God’s Word commands us to sing vertically to God and horizontally to one another, thus ensuring that our singing takes the form of a cross:
Vertical Singing – To The Lord
The Psalms command us to “sing to the Lord.” Here are a few examples:
- Psalm 95:1 “Oh, come let us sing to the LORD, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”
- Psalm 96:1-2 “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”
- Psalm 98:1a “Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things!”
Examples of Vertical Singing in today’s hymns and worship songs:
- “Holy, Holy, Holy”
- “Be Thou My Vision”
- “Rock Of Ages”
- “You Are My King”
- “Blessed Be Your Name”
- “Here I Am To Worship”
Horizontal Singing – To One Another
Paul exhorted the churches to sing to one another about the Lord. He suggests that both horizontal and vertical singing come from the overflow of hearts filled with the Word and Spirit of God.
- Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Ephesians 5:19 “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”
Examples of Horizontal Singing in today’s hymns and worship songs:
- “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy”
- “All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name”
- “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
- “Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down”
- “How Firm A Foundation”
- “Seek Ye First”
- “Shout To The Lord”
[I’m sure there are some songs out there that are not sung directly to God or to others, but are declarations of truth about God. Can you think of any?]
Singing ABOUT the Cruciform Life – Law and Gospel
In Psalm 119 we find the psalmist singing about the Law of God.
- Psalm 119:54 “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.”
- Psalm 119:172 “My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.”
As we look back at the Law through the lens of Christ, we know at least four things:
- First, according to Jesus, the content of the Law boils down to the Great Commands to love God (vertical) and love others (horizontal), so we are to sing about the cruciform life, a life that is shaped like the cross (Matthew 22:36-40).
- Second, we know that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17-18), so to sing about the Law is to sing about the Christ whom it describes.
- Third, we know that Christ’s obedience to the Law has been credited to those who are “in Christ” by faith (Romans 8:1-4), so we are singing about a righteousness that is ours by grace through faith.
- Finally, we know that as participants in the New Covenant (the Gospel) we have the Spirit’s presence and power to obey the Law of God (Ezekiel 36:27), so we are singing not only about Christ but also about our hope and His promise in the Gospel that we will be conformed to His Law-keeping image from one degree of glory to the next (Romans 8:29-30; 2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6).
So, we are to sing vertically to God and horizontally to one another songs about living to love God and others and about the glorious gospel that makes that kind of life possible. This is cruciform singing…singing that is shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross.