Summary: 49th in a series from Ephesians. The kind of music that flows from our lives when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Over the past several decades the church has engaged in what has become known as the “Worship Wars.” We’ve experienced a seemingly endless debate about what is the right kind of music to sing in our worship services. Hymns or praise choruses? Traditional or contemporary? Organs or guitars? But when we look at the Scriptures, we find that our music is intended by God to be a unifying force, not something that divides us. And as we continue our journey through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we’ll find that Paul gives us some very practical instruction about how our music can unite us rather than divide us.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been in this section of Paul’s letter that begins in Ephesians 5:15 where Paul commands followers of Jesus Christ to live carefully. He then goes on to provide us with some practical principles to help us do that. We are to make the most of the opportunities that we have due to living in evil days. We are to understand God’s overall plan and will and conform our lives to it. And, as we saw last week, we are to be filled, or controlled, by the Holy Spirit by saturating our lives with the Word of God.
Although we’re going to focus primarily on verses 19-21 this morning, let’s read together beginning with verse 18:
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Ephesians 5:18-21 (ESV)
The command in verse 18 to not get drunk on wine, but to be filled by the Holy Spirit, is one of three contrasts that Paul used to help his readers understand how to live carefully. Verses 19-21 contain five participle phrases that describe to us the results of being filled by the Holy Spirit:
• addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
• singing and
• making melody to the Lord with your heart,
• giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
• submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Last week, we discovered that being filled by the Holy Spirit is primarily a matter of Him controlling our lives. That is not some one-time event, but rather a process that must continue in our lives on a moment-by-moment basis. It is also something that should not be true just for us as individuals, but also applies to us as a body as well. That is even more apparent when we look at how Paul describes the fruit of lives that are under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Certainly those results are not limited to what happens when we gather together on Sunday mornings for what we call a “worship celebration” or “worship service”. The actions Paul describes for us in verses 19-21 ought to characterize all of our interactions within the body. Perhaps Paul’s readers could understand that a lot better than we can since they had much more frequent contact with each other than just an hour or two on Sunday mornings.
We also see that the results of being controlled by the Holy Spirit involve much more than just singing. But, on the other hand, singing and music certainly seem to be at the center of what happens when the body is controlled by the Holy Spirit. As we saw last week, the key to being filled by the Holy Spirit is to saturate our lives with the Word of God. And when we do that there is a sense in which we really can’t help but sing.
A little later on this morning, we’ll be singing “How Can I Keep from Singing?” and we’ll sing these words when we come to the chorus:
How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough,
How amazing is Your Love.
How can I keep from shouting Your Name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing.
I think those words very accurately reflect what happens when God reveals Himself to us in his Word. When we understand who He is and what He has done, sometimes words by themselves are just inadequate to express what we’re experiencing. So we must sing.
In a 1997 sermon on this passage, John Piper eloquently expressed that idea:
The reason we sing is because there are depths and heights and intensities and kinds of emotion that will not be satisfactorily expressed by mere prosaic forms, or even poetic readings. There are realities that demand to break out of prose into poetry and some demand that poetry be stretched into song.