Last month, we saw that is impossible to be filled with the Spirit and not have a song in your heart – and in your mouth! Ephesians 5:19 was the main source of our observations there.
Today, I want to talk about the two purposes of church music, found in the same verse. But before I do that, let me point out something: this verse says nothing about using music in evangelism. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is evangelism listed as a purpose of church music. The direction of Christian music veered off in an unbiblical direction in the 19th century in the crusades of D.L. Moody and others, which has caused music in the church today still to be dumbed down (even in independent Baptist churches) and not focused enough on either of the two purposes given in Ephesians 5:19. (Also, I believe the roots of the CCM movement can be traced back to the use of music in the 19th century in crusades – but that’s a topic for another blog post!)
Back to the main point of the post. The first purpose of church music is edification. Ephesians 5:19 begins, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Notice the direction of the music – yourselves. This should not be understood as only directing the music toward yourself – singular, but toward each other – plural. This verse is describing the direction of congregational singing in a church service.
When you are singing, for example, about Jesus’ glory, you are not only testifying your heart of praise to Him, but are also implicitly exhorting others to have the same heart of praise as well. For instance, when you sing, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name; let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all,” you are not only saying, “I praise you, Lord,” but you are also saying to the others around you, “You should praise Him, too; you should make Him your Lord, too.”
Therefore, those in charge of picking hymns to be sung need to ensure their content is doctrinally rich and theologically accurate, so it can edify those who are singing and listening. Fluffy words set to schmaltzy music may tickle people’s ears, but it will not edify them.
The second purpose of church music is worship. Ephesians 5:19 says that, as Spirit-filled believers, we are to be “singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord.” The second direction of music in church is the Lord Himself. How do we direct our music to Him? By singing in our hearts. The difference between a singer who pleases the Lord and a singer who doesn’t please the Lord isn’t found in the quality of their voice, or even the words they sing; it is found in the focus of their heart while they sing.
When you are singing as part of your congregation on Sunday morning, where is your heart looking? Are you trying to direct the words in the hymnal you’re holding to the Lord? Are you asking Him to make the truths they so beautifully convey real in your heart?
Edification and worship are the two purposes of congregational singing. One direction is others-centred, and one is God-centred. One is horizontal, and the other is vertical. And both are vital.