Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 23, 1961
NUMBER 29, PAGE 1,12b

Singing For The Sinner's Benefit

Robert C. Welch, Nacogdoches, Texas

Singing praise unto God in our worship is for the benefit of Christians. But it is not limited to them. It has its scriptural place in convincing and persuading the sinner of the Lord and his will. This is true of every act of worship. In the observance of the Lord's supper we show forth the Lord's death. (1 Cor. 11:26) In prayer we demonstrate our dependence upon God and our concern for the sinner's welfare. (James 5:16) In the contribution of our means we show our gratitude to the Lord and our concern for both the soul and body. (Matt. 5:16) Even the preaching which is directed primarily to Christians is also for the benefit of sinners as it reasons to them of righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. In like manner, singing, though directed primarily unto God and secondarily to the saints, contains instruction and exhortation which the sinner needs.

"One Another"

The Scriptures teach that we are to teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as we sing with grace in our hearts unto God. (Col. 3:16) It is true that this is specifically addressed to the saints (one another). Does this prohibit the utilizing of a song to teach and encourage a sinner to obey the Lord? Someone may have concluded that the law of generic and specific, or of inclusion and exclusion, applied in this case will exclude the use of what is commonly called an invitation song. Further study is needed before setting upon such a conclusion. In the first place, if the song contains principles of the truth and if there are sinners in the audience to hear, it performs as much teaching and admonishing function to those sinners as is contained in the song and as they are willing to accept. If the command (Matt. 28:19) to teach be generic, and since this passage shows that singing is one method of teaching, then it is in order to utilize this method of teaching the sinner, whether the passage in Colossians specifies him or not.

A further point needs clarifying in the analysis of the passage in Colossians. The letter is addressed to saints and faithful brethren. (Col. 1:2) In this salutation the term saint is made synonymous with "faithful brethren," with the word translated and having the significance of even, as is often the case. Otherwise it would mean that a faithful brother is something other than or different from the saints. Considering, then, that the letter is addressed to the faithful, if the statement of Colossians 3:16 excludes singing for the benefit of the alien, it would also exclude singing for the teaching and admonishing of the unfaithful brother. The same type of reasoning would soon absurdly seduce the singing to those only who are without sin.

Furthermore, the same general line of particular instruction is continued into chapter 4:5, where he says; "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Hence, we have the specific instruction to let our actions be directed toward them that are without. The specific act of singing is included among those actions to which he refers in this passage. The faithful would be in violation of this latter passage if he refused to use this method of teaching and admonition which is specified in Col. 3:16. This is not to be construed to mean, however, that the congregation must engage in singing every time a sinner is present, any more than it could mean that we must have preaching every time one is present.

For The Unlearned

Singing is intended for the instruction of the ignorant. "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else if thou bless with the spirit, how shall he that filleth the place of the unlearned say the Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he knoweth not what thou sayest?" (1 Cor. 14:15, 16) Though this passage is primarily concerned with the use of miraculous gifts such as the speaking in tongues, yet it does emphasize the use that is to be made of prayer and singing. As stated in the first paragraph, prayer is to have its effect upon the unlearned as he hears and understands the prayer; is singing to be engaged in for the same effect.

Among The Nations

The word praise as used in Romans 15:9-11 is said by such men as McKnight and Thayer to mean "sing praise." But this passage speaks of praise being given the Lord among the Gentiles. The first quotation in the passage signifies that the righteous will give praise (confess), and sing unto the name of God among the Gentiles. The second and third are addressed to the Gentiles themselves instructing them to sing praise. In view of the fact that we are to "teach all nations" and that we are to "give praise.... among the nations;" for the word is sometimes translated Gentiles, sometimes nations; and that the nations themselves are instructed to sing praise, how could we reject the singing of instruction and admonition to the sinner? We should be striving to make the full use of such a scriptural act.

Affects "All The People"

The same word emphasized in the former paragraph has a rather unique relationship in Acts 2:47. The subject of the action of this verse is found in verse 44, "all that believed." Notice the connection: "all that believed .... praising God, and having favor with all the people." Hence, the expression "all the people" does not refer to the believers, but to those who did not believe. So, we have it that, among other things which they did, their singing praise unto God resulted in gaining favor with all the people. When believers praise God it has a direct effect upon the unbeliever.

No ritual should be made of the "invitation song," and the song is not the invitation, the Lord does the inviting. But the use of a song to teach and encourage all, both saint and sinner, to obey the Lord, is not to be despised, but is certainly scriptural and right.