Forum: Which Doctrinally Rich Songs Should Your Church Should Sing?
Editor’s note: We asked the question, “What songs should churches sing that teach their people sound doctrine?” Below, we’ve recorded several responses.
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“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
This hymn by Charles Wesley is so much more than a Christmas carol. It is perhaps one of the most moving and poetic summaries of the doctrine of Christology in the English language: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity.”
“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”
This hymn by William Cowper is brutally honest about the storms of this life, yet it also summarizes the doctrine of providence and beckons us to trust in our faithful, sovereign God.
“Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”
This Horatius Bonar hymn is my favorite on the Lord’s Supper. Rich in its imagery and deep in its theology, the text expresses the wonder of communion with Christ and concludes with an amazing verse on substitutionary atonement: “Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness; mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing blood.”
“Before the Throne of God Above”
Written by Charitie Lees Bancroft, this is a wonderful hymn of assurance. If a believer is struggling with doubt, this is the hymn I point them to. Not many hymns capture the beauty of Christ’s current work as our intercessor and advocate.
“Rock of Ages”
This hymn by Augustus Toplady would be found in the “Solus Christus” section of my hymnal. The lyrics help us consider the nature of the atonement and what we contribute to our own salvation: “Nothing in my hand I bring.” And let’s not forget the double imputation goodness in this line: “Save from wrath and make me pure.” Glory!
“Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending”
This hymn by Charles Wesley fills a void in our church’s hymnal. It’s hard to find many popular songs that deal with the second coming, and even harder to find ones that address it with stark, terrifying, and, well, “dreadful majesty”! Even so, “O come quickly” feels right to sing.
“Now Why This Fear?”
Adapted by Doug Plank from an Augustus Toplady text, this hymn takes the sweet, saving all-sufficiency of Christ’s blood for sinners and applies it liberally to the soul shaken and assaulted by condemnation and doubt. Rather than merely observing these heavenly truths from a distance, the Chorus and Bridge invite saints to take hold of them by faith.
“Come Ye Sinner, Poor and Needy”
Joseph Hart poignantly illustrates Jesus’s power and readiness to save sinners in contrast with the stark reality that our spiritual bankruptcy is all we could ever bring to salvation’s table. This hymn holds out the free gift of God’s grace while warning that “if you tarry ‘till you’re better, you will never come at all.” Along with its invitation to unbelievers, it also reminds us that our need for grace does not vanish when we answer the Great Physician’s call.
“Day by Day”
Consider the doctrinally rich and experientially sweet description from Lina Sandell’s “Day by Day,” a hymn about God’s providence. She grew up as a Lutheran pastor’s daughter in Fröderyd. As a young adult, she witnessed tragedy when her father fell overboard and drowned during a boat trip. The Lord used this dark season to grow her faith. “He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, Gives unto each day what He deems best, Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.”
“Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”
Also consider Charles Wesley’s description of the Lord’s decisive role in salvation from “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Follow Wesley’s logic as God’s Word overcomes death, emotional despondency, and humble circumstances to bring the hearer to faith. What a Savior is ours! “He speaks, and, listening to His voice, new life the dead receive, The mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.”
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
This hymn captures so much of what it means to be a Christian—it recognizes God’s goodness and excellence, and acknowledges our dependence on him for everything, including our worship. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. … Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
“In Christ Alone”
This modern hymn highlights deep theological truths like penal substitution. But it also helps us exult in the effect these truths have on us: “Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me. … No power of hell, nor scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand.”
“Whate’er My God Ordains is Right”
How often we need to be instructed by these words of surrender to the Lord’s ways, even as we wait to see his promises come to pass. “I know he will not leave me. I take, content, what He has sent; His hand can turn my griefs away; And patiently I wait His day.”