Monday, September 5, 2011

Addressing One Another in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs

During our church gathering yesterday we had a great discussion about the implications of Ephesians 5:19. This verse says:

(ESV) "...addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart."

(NASB) "...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."

(NKJV) "...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

(NLT) "Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts."

The tendency for most of us, myself included, is certainly to sing and make music to the Lord. In the gathering we usually do this with our voices and our hearts. For literally as long as I can recall, I've been part of church bodies that sing corporate praises to God.

This verse clearly speaks to the importance of singing to God. Interestingly, Paul also stresses the importance of "addressing one another" or "speaking to one another" in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. This is fascinating because our tendency is normally to sing to God but not really think about our brothers and sisters in Christ. We focus on the vertical dimension to the exclusion of the horizontal. Paul counters this tendency in 5:19.

Paul writes something similar in Colossians 3:16 (ESV), "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." We again see the connection between "one another" and "singing."

How does this work out? What does it look like? My guess is that it varies from church family to church family. In the end, however, as we sing praises to the Lord, we should also be addressing/speaking to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We ought to somehow be showing that we care for their well being and edification. This might not actually occur during a song, but it might happen between songs, be inspired by a song, carry the same words or themes as a particular song, occur after singing but during the Lord's Supper, etc.

This is not some sort of new law that Paul is putting in place. Rather, the apostle is simply stressing once again that as we gather we should place our attention upon glorifying God through the edification of others. Even in song we can honor the Lord and build up the saints simultaneously.

As we gather as the body of Christ, let us make joyful melody to God with all our hearts. May this be conjoined to our addressing our brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that helps them mature spiritually.


Tim A said...

You must include verse 18 with verse 19. "Speaking to one another" is what it means to be "filled with the Spirit". A Spirit filled gathering is one where the saints "speak to one another with psalms, hymns...."

This verse tells us the saints need no worship leader to drive their gatherings, pick all the songs, do all the tying together, etc. The Holy Spirit himself is the worship leader, knitting the saints together in word and song to communicate His direction for Christ's body.

Now the saints can pick the songs, say why they want to sing it, and the rest of the saints can respond to each other about the song during and after it is sung, Amazing, simple, and participative, just like a body.

A couple came to our fellowship where this is what we do. They said "we are looking for Spirit filled worship. I said, that's exactly what we do here based on Eph. 5:18-19. They lasted only a couple months before they were off to a shish-boom-and-sway type gathering driven from the platform.

Eric said...


Thanks for making that connection between the verses. I agree heartily that the Holy Spirit leads the worship.

I'm not surprised about the couple you mentioned. How sad it is that so many people think "Spirit-led" means "warm-feelings-inside."

What a great God we have who desires that we actually communicate with one another as we come together. It seems so basic, and yet so many don't practice it.

Al Shaw said...

A few additional thoughts:

1. Many of the psalms are actually addressed (in part, at least) to "one another." "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD," etc.

2. Corporate singing to each other is a feature of many traditional cultures.

3. A solo or group song to others could also be suggested by this concept. I'm not advocating choirs but as the Spirit leads, it may well be appropriate for an individual or group to sing "to others" for their edification.

4. Spontaneous songs, which may be testimonial or prophetic could be seen as another aspect.

Eric said...


Thanks for your thoughts. You make a great point about the Psalms. I hadn't thought of that. It makes sense that the early Christians, especially the Jewish ones, would have sung the Psalms to each other as they sang to God.