2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV)
This passage explains several things about the musical worship we give God. It tells us to give God vocal music (singing). It tells us who sings and what it accomplishes, what we are to sing, how we are to sing, and to whom we sing. It is notable that vocal music – singing – achieves each of these purposes without adding an instrument. Forcing instrumental music into this passage (when it is not there) is a futile attempt to add to the sufficiency of God’s word. Worship music is vocal (singing). We speak “to one another” when we sing. Everyone sings – this is congregational singing – and by “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” we teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Sacred, religious odes that address spiritual subjects are what true worshipers sing (John 4:23-24). Singing is the mode of communication to use, not whistling, stomping, thumping, clapping, humming, or any other non-verbal expressions that attempt to heighten emotion and mimic musical instruments. The heart, our God-made instrument, is plucked as songs are sweetly and earnestly sung to the Lord. We can unite on the truth that singing is true worship to the Lord. Division came when musical instruments were added to worship. We know God put singing in His church. So, who put playing musical instruments in the church (Galatians 1:6-9)? [More on this in tomorrow’s Sword Tip.]
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. (James 5:13, NKJV)
Prayer and song. This couplet proves comforting and invigorating as we go through life’s storms and life’s calm. Suffering comes in many forms; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Prayer is a balm for the weary, an assuring strength during times of tumult and uncertainty. And so, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Even as suffering leads to earnest prayer, happy times evoke praise of the Almighty. The Lord is the source of joy that no one can take from us – the joy of victory over sin and death (John 16:20-22, 33). When life brings good fortune, Christians raise up songs of praise to God. We remember that God is the Giver of every good blessing; we did not create our happiness without His good providence. And so, James gives us sound instruction for difficult and happy times. He reminds us to look to God through all of life’s joys and sorrows. The Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). He will see you through.
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
The apostle commands three actions of faith in our passage: 1) Singing, 2) Thanking, and 3) Submitting. The Lord arranged singing as a worshipful way to praise Him while also speaking to fellow worshipers (“teaching and admonishing one another,” Col. 3:16). Not only through song, but always and for all things, we give thanks to God the Father. Our full thanksgiving is due to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, by faith in whom we are sons of God (Gal. 3:26-29). Just as children should be thankful to their parents, even so we give thanks to our Father. While worldly wisdom seeks to dominate others, we submit to one another in holy reverence. Humble, submissive service, not high-handedness, defines our relationship to our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, let us sing rich praises to the Lord, with thankfulness for everything, yielding ourselves to one another as we walk in godly fear. These are among the marks of faith that define the children of God.
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, NKJV)
There is a song in the heart when the word of Christ is implanted in the soul. The word of Christ prompts melodious strains of wise instruction which praise God and give counsel against sin. When a heart that is blessed by the word of Christ it sings songs that honor God and favor men. The word of Christ shapes the spiritual mind, which in turn sings joyful praises to God while teaching and admonishing others. “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of saints” (Psa. 149:1).