How Can We Speak to Each Other With Songs for Worship?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:18-19

At first glance, Ephesians 5:19 seems to be confusing, if not just plain confused. According to this verse, we are to be filled with the Spirit, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” The verse goes on to say that we should also “sing and make music from [our] heart to the Lord.” But the previous phrase clearly says that we are to speak to each other “with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” Doesn’t it make more sense for us to speak to God—or, better yet, to sing to God—with these musical numbers? How are we to speak to one another with songs that are meant for God?

One answer to this question points to the different audiences of music used in worship. To be sure, some songs address God directly. Consider, for example, Psalm 75:1, “We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful works.” Yet other songs of worship speak to people, “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples” (Psalm 117:1). Thus, we could easily speak to each other with the words of Psalm 117 and similar musical numbers. This is surely part of what Paul intends in verse 19.

But I would suggest that when Paul urges us to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, he has something more than this in mind. At several points in his writings, Paul appears to quote or paraphrase a song from early Christian worship. Philippians 2:5-11 would be a salient example. Moreover, only five verses before telling us to speak to each other with the songs of worship, Paul seems to do this very thing. Ephesians 5:14 reads, “This is why it is said, ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ ” It’s like this is a bit from a song of early Christian worship. Thus, the language of worship fills Paul’s own letters in a way that models the exhortation of 5:19: Speak to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

As I reflect on this verse, I ask the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do I allow the content of worship to affect the rest of my speaking? Or do I tend to keep worship “in church” and “in my private devotions”? Do I let the language of worship shape and enrich my everyday speech? How can I do this in a way that isn’t silly or off-putting?

PRAYER: Once again, Lord, I thank you for the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with which I can worship you, either when I am gathered with other believers or when I am alone with you. I’m grateful for the ways these musical numbers allow me to express my heart to you, even as they help me to open my whole life to you.

May what I sing, say, and do in worship not be cloistered there. May the words and truths of worship fill my speaking and my living. May the good news of the gospel, celebrated in Christian worship, shape all that I say and do, for your glory. Amen.


Habits That Work

"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering" (Rom. 12:1, MSG).

There are habits designed to bring us closer to God—church-going, praying, reading the bible, taking communion. But what about the habits of our everyday, ordinary lives? In addition to the traditional habits we naturally think of, can our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around routines become the habits of spiritual discipline, too? What are the habits in your life that serve to bring you closer to God? And, how can we recognize the presence of God in the ordinary habits of living? Join us for Habits That Work. You might be surprised by what you discover as you consider how the habits of your daily life might also help bring you closer to God.

Featured image by Patricia Hunter. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.