Summary: The apostolic command to be filled with the Spirit is a corporate responsibility of each congregation, and not simply an individual command. Paul instructs the churches what Spirit-filled worship looks like in this text.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all 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.”
Among contemporary churches we have witnessed a pronounced emphasis on worship during the past several decades. Undoubtedly, the renewed emphasis on worship is in many ways commendable; however, it is greatly to be feared that much of what is presented as worship in contemporary churches falls far short of a biblical standard. Too often, modern Christians confuse entertainment and worship. Routinely, the effectiveness of worship is subjected to a criterion that more properly reflects the world’s standard rather than appealing to a biblical standard. Thus, worship is too often judged on the basis of personal enjoyment; what is presented seems more frequently to glorify the performers instead of glorifying the Living God. It almost seems that worship teams have adopted an adversarial role against those appointed to proclaim the Word. Thus, performance and proclamation are set in competition.
The use of worship teams and praise choruses has too often become a means to showcase an individual or a group rather than leading the worshippers into the sanctuary of the Lord. The music chosen seems often to be designed to generate an outcome rather than to honour the Master. Repeating a chorus or a phrase is geared more to inducing a hypnotic state than encouraging thoughtful worship. In time, the melody and/or the rhythm has become more important than the theology of what is sung. We have drifted so far from biblical concepts that I question whether we any longer know what it means to worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness.
Before we actually look at the text, take note of one significant fact. Within the pastorate are many who have emphasised the necessity of avoiding drunkenness. In urging this caution, pastors have frequently appealed to the eighteenth verse that warns, “Do not get drunk with wine.” However, if we concede that this text debars inebriation, then we must be equally adamant that it demands that believers be “filled with the Spirit.” The verse does not present an either/or situation; rather it points out a both/and condition. Paul commands believers to “be filled with the Spirit.”
In the following verses are found five participles: (1) addressing one another; (2) singing; (3) making melody; (4) giving thanks; and (5) submitting. In short, Paul is informing Christians how they can know that they are “filled with the Spirit.” If you will, he is telling us how to recognise Spirit-filled worship. The participles point to the result of being filled by the Spirit. Join me in study of these brief instructions that reveal the church at worship so that we may learn how to worship in a manner pleasing to God.
SPIRIT-FILLED WORSHIP REQUIRES MUTUAL MINISTRY — “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” One of the weaknesses of the modern worship movement is that the focus is on the worshipper. How the worshipper feels and what he or she experiences is central to the movement. Throughout the New Testament, however, the focus is the Master, and in all worship described in the New Testament there is an emphasis upon the shared or corporate experience. Together, the congregation of the Lord seeks to recognise His presence and as a body presents their service to Him.
Reviewing the text, it is difficult to draw any other conclusion then that worship that fails to serve others is incomplete, or perhaps is even defective. Worship that builds only the worshipper is unworthy of Him who loved the church and gave Himself for her. One must be struck by the instructions provided to us in the Apostle’s First Letter to the Corinthian Christians. Listen once again to the opening words of the fourteenth chapter.
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” [1 CORINTHIANS 14:1-5].