There is much debate today regarding singing hymns or not. Some feel that hymns are too old and need to be retired. Others believe hymns are the only way we should go regarding worship and that contemporary songs are wrong. I contend that we need not an either or, but a both. There are contemporary songs that express how we feel and they help us to be drawn into worship. I also believe the hymns are good because they continue to teach us the truth we stand on.
If you read the words of some of the songs from the hymnbooks, you will realize these are words that were penned to tell the truth of the Bible. The Hymnal of the Church of God supports the theological concepts of “sin”, “salvation”, “sanctification” and the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in the early years of the movement. Look at the songs listed below and what the verses mean–
Sin - “Sin Can Never Enter There” –
VS. 1 - Heaven is a holy place filled with glory and with grace; Sin can never enter there: All within its gates are pure, from defilement kept secure; Sin can never enter there.
VS 2 – If you hope to dwell at last, When your life on earth is past, in that home so bright and fair, You must here be cleansed from sin, Have the life of Christ within.
These verses explain that with out the saving grace of Christ, no one can enter into heaven and one can only expect hell. The song says in verse 4 “to the regions of the lost. This song also explains that sin is what keeps us from a right relationship with God and from receiving any “good thing” from him, until we are cleansed. This is a scriptural truth. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
Salvation – “Calvary Covers It All” –
VS 2 – The stripes that He bore and the thorns that He wore Told His mercy and love ever more; And my heart bowed in shame as I called on His name.
VS 4 – How blessed the thought, that my soul by Him bought, Shall be His in the glory on high, Where with gladness and song I’ll be one of the throng.
These verses explain that first God’s spirit through prevenient grace brings one to the place of acceptance or rejection in Christ and when one has the understanding of what Jesus did for them at Calvary, that one “bows in shame (repentance) as they call on His name. And the promise is that once you are his, you will have an eternal home with him among others that have also confessed and believed. “but he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” – Isaiah 53:5
Sanctification – “Let the Fire Fall on Me” –
VS 2 – I would have sufficient grace Ev’ry foe to bravely face, And an overcomer ever more to be; That I well may fill my place, And that I may win the race, Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me. The fire of Pentecost, consuming sin and dross.
VS 3 – Holy Spirit from above, Fill my longing soul with love, till the Master’s image all in me may see; Make me gentle, true and kind, Meek of heart and humble mind.
VS 4 – In the Kingdom I would stay, There to labor night and day, Any way and anywhere Thy will may be; But that I may do my best, And that others may be blest.
This song explains the working of the Holy Spirit within the life of a believer. He matures us in the things of God, doing his “perfecting” work within our lives. Helping us to be gentle, true, kind and humble. He equips us to do the work of the Lord and to hold fast to our faith in God so that we can stay within the safety of God’s presence. “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” – 2 Timothy 1:12
Indwelling of the Holy Spirit – “Are you Adorning the Doctrine?” –
VS 1 – …walking so holy before Him, following where he has trod, So when the world looks up-on you, Nothing but Christ s in view?
VS 2 – Are you adorning the doctrine, and making attractive the way, honoring Christ by your actions and by the words that you say? Are you, my brother and sister, proving the Bible is true?
VS 4 – If you’re adorning the doctrine, Its beauties your soul will array; shower of grace will be given Strength from the Lord as your day; light from on high will be streaming, Over the pathway you tread.
I’m not sure if others see this song as one expressing the indwelling of the Sprit, but this song explains to me what it looks like not just to be “doing right or doing doctrinal things”, but it shows me that when one is living for God, his spirit is what will enable you to do what is biblical. It is not by our own power, for we cannot resist the fleshly things without the power of God. When we are living by the Spirit of God then and only then, will we show the world Jesus in us. As we release ourselves to God’s Spirit we begin to reflect more the image of Jesus and less of “self”.
So why do I present these songs? Let’s not try to eliminate the heritage of the songs from our past. We can revisit them and make them new and fresh again for a new generation to understand the greatness of the word of God. So should we sing hymns only? Should we sing contemporary music only? I say not an either or, but both.