lives to be comforted and transformed and centered again on Your glory, and blessed again in genuine fellowship that we enjoy with one another.”

And all of this because the Lord Jesus gathers us as God’s family, and then leads us in the singing of God’s praises.

——Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 8 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 4)

Now most of us are at one end of the spectrum or the other. And I suppose our native desire would be for a Christian life in which our emotions were on an absolutely even keel; and one day they will be. But that will be an even keel of prolonged ecstasy, that we will be able to cope with in resurrection bodies that were made for prolonged ecstasy! And until that happens, one of the things that God does to us in worship—and it seems to me so marvelously gracious that He has given us songs to sing that do this in worship—is to take those of us who have layers of emotion that need to be unpacked and unstarched, and He begins to set them free; and those of whose emotions at the other end of the spectrum are out of control, and He takes them and brings them into a certain kind of order and discipline by the very things we sing.

——Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

Sanctifying Song

To a Christian community [in Ephesus] surrounded by ignorance and immorality; to a people who themselves were prone to the blindness and indulgence of their former way of life; at the conclusion of a passage warning against irrationality and sins of the flesh [Ephesians 4:17–5:18] —Paul urges singing and music making [5:18-20].

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638

 

The Ministry of Song 4

Paul shares the same broad concerns [about singing] as Augustine and Calvin, but the recommendation emerging from those concerns is entirely different. To put it very crudely, Augustine says: “Irrationality is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, be careful about music.” Paul on the other hand says, “Foolishness is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, you had better sing.”

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638