Bible Study Opportunities
Singing and Making Melody With Your Heart
By Jon W. Quinn
The expression of faith in spiritual songs is meant to be a very important aspect of our lives as Christians. To sing praise unto the Creator as the thoughts come forth from adoring hearts is uplifting to the worshipers in several ways. God means for it to be that way. Consider some things the Scriptures reveal about this aspect of discipleship.
EXAMPLES OF MUSICAL WORSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
"And after singing a hymn, they went out to the mount of Olives." (MATTHEW 26:30). This has reference to Jesus and His disciples after Jesus had instituted the Lord's supper on the night He was to be betrayed. Before they left the room in which they had assembled for the pre-Passover meal, they sang a hymn. Then they headed for the garden atop the Mount of Olives where Jesus would be arrested.
"But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (ACTS 16:25). Here we have an example of two disciples, held in stocks in a dungeon, beaten and bleeding, seeking strength and comfort through prayer and the singing of hymns. The event seems to have impressed the other prisoners and later we find out the guard has been deeply effected as well.
"What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also." (I CORINTHIANS 14:15). This context deals with the assembly. Most of the instructions in this chapter deals with keeping things orderly and insuring that the worshipers are all edified. Two attributes that must accompany our singing is spirit and mind. Jesus said God is to be worshiped "in spirit and truth." (JOHN 4:24).
"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and making melody with your heart to the Lord;" (EPHESIANS 5:19). This passage refers to objects of our singing. In our songs we seek to encourage one another by the words we sing and the melody played out upon our hearts are directed toward the Lord.
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (COLOSSIANS 3:16). Again, our songs are directed toward one another in order to teach and admonish, and accompanied with thankfulness in our hearts which is directed toward God.
"Through Him, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that give thanks to His name." (HEBREWS 13:15). Though this passage does not specifically mention singing, and certainly God is often praised at other times than when we sing, singing would be one avenue of doing so.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises." (JAMES 5:13). This final passage seems more in line with individual worship. Certainly we need not squelch our cheerfulness when we are having a good day. It is a good time to praise God in song, expressing our gratitude unto Him.
ANALYSIS OF THE COMMAND
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (COLOSSIANS 3:17). It is important to note that right after the admonition to sing comes this reminder: do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. This means to do the things we do based upon His say so. The music we offer to God the Father must be according to Jesus' direction and not different from it. In the preceding verses we have seen exactly what Jesus commanded in His covenant.
Consider again the passage in Ephesians which probably contains the most information about what is truly Christian music:
"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." (EPHESIANS 5:19).
1) Speaking (lalountes) speak, proclaim, say. This word is used many times in the New Testament. It has to do with delivering spoken messages.
2) To one another (eautois) yourselves. The speaking is done by the same ones that are being addressed.
3) Psalms (yalmos) Song of praise. In the New Testament, can refer to the Psalms of the Old Testament as well as songs of praise and joy.
4) Hymns (umnois) Song of praise. Perhaps different from Psalms because of arrangement.
5) Spiritual songs (pnematikais; wdais) Songs pertaining to the spirit and contrasted with that which is fleshly or carnal.
6) Singing (adontes) vocal musical expressions of testimony or exhortation.
7) Making melody (yallontes) Originally, this word meant to pluck the strings, as you would with a harp. But gradually it came to include singing. Finally, its primary meaning came to be to sing. This is its meaning in New Testament times. This passage not only tells us to sing (i.e "pluck the strings"), it tells us exactly what instrument to use! See next:
8) Heart (kardia) Heart, mind. As we sing, we are to pluck the strings of our hearts. We are to sing with the spirit and the understanding. The only instrument that we are authorized by the authority of Christ to use as we sing is our hearts. In fact, not only are we permitted to use the heart, we are commanded to use it. If you are not singing with the heart, then do not sing at all.
"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." (II JOHN 9). The fact of the matter is that the teaching of Christ does not authorize the use of any instrument other than the heart to be used in the singing of praises unto God. The New Testament gives no command or example of it use by Christians in the worship of God. It was centuries before musical instruments became accepted. Christians of early centuries opposed their use in worship.
Many references cite Pope Vitalian I (666 A.D.) as the one who first introduced musical instruments into the worship of the church. However, the Catholic Encyclopedia says that a strong objection to its use remained pretty general until at least the twelfth century.
One of the chief aims of the Protestant Reformation leaders was to reform the music of the worship by doing away with the instruments. Martin Luther said, "An organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal." John Calvin stated' "Musical instruments in the celebration of praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of other shadows of the law...men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in such noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing." John Wesley put it this way; "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither seen or heard." These statements are from the founders of the Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist churches!
The greatest Baptist preacher of all time was Charles Spurgeon, who said; "I'd as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery." Though it is so common place in houses of worship today, it has not always been so. There have been many battles fought throughout history over the issue. Instrumental music in worship is probably here to stay, but it took long enough to get here! It did not arrive until centuries after Christ for one reason: He never authorized its use and that used to mean something to people. It still should!
Singing hymns is a part of the Lord's will and Divinely authorized for our worship of God. The words of these songs are designed to praise God as well as encourage one another. As in all we do in the Lord's name, let us do all we can to make our singing the best it can be, always focusing on the heart first; the part with which God is most concerned. Then let us also concentrate on making the sounds as pleasing to the human ear as the abilities God gave us will allow.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois June 20, 1993