By Bob Kauflin | First Published: March 14, 2016
I recently saw a prominent worship leader quoted as saying, “We sing about the cross too much in church.”
Why would someone say that? There could be a number of reasons. You might think singing about the cross all the time is introspective and even depressing. You could offer that the cross is simply one of many biblical themes we can sing about when we gather. Some people have suggested that songs about the cross have the effect of minimizing the significance of the resurrection.
But the more I’ve studied Scripture, the more I’m convinced that as we worship God for His Word, His works, and His worthiness, the blazing center of our praise will always be the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus.
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Christ dying for our sins and rising from the dead is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The death of Christ gives us access to God and makes all our offerings of praise acceptable (Ephesians 2:14-18; 1 Peter 2:4-5). Paul said that whenever we share the Lord’s Supper, we are proclaiming Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In the Book of Revelation, worship is directed not only to the One on the throne, but to the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:9-14).
But people still ask, “Can we sing about the cross too much?” My short answer is no. But we can sing about the cross in the wrong ways. Here are four I’ve encountered.
We can fail to connect Christ’s death to everything else.
Singing about the cross doesn’t mean we only sing about Jesus dying in our place to reconcile us to God. The cross takes into account who it was on the cross as well as what His death accomplished.
We can fail to apply the results of the cross to our lives.
The cross isn’t simply about Jesus dying. It means that no condemnation or accusation against us can stand (Romans 8:1; Colossians 2:13-14). That God’s love for us is eternally unwavering (Romans 8:37-39). That we have been delivered from sin’s deadly dominion and set free from the deceptive pleasure of a passing world (Galatians 5:14, 24). And, our future is secure and God will provide every good thing we need (Romans 8:28-32).
We can sing about the cross in ways that magnify us more than God.
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16), but that love is the overflow of the love shared between the Father and Son. While Jesus certainly had those He redeemed in His view and heart when He died (John 17:24), His ultimate passion was to glorify His Father (John 17:1-2). And He died for us that we might share that passion.
We can sing about the cross to check it off our “Gospel-centered” list.
Sadly, it’s possible to sing well-written, theologically precise songs about Christ’s substitutionary atonement and love our orthodox doctrine of the cross more than the Savior who hung on it.
One of the greatest temptations for those familiar with the cross is to become increasingly unmoved by it. But as theologian David Prior said, “We never move on from the cross, only to a more profound understanding of the cross.” There is nothing more profound to consider than the Son of God giving His life as a ransom to redeem us.
I pray that singing about the cross and the Savior who gave His life there will never become boring, rote or irrelevant for you and your church. Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is thegreatest news the world has ever heard, and our singing is but one more opportunity to passionately proclaim it. ©2016 Bob Kauflin
Adapted from an article that first appeared at DesiringGod.org.
Bob Kauflin is director of Sovereign Grace music. He equips pastors and musicians in the theology of congregational worship and serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville, Ky.