You listen to a preacher deliver a sermon from the pulpit that contains blatant false teaching, do you go out and proclaim it to others as though you believe it? Certainly not, because you do not want anyone to think you believe what he is saying. You turn on your car radio and hear that tune that everyone knows (you know, the one with the up-tempo beat), but then you get to that line in the song where there is the now-found-everywhere curse word, do you sing it? Of course not, because you recognize that singing a curse word in a song is just as wrong as saying one to another person. So, what’s the point?
Unfortunately, many members of the church will not apply the reasoning of the second question to the reasoning of the first question when it regards the songs that are sung in praise to God. It is unfortunate to see so many occasions where brethren will spend hours proclaiming one thing, only to completely ignore their own arguments when singing the exact opposite.
While we claim to understand the principle that our singing is intended to teach and admonish (Col. 3:16), as well as to bring honor and glory to God (Eph. 5:19-20), Christians have oftentimes seemed to miss the overall application of this idea. It means that we have the responsibility to ensure that the words, ideas, concepts, doctrines, and practices proclaimed in our songs are accurate and Biblical.
You see, most of the songs in our song books were not written by members of the body of Christ. They were written by those in denominations who carried their own beliefs and practices into the songs they wrote. While this by no means insinuates that a song written by a denominational individual cannot be right and useful, it does require that we do not assume that it is accurate based solely on its inclusion in the song book in the pew. There are songs in the song books of most congregations that teach erroneous doctrines about the Holy Spirit, the work of angels, premillennialism, salvation, and a host of other topics.
However, most of the time members sing songs simply because it is in the song book, or because they sang it as a child, or because it has a beautiful tune, without ever giving the first thought about what the song actually means. Very few Christians take the time to read the words of the songs they sing and even fewer consciously understand the details being portrayed.
Do not get me wrong, most of the songs in our books are just fine. Nevertheless, there are two extremes to this issue. There are those that desire to twist every song to make it scriptural (even when it blatantly is not) and there are those who try to twist the words of almost every song to make it unscriptural (which is equally wrong). It must be recognized that there can be ambiguity in a song and it not be unscriptural. If a concept is vaguely worded, it should not be assumed that it is intended in an unscriptural way. However, if a false doctrine or practice is explicitly stated, we also don’t have the right to ignore it as “poetic license” and sing it anyway.
Are we actually reading the words of the songs we sing? Could we defend them before God if he asked us to explain what we meant when we sang _________, because we knew he said something different? We need to be just as desirous for sound words in song as we are sound words in the pulpit. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the songs with the best tunes and the most lovely melodies are the ones that have the most problems (funny how that works, isn’t it?).
Make sure the songs you sing in praise to God are ones that praise him according to his will, doctrine, and commands; because there is nothing more insulting to the God of the Universe than to speak the truth in word and sing a lie to him in song. Know what you sing.