“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Music and singing has always been part of Christian worship. Some dismiss this and suggest that it is worldly emotion, but they need to tell God about that for He is a singer too! “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). The Father teaches His children to sing. Singing to the Lord is evident throughout the Bible, for instance; the Israelites sang when they were delivered from bondage (Exodus 15), the Psalms teach us to sing, and even Jesus sang at the last supper (Matthew 26:30). If singing is so bad, why will it be in used to praise God throughout eternity? “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
The variety of songs
“Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” just about covers every aspect of singing songs unto the Lord to praise Him. Psalms can be compared to the choruses we use in our services, for they offer glory and honour to God. Hymns are songs of worship too but include the idea of testimony, commitment and invitation. The spiritual songs obviously differ from the previous two, but how often have we found that even personal songs of worship become the hymns and choruses of the church? Paul was no fuddy-duddy when it came to singing to God. He would have used the psalms of David, but also allowed for members of the church to create their own hymns of praise. Spiritual songs left the door wide open for other musical expressions of joyful praise too. The litmus test for all songs of worship is, they have to line-up with Scripture and honour God. Just because we do not like a certain style of singing, does not make it wrong. History tells us that in every age someone objected to the songs, instruments and music of the day. That said, everything we do, whether it is in word, song or action, must bring glory to God or else it must be rejected. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).
The value of songs
The songs we sing must not only glorify God, but should touch our hearts to. “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The sad fact is, in many traditional churches the hymns are sung without passion or understanding. They have been sung often enough that the singers hardly need a book to remind them of the words. Parrots could do a better job of worshipping the Lord! Many church meetings resemble funeral services rather than joyous times of worship. John Wesley remarked, “Sing lustily, and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you are half dead or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength”. Therefore joyless and emotionless Christianity brings no glory to God. We highlight the need for fervency in prayer (James 5:16), so why not in singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord? Some say that this kind of singing brings the danger of emotionalism, but those sour faces ought not worry about such a danger moving them. “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17).
The vitality of songs
As suggested in the psalm mentioned above, singing songs of praise is evidence of life rather than death. Those who glorify the Lord in this fashion are never going to be lifeless, joyless, passionless and yes, even emotionless. God created us with emotions, so it is no bad thing. Those who dismiss this have no problem singing at football or rugby matches. They will enthusiastically sing “Happy Birthday” at a relatives celebration, but never joyfully praise the Lord. Whole congregations are like that. Dreary and dead! They are like the Dead Sea, closed at the mouth.
The apostle Paul did all he could to cultivate thanksgiving and praise. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Our churches are full of moaners, grumblers and complainers. Why? The people do not know how to give thanks. Dead Christians divide churches, while thankful ones stand for fellowship and unity. Emanating from this is true Christian love, and is that not where the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs originated? The fact is, a church that is operating in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit will naturally want to worship God, love the brethren and reach out to the lost. Singing Christians prove the vitality of Biblical Christianity.
The foundation on which the songs of the soul rest can be found in the following references. “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). There should be no problem with glorifying the Lord in song and music if it is “done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), instead it will bring honour to Him and will up light the worshippers. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).