I love music. I love listening to it, playing it, and I spent most of my youthful years studying, practicing, and leading music. It is a powerful tool for the human soul. A well-written lyric still gets me, regardless of the subject matter. I am especially interested in the music of the church, both past and present not only because I am a pastor but as a follower of Jesus I am a part of His church. I love to see the history of music in fact, in my office, I have a collection of old hymnals from the early church, some dating back to the late 1800s.
Music For A Culture
A hymn refers to the structure of a song. There are hymns that go back much further than any printed hymnal and one of the songs of the church is found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13:
“If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.”
Music was much more than just a melody and words to the early New Testament Church. It was a tool to teach and to chronicle their thinking. Can you picture us getting together and singing those words in the modern church in America? Singing about martyrdom? For the early Christians, these were not just symbolic words, they were a reality. They sang these songs in their services knowing that the melody and lyrics would encourage them throughout the week as they faced life-threatening situations because of their faith in Jesus.
These are the songs of fearless people. They were a people who were given to victory in their faith regardless of the cost. This song was not a theological dissertation, rather it was like most of the songs of the church a reflection of the culture and all the early Christians were going through. Music is always a reflection of the time it is written. That is why even today if you travel throughout the world you will find songs sung in churches where Christians are being oppressed by their governments and communities much different than songs sung here in America.
This song from the early church reminds me that I need to take advantage of the good times in my life and get prepared with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17). There will be a day when songs change. Remember singing songs to God is a powerful expression of worship.