By Rodney Pitts
Most of the members of the churches of Christ are quite familiar with what Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 say. For the most part we can sum up the basic message of these verses from memory. The reason for our unique acquaintance with these verses is that they are the ones we always use in order to show that God has not authorized the use of man-made, mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church. We all know that you are supposed to be “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” We teach, and rightfully so, that these verses say nothing about making melody by playing a piano, organ, or any other mechanical instrument when we praise God.
Yet, I wonder if, in all our zeal to combat these false doctrine, have we not often forgotten the basic message of these verses and how they should affect our worship to God? First, consider the part of the Ephesians 5:19 where God tells us that we should be “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” This was not written to show us that we are not to “play” to one another, but was given to refer to a very special aspect of our worship in song. Colossians 3:16 describes this “speaking” as the act of “teaching and admonishing one another.” When we sing we should sing so as to lift up the brethren with our joyous words of encouragement. This cannot be done if we do not sing, or if we sing in such a manner that no one hears us, or with such a frown or look of displeasure that even if others did hear us, they would not be edified. Now I am not talking about having a wonderful voice, but about an attitude of praise and joy that can be expressed in our song. I should sing in order to teach and encourage you, while you do the same for me. Our love for our brethren should “bubble forth” in our song service and make this part of our worship a happy and uplifting time, rather than an “act” that must be endured until the Lord’s supper, or the preaching comes around.
Second, notice that Ephesians 5:19 also states that each one of us is to be “singing and making melody in your heart.” Again, I realize that this passage specifies and necessitates that the melody by which we sing is to be made in the heart and not upon a mechanical instrument of music, but is this all that it says? Paul, in Colossians 3:16, says that this singing is to be done with “grace in our hearts.” This i4grace” carries the idea of gratitude, favor, pleasure, and joy. Thus, God is here telling us that when we sing we should sing with an attitude of happiness and joy in our hearts because of our gratitude to God. In other words, our songs should pour forth from a heart that is filled with happiness and thankfulness.
Third, consider how this melody, or grace, is to be directed toward the Lord. Paul says that we are to sing with melody, or grace, in our hearts “to the Lord.” Too often it seems that people sing the songs of our worship without any direction or feeling behind what they are saying. The songs that we sing are not just words that we select and arrange so as to “sound good,” or to just “make a noise,” these are songs that are directed toward God. We should sing them just as though they are being said directly to God, because that is exactly what is happening! When you sing, “Oh Zion, Zion, I long to see they gates,” sing it “to the Lord,” because he is the one who needs to know that we want to be there. And brethren, when you can truly sing to the Lord in a way that you mean it, you will have no problem teaching and admonishing one another.
A music teacher once told me the story of how he was trying to teach some young new college students a song that had much the same sentiments as “God be with you till we meet again.” After singing it and getting all the fundamentals down, he noticed that there was something missing. To fill this void he told each of the students to sing this song as if they were singing it to their parents. For, he knew that most of these young people were far from home and missed their parents greatly. With that motivation in heart the students sang out with clarity and beauty as never before, because they truly wanted God to be with their parents until they met again. Brethren, let’s sing to God as pilgrims in search of the wonderful city, whose builder, maker, and love of our life is God. available in a hard cover binding. 582 pages.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 11, p. 335
June 7, 1990