Singing: Second Effect of the Indwelling Word
THE EFFECT OF THE WORD: Singing
A. The Context
1. The COMMAND in this verse: LET the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
a. That command is followed by three participles: teaching, admonishing, and singing. That much is crystal clear.
b. However, how to divide (or diagram) this verse is not as clear.
2. In the King James Version, the translators chose to punctuate the passage in such a way that there are three sections: (3 exhortations)
a. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
b. Teaching and admonishing one another by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
c. Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
3. I am suggesting that we diagram the verse a bit differently:
a. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;
b. In all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another,
c. In psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
4. Reasons for doing so:
a. It keeps the teaching section together as a unit, and it keeps the musical section together as a unit.
b. It makes more sense (to me at least) to link together in one thought wisdom with teaching AND singing with songs.
c. Col. 1:28 – indicates that Paul uses the expression “in all wisdom” in relation to teaching, not dwelling. This forces us to change the punctuation marks.
B. Singing and the Word Richly Dwelling
1. Singing Defined:
a. ᾄδω – to sing; especially used of praising God in song; make melody with the vocal chords.
2. Consider the SETTING for singing in the context:
a. Col. 3:2 – our affections (mind and heart) should be set on things above…
b. Col. 3:3 – our life is hidden away in the safety and security of our position in Christ… in heavenly places… where no storm of life can harm us…
c. Col. 3:15 – the peace of God is ruling in the heart…
d. Col. 3:16 – The Word of Christ = the revealed word of God which is ABOUT Christ… His glorious Person… His finished work… His present heavenly ministry as our High Priest and Advocate. That’s worth singing about! This word is richly dwelling in our hearts.
e. When THAT is the condition of our heart, singing praise to God is simply going to HAPPEN.
f. Nothing could be more natural than for a spiritual song to flow out of a Spirit filled heart!
g. Nothing could be more natural than for a psalm from God’s inspired word to flow out of a heart richly indwelt by the Word.
3. Singing is the natural effect or outcome of a heart that is richly indwelt by the Word of Christ.
a. Paul’s point in vs. 16 is that the Word of Christ (when dwelling richly… abundantly at home in our hearts)… will influence our lives.
b. The word of Christ will influence us… and have a profound effect on EVERY part of our being.
• It will obviously affect our minds. (thinking)
• It will also affect our emotions (setting our affections on things above; treasuring things above; love for Christ).
• It will also affect our will (we will CHOOSE that which is in harmony with His will). If we are thinking of Christ and His glory… and growing in our love for Him, then choosing to obey Him and serve Him will follow.
• A heart richly indwelt by the Word of Christ will be CHANGED… transformed.
» That heart will want music that reflects the change.
» If we are thinking on things above, we will be attracted to music that seeks things above.
» The word affects our feelings and emotions. It will be natural to want to sing about Christ.
» The word affects our choices. We will CHOOSE a new song… music that affects the spirit and addresses our spiritual life.
» The deeper the Word of Christ digs in and becomes at home in our hearts, the more influence that Word will have on the music of our heart.
• In music, the lyrics affect our MINDS. The music affects our EMOTIONS. And together, they have an effect on our WILL… the choices we make.
• Music is a POWERFUL medium… a powerful influence.
c. The Word of Christ will FILL us with its influence… in every way: intellect, emotion, and will.
• When that is the case, MUSIC will flow out of our hearts.
• The word of Christ will dig in deeply into our minds… and change our thought patterns… our minds will be FULL of thoughts about Christ… and our glorious position in Him.
• Christ will be on our minds and on our hearts.
• These thoughts will affect our emotions too. We love Him because He FIRST loved us. As we fill our minds with thoughts of Christ—all He has done for us in love—it will evoke godly emotions of love for Him… and gratitude! How can thoughts of the CROSS dwell RICHLY in our hearts and it not affect our emotions?
• These thoughts and emotions will affect our choices too. When Christ is on our mind… then we are much more likely to make choices that are pleasing to Him.
• That is the way of victory… and what great joy to experience Christlikeness… transformation… victory…
» Thoughts of Christ and His indwelling presence will evoke gratitude and joy.
» Good choices that please Him (our will) are evidence of the power of the Spirit… evidence of victory.
» These experiences result in the JOY of the Lord… emotions that cannot be contained! It has to flow out… and does so in the form of music.
d. The Word of Christ richly dwelling in our hearts WILL have an influence in our daily lives.
• It is that inner, divine persuasion for good…
• It is an inner reminder of the power of the resurrection available to us moment by moment…
• It is a continual reminder of the grace and strength of God…
• It cannot help but influence us—every ounce of us: intellect, emotion, and will. It is life transforming.
e. The Word of Christ is the cause. A song in the heart is the effect.
• The new creature in Christ will have a new song in his heart.
• The song in the heart of which Paul speaks is truly a NEW song… one that arose out of the WORD richly dwelling in a heart that is ALIVE unto God.
• We are not talking about a natural man who is by nature cheerful and who whistles at work. Lots of unsaved folks like music… and sing and hum throughout the day.
• But those are old songs which arise from the old nature.
• The new creature will have a NEW song… naturally! (It’s not that we are under orders to sing at least 3 hymns a day… a quota we are required to fulfill…)
• The new song FLOWS out of the new life…. Naturally.
• Old songs will fall away like old dead leaves fall off the oak tree when the sap begins to flow in the spring…
• Those old oak leaves (like our old songs) may hang on for a while, but eventually the flow of new life in the spring causes them to fall away… and make room for the new.
• New life creates a thirst for a new song; the old earthly songs fade away… things of earth grow strangely dim…
• The word of Christ richly dwelling in our heart will result in a desire for things that are higher… things that are nobler… these have allured my mind!
• An appreciation for Christ and the Word of Christ will change our taste in music.
• The word of Christ richly dwelling in our hearts will always produce God’s desired effect: singing a new song to the Lord!
• And for those who were brought up in a Christian home and sang the great hymns of the faith from the cradle… and only recently were saved, then those old hymns become NEW songs for you! Suddenly singing, “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it” takes on a whole NEW meaning for you! Now it is flowing from a new heart alive unto God!
4. Eph. 5:18-19 – Paul makes a similar analogy between cause and effect in Ephesians.
a. Two terms for singing are employed in this passage.
• Singing: same as Col. 3:16
• Making melody: (from the Greek word for psalm…)
» ψάλλω – to cause to vibrate; to play a stringed instrument; to sing (vibrate the vocal chords)
» This word is translated “sing psalms” in Jas. 5:13 (Is any merry? Let him “sing psalms.”)
b. Note in this passage, the very same effects are mentioned here as in Col. 3: (19) singing; (20) giving thanks; (21) submission to one another.
5. But the difference in this passage is that they stem from a DIFFERENT kind of filling.
a. In Ephesians 5:18, the cause is the filling with the Spirit, and the effect is the same: singing; gratitude/grace; and submission.
b. In Col. 3:16, he speaks of being filled by the WORD.
• Indwelt richly – richly and filled = similar root words.
• The meaning is that the Word will FILL our minds and hearts… and produce an effect.
• In essence, Col. 3:16 speaks of the filling of the Word of Christ.
c. In Eph. 5:18, he speaks of being filled by the SPIRIT.
• This kind of filling speaks of influence and control too.
• Paul contrasts being “under the influence” of wine or of the Holy Spirit.
• Just as being filled with WINE affects the way we walk and talk… so too the filling of the Spirit has an effect on us… how we walk and talk.
• They are CONTROLLING factors: either wine or the Spirit of God.
• To be filled with the Spirit is to be under His influence and control.
• And that is Paul’s point in Colossians as well: the CONTROLLING influence the Word of Christ has on the believer… when that word richly dwells in our hearts.
• The Word, when richly indwelling the heart, also controls the way we walk and the way we talk. We are under the influence of the Word of Christ.
d. BOTH the filling of the Spirit and the filling of the Word require YIELDING on our part.
• The word of Christ may dwell in our hearts, but it is not at home in our heart unless we are yielded to that Word… submitted to it… surrendered to Christ.
• The Spirit of God dwells in us… but unless we YIELD to the Spirit, His influence (the fruit of the Spirit – Christlike character) is not experienced.
• The result of this dual influence is SUBMISSION (Cf. Eph. 5:21; Col. 3:18)
e. Rom. 6:13 – God isn’t interested in us yielding this or that area of our lives over to Him (and keep the rest for ourselves).
• He wants me to yield my entire SELF to Him.
• That speaks of ENTIRE submission; absolute surrender…
• To present my whole BODY (and everything in it!) a living sacrifice to Him.
• Only then can we say we are yielded.
• We often hear talk and testimonies of believers who say that they were convicted and finally yielded “X” over to the Lord… an area of their life.
• In reality, we must first yield SELF to God… and then all the “Xs” will be His as well.
• Thus, when we are yielded to GOD, we will be in perfect accord with His Spirit and with His Word.
6. There is perfect UNITY in the effect produced by either one… the Word of Christ or the Holy Spirit.
a. And of course there would be perfect unity between the effects of the Word and the Holy Spirit.
• The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word of Christ!
• The Holy Spirit is the One who produces Christlikeness in us as we yield to Him!
• As we fix our minds on Christ and things above (behold His glory in the Word) we are transformed into that same image BY the Spirit of God!
b. BOTH the Word of Christ and the Spirit of Christ produce the exact same effect in us: joyful singing, thanksgiving, and submission.
• These are the wonderful fruits of being HEAVENLY minded.
• Jas. 3:14-15 – what a contrast to being influenced by an earthly spirit… sensual… fleshly… even demonic!
• The influence of the Holy Spirit produces a much sweeter fruit!
• The influence of the Word produces a much sweeter fruit.
• Different influences produce different effects. What is the greatest influence in YOUR life?
• Is it education? Sports? Friends? Having fun? Social activities? Making money? Being in with the in crowd? Pleasure? TV? The mall?
• OR, is it the Word of Christ dwelling richly in your heart experienced through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit?
7. When God is in CONTROL of our yielded hearts, the result is a SONG!
a. Whether we trace it back to God’s Word or God’s Spirit; the result is the same: a song!
b. Whether we trace it back to the Word richly dwelling or the Spirit’s filling, the result is a song.
c. It is DIVINE influence… the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and transforms us into the image of the Son of God…
d. Music is an EXPRESSION of what is already in the heart.
• Music is NOT a means of unifying the Body. It should be an expression of the unity that already exists. We are already ONE in the Spirit… by virtue of Spirit baptism—not music!
• Singing does NOT a means of unifying us doctrinally. We join voices to sing as an expression of the fact that we already SHARE faith in these wonderful truths. We sing in unity because we share a common faith…
• Singing is the EFFECT not the cause of unity.
• Singing is the EFFECT of the Word richly dwelling in our hearts… not the cause.
• Singing does not get us stirred up to become SPIRITUAL and ready for worship.
• Singing is the EFFECT of a Spirit filled life… not the cause.
• So the youth today who are pushing Contemporary Christian Music and are trying to unite the church to get in the Spirit in church through music are dead wrong in their approach.
• When God’s Spirit and God’s Word are in control of our hearts, singing will be the effect.
8. Singing: An expression of joy.
a. If the heart is richly indwelt by the Word and controlled by the Holy Spirit, there will be an overflow of JOY… the joy of the Lord.
b. Jam. 5:13 – if merry, then sing!
c. Melody in the heart…
d. A heart richly indwelt by the word will naturally experience the joy of the Lord.
9. When God is in control, there is a song in the heart… REGARDLESS of the earthly circumstances.
a. Undesirable earthly conditions cannot take away from the JOY of the Lord in the heart… not when the Spirit is in control.
b. Hab. 3:17-18 – no fruit on the vine, but there should be fruit in the heart… JOY! That translates into music.
• If God is our Savior, then we have an inexhaustible reservoir… an unending resource for the joy of the Lord.
• Our joy as a Christian does not come to us through possessions or experiences, but through a Person… whom Habakkuk knew as the Lord.
• We know this Person as the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within… and the influence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.
• John 7:39 – out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water… this He spake of the Holy Spirit. An endless supply of life and joy.
• Man can take away our health and our possessions, but NO MAN can take away our joy. No man can rob us of a song in the heart.
• Then notice that Habakkuk explains that his words were to be used in worship—as a song to be accompanied by musical instruments.
• The ode (beginning in 3:1) is a very sad song but it ends on a bright note!
10. Acts 16:22-25 – Paul demonstrated this IN PRISON.
a. Paul and Silas were not singing out of happiness derived from their earthly condition.
b. They sang because God put a song in their heart… the word was richly dwelling in their hearts… and they were filled with the Spirit of God.
c. Therefore, they SANG! This was the evidence of their condition!
d. Men took away their freedom, their health, and maybe their possessions, but could not touch their joy… because it was related to their NEW life which was hidden away in heaven with Christ in God.
e. Imagine the impact of a song of thanksgiving coming from the lips of Paul and Silas shackled in a dingy prison… blood caked on their backs from repeated floggings…
f. The fact that these men still had a song in their hearts after the beating, the humiliation, and imprisonment they received MUST have had an impact on the jail keeper.
g. My guess is that this was the very first time in all of his years as a prison guard that he saw beaten, bloody prisoners JOYFULLY singing till the wee hours of the night!
h. It must have been seen as EVIDENCE of the reality of the message Paul and Silas spoke. It was proof that Christ in us DOES change lives!
i. Humanly speaking they had nothing to be thankful for. But spiritually, they were blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in Christ… and they knew it!
j. Though they were imprisoned physically, they were perfectly free in mind, heart, and conscience!
k. Perhaps they sang a song of personal testimony, similar to “Amazing Grace”… or “Burdens are Lifted at Calvary!” or “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus!”
l. Or maybe there was another first century hymn with words similar to “though Satan should buffet, though trials should come; let this blest assurance control; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul!”
m. Or maybe Paul sang the poem written by Habakkuk!
n. What a compelling testimony!
11. It is often true that some of the most painful earthly experiences have resulted in some of the richest Christian music!
a. It is Well with My Soul… (lost his daughters at sea)
b. O Love that Wilt not Let Me Go (George Matheson = his fiancée left him when she heard he would be blind. It is reported that she said, “I do not want to be the wife of a blind preacher.”)
c. Ron Hamilton’s, “O Rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistakes!” (written during the period when he lost an eye to cancer)
d. Painful experiences on earth do not have the POWER to take away the song from a heart in which the Word dwells richly… and the Spirit controls.
e. Those harsh and bitter experiences in our earthly lives CANNOT diminish the song in our heart. They cannot take away the song; they rather give it a depth and richness it would otherwise not have!
12. The dual influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the richly indwelling Word of Christ result in joyful singing…
a. And that song in our heart is related to our new life hidden away in heaven with Christ in God…
b. The storms of life cannot take that song away from our hearts as long as we yield SELF to God… and LET the Word dwell richly in us.
c. When our eyes are on Christ and self is yielded to God, the buffeting of our enemy only STRENGTHENS our relationship to Christ… it only ENABLES us to experience the power of the resurrection… and thus, adds a new DEPTH and richness to the song in our hearts!
d. Your joy NO man can take from you… because a mighty Fortress is our God!