Doctrine matters. Truth matters. As Christians, we don’t need to know a lot of things to make our lives count for Christ, but we do need to know some key, foundational truths that are simply breathtaking in their reality and overwhelming in their impact. This means going deep, deep into the Bible where we can swim for a lifetime and yet never reach the end of that ocean of grace.
Because doctrine matters, when we gather for corporate worship, what we sing matters. The apostle Peter writes that we, as Christians, are living stones, a spiritual house, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:5-9). We are also the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23). As His body, as His church, it is our duty and our delight to know Him through the Bible. (2 Timothy 2:7, Galatians 1:11, 1 Peter 1:13). One way we do that is through singing.
Many of the songs that we sing are filled with words, lots of them, without any repeating. While this may require more time to be able to sing the song freely, the payoff is worth the effort. It is in these kind of songs – the ones filled with many verses – that the breadth and height and depth of our Triune God can be savored and proclaimed.
It is my hope and prayer that we learn truth, that we learn sound doctrine, and that we learn the whole counsel of God through our singing. Let’s look at some lyrics in these doctrinally-rich songs:
(Sovereignty of God (from a Wesley!)) - Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quick-ning ray. I woke the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed Thee.
(Substitutionary Atonement) – ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied for every sin on Him was laid. Here in the death of Christ I live.
(Particular Redemption) – Crown Him the Lord of Life who triumphed o’er the grave, who rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
(The Immutability of God) – Unshaken by the schemes of man, never-changing Great I AM. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, He is faithful through it all.
(Perseverance of the Saints/Eternal Security) - When I feel my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast. When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path for my love is often cold. He must hold me fast.
(Total Depravity) - I once was lost in darkest night, yet thought I knew the way. The sin that promised joy and life had led me to the grave. I had no hope that You would own a rebel to Your will, and if You had not loved me first I would refuse You still. But as I ran my hell-bound race indifferent to the cost, You looked upon my helpless state and led me to the cross.
These are just a few examples of how truth-filled, theologically-vibrant songs are some of the most well-loved songs that we know and sing. We might not recognize the specific doctrinal labels, but we are singing these truths every week.
Now, I implore you to go further. Don’t let these lyrics be the sum and substance of the basis for your belief in these truths. Go deep into the Bible. Fill your mind and heart with Scripture. Long for it; savor it; delight in it. May you never be satisfied in the thoughts and opinions of man when you can read the very words of God. So, by all means, continue to sing, but do so with the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God in your mind, in your heart, and in your hands.