Here in Colossians 3:15-17, Paul is talking all about the Christian life. He goes into great detail in explaining how Christians are to live saying we are to have compassionate hearts, with love for one another, in submission to God, in thankfulness to the Father. But then, he says something that might surprise us. Paul says that we should also sing. That’s right, sing.
That’s surprising. To me, it is. All of these other life defying characteristics in verses 12-15, you suspect for them to be here, but then Paul says we need to sing. We need to be a people who sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.
Singing the Gospel to Yourself
Well, you notice, don’t you, that Paul tells us even before he commands us to sing that we are to do something. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” That’s what we are to do. We are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.
Admittedly, there is so much packed into that statement, but Paul wants to focus here on one particular way in which the word about Christ can dwell in us richly: by singing. One way you can know that the word of Christ is dwelling in you is by singing the gospel to yourself day-by-day.
And why do we need to sing the gospel to ourselves? Because, quite frankly, what you sing changes you. The lyrics we sing in church repeat in our hearts as we move about throughout this life. The songs we sing each and every Sunday stick with you Monday through Saturday.
The Getty’s, who are modern hymn writers, often say, “The songs we sing on Sunday provide the soundtrack for our week.” There’s a lot of richness in that statement because, indeed, these songs prepare us for seasons of life that are sure to come. They show us how to deal with all sorts of emotions and circumstances that we will all face.
Therefore, we need a rich diet of gospel-centered hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. We need to be reminded to keep our eyes upward to Jesus. We need to be reminded of our Lord’s faithfulness and goodness to his people.
And so, take the beautiful songs that you sing in your church, and remember them as you wake up in the morning, as you stand in the shower, as you drive to work, as you exercise in the gym, as you work through the day, as you spend time with your family, and as you fall asleep at night. Remember them and sing them. Sing the gospel to yourself.
Singing the Gospel to Each Other
As we look at our text, we also need to realize that Paul is moving from the individual to the congregation. Remember, this is a letter written to a local church.
See, Paul’s point is that we need to be singing together. We live in a time when the importance of music in church has been significantly elevated but for all the wrong reasons. Music has been elevated, but for the sake of performance and the sake of entertainment. And so, what begins to happen is that people mumble quietly along as a band performs on a stage. That’s not what Paul is talking about here.
Paul is saying that we need to be singing together as a congregation. Paul is saying that we need strong, heartfelt congregational singing! Because such singing is a wonderful sign that the Holy Spirit is at work among us, and through us, as we sing of the very things we share as Christ’s people!
Think about the testimony you could be to the person sitting beside you in church. Maybe she is a single mother who might be exhausted, working two or three jobs to make ends meet for her kids. She doesn’t know how she’s going to put food on the table this week, but she hears you singing these words:
Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see, all I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness O Lord to me.
Think about the elderly man who is mourning the loss of his wife of 60 years. He is so lost and battered in suffering. He doesn’t know-how in the world he is going to wake up every day, but he finds his way into our church one Sunday evening, and he hears you singing:
Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul, your best and heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Or think about the young family that is experiencing a special season of blessing. Expecting a new covenant baby, a husband got a new job promotion at work, and they just put an offer in on a new house. They light up the room when they walk in, and what a further encouragement it would be for you to join in alongside them, celebrating with them, singing,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise him all creatures here below!
We need to be singing together!
Singing the Gospel to Our Lord
But finally, we need to look at verse 16. Why have God’s people always been a singing people? Because the gospel of the Lord Jesus compels us to sing. It’s just what we do as thankful sinners saved by grace.
So, we sing with hearts awakened by the gospel, we sing with hearts renewed by the gospel – and all the while, we are singing as a witness to the gospel and as sinners thankful for the gospel.
I was reminded of the story of Evan Roberts. Evan Roberts was a prominent preacher in the Welsh Revival at the beginning of the twentieth century. He believed whole-heartedly in the importance of singing in the life of the church and of the Christian. So, it was no surprise that he answered a particular question in the way that he did.
One gentleman asked him, “Rev. Roberts, do you think that the revival could ever reach my home in London, the British capital?” Roberts smiled and said, “Can you sing?”
Now, he wasn’t asking the man if he could hold a tune. He wasn’t asking him if he understood harmonies. He wasn’t even asking him if he sounded good. He was just asking him, “Will you sing?” And so, I ask you, “Will you sing?”