Thursday, 20 October 2016
…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19
Paul’s words of the last verse ended with, “be filled with the Spirit.” This is immediately followed with the words of this verse, which is a continuation of the same thought. In being so filled, we are to “speak to one another” in ways which are wholesome and edifying. He then explains what that means by using three categories –
“Psalms” refers, without a doubt, to the Old Testament psalms. What Paul is saying is that our speech is to be interlaced with words, right from Scripture, which will build others up. They are to remind others of the words of Scripture as well, providing a spiritual connection between us and them. To understand this from a worldly perspective, if two people attended the same college, they would have their school fight song. From time to time, in order to inspire one another, they might take the words of that song and speak them (or sing them) out. “Go the distance you men of Noble College; stand firm on your education, on that great body of knowledge.” In so doing, they would be building one another up in something that is already written and useful for such a purpose. No greater source of such edification can be found for the Christian than the words of Scripture themselves, especially from the psalms.
Though it is not entirely sure, “hymns” may be referring to songs which are based on Scripture, and which relate scriptural truths. The word used for “hymn” in Matthew 26:30 is derived from the word Paul uses now. It is known that at the Passover Seder, certain Psalms were sung each year. Therefore, this term can be referring to psalms as well as songs not directly coming from the Bible, but probably quoting parts of it.
“Spiritual songs” may be even broader in nature than “hymns.” They may simply be songs that speak of the Lord and His goodness without actually quoting anything directly from Scripture. However, they are pure, edifying, and will fill others with the goodness of God.
Although the meaning of the second two words is not fully known, this seems to be a logical explanation of what Paul is referring to. From these types of songs, he then says, “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The word for “making melody” here is a verb which corresponds to the noun translated as “psalms” above.
What Paul is saying here is that not only should we outwardly sing and share music, but we should do it in our hearts as well. We are not to let a root of bitterness creep into our hearts as we ponder the wicked world around us. Instead, we are to have wonderful words of glorifying God in our hearts at all times, welling up in us so that we are not overcome by the world around us. In this, we are to do it “to the Lord.” This then is truly being “filled with the Spirit” as was noted in the previous verse. We are actively contemplating His goodness, and are thus passively filled with the Spirit. As we yield, the Spirit fills.
This same set of words is almost repeated in Colossians 3:16 –
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
There is a noted difference between the two. In Colossians, it says that we are to use these in order to teach and admonish one another. It is an active instruction based on these things. In this verse it is more a way of letting emotion be drawn out of us in order to edify others and glorify God.
Life application: How can we overcome the world, especially when it is draining us of joy and taking away our ability to act in a godly manner? The answer is given in this verse. We can do so by speaking and singing words of Scripture, or words based on what the Bible teaches. This is our fount of blessing, instruction, and joy as we wait on the return of the Lord. Let us use it often, drawing from it as if we are drawing out water from a well in a dry and thirsty land. Let us allow our souls to be filled with the beauty of the word, even until it then flows back out of us for the edification of others.
Lord God, the world is a dry and barren desert which saps us of life. But there is an oasis for our weary souls where a fount of living water is found to quench our thirst and refresh our us. And yet, how often we fail to walk over to it, pick it up, and drink from it. Your word, O God, is life and it provides to us fresh water to renourish us as we wait upon You. Grant us the wisdom to drink from it often, even until we ourselves overflow with it towards others. Help us to be wise in our use of time, and to partake of this deep well of life. Amen.