Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

How the New Testament Practice of Singing Hymns Can Revolutionize Your Christian Life

Be filled in spirit, speaking and singing hymns to one another - Eph. 5:18-19

Have you ever wondered what the early New Testament church practice looked like?  There are few details recorded in the New Testament. But one thing that is striking was their practice of speaking and singing hymns and spiritual songs in mutuality.

The early Christian gatherings were marked by such mutuality. They were “one another” meetings full of mutual speaking and singing.

For example, Colossians 3:16 says,

 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God.

How could those early believers fill their gatherings with the healthy speaking of divine truth and avoid deviating into vain talk and erroneous teachings?

The early believers let the word of Christ dwell in them richly by mutually speaking and singing hymns and spiritual songs.

Such a practice is greatly needed today. It’s one that is worthy of pursuing. So in this post I’ll focus on this revolutionary practice of  speaking and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for a spirit-filled Christian life and healthy church life.

What does the New Testament say about the believers speaking and singing hymns and spiritual songs?

 The pattern of the Lord Jesus—worshipping the Father by singing hymns

The first mention of hymn-singing in the New Testament is found in Matthew 26:30 where the Lord Jesus led the disciples to sing a hymn,

 “And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

 It was at the end of the last supper that the Lord Jesus led His disciples to sing a hymn to the Father before He went to the cross. His praise to the Father set a pattern for the New Testament church in worshipping the Father with singing at the Lord’s supper.

Hebrews 2:12 (a quotation of Psalm 22:22), develops this point further by saying,

 “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of the church I will sing hymns of praise to You.”

 These words were a prophecy in a psalm concerning the resurrected Christ singing hymns of praise to the Father in the midst of the church. Now it is not merely a matter of Christ’s singing with us, but His singing in us.

Part of footnote 3 on this verse in the Recovery Version says,

 “In our singing He sings hymns of praise to the Father. If then we do not sing, how can He sing? The more we sing to the Father, the more we enjoy His presence, His moving, His anointing, and His life-imparting within us.”

 The pattern of the early apostles—Singing hymns in daily life

Acts 16:25 points out that hymn-singing wasn’t just a feature of Christian gatherings but a part of the believers’ daily living. This verse says,

 “And about midnight Paul and Silas, while praying, sang hymns of praise to God; and the prisoners were listening to them.”

 We shouldn’t wait for such extreme circumstances as the apostles being beaten and imprisoned to open our mouths. Even in ordinary days we should sing–while cooking, cleaning or traveling on our way.

The pattern of the early church–speaking and singing hymns in mutuality

Ephesians 5:18-19 says,

 “Be filled in spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming with your heart to the Lord.”

Notice that Paul didn’t mention singing first. Rather, he mentioned “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing….” The spiritual poetic writings (hymns) weren’t only meant for singing, but even more for speaking.

(Compare this with the first mentioning of “teaching and admonishing one another” in Colossians 3:16 referenced earlier in this post.)

What’s my point? Sometimes we overemphasize the singing of hymns. We focus on how catchy the tune is or how beautiful the singing is.  Yet, we fail to reflect on the rich meaning of the lyrics of certain deeper hymns.

Consider for example, Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, Hark! the herald angels sing. Many of us know the tune, but have you ever considered the lyrics. Try speaking the four stanzas of this hymn. You’ll be surprised at how profound the lyrics are. In fact, I was so impressed that I even wrote a post on it.

Why should you speak and sing hymns? 

  1. To uplift your spirit and heart in all kinds of circumstances (Acts 16:25).
  2. To be filled in your spirit with Christ (Eph. 5:18-19).
  3. To let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).
  4. To speak for the building up the church (1 Cor. 14:26).

When should you speak and sing hymns?

  1. Anytime, but especially when you rise up to spend personal time with the Lord in the morning. Here’s a hymn to start the day. Change the lyrics  to second person and sing and speak it to the Lord.
  2. Whenever you come into the Lord’s presence to fellowship with Him. Proper singing will bring your heart into an atmosphere of fellowship. This hymn is one of my favorites which also became the inspiration for a post. The lyrics are in the form of a prayer.
  3. When you gather with other believers for almost any kind of meeting.  This hymn is a good one to help believers be gathered into the Lord’s name.  Mutual singing and speaking of hymns is more spontaneous in smaller gathering in believers’ homes.
  4. When you’re preaching the gospel. A good gospel song can be a very effective way of preaching, especially when you speak, reflect and apply the lines of the song. Here is a touching gospel song.

Maybe you can add to the list. Please share in a comment.

One simple take away

Build up a daily habit of singing and speaking hymns and spiritual songs.

I emphasize “habit”  because statistics show that it takes 40 days to build up a new habit.  So for the next 40 days, do this experiment. Find a time, like when you get up in the morning or when you come home from work or school.

Pick up a hymnal or song book (or use an internet hymnal like hymnal.net) and enjoy one or two songs each day.

Then share the hymn or spiritual song you’re enjoying with a fellow believer, family member or friend. You can also share it via social media like Twitter, Facebook or Google+. (You can check  the Holding to Truth Facebook page for examples.) In this way you’ll be filled with the Lord and His Word. At the same time you will build up your fellow believers, family members, and friends.

 References and Further Resources:

About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

10 Replies

  1. marlon

    When I started in the church life 1996 speaking the hymn is a great matter for me, it gave me a lot of appreciation to Lord. This is not merely a practice but giving a wonderful appreciation to Lord’s person & His being Triune.

  2. When I was young I thought the idea of a singing telegram was wonderful, and always wanted one. At a training on preaching the gospel we were encouraged to sing at people’s doors. We sang hymns start to finish. It was the greatest joy to disarm people, and bring an inevitable smile to their face. In those ten days we baptized ten people, and prayed with many others to receive the Lord. What a priveledge! It is a greater priveledge to give than to receive. Thank the Lord!

    1. Tom Smith

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed singing hymns in your preaching the gospel. This brings people into the joy of salvation! May we be joyful believers filled in spirit, letting the Word dwell in us richly. We can do this by building up a daily habit of singing and speaking hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord, to one another and even to the sinners the Lord is seeking to save through us. Thanks for the encouraging testimony confirming this post.

  3. Edgar Hovhannisyan

    I cannot sing enough of Thee,
    The sweetest name on earth;
    A note so full of melody
    Comes from my heart so joyously,
    And fills my soul with mirth.

  4. christina

    Amen…True indeed, we will never run of supply from the hymns. I recall how my father would sing Hymn 1191 (From my spirit within flows a fountain of life) every morning to wake us up for our morning revival. It is still one of the hymns that wakes me up especially when my spirit begins to slumber. Lord deepen the flow life in us!

  5. christina

    Amen…True indeed, we will never run out of supply from the hymns. I recall how my father would sing Hymn 1191 (From my spirit within flows a fountain of life) every morning to wake us up for our morning revival. It is still one of the hymns that wakes me up especially when my spirit begins to slumber. Lord deepen the flow life in us!

  6. John Tesauro

    I’ve found that singing a verse or items of the truth helps to constitute and internalize the truth within you. This post is a reminder and refreshing to sing and speak hymns one to another to refresh and supply the believers.

    1. Tom Smith

      John, I’ve found singing and speaking hymns to be a simple way to be nourished with Christ…not just for Christian gatherings but in my daily life. It’s especially helpful to sing hymns in the mornings when coming to the Lord. Then it is so spontaneous and genuine to sing and speak them with other believers. May singing and speaking hymns become a part of a daily revival uplifting our Christian life, family life and church life.

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