"THE SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN" Walking In Truth And Love (4-6) INTRODUCTION 1. In his greeting to the "elect lady and her children", John wrote that the grace, mercy, and love which proceeds from the Father and the Son is in the sphere of "truth and love" - 2Jn 3 2. In verses 4-6, he expands upon the theme of "truth and love", doing so in the form of... a. A commendation for walking in truth b. An exhortation to love one another 3. In this study, let's examine this "commendation" and "exhortation", seeking to glean whatever principles or lessons that we can from this passage [Beginning with John's...] I. COMMENDATION FOR WALKING IN TRUTH (4) A. "I REJOICED GREATLY..." 1. Either by visiting or by receiving a report from others, John came to know that some of the "elect lady's" children were walking in the truth 2. This was a source of great joy to John, just as it was when he heard the same thing about Gaius - cf. 3Jn 3 3. As expressed to Gaius, there was no greater joy than hearing about others walking in truth - cf. 3Jn 4 4. What about the joy of hearing someone obeying the gospel? a. As great as that might be, there is always the possibility that one will not carry through with their initial obedience to Christ b. That realization can temper one's joy c. But when time reveals that the person continues to walk in truth, that removes the question of whether one will carry through with their obedience to Christ 5. Thus a great source of joy in the Christian faith can be in the follow up of new converts, as well as in the evangelization of the lost B. "...I HAVE FOUND SOME OF YOUR CHILDREN..." 1. Unfortunately, John could not say "all", but only "some" 2. This reminds us that even the best of parents may have erring children a. Despite the fact that this mother was so special she was called "the elect lady" b. Like Samuel, the prophet of God, she had some children who were not faithful to the Lord - cf. 1Sa 8:1-3 3. Whose fault is this? a. Some might say that in view of Pr 22:6, an erring child is always the parent's fault b. However, such a view of Pr 22:6 suggests a belief in "environmental predestination" 1) I.e., that if the parent provides the proper environment in raising the child, there is no choice for the child but to turn out a certain way 2) This would strip the child of any personal responsibility, and lay the blame solely upon the parents 3) While the parent will bear some responsibility if no effort is made to restrain the child in his sin, the ultimate responsibility is the child's - cf. 1 Sam 3:11-13; Ezek 18:20 c. There is another view of Pr 22:6... 1) The literal rendering is "train up a child according to his own way..." 2) I.e., according to his own temperament, aptitude, etc. 3) E.g., if he is mechanically inclined, don't try to make him an office worker 4) This view recognizes that this verse, like much of Proverbs, is giving practical advice on the raising of children, and to realize that children are different and should raised according to their particular disposition and skills 5) Failure to recognize this results in a child being forced to become something he is not, and he will not likely remain in it 4. The fact remains that despite the best parenting, some children simply choose to rebel against God C. "...WALKING IN TRUTH, AS WE HAVE RECEIVED COMMANDMENT FROM THE FATHER." 1. This expresses the idea of living in harmony with the truth found in God's Word 2. Everything one does demonstrates a life that is governed by God's commandments 3. Is this "legalism"? No! It is what it means to truly love God - cf. 1Jn 5:3; Jn 14:15; 15:14 [So with great joy in his heart, John commends the elect lady and her children for their walking in the truth. But an emphasis on walking in truth without an equal emphasis on loving one another can easily develop a harsh, impatient, and insensitive disposition towards others, just as knowledge without love produces arrogance (cf. 1Co 8:1). Therefore it should not surprise us to find John following his commendation for walking in truth with an...] II. EXHORTATION TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER (5-6) A. "AND NOW I PLEAD WITH YOU, LADY..." 1. The tone of John's entreaty suggests the seriousness of this exhortation 2. Certainly John stressed in his first epistle the importance of this command to love one another - cf. 1Jn 2:10; 3:14; 4:20-21 3. Therefore this is a commandment not to be taken lightly B. "NOT AS THOUGH I WROTE A NEW COMMANDMENT..." 1. The commandment is not a new one a. It did not originate from John b. It is one which his readers had known since the beginning of their Christian experience - cf. 1Jn 2:7; 3:11 2. It is the commandment given by Jesus Himself - Jn 13:34-35; 15:17 C. "THAT WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER" 1. The commandment given by Jesus is to love another 2. Especially according to the standard of love laid down by Jesus: "as I have loved you, that you also love one another" - Jn 13:34 D. "THIS IS LOVE, THAT WE WALK ACCORDING TO HIS COMMANDMENTS" 1. Here we learn what best demonstrates that we truly love one another 2. When I am keeping the commandments of God, I demonstrate true love for my brethren! - cf. 1Jn 5:2 3. I can claim brotherly love all day long, but unless I am walking according to God's commandments my claim is meaningless E. "THIS IS THE COMMANDMENT...YOU SHOULD WALK IN IT." 1. This sentence is simply reinforcing what John has been saying a. The command to love is one we have had from the beginning b. We should therefore keep this commanding by walking in love 2. Such repetition is often necessary... a. For there is always a tendency to hear and not obey b. The three "R's" of learning is "repetition, repetition, repetition" CONCLUSION 1. With joy in his heart, John commends; with a pleading voice he exhorts a. He commends them for walking in truth b. He exhorts them to walk in love 2. There is ever a tendency to do one without the other... a. Some hold to the truth, but do so without love; this breeds harshness b. Others are quick to display love, but neglect the truth; this produces compromise 3. Both are wrong, and there is only one alternative: to walk in the truth, and to walk in love! May God help us always to do both faithfully!
Corinth in History and Archaeology
The biblical accounts of the travels of Paul often include societal information that is made more pertinent by a historical and archaeological examination of the locations of the churches founded in Acts. One such church was in Corinth in Achaia, where Paul stayed a year and a half during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:11). From Acts 18:1-18, it can be determined that there were a substantial number of Jews in the city (as evinced by the presence of a synagogue—18:4), that, likely, Corinth was the seat of government for the Roman province of Achaia (as evinced by the mention of Gallio as proconsul—18:12), and that it was a port city (18:18).
This provides some evidence, from which can be reconstructed only a vague view of the city and people of Corinth. However, through a consideration of the archaeological and ancient historical evidence, the Corinth of Paul’s time can come alive to the readers of Acts and the books of First and Second Corinthians. Plus, the text itself becomes more significant, once a background of the city and its people is understood. The Bible speaks only briefly about Corinth, but it is obvious from what is said, that it was a very important city. The geography of Achaia, and even the geography of that part of the Mediterranean, played a major role in ancient Corinth. Greece was divided between the mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsula, with a narrow isthmus connecting the two. Corinth was located just to the southwest of the isthmus, on the peninsula, overlooking the isthmus. With this location, Corinth was able to control all the terrestrial traffic (commercial and otherwise) that moved from the mainland to the peninsula (DeVries, 1997, p. 359). Corinth was serviced by two ports: Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth, which was a little more than a mile to the north of Corinth and led to Italy; and Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf, which was a little more than six miles to the east and led to Asia Minor (Harrison, 1985, pp. 83-84).
The southernmost tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula, known as Cape Maleae, was the route around Greece, and was known for being a dangerous path (Blaiklock, 1965, p. 56; Harrison, p. 83). There even came to be a saying, based on the treacherous nature of the waters of Cape Maleae: “When you double Maleae, forget your home” (Harrison, p. 83). Because of this, ships carrying goods bound for Italy often unloaded in port at Cenchreae. Their goods were carried across the five-mile wide isthmus, and then were reloaded in the port at Lechaeum aboard ships bound for Italy. Smaller, lighter boats were placed on “trolleys” and moved along the diolkos, a paved highway that joined the gulfs at Cenchreae and Lechaeum (Blaiklock, p. 56; Harrison, pp. 83-84; DeVries, p. 360). Thus, Corinth was in a geographical position to control all traffic between Asia Minor in the east and Italy in the west, and between mainland Greece in the north and the Peloponnesian peninsula in the south.
Legend records that the mythological Argo, piloted by Jason with his crew of Argonauts, was built at Corinth (Blaiklock, p. 57). Historically, the area where Corinth sat was inhabited sporadically before the founding of the city itself, which occurred when Dorian Greeks settled in the area and founded the city of Corinth around 1000 B.C. Corinth soon established colonies on the islands of Sicily and Corfu in the eighth century B.C., and reached a new position of dominance during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. It was during this time that Periander, son of Cypselus, built the diolkos between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth (DeVries, pp. 360-361). During the fifth century B.C., Athens challenged the Corinthian control of commerce by attempting to take over certain trade interests and colonies. Sparta, the rival city of Athens, sided with Corinth, and the city-states of Greece were plunged into the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C. Sparta and Corinth prevailed, but Athens and Sparta continued to fight until the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians in 338 B.C. (Blaiklock, p. 57). As the Roman Empire began its conquest of the Mediterranean world, the Corinthians tried to defend themselves, but were destroyed in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who slaughtered the men and sold the women and children into slavery. There was no real Corinth for almost a hundred years, until Julius Caesar reestablished it as a Roman colony in 44 B.C., and it was made the capital of Achaia in 27 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Corinth was again the center of trade in Greece between Asia Minor and Rome (DeVries, p. 362; Harrison, pp. 84-85). It is therefore no wonder, seeing the great amount of commercial trafficking through Corinth, that Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla there plied their trade as tentmakers (Acts 18:2-3).
As a city, Corinth enjoyed good land, with the prominent feature being a 1,887-foot-tall limestone mountain called the Acrocorinth. The soil near the Acrocorinth was not fertile, but to the west the land was considered good agricultural property (Harrison, p. 86). The Acrocorinth served as the citadel for Corinth, with the temple of Aphrodite perched atop it, which supposedly housed one thousand shrine prostitutes (Harrison, p. 86; Duffield, 1985, p. 22). Regarding Corinth’s economy, LaMoine DeVries wrote:
Corinth had an economy based on trade and commerce, industry, and agriculture. While the annual rainfall of the region was quite limited, the city benefited from the production of agricultural products in the fertile coastal plain nearby, especially the cultivation of orchards and vineyards. In addition to agriculture, Corinth had at least two thriving industries that produced pottery and bronze metal works that were shipped throughout the Mediterranean (p. 360).
Since 1896, archeologists under the direction of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens have been excavating ancient Corinth. They found that during the time of Paul, many great buildings were being reconstructed after their destruction at the hands of Lucius Mummius, and that many new building were being built as well. This possibly explains Paul’s use of construction metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (see Furnish, 1988, pp. 16-17). Remains have been found of a sixth century B.C. Doric temple that was restored in the first century B.C., of which seven columns are still standing. Some say that this was the temple to Apollo, but no one is certain. Just to the north of the temple of Apollo was the north market, which housed shops for the sale of foodstuffs. The theater lay to the west of the north market, and was rebuilt and renovated many times throughout the years (Furnish, pp. 22-23).
An interesting archaeological find lies between the north market and the theater in the form of an inscription. This finding probably refers to a public official of Corinth, whom Paul appears to have identified by name in his letter to the Romans. In Romans 16:23 Paul conveyed greetings to the Roman church from several people, one of whom was “Erastus, the city treasurer.” Since the apostle almost certainly wrote Romans from Corinth, Erastus was probably the treasurer of the city. Erastus is associated specifically with Corinth in 2 Timothy 4:20. The Erastus inscription, which was found in Corinth in 1929, has been dated to the second half of the first century A.D.. Originally, it consisted of letters carved into limestone paving blocks and then inlaid with metal. Only two metal punctuation marks remain, however, although most of the inscription itself is still visible in a small plaza just east of the theater (Furnish, p. 20). The inscription in the pavement is translated, “Erastus in return for his aedileship [position as magistrate—AP] laid [the pavement] at his own expense” (Furnish, p. 20). It is highly possible that this is the same Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23, 2 Timothy 4:20, and Acts 19:22.
To the south of the theater and temple of Apollo were several other temples, religious shrines, and Roman-style public buildings. Also present was a basilica, probably used as the judicial headquarters for the city of Corinth. If this were true, then Paul likely would have appeared before Gallio (Acts 18:12-17) at the basilica instead of at the ceremonial bema in the center of the forum (Furnish, p. 23). DeVries gave a very well summarized walk-through of Corinth, based on the archaeological evidence discovered:
The major entrance to the city was from the north; the Lechaion road moved from the Gulf of Corinth and its port southward to the city. As the road entered the city, its width increased to nearly twenty-five feet. It was paved with slabs of limestone and was lined with raised sidewalks with channels for drainage, colonnades, and shops. Beyond the shops to the west was a large rectangular basilica, the great temple of Apollo, the north market, and a theater. The large basilica, often called the north basilica, with chambers at each end, apparently functioned as a large hall. It was divided by two rows of columns and was perhaps used for a variety of public meetings. The temple of Apollo, originally built in the sixth century BCE, was designed with thirty-eight columns, seven of which remain standing today. The peribolos of Apollo and the fountain of Peirene were located east of the thoroughfare. The peribolos was a large courtyard enclosed by columns and dedicated to Apollo whose statue stood in its midst. The fountain of Peirene, a large reservoir with a capacity of more than eighty-one thousand gallons, was fed by natural springs and provided the major source of water for the city (p. 364).
DeVries went on to describe the agora, or market, which was divided by a row of shops and the bema [seat or step of judgment—AP] into the lower and upper forums; the bouleuterion, where the council met; a series of shops, possibly restaurants or bars, where pits, fed with cold spring water, kept wine cool; small temples to Apollo, Tyche, Venus and Hera located to the west of the agora; the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore; a large pottery industrial area; and the Lerna-Asclepeum complex, which contained bathing, exercise, and dining areas all devoted to the healing of the infirmed and consecrated to Asclepius, the god of healing (pp. 365-366).
While dated later than the time of Paul, two archaeological finds proved that there was a significant number of Jews at Corinth. The first was an inscription that read, “Synagogue of the Hebrews,” proving that there were enough Jews in Corinth, at least as late as the fourth century, to warrant building a synagogue. Another piece, apparently from a synagogue, showed typical Jewish decorations of candelabras, palm branches, and citron (Furnish, p. 26). Other archaeological finds in the city of Corinth included a bronze mirror that had been made in Corinth, statues, a fountain with sculpted dolphins, and terra cotta models of body parts that were used in healing rituals at the Lerna-Asclepeum healing complex (Furnish, pp. 17-26).
As a major influence in the Roman Empire, Corinth was able to control all east-west commerce, and all Grecian north-south commerce. Many buildings and inscriptions have been found that confirm the biblical record of Corinth, and which prove that the accounts found in Acts and First and Second Corinthians are true and accurate. The more archaeologists dig into the deep, dark earth, the more they shed light upon the Bible and its accuracy.
Blaiklock, E.M. (1965), Cities of the New Testament (London, England: Revell).
DeVries, LaMoine F. (1997), Cities of the Biblical World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Duffield, Guy P. (1985), Handbook of Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Furnish, Victor Paul (1988), “Corinth in Paul’s Time—What Can Archaeology Tell Us?” Biblical Archaeology Review, 14:15-27, May/June.
Harrison, R.K. (1985), Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville, TN: Nelson).
Contents of the Ark of the Covenant
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Following Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God instructed them to make a small wooden ark (box) overlaid with gold. The ark was 2.5 cubits long, 1.5 cubits wide, and 1.5 cubits high (or about 3.75 x 2.25 x 2.25 feet) and was called the “Ark of the Testimony” or the “Ark of the Covenant” because it contained the tablets of stone whereon the Ten Commandments were written (Exodus 25:16). According to 1 Kings 8:9, “Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone” (emp. added; cf. 2 Chronicles 5:10). The writer of Hebrews, however, indicated that the ark contained “the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant” (9:4). How can both of these passages be correct?
First, it may be that the Hebrews writer was indicating that the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tablets were in close proximity to the ark, but not necessarily that all three were “in” the ark. Although most English translations refer to what was “in” (NKJV; Greek en) the ark or what the ark “contained” (NIV, RSV), the uses of the Greek preposition en “are so many and various, and oft. so easily confused, that a strictly systematic treatment is impossible” (Danker, 2000, p. 326). Greek lexicographers give numerous definitions for this word, including: among, within the range of, near, before, in the presence of, etc. (Danker, pp. 326-330). Perhaps the writer of Hebrews only intended to communicate that Aaron’s rod, the container of manna, and the tablets of stone were all in close proximity to the ark in the Most Holy Place (the tablets being in the ark, while the manna and rod were “before” the ark; cf. Exodus 16:33-34; Numbers 17:10).
Second, it is also very possible that all three items were literally inside of the ark at one time, but not all of the time. Whenever comparing two or more Bible passages that might initially appear contradictory, one must be sure that the same time frame is under discussion. Such is not the case with Hebrews 9:4 and 1 Kings 8:9. In Hebrews 9, the inspired writer refers to the time of Moses, when “a tabernacle was prepared” (vs. 2; cf. Exodus 25-40). The statement in 1 Kings 8:9 (as well as 2 Chronicles 5:10) is from the time of Solomon, when he built the Temple, approximately 500 years after the tabernacle was constructed. Is it possible that the Ark of the Covenant once contained the tablets of stone, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod, while at another time (i.e., five centuries later) the ark contained only the tablets of stone? Most certainly (cf. 1 Samuel 4-5).
What about the allegation that “Aaron’s staff could hardly have fit anyway, since the ark was a box only 2.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 cubits” (Wells, 2009)? The fact is, no one knows the length of Aaron’s rod. Rods served many purposes (e.g., for support, for administering punishment, as a symbol of authority, etc.; see Allen, 1996, p. 1022) and came in various sizes. In Aaron’s case, it appears that his rod was more of a symbol of his God-given authority than just a mere walking stick. What’s more, even if Aaron had used his rod for support, he may have only been five feet tall and needed a walking stick that was just 3½ feet long. Considering that an average walking cane today is only about three feet long, it should not be surprising that Aaron’s rod could have fit into a box that was nearly four feet long.
Indeed, the wording of 1 Kings 8:9 and Hebrews 9:4 are different. But reasonable explanations exist for the variation. There is no doubt that two different time periods are under discussion. Furthermore, as with many Hebrew and Greek words, it may be that the Greek en (in Hebrews 9:4) should be understood in a broader sense. Whatever the precise contents of the Ark of the Covenant at any given time in history, rest assured, 1 Kings 8:9 and Hebrews 9:4 are not contradictory.
Allen, L.C. (1996), “Rod,” New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), third edition.
Danker, Fredrick William (2000), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), third edition.
Wells, Steve (2009), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/.
Christians, Bible Critics, and Truth
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
No one is perfect. No one but God has ever or will ever get everything correct. Indeed, “To err is human.” The real question is, what will a person do once he makes mistakes? Is he honest enough to admit them? Is he humble enough to swallow his pride? Does he really care about the truth, or does the end justify the means?
To the Christian, truth is paramount. Everything about our God is truth, including His Spirit, His Son, His Word, His judgments, etc. (1 John 5:6; John 14:6; Psalm 19:9; 119:142,160). And the Christian’s pursuit is one of truth (John 8:31-36). The only “agenda” a Christian should have is whatever God’s “agenda” is (i.e., whatever the truthful, omniscient Creator and Savior wants us to be and do, which includes owning up to our mistakes; Luke 18:9-14; Acts 26:20).
When human beings do not acknowledge God and His truthful standard for their lives, deceit eventually rules the day, even though it is often peddled as “truth.” One glaring example of such deceitfulness is seen every day in America in the 21st century: repeated accusations that the Bible is full of discrepancies. Outspoken critics of the Bible’s supernatural inspiration continue to claim certain Bible passages are contradictory, even though time and again many have heard and seen the passages explained in a clear, logical, and biblically consistent manner. Some skeptics have been in numerous public debates where they made allegations against the Bible writers that were truthfully and logically answered. Yet, the same skeptics continue to repeat the same unproven allegations against the Bible writers in future debates, articles, and books.
FACT: skeptics have sought to undermine confidence in the credibility, historicity, and authenticity of the Bible for 2,000 years. Yet, those who have been “set for the defense of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:17) have successfully answered every challenge with careful analysis of the text of the Bible and demonstrated that the charge was unfounded. The Bible has been shown over and over again to possess the attributes and characteristics of a supernatural production. No alleged discrepancy has gone unanswered. Convincing explanations exist for every allegation ever made.
Why would skeptics continue to cite “contradictory” Bible passages, which at the very least they would have to admit are unproven allegations? It would seem for the same reason many in today’s mainstream media continually press certain stories: the end justifies the means. They care more about their own agendas than the truth.
May God help us always to be truthful with ourselves, our God, and our fellow man.
Sing to the Lord!
God created man with the ability to sing. Singing gives words wings and expresses the deepest feelings of our heart.
Singing is the music God has prescribed for His church.
During the historical period of the New Testament and for six hundred years thereafter, singing was the only music used for worship in Christendom.
That is why “a capella”a (Italian for “as in the chapel”) is the designation in music terminology for singing without instrumental accompaniment.
It was not until 666 A.D. that Pope Vitalianus I introduced instruments in the apostate Roman church.
Not only are Christians instructed to sing, they are also told to whom they are to sing, what they are to sing, why they are to sing, and how they are to sing. Not all singing is acceptable to God.
What is singing?
To sing is to vocalize words in melodious tones with rhythmic emphasis. The melody and the rhythm enliven the words, adding depth to their meaning.
To Whom do Christians sing?
Christians sing to the Lord!
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16); “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Christian singing is heart-felt worship directed to God.
Worshipful singing was also directed to the Lord in the Old Testament. Many elements of Old Covenant worship (such as sacrificing animals, burning incense and playing music instruments) have no place in the spiritual worship of the New Testament. Singing, however, is a form of worship found under both covenants.
“I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (Psalm 7:17).
“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1, 2).
“Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!” (1 Chronicles 16:9).
“Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (1 Chronicles 16:23, 24).
Christians sing to the Lord!
What do Christians sing?
We sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).
Because these terms overlap, they are often used interchangeably. Yet there is some distinction.
A hymn is a song of praise. A psalm is a poem that is sung as worship. A spiritual song is a song about a religious topic.
Why do Christians sing?
Christians sing to glorify God not to entertain man. Although Christian singing is directed to God, it also serves as a confession of faith to unbelievers, and as teaching for believers.
Christians sing to glorify God.
As already indicated in several Scriptures, we sing to worship and praise God. When we lift our voices to God in songs of praise, the spirits of others are also lifted.
Christians sing to confess their faith to the nations.
In his victory song, David says, “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (2 Samuel 22:50; see also Psalm 18:49).
Paul quotes this verse to prove that the message of the Messiah would be for all nations: “And thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name’ ” (Romans 15:9 NET).Jesus sang songs of praise with His disciples (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26) and now, two thousand years later, the church of Christ is still singing praise to God as a confession of faith to the nations.
Christians sing to instruct one another.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
In a prophetic Psalm the Messiah says: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Hebrews 2:12).
Followers of the Messiah also instruct their brethren in the assembly as they sing praise to God.
Christians sing on other occasions as well: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
At midnight, in a dark prison cell at Philippi, with feet fastened in the stocks, with backs beaten by many lashes of a whip, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
Christians sing to glorify God, as a confession of faith to non-Christians, and to instruct one another.
How do Christians sing?
Paul says, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Christians sing with the spirit.
Jesus explains that true worship must be in spirit and truth: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24). Thus singing, as a form of worship, must be in spirit and truth.
Worship must come from the heart to please God. That is why Christians sing and make melody in their heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19); that is why they sing to the Lord with grace in their hearts (Colossians 3:16).
David understood that singing must come from the heart: “I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart” (Psalm 9:1).
God listens to the tone-quality of the heart, not the tone-quality of the voice.
Christian singing wells up from the heart and ascends in worship to God.
Someone who sings a religious song to glorify himself or to entertain man, rather than in the spirit to the Lord, is not singing in a way that pleases God.
Christians sing with understanding.
Christian singing is understandable melodious speech. It is “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19); it is “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).
What does Paul mean by, “I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15)?
The assemblies at Corinth were disorderly. People were speaking in languages no one understood, and several people spoke at the same time.
In dealing with this problem, Paul emphasizes an important principle: Public worship must be understandable and edifying.
“Unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air” (1 Corinthians 14:9). “In the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
This also applies to singing: “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Paul wanted to speak with understanding so others could be taught. Thus, to sing with understanding means to sing in such a way that people understand the words and are edified.
Sounds without meaning do not edify.
“Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Edification is a building up, an increase in spiritual insight resulting from instruction.
Through this Scripture God excludes meaningless sounds from the Christian assembly. Sounds without meaningful content do not edify.
This explains why God omitted music instruments from Christian worship. Music instruments are neither spiritual nor intelligible, they do not give instruction.
Paul compares someone without love to music instruments: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Sounding brass and clanging cymbals were used in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 29:25, 26), but lifeless instruments are not suitable for worship in spirit and truth under the New Covenant.
God’s requirement: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26) and the related condemnation of meaningless sounds in the assembly also preclude hand-clapping and the imitation of instruments with the voice. Such body and throat noises are not spiritual and do not have meaningful content.
Christians use the voices God has given them to sing with the spirit and with the understanding. They do not pollute their worship with sounds devoid of meaningful spiritual content.
What have we learned?
Singing is the music God has prescribed for His church. Christians are told to sing, and they have been given precise instructions. They sing to the Lord. They sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing serves to glorify God, as a confession of faith to non-Christians, and as instruction for believers. Christians sing with the spirit and with the understanding. What is sung must be understandable. All things must be done for edification. Meaningless sounds do not edify and are unsuitable for worship in spirit and truth.
“Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:2). Sing to the Lord! Amen.
a Italian for "in the manner of the chapel," literally "according to the chapel," originally “alla capella” or “alla cappella.”
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive