Yesterday we thought about Paul’s instruction to the Colossians that they should teach and admonish one another by using God’s Word. He gives an example when such teaching and admonishing takes place – in the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (I take these terms as describing inspired songs, and that Paul uses them because they are found as headings of psalms in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, and it is in the Book of Psalms that such are mainly found, with other songs recorded elsewhere in the Old Testament). What use are we to make of those songs?
The first observation is that we should sing them. This may seem a trite comment, but it is a reminder that Christians are called to sing. A second observation is that we don’t only sing them to the Lord, we also sing them to one another. Third, we sing them in order to teach one another and admonish one another. Fourth, I don’t think Paul here is limiting his comments to a church service – indeed he may not even be describing a church service because I don’t think a church service is an occasion when individuals have the time to teach and admonish one another.
How can we share with one another the teaching of Jesus from the psalms? Take his person and work – we can sing together about his birth (Ps. 40), his life (Ps. 24), his death (Ps. 22), his resurrection (Ps. 16), his ascension (Ps. 110), and his kingdom (Ps. 72). Or we can teach each other about the worldwide spread of the gospel from Psalm 67 or about the members of the church from Psalm 87. We can teach each other about the importance of God’s Word from Psalm 19 and Psalm 1. There are many other examples.
With regard to admonishing, we can go and sing Psalm 122 with a believer whose church attendance is erratic or we can sing Psalm 51 with a believer who may be getting into a wrong relationship. We can sing verses from Psalm 107 about the problems that come into our lives when we depart from God. There is a vast range of situations that can be approached from the psalms. And our response should be that of the psalmist in Psalm 141:5: ‘Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.’
Why should we sing them? Because singing has a way of conveying emotions that mere speech will not do, and our emotions have to be involved in interactions with God and with one another.
When should we sing them? Whenever we can – Paul’s words indicate that singing in order to teach and admonish one another is a normal Christian activity. What is the great benefit of such a method? The teaching and the admonishing are done in biblical words that speak to all the singers.
So, says Paul, we are to know the Bible richly and we are to share the Bible frequently, in church and elsewhere. But with what frame of mind are we to do so? We will think about that question tomorrow?