I have been singing my whole life. When I was a child, my parents brought me faithfully to church. When the congregation sang, as soon as I was old enough to sing along, I sang! I can remember (before I took piano lessons, I think) noticing that the notes higher on the staff were higher in pitch than the lower ones (brilliant, I know!). And I tried to copy my dad who sang the tenor or the bass part.
Music is central to the life of the church. And Ephesians 5:19 is a central verse on this topic. In it, the Lord reveals the twofold purpose of music in the church: worship and edification. The verse says, “Speaking to yourselves [edification] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord [worship].”
One day soon I’m planning to write a blog post about the twofold purpose of music in the church. But today I want to draw your attention to the previous verse in Ephesians 5. It is a command: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). The command is that we, as “children of light” (v. 8) are to be filled with the Spirit. And then verses 20 to chapter 6 verse 9 describe the inevitable results of being filled with the Spirit.
Now, it is not my purpose to describe to you in detail what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Simply put, it means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; further, it is not some sort of mystical experience, but is simply synonymous with having God’s Word controlling our actions. This can be seen by comparing the results of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:19-6:9) and of having Christ’s Word dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16-4:1) – the categories are identical. That shows that being filled with the Spirit and being controlled by the Bible are simply two ways of describing a life that is submitted to God.
My point in saying all that is that being filled with the Spirit has observable results, and that the first of these results is musical. If you are filled with the Spirit, then you will sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” edifying others and worshipping the Lord in music. This has its primary application to the gathered church, when God’s people meet on Sunday to worship Him and hear His Word preached.
Do you sing? When you are sitting in your pew on Sunday, and the congregational singing begins, do you join in? What Ephesians 5:19 asserts is that if you do not sing, you have a spiritual problem. Perhaps you are backslidden; perhaps you are discouraged that morning; perhaps you are distracted; perhaps you are even unsaved. But every person who is living a life submitted to God loves to sing praise to Him.
I didn’t say they have a beautiful voice, or that other people enjoy hearing them sing! But the inevitable result of a Spirit-filled life is a singing heart, which bubbles up into a singing voice.
When I was 19 my Uncle Ron and Aunt Jeannie, missionaries in Mexico, invited me to come and stay with them and play the piano for them as they started a new church in the city of Morelia. I lived with them for 5 months. This was a huge time of spiritual growth for me, continuing on from the last 2 years when the Lord really started working in my heart and drawing me closer to Him.
And it was while I was in Mexico that I first, as far as I remember, started really loving hymns. “I’ve Found a Friend” became special to me at that time. The words were beautiful, and touched a chord in my heart. My spiritual growth and the singing of good hymns are intertwined inseparably together. It was not possible for me to love Jesus and be growing to love Him more, and to have no response in my heart to words like, “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way; / Thou art the Potter, I am the clay; / Fill with Thy Spirit, till all shall see / Christ only, always, living in me.”
And Ephesians 5:19 establishes, as a spiritual rule, the connection between a living walk with God and a love for hymn singing. Do you love hymns? Do you feel a thrill to sing of Jesus? If not, there is something wrong deep down inside you, and I urge you to turn to Jesus and ask Him to set you right.