In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom: I was wondering if you could help me better understand a couple of related verses. In Ephesians:5:18-19, it says, ‘And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.’ I’m particularly interested in how psalms, hymns and spiritual songs relate to speaking and admonishing one another.”
Tom: Dave, these verses have always fascinated me. Certainly, speaking to yourselves, I assume that’s speaking to one another, in psalms, but what about hymns and spiritual songs and singing and making melody in your heart? That was Ephesians, if we add Colossians to that it has to do with teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Now, the thing that fascinates me about this is, there’s got to be content here, Dave. I mean, certainly, we know what the content of the Psalms is, but hymns and spiritual songs? If anything, these verses talk about the content of what we are to be singing before the Lord, because it relates to encouraging one another, as well as admonishing one another.
Dave: Sounds like it has to be sound in doctrine. That was one of the strong points of the old hymns of the faith. They had doctrinal teaching, they were biblical, they taught you something, they convicted you in your heart. I think of the old hymn: “O, love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul on thee.” The last verse, I think, says, “O, cross that lifteth up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee. I lay in dust life’s glories dead, And from the ground, there blossoms red life that shall endless be.” I’m learning something about the cross; I’m learning that the cross wasn’t just where Christ died, which it was, but it’s where I identify with Him, and I die to myself, and He begins to live in me.
I mean, the teaching in some of these hymns, Tom, if I dare just quote another one. “In weakness, like defeat, He won the victor’s crown, Tread all our foes beneath His feet, By being trodden down. He, Satan’s power laid low, Made sin, He, sin oer’threw, Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so, And death by dying slew.” Now, that’s great stuff! There’s tremendous teaching that bows me in worship and in gratitude to my Lord, and praise to Him, and there’s some substance to this. But the repetitious, shallow things we have today, somehow, they don’t qualify.
And also, Tom, modern music, a lot of it, and especially the worship teams—I’m going to offend someone out there, but I hope that they will listen—worship teams, you should dress and act in a manner that befits being before the throne of God. You should remember that you are not there to entertain the audience or to exalt yourselves, you are there to worship the Lord, and anything directed to the audience should be teaching, admonishing one another, as it says. But a lot of it now has deteriorated to entertainment. And, if you want to go to Saddleback Community Church, you’ve got these venues, you know—what kind would you like? what kind of a worship service? and so forth. What appeals to you? because we are trying to appeal, to draw people in to what they like.
Tom: Dave. Wait a second…
Dave: It’s important, Tom.
Tom: …let’s pick on you a little bit. What about the worship team at your little fellowship?
Dave: Well, we don’t have one. [both laugh]
Tom: No, you don’t, but explain what you do have, which I find, you know, it’s terrific. I mean, I don’t attend there, but I still find it terrific.
Dave: Well, we don’t have any “team.” We have somebody who is on the piano [chuckling] to help the people get the right tune, and there may be a guitar or a violin, that’s about it, but I’m not opposed to that.
Tom: But it’s the congregation that sings, and that’s kind of the point I’m getting to, that we have moved somehow from this being an expression of the congregation—I’d like to see the worship team, somehow, just sit anonymously in the congregation and let them encourage the congregation, rather than the congregation being led by them.
Dave: We don’t have anybody up in front, the guitar, the violin, they are sitting on the front row. That’s a very good point, Tom, because I notice in many churches where I go, some of them don’t even put the words up on the screen, they don’t have a book for you to look into. Consequently, it’s the so-called worship team that’s doing all of the singing.
Tom: And it becomes a performance. I don’t see how they can get away from that.
Dave: Yeah, so they are the ones who are worshiping and everybody else is listening. Well, Tom, I don’t want to be critical of people who mean well in their hearts. On the other hand, this questioner gives us some specific verses that we are supposed to follow what the Bible says. That’s fairly straightforward. And if the Bible says we are “making melody in our hearts to the Lord” in Ephesians:5:18, and if we are singing “with grace in our hearts to the Lord,” but we are edifying one another as well, apparently we are singing to the Lord, but it has to be something that will be edifying to us, you can’t escape it. I can’t just sing to the Lord and not edify, or rebuke myself, or teach myself, and I can’t just sing to myself—that’s not allowed without singing to the Lord.
Tom: Dave, regarding music, the very thing we have been talking about, I would love to have been a fly on the wall, just to hear in the first century church what these hymns and songs were about. Especially today, you know, as I think of where the emphasis is on music, to compare the two. I’ve never had that opportunity, but it is intriguing to me.
Dave: Tom, one of the greatest experiences was behind the Iron Curtain, for example, the persecuted church, hearing them sing—wow! I was just in Cuba—to hear them sing! There’s a joy, and some people, I mean, congregations, they haven’t been trained, somehow they harmonize, and it can become rather loud with their enthusiasm, but they are obviously singing with joy in their hearts in gratitude to Christ and they are worshiping Him—and it’s not orchestrated, it’s spontaneous.