Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5 : 19
I was just thinking that there is a lovely word that produces a lovely thought and brings us to a lovely concept. Paul urged the Ephesian believers to sing and he suggested that there are three forms of singing. They could sing firstly, with psalms – beautiful Old Testament songs of praise. They could sing secondly, with hymns – once again taken from the songs of the Old Testament and songs that were being created within the New Testament Church. He also urged them to sing thirdly, with spiritual songs.
The fact that he added the word ‘spiritual’ to the songs that he was suggesting they sing brings a whole new, fresh meaning to worship. He could have meant ‘spiritual’ songs that would be the opposite to songs of the world, or he could also have meant ‘spiritual’ in terms of singing in the Spirit or singing in tongues. The Greek word for song or songs is ‘ode’, and we derive our English word ‘ode’ from this word which literally translated means ‘song’ or ‘expressive poetry’.
In New Testament terms there are many types of new songs. There are the new songs of heaven, there is the song of the Lamb and there are also these spiritual songs – and these songs are quite different. These spiritual songs are very much part of church life in the early church and they carry with them a different expression of praise. The way that Paul taught them to the Ephesian Church, places quite a strong emphasis on the way that they are to be sung.
Firstly, they are to be sung to one another. In most churches today people are encouraged to ‘sing unto the Lord’ and this of course is quite right, however, Paul placed strong emphasis upon the fact that the singers were to encourage one another with songs.
They were expressly told to build each other up with music as it was beneficial to all. In some ways we have lost this emphasis and we should seek to get back to the way in which this aspect of worship builds faith in each other.
Secondly, they were encouraged to sing to themselves and make music in their own hearts. This is another aspect of praise that we should seek to cultivate, we should be often singing to ourselves. If singing to each other builds each other up, how much more singing to ourselves should help to keep us buoyant in faith, especially in times of adversity.
Thirdly, the Ephesian believers were encouraged to sing unto the Lord. There is nothing greater than to bless God with music and singing, in fact the whole of heaven is filled with wonderful music for the whole of eternity. It is the sound of many waters and it is the sound of mighty thunders. It is the new song of expressive praise.
As the New Testament Church, the first church, was encouraged to sing and as the Early Church was instructed in the ways of song, we too should seek to sing in our day and generation as we are the Church at the close of the age of grace.