Paul offers much in Ephesians 5 in only two verses. He brings much the same though not identical thinking in Colossians 3.16.
A pastor friend of mine recently asked my input on something related to the following verses. As they are so core to what many of us do (or should be doing) in our faith, and as I have often studied and taught on them I thought it might be good to share.
I find these two verses in themselves incredibly rich. If you follow Jesus and love your fellow believers I expect you do/will too!
Paul writes in a letter to Christians in Ephesus:
v18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, v19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord
Though I thought it was extreme, over-the-top, I did hear a speaker who some years ago emphasized feeling good by singing worship songs to God. That is, if you want to FEEL the presence of the Spirit of God (I would say maybe it is, maybe it’s endorphins, maybe both… and I am indeed not joking) then sing praises. That’s what He said.
Though I often feel what I believe is the manifest presence of the Spirit, at times it’s during singing or playing, at times it’s when I see a sunset, sometimes when I have read a portion of The Bible, and sometimes when all is in complete silence and I may just be thinking about the Lord and/or His blessings in my life.
BUT- I don’t “worship to feel Him near” and so I cannot agree that we do X to simply get Y. We worship God for Himself, for Who He IS, not whether we get a buzz from doing so! It’s not “it”, but HIM, the Person of God Whom we must seek and honor (a key Bible meaning of the word “worship”). Feelings or none, it’s about Him.
Having said all this, of course we at times feel a deep and overwhelming joy as we sense His immediate presence, and this is likely why Paul says “Don’t go to alcohol to feel good, for intoxication”, because drunkenness can lead to bad judgment and outright sin.
Instead “or RATHER than that, instead DO THIS”: be FILLED.
Some argue being filled with God the Holy Spirit is better rendered “be BEING filled” so it is not a one-off, one-time experience but an ongoing relationship with God, being conscious and intentional about coming to Him and interacting WITH Him. I think this is indeed what the text is saying.
All of this is “vertical” stuff, and it calls me back to the commands of Jesus- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength”.
Now comes the “horizontal”- “And the second most important commandment is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
“Speaking to one another” is not thought of as worship, but in fact when we write, sing or listen to songs with lyrics we are by default being taught, teaching, influencing one another on some level. Ultimately this is also an act of worship for we turn to God and encourage others to do likewise when we sing or influence others to do so.
We may not (or the worship leader or team may not) be gifted by the Spirit as teacher/s but that is simply part of what is happening unless the music is purely instrumental and no lyrics are involved. Even then we have both the act of worship and the influence pointing toward Him… unless the worship leader or team or choir or people in general are simply “going through the motions” or “by rote” without heart intent toward God.
Note, even -then- genuine, authentic worship may very well be taking place. It is 99 percent impossible to judge rightly (discern) whether this or the other person is focused on the Lord or not during a time of worship so be very careful with your own attitude. Nor is it about the music itself, whether or not YOU think it is.
On the point of teaching, how do we “love one another” with the lyrics? How much ought we to care about God’s Word/s (The Bible) when we write, choose songs and sing, teaching and sharing those songs with others? There is a responsibility of love as well as a communion with God the Holy Spirit in the very process of singing.
There is a fair bit of disagreement or shall I say in the positive, somewhat broad interpretation on the definition of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” throughout the churches. Yet, if we take it at face value, most of us are familiar with the Book of Psalms, with what we refer to as hymns, and spiritual songs might be something as varied as a spontaneous, Spirit-led (we hope!) song or even a U2 tune, say, “October”.
Spiritually truthful, edifying lyrics in line with scripture whether actual scripture is being sung or not, regardless of song -style-, volume, with or without instruments sung from our hearts toward God while also respecting and caring for one another, this is the “home-run” of worship when music is involved. God is glorified in this!
Notice “sing”. Simple, but sometimes overlooked: singing is a command in scripture, not an option. Be it “a joyful noise” or a lament (the larger portion of the Psalms happen to be laments) so whether in a major or minor key, we sing AND make music (lyrics, melody, rhythm, songs) TO God and also ABOUT God and with love and care for one another.
Is this all about technique? Is it about musical skill? This portion of text makes no argument toward that, but other parts of scripture indeed do. Yet here the issue cited is “from your heart”, then “to the Lord”.
It’s not about you. Or me. Or even us, in that sense. It’s about HIM!!!
We worship Him (as Jesus said) as He wishes, “in spirit and in truth”, from the “heart”. Genuine worship, not singing by rote nor looking around allowing our minds to wander, focused on everyone and anything BUT Him.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the Holy Spirit.
19 Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices and instruments and making melody with all your heart to the Lord