16Let 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.
For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing our tradition of preaching through the psalms. So let us review once again why this is a fitting tradition. Why should we devote considerable time and attention to the psalms? In our day, various ideologies have divorced Christians from the OT. Consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation Paul lays in our text today.
First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the various types of songs found in the book of psalms. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the book of Psalms. It contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in and through the voices of our brethren.
Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.
Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. By nature, we are all sinners; we have hearts of stone, hearts that love neither God nor neighbor rightly. When God delivers us from our depravity by His grace, He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; He makes us true worshipers. By His grace, He transforms our loves and enables us to sing truly. While any sinner can sing the psalms with his lips; only a true worshiper, by grace, can join heart and lips together in song.
Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.
So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness.