the weblog of Alan Knox

Each one has a hymn: Singing for edification

Posted by on Jun 26, 2012 in edification, gathering | 3 comments

Each one has a hymn: Singing for edification

As I said in my previous post (“Each one has a hymn“), Paul said that everything we do when we gather together with other believers should be done for the purpose of building each other up. In the context of that statement (1 Corinthians 14), he specifically mentions singing a couple of times.

So, I asked the question, “When we come together with other believers and when we sing, how do we sing in a way that edifies one another?” The “one another” part of that question is very important. Throughout that chapter – and in other places – Paul specifically differentiates between activities that edify ONLY the individual and activities that edify many. When we are with other believers, our focus is not to be on edifying ourselves, but instead our focus is to be on edifying others. How does that work with singing?

In this post, I’m going to share one way of using singing (hymns and other types of songs) to edify others. Then, in the next few posts, I’ll share a few specific examples.

In the middle section of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul explains that for something to edify others, they must understand what is being said, prayed, or sung. If a person does not understand something (for various reasons) then that person is not edified by it, even if the person speaking, singing, praying, etc. is responding to the Spirit in a way that edifies himself.

For many years, we have asked people to share a song that has been on their heart. We would sing the song together, and then move on to the next song. However, we wanted this to be a more edifying time.

So, a few years ago, when someone requested that we sing a song, we started asking a simple question: “Why do you want us to sing that song?” Usually, the person explains something that has happened in the recent past (sometimes the distant past) and how that particular song corresponds with what God was doing in that instance. In that way, the song shifts from a generic lyric written by someone we don’t know into something that has meaning both to the person and now to the community.

Often, after the person requesting the song explains the significance and after we sing the song together, others will then add their own comments regarding the song and its significance to their own life. Again, the song become even less generic and becomes even more relevant to all of us, knowing more about what our friends are going through.

By the way, there are times when someone (especially our younger or more quiet friends) will request a song simply because “it is one of my favorites.” We do not discourage that at all. In fact, others will often still discuss the significance of the part of the lyrics after we sing together.

Furthermore, as we sing multiple songs and as different people discuss the significance of the lyrics, we find a connection between many (or all) of them. That connection often carries over as we discuss a particular passage of Scripture or a topic together.

In this way, singing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs becomes much less about the music and much more about what God is doing in our lives as individuals, as families, and as a community in Christ.

Do you think that discussing the significance or relevance of the lyrics would be edifying to others? Would this make this song more understandable – at least, would it make the reason for wanting to sing that particular song more understandable? Can you think of other ways to make singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs more edifying to the church?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-26-2012

    In these days almost anything can edify , if indeed they are of themselves pumped up. Paul begins with saying seek to prophesying which is the intent: “In prophesying you have the testimony of Christ” If you take away good discretion from out of your midst you could edify someone with a song from Led Zepplin.

    Whether rapping in or singing or just plain speaking “PROPHESYING” “It is the testimony of the LORD “PROPHESYING ” THAT EDIFIES

  2. 6-26-2012

    It IS amazing how the Spirit can tie in all things. We notice that a lot too – when each individual shares – it’s amazing how everything ties together without prior collaboration.

    Perhaps everything always ties together because everything is always about Jesus, finds its purpose and fulfillment in Jesus and that basically is always the tie. 🙂

    Thanks Alan another good post. 🙂 your blogs always encourage us to keep on and confirm to us what the Spirit is doing with us. thanks!

  3. 6-26-2012


    Yes, Paul said to seek to prophesy because prophecy edifies others by its very nature. Of course, other things can edify others as well. We should focus on those kinds of activities when we are gathered together.


    Yes, when we all find that we are heading in the same direction even through different media (hymns, teaching, etc.), it is a good indication that the Spirit is the one leading.