Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
This is a follow up to an earlier post on “the singing church.” Since it was an important question and one likely asked of others, I include it and my response below.
This post leans in the direction one must (cannot help but) praise by singing. What about the person who is uncomfortable with the “singing” parts of a corporate church gathering. This person may love Christian music and may love to listen to praise songs. But this individual does not vocally sing. Is it a matter of praise without singing, e.g. on the inside, with dance, with journaling, etc.? Or is it praise with singing and other acceptable responses to God and His work in our lives? Is it either/or, or both/and?
The ending of the Bible’s songbook, Psalm 150:6, exclaims “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” This praise is grounded in God’s Person and His work (v. 2): “Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness.” God is to be praised everywhere (v. 1) and with everything (vv. 3-5).
In the New Testament during Jesus’ final triumphal entry into Jerusalem, on the way to the cross, the Pharisees were greatly bothered because of the praise and worship of the disciples and the crowd that accompanied Jesus. In response, a rebuke, Jesus responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk. 19:40). And finally and ultimately, in the final book of the Bible, Revelation, singing occurs among the redeemed around the throne (e.g., 5:9-14).
So now to the question: Is singing part of being redeemed, of being transformed? I think it is. It is what we will be doing corporately around the throne forever, which means we will be doing that imperfectly now, “tuning our instruments” (C. S. Lewis, “A Word About Praising,” in Reflections on the Psalms) here for the concert around the throne there. It has been said that preaching will one day end, while singing will not.
On the one hand, one could point to the commands of Scripture regarding singing. And that would suffice. But there is to be, on the other hand, something more. It ought to be expressed in delight. We are here and now to be engaged in doing what we will do around the throne for eternity. Will we be singing praises? Will they be verbalized? Yes, I believe they will (Rev. 5:9, “And they sang . . .”). Though I must confess I don’t know exactly what that will be like as I have never experienced life in a resurrected and glorified body. But Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection gives us in his post-resurrected and glorified body a depiction of what it will be like.
It seems to me that the redeemed sing. I don’t see any examples to the contrary in Scripture. In fact, the wonderful Psalm 107 contrasts the redeemed who thank the Lord and the “wicked shut their mouths” (v. 42, NIV). Though this is not our final state, what we are doing now is tuning our instruments for the great banquet feast, to change the metaphor. We ought to be engaging now in what we will be doing in eternity. In fact, this reflects that the future kingdom has broken in to the present in how we live and the activities in which we engage.
The fact that one does not sing or “grins and bears it” reflects the reality of my post – we are not yet in heaven, the kingdom has come, yes, but not in full. There will come a day when he will sing, when all redeemed will sing and will want to sing. And then our faith will have become sight and any remnants of duty will have been glorified so that it will only be delight.
Marantha, come Lord Jesus!