J.I. Packer’s final words, his final admonition, called believers to “glorify Christ in everything.” Those of us who have loved Dr. Packer’s writings and ministry were not surprised; this final exhortation culminates of a lifetime spent glorifying Christ.

For our purposes, let us consider how we might glorify Christ through singing. Four ways initially occur to me, and many more could follow.

First, we can glorify God by singing songs that praise the character of God. God is glorious, majestic, and perfect. Even God’s so-called controversial attributes are occasions for worship. Packer writes, “People treat God’s sovereignty as a matter of controversy, but in Scripture it is a matter of worship.” The Scripture tells us not to withhold honor to whom it is due when it is in our power to do so (Proverbs 3:27), and certainly, God is worthy of honor. Christian songs rightly glorify God by praising His character.

Second, we can glorify God by singing songs that tell others about Him. This is a corollary to the first point about praising God’s character. When we praise God’s character to God, it is called adoration. When we praise God’s character to others, it is called advertising. It can serve to stir the hearts of believers and can witness evangelistically to unbelievers. Using our song to declare the greatness of God’s character to others glorifies God.

Third, we can glorify God by singing songs that celebrate what He has done. Sometimes, I hear sincere believers say, “I am not going to praise God for what He has done, but for who He is.” Properly understood, though, there is no distinction between who God is and what God does. All God’s actions are consistent with His character, revealing his heart and ways. Psalm 115 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does [divine action] all that He pleases [divine character].”

Every gathering has a purpose, a commitment that unites and animates that particular gathering. A Christian gather is united and animated by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what better way to mark and reorient ourselves than by celebrating that great truth. Christian songs ought to glorify God by celebrating what He has done. Packer summarized it as “adoption through propitiation.” The gospel brings each individual into a relationship with God, and the gospel unites the members of a local church to one another. Packer wrote, “We never move on from the gospel; we move on in the gospel.” The church is the ecclesia, a gathering that has been called out. God’s word is the reality that calls to us, and Christian worship responds to God’s calling.

Fourth, we can glorify God by singing songs that build up His church. Dr. Packer invested so much of his life strengthening the church where it was weak and solidifying the church where it was wobbly. Writing about the Puritans, Packer remarked, “[T]he end to which all church order … was the glory of God in and through the salvation of sinners and the building up of livelycongregations in which people met God.” This is a most fitting way to spend our time when the church gathers on a Sunday morning. Just as Peter was instructed by the resurrected Christ to demonstrate his love for the Lord Jesus by feeding the sheep (John 21:15–17), we glorify God by singing songs that build up Christ’s church—indeed, “building up of lively congregations in which people met God.” Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of a new temple, and we are living stones (1 Peter 2:4–7). Paul calls believers Christ’s building (oikodomē, 1 Corinthians 3:9), and how appropriate to spend our time together building up Christ’s building (1 Corinthians 14:12, oikodomēn)! The Lord Jesus fashions Christians into an edifice, and how appropriate to edify Christ’s edifice!

These are some of the ways that we glorify God when we sing. Drawing upon the Lord’s good gifts, Christian singing combines glorious truth, passionate melody, and unifying rhythm. So, to paraphrase the words of Christian Bateman’s 1843 hymn, “Let all with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice! Praise is His glorious choice! Hallelujah! Amen.”