“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
God’s people are a spiritually minded people. James declares in the above short passage that when the heart is downtrodden, let it be lifted up in prayer to God. When the heart is upbeat, let it be lifted up in praise through song to God. Both prayer and singing are natural outlets of the heart of the child of God. Consider three valid reasons on the topic of singing as to why God’s people sing.
Singing Expresses the Joy of the Heart. While singing is a part of the worship of the church (cf. Heb. 2:12), it should never be a mere expression of “Well, it is commanded so let’s obey.” Some may want to portray the singing of God’s people as mere legalistic expression, but such is not the case when one searches into the heart of those who understand. God’s people have a reason to sing. One of the great songs of the Psalms has these words, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” (Ps. 51:14-15). Saved people sing. When one comes to grips with the depth of one’s sin and then realizes that through the grace of God the forgiveness of those sins is found, the heights of joy are openly expressed in praise and thanksgiving. David also wrote, “I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:6). Again, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1). Life is centered in God and the child of God understands “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Singing Educates and Encourages Those Hearing. Luke wrote of Paul and Silas, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). Those prisoners were privileged to listen to two men show that suffering is not fatal to the soul. Paul wrote to the Colossians concerning singing, “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” (Col. 3:16). Congregational singing involves that teaching and admonishing of one another. Singing with grace in the heart to the Lord is very moving in encouragement toward those who hear. While singing is directed toward the Lord, indirectly it is uplifting toward those who hear.
Singing Embodies the Spirit of What God is Seeking. David wrote, “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord” (Ps. 27:6). Again, “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy” (Ps. 59:17). Solomon wrote, “In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice” (Prov. 29:6). Isaiah wrote, “Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth” (Isa. 12:5). Again, “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart” (Isa. 65:13-14).
“Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you” Romans 16:16
Saints in the church are well aware of this passage. The religious world is so divided through human inventions and doctrines of men that the passage has lost its significance to many. While the church is designated by other phrases [i.e. the church (Eph. 1:22), the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2), etc.), there is nothing denominational about the usage of a Biblical phrase; otherwise, Paul would be doing what he charged the Corinthians not to do (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10, 13). The long list of names in Romans 16 would be a small illustration of what constituted “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). Consider some of the details from that list which would magnify the importance of churches of Christ.
Identified as Being in Christ. Over and over is the identification that all these were to be greeted or saluted in view of their connection to Christ and thus to each other. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my helpers in Christ Jesus:” (Rom. 16:3). “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved” (Rom. 16:7-9). Notice the other passages that denote this same designation of being in Christ (cf. Rom. 16:10, 11, 12, 13). Paul made it clear previous to the Roman letter that in order to be “in Christ” one must be baptized into Christ. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). Being outside of Christ is to be without God and thus without hope (cf. Eph. 2:12). Being in Christ is to be where all spiritual blessings are found (cf. Eph. 1:3).
Inclusive of Varying Demographics. Jesus declared plainly that the gospel was for all and thus the conditions of salvation in the gospel were for all who would obey (cf. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16). The church was not to be divided by gender, nationality, age, etc. Paul commends to the church at Rome “Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:” (Rom. 16:1). Paul mentions another woman, “Greet Mary, who bestowed much labor on us” (Rom. 16:6). Paul was by no means a male who despised women in the church. Paul respected Gentiles (cf. Rom. 16:4) as well as Jews (cf. Rom. 1:16; 16:11) in the church. Varying locations of brethren did not change the relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Important to Paul, Who was also in the Church. The Holy Spirit through Paul wanted the brethren at Rome to know that all other congregations in Christ worldwide greeted them through this letter. The common bond of all was through the brotherhood in the church. Paul knew how he became a part of the church. He wrote to the Corinthians, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). God specifically set the apostles first in the church concerning the work of it (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28). Therefore, Paul was a member of churches of Christ. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) brought him into the “one body” (Eph. 4:4). Would that all be in the same church like Paul was!
“He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Prov. 25:28).
The Hebrew word translated “rule” (Prov. 25:28) means “restraint, control” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 784). This passage indicates the danger of a lack of control over oneself. Such can produce major destruction. Another passage along these same lines declares, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). Ruling one’s spirit is better than major military victories. While people may not see the importance of such from a cursory observation, such is true from a variety of practical vantage points (cf. peace, unity, building lasting relationships, etc.). Just because one has won a war does not guarantee a lasting peace. Consider three areas of life that are important to control when it comes to the inner man.
Appetites of the Flesh. Various fleshly desires (hunger, thirst, sexuality, etc.) are to be governed by the word of God and controlled by the inner man in keeping with the word of God. Man is not to live by the “law of the jungle.” The Bible is explicit about the danger of the “lusts of the flesh” (1 John 2:16; Gal. 5:16, 24; Rom. 6:12) as the guiding force of a mortal life. Temperance is the approach toward filling the belly (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; Gal. 5:22-23). Marriage is the honorable relationship for intimate relationships (cf. Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:2-6). The faith in Christ included such things (cf. Acts 24:24-25). Bringing one’s body into subjection is necessary for the approved life (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).
Attitudes When Frustrated. Trouble is to be experienced by all (cf. Job 14:1). How one handles the day-to-day situations of conflict says much about a person’s character and maturity. Self-control is stressed over and over in the Bible. Self-control starts in the mind. James wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Again, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26). Solomon wrote, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 29:20). Again, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly” (Prov. 14:29). And again, “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).
Aspirations When Fail. When things do not go as expected, the inner man can become so troubled that discouragement leads to despair. How does one remain “upbeat” when the situation looks grim? Losing or failing in a specific endeavor is not, as is commonly expressed, “the end of the world.” Paul wrote of great discouragement with optimism. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). Let none be weary in well doing (cf. Gal. 6:9). Control oneself and let God see each through to victory.
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).
What happens when this life is over has always been a fascination with humanity. While some do not believe the things revealed in the Bible, those who do believe take heed to the knowledge gained through the revelation. While things are known by faith now, things will be fully known by sight when this life is over. Consider three things that all will know by sight either at the moment of death or at the moment of the Lord’s return at the end of time should one be alive at the time.
The Soul Lives Forever. The Bible plainly states, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). Notice that the body dies when the spirit leaves it. The spirit does not cease to exist. Solomon wrote, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). The Bible plainly teaches that the nature of man is dual in being: physical and spiritual. Luke recorded of the Lord himself, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46). Evolution teaches that man is only fleshly in nature like the animal kingdom. Such a belief produces an adverse effect upon mind and conduct. One second after this life is over will reveal a sobering fact to the unbeliever. By the way, no one will be an unbeliever of this after the end.
The Spiritual is the Most Important. Paul wrote, “For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). How true will these facts be known by all when this life is over? Ecclesiastes is a book that explores the fact that the spiritual far outweighs the material in value. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). Sadly, multiplied numbers of people will have lived their lives exchanging their souls for that which does not profit them. Carnality in all its forms is most popular with the worldly mindset (cf. 1 John 2:16). The rich man in torments learned too late that his comfortable life apart from true righteousness was a path to misery.
The Sacrifice for the Cause of Christ is Really Worth It. Sometimes people become so discouraged that they make a similar statement to what was said in the days of Malachi, “It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” (Mal. 3:14). All will know in the end that such is foolish talk. Jesus said of the persecuted, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:12). Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren, “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). The righteous understand that one will suffer for wickedness (cf. Prov. 13:15) as well as for righteousness (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12). Trouble is part of this life (cf. Job 14:1; Matt. 6:34; Eph. 5:16). The end will bring full awareness to all that earthly living is for work in the kingdom. Learn now or learn later.
“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household." (Phil. 4:21-22)
Seemingly insignificant passages have great significance. Every saint is significant in the eyes of the Lord and His people. Consider three specific people in the first century who were well respected.
Faithful Servant: Epaphras.“As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit” (Col. 1:7-8). “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 23). This great servant known by Paul likely established the congregation at Colosse. Epaphras was a member of the congregation for which he labored (cf. Col. 4:12). While Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he came bringing word to him of the love that the brethren had for him and the cause of Christ. He was also one who suffered as a prisoner (cf. Philemon 23) like Paul did in Rome. The prices paid by such servants did not go unnoticed by God and by Paul. Servants have always made great sacrifices in every age where the work of the Lord prospers. Paul did not have to go to Colosse to know that the work there would prosper as Epaphras had the same zeal and determination as Paul for the brethren. Such significance needs to be found in every age.
Fellow Soldier: Epaphroditus.“But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). While this man did Paul a great service in bringing him necessary provisions from the brethren at Philippi while he was in prison, his more notable work was in the continued time with Paul. Paul wrote of him, “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me” (Phil. 2:25-30). Great soldiers often forget about themselves to keep doing the task.
Fervent Seeker: Onesiphorus.“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well” (2 Tim. 1:16-18). This self-motivated servant did not let adversity stop him. He would refresh the spirit of Paul many times. He was a true seeking of the kingdom of God and His righteousness (cf. Matt. 6:33). No opportunity was too small.