My purpose and focus is NOT to convince, legislate you what you’re doing in singing/worship (“worth-ship”) is incorrect. My focus is that of the apostle Paul: to teach, to inform, maybe even admonish in regards to the Biblical heart-joy of song and praise in churches throughout the world.
I don’t know if in the picture above showing the TREES, are singing in JOY or the STARS are. In either case, the words in the Bible lay down a principle of Songs of Joy:
“IT IS a good and delightful thing to give thanks to the Lord, to SING PRAISES [with musical accompaniment] to Your name, O Most High. To show forth Your loving-kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, With an instrument of ten strings and with lute, with a solemn sound upon the lyre” ~ Psalm 92:1-3.
The Lord wants songs sung to Him using a symphony of instruments and people; who display a variety of gifts and levels of skill. This is a representation of the choruses of praise that will be sung to Him for all eternity.
God Not Only Likes SINGING to Him, He Loves to Sing Himself.
“The Lord your god is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with SINGING.” ~ Zephaniah 3:17 AMP.
WOW! Can you even imagine or dream singing a DUET with Yahweh? Through this uplifting harmony of melodies, our hearts are strengthened while gaining a greater insight into the glories of God.
WHAT ROLE DOES HOLY SPIRIT PLAY IN OUR VOICES?
His way of guiding, enabling, inspiring, instructing, correcting, healing, persuading, convicting, and illuminating truth to us is in a far deeper way through music.
“But when He, the Spirit of Truth (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will GUIDE you into all Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not SPEAK His own message [on His own authority]; but He will tell whatever He hears [from the Father; He will give the message that has been given to Him], and He will ANNOUNCE and DECLARE to you the things that are to come [that will happen in the future].” ~ John 16:13 AMP.
The Spirit gives us deep assurances through spiritual music, which restores a Christ-like perspective to our thoughts before, during and after our “Worship & Praise” even begins on Sundays, Saturdays or whenever.
This is part of the reason why music can be used so effectively in teaching, admonishing, bringing conviction to those who are around us in confidential ways. I say ‘confidential ways’, since all my years of singing out in choirs and congregations, no one after has ever said, “Thanks Mel for teaching, admonishing and bringing conviction because of your voice.” Singing is far more effective than our human efforts of preaching most of the time anyway. OK Pastors, did I raise the hair on the back of your arms by saying what I said?
RELATIONSHIP IN MUSIC:
Martin Luther said, “The devil takes flight at the sound of music just as he does at the words of theology, and for this reason the prophets always combined theology and music, the teaching of the TRUTH and the charity of Psalms and hymns.”
“After theology, I give the highest place and greatest honor to music.” – Martin Luther.
Music has a way of breaking down the defenses of hearts and minds, and the use of all types:
All of the above ways can and will enhance RELATIONSHIPS with God Almighty and…people! In this specific way your music will be, or maybe I should mention, can be…:
–and Biblically based!
Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all men that by all means I may save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Have You Ever Judge Others For Their Musical Tastes?
To one, gospel rock may be offensive. To others it may help them RELATE to God and others. It bridges barriers. To me personally…not so much but I’m not going to judge others for their godly relationship, if there is one, in choices of music.
Romans 14:4, 5 says, “Who are you to pass judgement on and censure another s household servant?…One man esteems one day (by implication–each type of music) better than another…”
SINGING TRUTH (Colossians 3:16):
I like the way the Amplified Bible and the NASV (New American Standard Version) translation of Col. 3:16. The ESV (English Standard Version) for an example, is slightly different. The former says, our responsibility as believers is one of “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [y]our hearts to God.”
As you can see, “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” are to be sung by Christians–NO DUH! As believers, we are to have a working knowledge about the words we are singing.
My wife Dianne tells the story of how every Christmas, she and her family would sit around the piano while her British-born and raised grandmother would play with enthusiasm. Dianne said they would sing every chorus and every word of those songs, but it wasn’t until she was SAVED did she have understanding and meaning to the lyrics.
But I don’t think that’s what this verse is saying. I opt for the Amplified and the NASB renderings, “teach, admonish and train one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Did you notice the differences? I didn’t at my first reading either. Both passages are grammatically possible (ESV and the NASB), but in studying the related passage in Ephesians 5:18, 19, 20; I found Paul is exhorting the church when he says,
 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the Holy Spirit, [there’s a coma between verses 18 & 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, [another coma]  At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
Do you give ALL YOUR HEART when you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs at church during Worship times? You are not alone if you answered, “not always”.
Paul’s words jumped off the page in my understanding. The apostle Paul sees believers communicating truth and knowledge and instruction by the means of these various forms of singing. The same point can then be made in Colossians 3:16.
The “addressing” or “speaking” in Ephesians 5:19 is now defined as “teaching and admonishing and training” as in Col. 3:16.
“TEACHING, ADMONISHING and TRAINING”:
The first question you may be tempted with at this point is, “How does one teach someone else by singing to them? How can singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs admonish and train another believer?” Those are excellent questions and are the ones that I think Paul would want us to ask. Before I try to give some answers, what the differences are in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? Some say there are no difference between these items. But if he meant one thing, what is the point of using three different words? Look next at the distinctions in the mind of Paul when writing to the churches.
What is the difference between a “PSALM”, a “HYMN” and a “SPIRITUAL SONG”?
“Middle English, from Old English, from Latin psalms, from Greek psalms, from psallein, to play the harp” (American Heritage Dictionary).
Ephesians 5:19 probably refers to actual Psalms from Scripture and/or any song accompanied by a string harp-like instrument.
EXAMPLES: All of the Psalms found in the middle of your Bible originally were accompanied by harps, lutes, and various stringed instruments + other instruments such as percussion instruments.
Someone today puts music to a Psalm, like the popular song, “Bless the Lord O my soul.”
“Middle English imne, from Old French ymne, from Latin hymnus, song of praise, from Greek humnos” (American Herritage Dictionary).
A song of praise for God (with or without any particular type of accompanying instrument). Remember, Paul didn’t have a Hymn Book or words up on a mega-tron screen.
EXAMPLES: Jesus sang a hymn with His disciples after the Passover meal about 24 hrs before he Himself became the Passover Lamb of God on Friday afternoon (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).
Paul and Silas sang a hymn (probably without instruments) in the prison just before the earthquake when their chains dropped off (Acts 16:25). Could their singing cause an earthquake? Maybe! How would you feel one Sunday morning after singing in praise, the building you were in began to shake, rattle and roll? I would imagine it depended of the heart-felt spirit of the body of Christ.
“Middle English, from Old French spirituel, from Latin spiritualis, spiritus, breath (American Heritage Dictionary).
Songs that come directly from the spiritual realm, inspired or “breathed” by the Holy Spirit. Often spontaneous, in the moment of visitation by the Presence of God.
EXAMPLES: Paul said, “I will sing with my spirit”. Miriam’s Celebration; Saul spontaneously prophesied (in song?) with the prophets. Someone sitting next to you–when 2 or 3 of you are gathered together in Jesus’ Name while waiting on God–burst out in a new song! I hope you’ve had this experience before. It’ is wonderful!
FOCUSING ON THE 3RD EXPRESSION OF “SINGING IN THE SPIRIT”:
Could it be Paul’s way of differentiating between songs that are previously composed over those that are spontaneously drawn out by the Holy Spirit Himself I THINK SO!
In my experience, “spiritual songs” are most likely unrehearsed, improvised, short melodies or choruses celebrating the BEAUTY OF CHRIST JESUS.
They aren’t prepared in advance of the worship service but prompted by the Holy Spirit; uniquely and especially appropriate for the occasion and the emphasis at that moment.
I agree with the Christian writer, Dunn, that “spiritual songs are sung under immediate inspiration of the Spirit” (239). He believes there was, in all probability, “a lively, spontaneous, charismatic worship (including glossolalia?) [that] continued to be a feature of the Pauline churches…, at least for the full length of his own ministry.” (239)
If these distinctions in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are really accurate, Murray Harris would be correct in calling them, respectively, “songs from Scripture, songs about Christ, and songs from the Spirit” (169).
Now this possibility hits many people as strange, if not uncomfortable when it’s exposed. Especially if outside of charismatic churches. There’s virtually no opportunities of expressing spontaneous praise. The only songs permitted are those listed in the church bulletin. Singing is highly structured, orchestrated, and carefully controlled (but not for that reason any less godly or edifying).
People are expected to sing what is written in the hymnal or projected on a screen. Nothing more and nothing less.
Paul’s Envision of a “singing” Individual as…
The “singing” individual is given freedom to vocalize his/her own passions, prayers, declarations of praise. Now this may strike some as chaotic, aimless the first time it is heard (it certainly did me!). But it can quickly become beautiful and inspiring experience as the Spirit is given free reign in the hearts of Christ’s people.
As the instrumentalist play a simple chord progression, maybe even the melody of a familiar song, the people who are gathered together spontaneously supply whatever words are the most appropriate at their state of mind and heart. However, it must be prompted by the Holy Spirit: no “fake it until you make it” approach to this form of praise.
As Dunn noted, this may well have involved singing in tongues (without being restricted to it), or what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:15 as “singing in the Spirit.”
So called because it is believed that the Holy Spirit reveals something to the person who in turns puts it to music.
Typically an individual who is part of a “worship team”, led by the Spirit, spontaneously breaks out in song that may well evoke another to respond antiphonally (occurring or responding in turns; alternating voices…). Such “spiritual songs” can last a few seconds or several minutes. It’s sort of like “praying” in a prayer circle. On leads off in prayer, another adds to it and so forth.
I can only hope and pray that those of you who have never been exposed to this form of worship have the opportunity to experience it first hand. More important still is the fact such singing, whether psalms, hymns or spiritual songs are not simply to extol god but to educate people; by the means of them, we “teach”, “admonish” one another.
Many Today May Never Experience A Worship Service As Described.
The educational and convicting power in music and song cannot be denied. In his book, “Real Worship”, Warren Wiersbe wrote:
“I am convinced that congregations learn more theology (good & bad) from the songs they sing than from the songs they sing than from the sermons they hear. Many sermons are doctrinally sound…contain a fair amount of biblical information…they lack that necessary emotional content that gets a hold of the listener’s heart. Music however, reaches the mind and the heart at the same time…” (137).
This is all the more reason for us to be conscientious and biblically accurate in what and how we sing!
Singing of the Savior (even off-key).