What, How, Why, & When … to Sing? Ephesians 5:18-20

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is [in which is] dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [psalming] with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father …”

Compare and contrast that with a very close parallel passage (same author … in Colossians 3:16):  “… and be thankful.  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.”

  1. Notice the spirit or atmosphere of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Trinity (with references to the Spirit, the Lord, Jesus, God, and Father). Notice also the mindfulness (intellectual aspects, even in that reference to the “heart“) and the one-another (mutuality) assumptions.
  2. AS OPPOSED TO … drunkennessbe filled with the Spirit. This is a reference to what (or Who) will be controlling you.
  3. And yet, being filled with the Spirit is NOT spooky, unintelligent, and/or being “out of control” (of one’s own faculties). Being filled with (under control of) the Holy Spirit involves practical attitudes and activities (like communicating, worshiping, and submitting) within the Body.
  4. For example, some of the very basic actions which Paul commends here include speaking, singing and psalming, giving thanks, and teaching/admonishing.
  5. Most useful content for all of this mutual ministry?Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  What are these three things?  See the Septuagint (LXX) titles atop many Biblical Psalms and you will be convinced (I hope!) that Paul (here, in the Epistles) is referencing those OT Psalms.
  6. The recurrence of and (kai) in these lists (psalms AND hymns AND songs) is intentional and meaningful, setting up a string of equivalents. Compare to Jesus’ own baptismal formula given in Matthew 28:19 (of the Father AND of the Son AND of the Holy Spirit), a strong argument for the Trinity.  So what (concerning our singing content)?  Few question that “psalms” are the inspired songs God gave to the church (OT & NT!) through David and others.  Would a love song which I write to Jesus on the back of a napkin be “equivalent” to a Spirit-inspired Psalm?
  7. The qualifying adjective (spiritual) on the final item (songs) applies to all three items … suggesting what? That the content for our singing (& other verbal ministry, emphasized here) should be what has come to us from the Holy Spirit.
  8. Getting down to the Greek:”Plucking the strings of your heart” suggests that WE are the instruments which God is playing, to His own praise.  What a joy and privilege, for us.
  9. This is the word of or about Christ. This seems ironic to some, as “Jesus Christ” is not even named in these worship songs (the Psalms) … or is He?!
  10. To make the best use of these tools for mutual edification, what new commitments will you need to make?If much of your one-another, verbal ministry must be based upon these words, what are you willing to invest in order to master this inspired truth-content?