Pastoral Perspective

Why Biblical Hymns Are So Important

The following transcript is an excerpt from a recent sermon by Chris Anderson called “​​Theology That Sticks.” You can listen to the entire sermon here. Chris’ new book by the same title is available here

Hymns Are Powerful

“In short, we do not simply make music, to some extent music makes us.”

Jeremy S. Begbie

Our doctrinal beliefs are not only expressed by the songs we sing, but they are shaped by the songs we sing. If you’re singing truth, you’re memorizing truth that will serve you for a lifetime. But if you’re singing error—if you’re singing mere sentimentality or general theistic truth that could be said of any god—it’s not building your soul.

Collin Morris, the BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting in the 1980s, said that “hymns plant spiritual time-bombs in the mind.” Children learn truth even before they understand it—but it will surely “go off” in the future. 

Those suffering from dementia may not be able to remember what happened yesterday, but they can often remember hymns with absolute clarity.

People don’t want jokes on their deathbeds. And most of them don’t even want sermons. They want songs. They want hymns.

Hymns are powerful—more so than we appreciate.

Biblical Hymns Are Vital

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Here you have this amazing book—Colossians is fighting false teaching by again and again emphasizing the preeminence and glory of Christ. He is the Creator of all things. He is the Purpose of all things. All things were made not only by Him but for Him. He’s the unique Son of God—the very equivalent of God the Father, now in human flesh. You have all this teaching about Christ, and when Paul gets to a point of “bringing it home” to the church, he says…to sing? Singing is the right response to deep Christian doctrine? It is!

The Word of Christ is to “dwell with us richly.” It doesn’t just visit us on Sundays as a guest, but it’s so at home in our lives—we are to be so saturated with Scripture—that when we speak to each other, when we teach, when we sing, it just comes out.

Our songs—the church’s songs—should be biblical.

I have a wealth of quotes from people who have thought very deeply about this subject. One theologian John Frame writes, “Music in worship is one of God’s best tools for getting the word into our hearts.” He’s actually echoing the teaching of Martin Luther who said, “[God’s] holy Word is impressed on our hearts by sweet music.”

Doctrinal truth is remembered in song because of rhyme, because of meter and music, because of poetry, and because we sing together. Hymns allow us to get the Word of God memorized in our hearts.

“Our services should not separate singing from the Word, but the church should hear the Word through singing.” 

Matt Boswell

We often make the mistake of separating “singing” from “instruction” (preaching). But our songs are teaching us. We should have the same doctrinal standard for music that we have for preaching. In fact, singing may be more important because your children go home reciting these words.

We must think of music ministry as a ministry of the Word.


NEW BOOK

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Packed with hundreds of quotes, research, questions, and more, Theology That Sticks helps churches and Christians embrace the life-changing practice of biblical singing!

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