Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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?

Worship Meditation on Holiness … (the Manna Question: What Is It?!)

1 Peter 2:22 ~ ‘He [Jesus Christ] committed no sin.’  Christ’s life is meant to be an example of holiness for us, and Christ committed no sin.  The sinless, holy life of Jesus Christ is our example.  So consider this statement:  ‘I always do what pleases Him …’ (said by Jesus concerning His Father).  Is that to be your personal goal in life?!  A 19th Century Scottish theologian, John Brown, said:  ‘Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations or enthusiastic fervors or uncommanded austerities … but in thinking as God thinks, willing as God wills.’  Nor does it mean adhering to a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ (mostly don’ts).  Jesus Christ said:  ‘I have come to do Your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).  This example we must follow.  In all our thoughts and actions and in every part of our character, the ruling principle to motivate & guide us must be the desire to follow Jesus in doing the Father’s will.”  (abbreviated from Jerry Bridges:  The Pursuit of Holiness)

Holy, holy, holy …”  This famous chant about God reminds us of the power of repetition in the Bible.  Triple holy … and actually doubled again, as the same sequence appears in both testaments (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).  “Be holy, for I am holy.”  “… the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Joshua 24:19 ~ “The Lord is a holy God!

Holiness is the primary attribute of God, flavoring and balancing all the others.  Holiness, then, is to be a very high priority for all humans, and there are drastic consequences if it is missing in and for you.  I am sorry to observe, though, that holiness is what humans particularly lack:  We are not holy.  We are positively full of sin (from the inside out).  We are totally depraved.  We suffer under the condition called original sin.  In this world and age, people by nature are not holy … not even close.

But wait, we are going too fast!  Manna:  “What Is It?”  Holiness is a complex concept in the Bible.  It means:  set apart for special use (like Levitic pottery);  pure (cleansed; no sin or stain);  fully & wholly & strangely “other” (as different as is God from man);  devoted or dedicated (think of “holy” matrimony, pointing to exclusive relationship);  chosen and called (with the focus on the Chooser and the Caller).  So holiness can carry all five of these indications at once.  Moreover, due to God’s unmerited favor toward His people, He counts us as already holy in Jesus Christ … even as He charges us to continually strive to be like Christ, in the power of Christ, for the glory of Christ!

So keep in mind that five-fold description, and also keep clear in your thinking that God is all this and has all this, while man by nature does not.  But one way to describe the gospel of our salvation is through the Trinity:  God the Father is holy; He sets the holy standard & He demands perfect holiness if anyone wants to enjoy fellowship with Him.  God the Son offered up Himself, became a real man, and then lived the perfectly holy human life, yet still at the end paid the penalty for the unholy lives of all God’s people. God the Spirit moves into those saved people, to work in and to work out, over time, His holiness on the inside which God already credits via Christ on the judicial record.

So let us put away, and warn against, all aberrations about holiness in the worldly philosophies which are so tempting: * The temptation to define holiness down such that, amazingly, I find myself meeting the standards which I set for myself, all by myself, to the high praise of myself! * The temptation to invent “good works” or new law codes which I must add to the not-quite-good-enough holiness of Jesus Christ offered up on my behalf. * The temptation to emphasize what some call the Pure Grace, love, & mercy of God, such that we forget or ignore His eternal holiness and His justified anger against all sin, and thus we tolerate in ourselves the sins which so offend God, poison ourselves, corrupt our witness, and ultimately deny the holy purpose of the gracious cross.  Let us cooperate, co-labor, and work with (and not against) God in what He has promised to complete in His own:  “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Let us praise God (our holy Triune God) for this eternal, holy plan which He is working out in His perfect time.

The Sword of the Spirit

Our Fabulous Fifteen recently finished another semester of Kids Club, this term focusing on the spiritual armor which God gives to His children, through Jesus Christ, so that we will win against sin:  the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith … “and the sword of the Spirit.”  All six of those armor pieces are to be put on, daily, through prayer.

The sword of the Spirit is the one armor piece which includes God’s name (the Holy Spirit, of course, is God).  It is also the only armor piece which is specifically for offense, attack, and battle advance.  The sword of the Spirit happens to be the one piece which Paul (in Ephesians 6) ensures we will not confuse, as he gives us this precise interpretation.  6:17 = “Take … the sword of Spirit which is the word of God.”  Now we may wrangle for ages about precisely what is “the word of God.”  Is it Jesus Christ (see John 1)?  It is the spoken words of the ancient prophets?  Is it equivalent to faithful preaching today?  Perhaps all of those in a way.  But no doubt, “the word of God” includes words in this book ~ the Bible.

Our Children’s Ministry Leaders then did a great job opening up the word about the word, what the Bible teaches about itself:  “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Especially we looked at Hebrews 4:12, since it also (like the Ephesians 6 passage concerning all the spiritual armor; 6:11-18) compares the word with a sword:  “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

So here are many descriptions of God’s word:  double-edged, sharp, piercing, separating, dividing, judging; able to show us what to keep and what to throw away; what pleases God and what displeases Him; in the midst of a life-and-death surgery ~ what is killing us so it must be cut out, & what is part of the new us so must be healed.  Strangely, Hebrews 4:12 says that this sword of the word is “living.”  Now an actual, physical sword is not alive; and neither are words.  So the adjective “living” strongly connects the word or words with the User of the words, with the Wielder of the sword.  It is the sword of the Spirit!  The Spirit of God is the User or Wielder.  God is alive, of course, and God uses His sword or word to actively work in our lives to give us life, and then to renew our lives by that word, daily.

It is upon God’s people, thus enlivened, to take up this sword daily, and then use it in battle against sin.  Again, this is our one offensive weapon, to win against the enemy and to destroy him.  But as a baby cannot make good use of a sword on a battlefield, we must practice with this weapon or tool, so that we can be experts in its use:  So have and own your own Bible; treat it as a treasure; take care of it; and bring it with you, even to church!  Read your Bible daily, praying to God as you do.  Then obey what it says; do the word and thus be blessed.  Meditate on God’s word; memorize it; sing it in praise to its Author.  Be taught according to that word (at church, at home, in school, in private devotions).

Then we closed with the dramatic account of Jesus’ victory over Satan during His temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), where three times in a row, the Master Swordsman countered the wicked suggestions of His enemy with “thus saith the Lord,” followed by quotes from Deuteronomy, showing us that even obscure books & passages of the word are most powerful and useful.  Now we are certain that Jesus did not have armloads of scrolls with Him in that wilderness, so His ability to bring up these most fitting verses in response to particular temptations proves that Jesus had these words in His heart and mind, memorized, ready for trials.  And even if Satan would not have been out there with Jesus that day, these truths (that we live not by bread alone but God’s word; that we are not to test God through sin and folly, yet still expect His favor anyway; that we are to worship & serve only the true God) would have comforted & helped Jesus anyway.

Three brief admonitions about your own use of the word of God, in light of Jesus’ middle temptation (Matthew 4:5-7): There is a right way to use the word of God; Jesus does so as He reminds Himself, Satan, and all who have read the Gospel of Matthew that we are not to test God through foolish, sinful living.  There is also a wrong way to use the word of God, as did Satan!  Within this temptation, Satan also quoted Scripture (an apparent promise from Psalm 91:11-12 that if God’s beloved should fall, then He will send His angels to catch them, such that their feet will not even be scratched on the rocks below)!  This good and true promise was being abused by Satan (and I think he knew it), for it would have been wrong for Jesus to jump off the temple peak in order to force God to prove His protecting love.  In fact, there are times when it is the good will of God for His beloved people to suffer the pains of gravity, foot scratches, bone breaks, and worse.  Always, however, God sustains His children in the midst of their trials and tribulations.

And always, master swordsmen, keep on reading!  Consider Psalm 91:13, the verse which comes immediately after the passage which Satan misquoted (or misapplied in His vain quoting):  “You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.”  You will crush, tread on, & trample down lions, snakes, and dragons!  Jesus knew this too:  Enemies like roaring lions who seek what they might devour, deceptive serpents who slink around and lie about what God really said and meant, dragons who seek to destroy a woman and her baby son, and Satan the Accuser who is compared in Scripture to all of these beasts … will be crushed, ultimately, under the foot of Jesus Christ (Eve’s Seed ~ Genesis 3:15), who seemed so weak after forty hungry days.  What joy Jesus must have had, as Satan fled, as heavenly angels comforted, and as courage was restored through the word-promise that soon all bloody swords can be put down forever since the great enemy will be finally destroyed, by the completion of His work.