We have added new doctrines: Divine Guidance, Knowing the Will of God for your Life: Yielding or Yieldedness to God; Wisdom.
We have updated the doctrine of Alcoholism and Drinking, to add information about recovering from alcoholism or drug abuse.
Current Bible Studies
Ephesians Chapter 5,
Confession of Sin – The Proof for Rebounding – 1 John 1:9
1. What Did Jesus Say About Confession of Sin?
a. In Mat 6:9-13, the Lord clearly taught the necessity for the confession of our sins. This is our Lord’s “template” prayer as it were, as He instructed in vs. 9, “Pray, then, in this way.” It has been misnomered as “the Lord’s Prayer.” In vs. 12 our Lord said, “And forgive us our debts.” Our “debts” refers to the sins we commit, post salvation. The point in this template for prayer is that the believer’s post salvation/conversion sins are forgiven. He is clearly teaching the confession of sins for the believer, (not for salvation), and uses the same Greek word for forgiveness, APHIEMI as does John in 1 John 1:9. Keep in mind that our sins were paid for at the Cross once and for all time, and the confession of your sins in 1 John 1:9 is a reminder of that fact.
b. Jesus also illustrates confession of sin and the extraordinary forgiveness of God in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.11-32. In vs. 18 the prodigal son says, “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.” The confession of this son was first toward heaven and then to his father. This is the true order of all confession. It must be first to God and then to those who would be wronged by the withholding of our confession.
Why does the son need to confess his sins? Until confession is made by the one who has sinned, he is contending for that which is evil and thus is in disagreement with the Father. Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” God cannot agree with sin. The child can agree with the Father, and this is true repentance which is expressed in true confession.
So, this is the son’s prayer of the confession of his sins, (i.e., rebound). If this passage is speaking of the unbeliever who repents for salvation, then you must also say that in order to be saved we must confess our sins for salvation, as some wrongly say 1 John 1:9 does. However, there is only one command for the unsaved, namely believe on the Lord Jesus, John 3:16-18; Acts 16:30-31.
Therefore, instantly, when a complete confession is made, regardless of additional words the penitent one would present, the restoration to fellowship with God is achieved and we are filled with the Spirit. The blessing does not depend upon sinless perfection; it is a matter of not grieving the Spirit. It is not an issue concerning unknown sin; it is an attitude of heart that is willing always instantly to confess every known sin.
c. As we noted above, later, in the Upper Room in the night before Jesus went to the Cross, as He was instructing His disciples and preparing them for the Church Age, He washed their feet. Remember that our Lord told Peter and the other disciples in the Upper Room on the Passover night in which he was betrayed in John 13:10-11, “Jesus said to him (Peter), “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’.”
Although this passage was clearly instructing them to serve one another, there is a lesson within the lesson. Here our Lord used two distinct words, LOUO for “bathed” and NIPTO for “wash.” This is the distinction. The unbeliever needs a bath, that is, to be cleansed from all their sins. That occurs when he accepts Christ as His Savior. Yet, the believer needs only to wash his feet. Why? Well, even though he has salvation, he still has a sin nature, and he still sins on a daily basis. When we sin, we are picking up the filth of our Old Sin Nature and Satan’s Cosmic System. To be cleansed of the filth and garbage, the believer needs to only wash his feet. The unbeliever first needs a LOUO for the cleansing of his body – Salvation, but clearly the believer needs a NIPTO for the cleansing of the filth picked up in his daily walk – post salvation / post-conversion.
This is the same picture, and same lesson as taught in Mat 6. The Lord washes the dirt we pick up during our daily walk off our feet, (our sins), after we have been cleansed due to confessing our sins to the Father. We in turn are to wash each other’s feet, i.e., forgive each other. This is in line with our Lord’s “template” for prayer, and we are able to do both because of the Union/Position we have in Christ based on His completed work upon the Cross.
2. What Does the Old Testament Say About Confession of Sins?
The confession of sins for forgiveness is not a doctrine exclusive to the Church Age and New Testament, or to any other Age for that matter. It is a universal doctrine. Numerous passages in the Old Testament point to the believer to confess their sins to God. Here are a few.
a. The Law taught confession of sin, Lev 5:5, “So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned.” Cf. Lev 16:21; 26:40; Num 5:7. These are precursors for the confession of sin for the Church Age believer.
b. David acknowledged confession of sin in Psa 32:3, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.”
Psa 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”, and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.”
Psa 38:18, “For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.”
In Psa 51 David is again rebounding and speaking of the consequences. Please read at least vs. 1-4.
David, a believer, confesses his post salvation sins and God forgives Him of those sins, just as in 1 John 1:9 for the believer of the Church Age.
c. Solomon states in Prov 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses, (rebounds) and forsakes them (recovers) will find compassion.”
In the dedication of the temple in 2 Chron 6; 1 Kings 8:47, Solomon again applies the doctrine of confession of sin as a prophetic supplication.
2 Chron 6:36-39, “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, 37if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly;’ 38if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name, 39then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.”
d. Daniel uses confession of sin in Dan 9:4-5, and especially vs, 18-20, “O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name. 20Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, 21while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”
Notice Daniel states in vs. 18, “not on any merits of our own.” There we see that confession of sin is a non-meritorious act of faith, just as believing in Jesus Christ is a non-meritorious act of faith.
e. Isaiah used confession of sin in Isa 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
In fact, Isaiah noted that unconfessed sin was an hindrance to the spiritual life in Isa 59, cf. Psa 66:18; John 9:31. Doing the will of God is to obey His Word, including 1 John 1:9.
f. Nehemiah used confession of sin in Neh 1:6-7; 9:33-35.
Neh 1:6, “Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.” Cf. Job 1:5.
g. Ezra used confession of sin in Ezra 9:5-15; 10:1.
Ezra 9:6, “And I said, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.”
Ezra 10:1, “Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God…”
3. What Does the New Testament Say?
a. The primary context is 1 John 1:5-2:2. The primary issue here is, “is this written to believers or unbelievers.” To answer that question, please note that the “we” in 1 John 1:9 does not refer to unbelievers but to believers. John the Apostle was writing in the Church of Ephesus. To understand this, I present the writings of Dr. Daniel Wallace, Professor of NT Greek, Dallas Theological Seminary, the author of “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics”, one of the greatest Greek grammarians and scholars of our day, who notes on pg. 689, regarding, 1 John 1:9, “This verse is frequently seen to be a more probable future condition. As such, it is sometimes viewed as referring to unbelievers who have not yet confessed their sins (though the “we” is problematic). More likely, it is a present general condition in which the subject is distributive, (“if any of us”).”
Then in footnote 35 on the following page he states, “To see “we” in 1 John 1:9 as referring to unbelievers would be to take the pronominal referent to mean, “you, but not me.” Such is not impossible, of course, but it is highly unlikely and apparently otherwise unexampled in the N.T.”
Therefore, one of, if not the greatest Greek scholars of our day, is stating that the “we” in 1 John 1:9 does not refer to unbelievers, because it has to include John the Apostle. Therefore, 1 John 1:9 is a prayer for believers only. Please see the end of this paper for more on this with a piece from Pastor Bill Wenstrom.
b. Other passages regarding confession of sin for the believer includes Mat 6:12, (which we noted above), cf. James 5:13f.
c. Also note that the first and third of the six basic Doctrines of the Bible in Heb 6:1, have something to do with all of this. In that book, the writer also warns against the misinterpretation or application of the basic doctrines or even simply forgetting them in Heb 5:11-14.
Then in Heb 6:1-2 we are told, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.”
So, in two of the first three “basic doctrines,” we have application for 1 John 1:9, “repentance from dead works,” which is first achieved by being saved, but those believers who walk in sin also have dead works, John 15:1-6, compared with 1 Cor 3:10-15, and “washings,” which relates to John 13 when our Lord washed the feet of the disciples.
d. Just after giving instructions for the Communion Supper, Paul notes in 1 Cor 11:28-32, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
Examining and judging are both acts of self-reflection, using the Greek words DOKIMAZO and DIAKRINO. First, we are commanded to look introspectively to see if we have sin upon our soul or not, and then to make a judgment upon ourselves; are we guilty of sin or are we not guilty of sin? Who is Paul talking to here? Believers! 1 Cor 11:33. The context here is, we need to examine ourselves to see if we have any sins that we have committed, especially before partaking of the communion supper, the most solemn act of our worship of Jesus Christ during the Church Age. So, we must judge whether we have sin or not. When it says, “judge yourself rightly,” it means acknowledge that you do or do not have sin. And because of prior teachings of the Old Testament regarding the confession of sin and Jesus’ statement in Mat 6:12a, etc., the known conclusion was to confess it to God. When you do, you avoid God’s Divine discipline, as also taught in the Old Testament. Because of the abuse of confession of sins for the believer, John much later had to write to the church at Ephesus to clear this up. That is why we have 1 John 1:9.
4. What do our early Church Fathers say about confession of sin?
a. In the Epistle of Barnabas 19:12, it states, “Thou shalt not make a schism, but thou shalt pacify those that contend by bringing them together. Thou shalt confess thy sins. Thou shalt not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.” (Brn 19:12 APE).
b. Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. “Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness of conduct, and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God.” (ISI 9:1 APE)
“Soberness of conduct” reminds us of Eph 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine for that is a waste of life.” Then it goes on to say, “But be filled with the Spirit.”
c. The Shepherd of Hermas also called just “The Shepherd” is a Christian literary work of the 1st or 2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus. The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was bound with the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus, and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus. It pays special attention to the Church, calling the faithful to repent of the sins that have harmed it.
Hermas Similitude 9 23:4, “If our God and Lord, who rules over all things, and has power over all His creation, does not remember evil against those who confess their sins, but is merciful, does man, who is corruptible and full of sins, remember evil against a fellowman, as if he were able to destroy or to save him? (HSI 23:4 APE) I, the angel of repentance, say unto you, As many of you as are of this way of thinking, lay it aside, and repent, and the Lord will heal your former sins, if you purify yourselves from this demon; but if not, you will be delivered over to him for death.” (HSI 23:5 APE)
“Remember evil against a fellowman,” reminds us of Mat 6:12b, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That continues into vs. 14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
“Lay it aside, and repent, and the Lord will heal your former sins,” reminds us of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
5. The late L.S. Chafer, Co-Founder of Dallas Theological Seminary.
In his Systematic Theology, Chafer states that we never pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit, because it happens when, “He (God the Father) awaits the requisite human adjustments, He is waiting for the believer to yield all to him,” (page 222, bottom of the page.) [Italic mine]
On Page 240 at the bottom of the page and the top of page 241 we see that indeed Chafer taught confession of sins resulted in the filling / fellowship of the Holy Spirit, but making it clear that we do not ask for the filling, we just adjust to God’s justice through the non-meritorious act of faith in confession of our sins, and thereby avoid the Father’s discipline, as he notes 1 Cor 11:31-32, which is another way of saying confess your sins, with the terms “examine and judge yourself rightly.” To confess your sins, you must first examine your soul and judge if you have sinned or not. Then you can name them to God.
“However, if the sinning child of God will not thus judge himself by a full confession, it becomes necessary for the Father, being the perfect disciplinarian that He is, to bring His child into judgment. This is the force of the Apostle’s words: “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” The voluntary act of self-judgment satisfies every divine demand and no judgment from the Father will be imposed. It is only when the Christian withholds his confession and by so much assumes the attitude of self-justification concerning his sin, or through love of it refuses to be adjusted to the holy will of God, that the Father must bring him into the place of correction. It will be recognized again that the issue is not one of sustaining union with the Father, which union, like sonship, when once established can never be broken; it is rather the issue respecting communion and fellowship. Accordingly it is asked: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). God cannot walk in the dark with the believer, nor can fellowship be experienced when the believer is calling black white and white black. The Christian must agree with God that white is white and black is black. Having come into agreement with God, there remains no obstacle to hinder and fellowship is restored by the gracious forgiving and cleansing from God.”
In L.S. Chafer’s Systematic Theology, (Volume 5, page 148, at the bottom of the page), he explains the Lord’s washings of the disciples feet in the Upper Room, distinguishing the difference between “bathing” and “washing” and then concludes at the bottom of the page, “For the Christian, (believer’s only here), there is cure for sin constantly and instantly on a basis of faith in Christ’s blood, which cure is secured by confession of sin.”
In Chafer’s Systematic Theology, (Volume 6, page 238-240), regarding 1 John 1:5-2:2, he notes the right application of 1 John 1:9. “John is the experienced witness in regard to an unbroken fellowship with the Father and with the Son, as indicated by the first verses of 1 John. In the first chapter of this epistle a message is brought forward directly from Christ’s earthly ministry which does not appear in any Gospel record. The message has to do with maintaining communion with the Father and with the Son. In contemplating such a relationship it should be remembered that “God is light,” which phrase refers to moral or holy perfection, and it’s with such a One that the believer is to have fellowship. The bringing of the Christian into communion with God is not achieved by lowering that which pertains to God; it is rather gained by lifting the believer up to the level upon which communion with God is possible. For one to say that he has fellowship with God while at the same time he is walking in darkness is to lie and to do not the truth; but if the Christian walks in the light as God is in the light, it is to experience fellowship with God, the fellowship which is the normal experience of all who are saved. Such fellowship is not a special concession from God, but is rather that which is provided for all who are rightly related to God. All this immeasurable blessing is conditioned on “walking in the light.” To walk in the light is not to become the light, which would be sinless perfection; it is to be adjusted to the light. When the searchlight, which God is, reveals needed changes in one’s life before God, then in order to walk in the light one must adapt one’s self to the will of God thus revealed. When thus adapted, the blood of Jesus Christ goes on continuously cleansing from all sin. Fellowship does not depend upon an impossible sinless perfection, but on the willing compliance with all that God desires and makes known. Thus confession, which is the outward expression of an inward repentance, becomes the one condition upon which the child of God who has been injured by sin may be restored to unbroken fellowship again. Not only will that restoration be absolute to the extent of infinity, but the divine grace that forgives and cleanses is accomplished on a basis which is righteous to the degree of infinity. Since it is God’s own child that has sinned to whom He is bound with eternal ties, He is “faithful” to those relationships; and since Christ has met all the righteous judgments against the sin which is in question, He is “just” to cleanse and forgive. It was thus in the Old Testament order and it must ever be thus wherever God the Holy One deals with human sin. The Israelite brought his sacrifice and it was after the priest offered the sacrifice that the comer therewith was forgiven. Leviticus 4:35 declares: “And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace-offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” Great emphasis is placed on the fact that the one condition to be met for restoration of a believer to fellowship with God is confession of sin. Too often prayer for forgiveness is substituted; but prayer for forgiveness is not an adjustment to the Light which God is. Prayer for forgiveness really assumes that God Himself needs to be changed in His attitude toward the one who has sinned.”
Chafer goes on to say on page 249-250, “The cure of the effects of sin on the spiritual life of a child of God is promised to the one who in repentance of heart makes a genuine confession of his sin. Sin is always sin in the sight of God. It is no less sin because it is committed by a Christian, nor can it be cured in any case other than through the redemption which is in Christ. It is because the redemption-price has already been paid in the precious blood of Christ that God can save sinners who only believe and restore saints who only confess. Not one degree of the punishment that fell upon our Substitute can ever fall on saint or sinner. Since Christ bore it all for us, believing or confessing is all that can righteously be demanded. Until confession is made by the one who has sinned, he is contending for that which is evil and thus is in disagreement with the Father. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” God cannot agree with sin. The child can agree with the Father, and this is true repentance which is expressed in true confession. Again let it be said: repentance is a change of mind. By it those who have sinned turn unto God from sin. The blessing does not depend upon sinless perfection; it is a matter of not grieving the Spirit. It is not an issue concerning unknown sin; it is an attitude of heart that is willing always instantly to confess every known sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Christian who fully confesses all known sin will have removed one—if not all—of the hindrances to the fullest manifestation of the Spirit. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” (Eph. 4:30).
From the foregoing discussion, it may be determined that one of the conditions upon which the believer may be Spirit-filled is met when that which grieves the Holy Spirit is removed by complete confession, which confession is the expression of a contrite heart. The secret by which this aspect of responsibility may best be maintained is to keep short accounts with God. Let the first impression of spiritual depression be a signal to ascertain at once the cause and as readily to apply the remedy–confession to God.”
He also concludes: “Thus in the briefest and most vital manner three great responsibilities—the three which condition spirituality—are gathered up in three words, namely, confess, yield, and walk.”
Therefore, in relation to 1 John 1:9, it is not a passage for unbelievers but for Christians. We look back to the Cross of Christ when we recognize we have sinned and confess them knowing they are forgiven.
6. The late R.B. Thieme Jr. regarding the confession of sins:
In his book “Rebound Revisited” He notes the following, “The apostle Paul, above all men, completely understood the importance of rebound, i.e. naming sins privately to God the Father. When rebound is neglected, carnality is perpetuated and the spiritual life self-destructs. Without rebound, the filling of the Holy Spirit is grieved and quenched; the Christian way of life disintegrates.”
He goes on to say, “Rebound is the divine solution for recovering fellowship with God and defeating fear in life. Just as faith in Christ for salvation is accomplished in the status of spiritual death, so rebound for the recovery of the filling of the Holy Spirit is accomplished in the status of carnality. In each case God does all the work. That is grace…. Our responsibility is to simply acknowledge sins to God. We never earn or deserve the wonderful recovery of fellowship God provides for us.”
In his book “Rebound and Keep Moving,” he states:
“WHY REBOUND? If all sins were blotted out at the cross, why is sin still an issue? If all sins are already forgiven, why must you rebound? The penalty for sin is removed once and for all at the cross, but repercussions of personal sin in the life of a believer must be confronted. When a believer sins the initial repercussions are loss of fellowship with God and loss of the filling of the Holy Spirit, the empowerment for the Christian life. No member of the Trinity can fellowship with a believer having sin in his life. Sin destroys our temporal fellowship with the Lord, but cannot jeopardize our eternal relationship with Him. Rebound, confessing or naming our known sins to God the Father, is the only means compatible with grace for restoration of fellowship with God and recovery of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rebound is our access to intimacy with the Lord, the gateway to divine power in our life, our license to serve the Lord.”
Regarding the Filling of the Holy Spirit in Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled [PLEROO] with the Spirit.” He states, “In the imperative mood the Greek verb PLEROO designates a divine mandate, a command that involves our choice. God would not mandate a status we already possess. We must choose to be or not to be filled with the Spirit. PLEROO means “to fill up a deficiency, to fully influence, to fill with a certain quality.” No believer has the ability to obey God’s mandates through human power. The Holy Spirit fills up this deficiency by giving us the power to live the Christian way of life. But why, if we are filled with the Spirit at salvation, is this command necessary? The reason is our old nemesis, the sin nature. The filling of the Spirit is lost when we sin. In carnality we are no longer controlled by the Holy Spirit, but by the sin nature. How can we escape this control? REBOUND!”
“Rebound is for believers only. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, confession is utterly useless. Judas Iscariot confessed his sins, felt sorry for his sins, and even made restitution (Matt. 27:3-4). He did everything except believe in Christ. His confession was futile. He was lost and died an unbeliever.”
Concerning the misuse of 1 John 1:9, he states, “Often those with legalistic tendencies become upset because they think rebound is a license to sin. Some believers who fail may use rebound for exactly that purpose. But rebound restores the believer to a position where he can live his spiritual life and serve God, not excuse or rationalize sin. No believer can be in God’s plan apart from the divine power which comes only through the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rebound is the only way to recover from sin and regain the filling of the Holy Spirit.”
The Filling of the Holy Spirit is temporary, depending on whether or not you first confess any known sins to God the Father, and second, you continue to faithfully walk in the love, light, and wisdom of Christ. But remember that regardless of whether we are filled with the Spirit or not, we are always indwelt by the Holy Spirit, (eternal salvation and security), which we cannot lose, John 10:27-30. The Filling of the Spirit and fellowship with God are not mutually exclusive. They are inextricably related. In fact, experiencing one’s sanctification, walking in the light, and abiding in Christ or His Word, are also inextricably tied to each other. They all speak of experiencing fellowship with God from different perspectives. Thus, when a believer confesses their sins, they are not only restored to fellowship with God, but they are filled with the Spirit. Being “in fellowship with God” demands obedience to His Word. When we are, we also experience sanctification and walk in the light, i.e. live according to God’s holy standards. Therefore, to Produce Divine Good, we must be “Filled with the Holy Spirit” and “keep walking by means of the Spirit.” But if we “grieve or quench” the Spirit, we are out of fellowship with Him and we cannot produce Divine Good. “The confession of every known sin and the maintaining of the principle of reliance upon the Spirit in the daily walk depend on the action of the human will, but it is equally true and far more consequential that the human will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, else it does not act to God’s glory.” (Chafer’s Systematic Theology.) Therefore, it is impossible to please God, Eph 5:10, unless we are Filled with the Holy Spirit, Eph 5:18b, which is only achieved through the grace provision of 1 John 1:9. Indwelling says the Holy Spirit is in you. Filling says the Holy Spirit is operational in your soul.
Eph 5:19, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
This verse gives some excellent advice on how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit. You do so by worshiping God. Paul mentions here, only two of the many ways to worship God. In ordinary Christians, the Spirit fills not the mind that seeks the disturbing influences of excitement, but in the well-balanced prayerful mind. Such a one expresses his joy, not in drunken or worldly songs, but in Christian hymns of thankfulness.
“Speaking” is LALEO λαλέω that means, “to make external sounds with your mouth, to speak, proclaim, say or utter a sound.” It is in the Present, Active, Participle, Nominative, Plural. The Participle is used with Imperative force once again, so we have another mandate.
This “speaking” includes, “to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts,” is a powerful communication tool whereby, we speak one to another in song, as noted hear. And as we have noted, the messages we bring to each other in harmony with God’s Word is the result of being filled with the Spirit. When we do, we build up each other and encourage one another to be strong in the faith. Our love for God and one another grows as we blend our voices together in spiritual songs.
“To one another,” is the Personal Pronoun HEAUTOU in Dative 2nd Person, Plural, which typically means “yourself,” but here it is in the Second Person, so it refers to others, the ones receiving our communication. It emphasizes our relationship with fellow believers, as a result of being filled with God the Holy Spirit, as well as a means of maintaining our fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
The content of our communication is noted next. Each is joined together with the Conjunction KAI, “and” for the coordination of our praise to God and fellowship with others, as a result of our fellowship and filling of the Holy Spirit.
“Psalms,” the Noun PSALMOS, ψαλμός that means, “songs of praise, a psalm.” It can be used for any song of praise or joy, (a song sung with musical accompaniment), and for the book of Psalms, which is a hymn book written by David and others of the O.T.
“Hymns,” is the Noun HUMNOS, ὕμνος that means, “hymn, or song of praise.” Used only here and in the parallel verse of Col 3:16. The verb is used of Jesus and the apostles sing a hymn in Mat 26:30; Mark 14:26.
Mark 14:26, “And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” They probably sang the Hallel, a song commonly sung at Passover, which was taken from Psa 113–118.
“Despite the influence of local customs or ethnic traditions, undoubtedly the most influential force behind the content of Christian songs would have been the Old Testament and the songs of the synagogue.” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)
“Spiritual songs” is the Adjective PNEUMATKOS, πνευματικός that means, “spiritual or actuated by the Holy Spirit,” with the Noun ODE, ᾠδή meaning “song, songs of praise, and poetry,” used here and Col 3:16, as well as in Rev 5:9; 14:3; 15:3 in regard to the worship of God in heaven, during the Tribulation.
Can songs be distinguished from hymns and spiritual songs? Yes; So also can the verbs related to each: PSALLO, HUMNEO, and ADO.
1. Psalms and the verb PSALLO, “making melody or ‘psalmizing’,” are songs and music sung to accompaniment, originally to the accompaniment of a psaltery, a small harp, from which the root of this word was originally derived. The Old Testament psalms were such musical pieces sung in praise to God.
2. Hymns and the verb HUMNEO, “celebrate, praise, sing, or ‘hymnize’,” are songs and music that are doxological, creedal, and confessional in character. Hymns are musical pieces rich in theology and appropriate as pedagogical, (educational), tools.
3. Spiritual songs and the verb ADO, “sing,” may then refer to any musical expression of testimony or exhortation.
In the second half of vs. 19, we have a double emphasis of our praise through singing and song, when it states, “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Here the emphasis is squarely on our worship of the Lord, HO KURIOS in the Dative Singular meaning, “to the Lord.”
Songs and singing are valid means of worshiping God, and singing is an essential ingredient in the worship of God. Hymns vividly expressed Christian joy, James 5:13.
James 5:13, “… Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.”
Rev 15:3 speaks of a multitude which sings “the song of Moses the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” The “song of Moses” praises God’s redeeming power; the “song of the Lamb” praises Him for the atoning sacrifice of Christ. All of these songs, both the old of Moses and the new of the Lamb, unite in one heavenly symphony to praise and honor God. As such, we will be singing praise to God in the eternal state, just as we should be doing here in time.
“Singing,” is the verb ADO, ᾄδω that means “sing,” which is a cognate of ODE above. It is in the Present, Active, Participle, Nominative Plural, once again for a mandate of worship towards the Lord.
“And making melody,” is the Conjunction KAI, with verb PSALLO, “to sing, (a spiritual or sacred song), or sing praise.” In ancient Greek, it meant to pluck an instrument, but over time is changed to mean, “to sing” with a possible nuance of, “to sing with instrumental accompaniment.” As in the Septuagint, PSALLO is used in the N.T. only of singing directed to God in praise. It is also used in Rom 15:9; 1 Cor 14:16, twice; James 5:13.
Rom 15:9, “And for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, (2 Sam 22:5; Psa 18:49), “THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME”.”
“With your heart,” is the Dative, Singular, Feminine of HO KARDIA that means, “heart or mind,” which we also call, “the right lobe of your soul.” This is the place where you store and retain God’s Word / Bible doctrine, and do your thinking in terms of cycling it through your soul. This is the place where Christ longs to reside, Eph 3:17, but only does so when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and grow in spiritual maturity, as a result of living faithfully to God by learning and applying His Word / “the mind of Jesus Christ.”
As we noted above, the One we are to be praising in the heart of our soul is our Lord, KURIOS, Jesus Christ.
Psa 95:1, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”
The parallel verse is Col 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Here we see some minor differences of emphasis but the same context. The main emphasis here is to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you,” (i.e., be resident within your soul), and to teach and admonish one another with songs of praise. We are to do this in “thanksgiving” to God.
We must not forget that the thought of this “fullness of the Holy Spirit,” is here connected, in a special degree, with that of the joy of the Lord and its expression. As the miserable exhilaration of the drunkard comes out in the song of “riot,” so the “calm excess” of the man “filled in the Spirit” will come out in song too. It will come out always in the song of the life, the melody and harmony of a character and conduct gladdened by the blessed Presence. But it will often tend to come out in the song of the lips, and above all when Christians, thus “filled,” meet together before their Lord. As such, we worship God through singing psalms set to music, through hymns that are songs of praise to God, and through spiritual songs. Our worship in song should contain a balance among these three types of singing.
Doctrine of Singing Praise to God
1. Old Testament worship music.
In the O.T., worshipping through song and music was a main part of their praise to God. In the days of Samuel, a school of prophets are trained on wind, percussion, and stringed instruments, which they use in their service, 1 Sam 10:5. David arranges a talented choir and full orchestra for tabernacle worship with a skilled conductor, 1 Chron 6:31-47; 15:16-24; 25. In the inauguration of temple service, Solomon likewise arranges musicians and choirs, 2 Chron 5:11-14; 7:6. Having purged the nation of idolatry, Hezekiah and Josiah both restore these worship functions, which the Lord had originally commanded through David and the prophets, 2 Chron 29:25-30; 34:12-13. After the return from Babylonian and Persian captivity, the repair of the temple’s foundation is celebrated with instruments and songs of praise, Ezra 3:10-11. Nehemiah restores the worship music at the dedication of Jerusalem’s rebuilt wall, Neh 12:26-47.
Clearly, worshipping God through song accompanied by music, was an important part of their spiritual walk.
2. New Testament worship music.
As we turn to the N.T., singing in worship is seen in many circumstances and has many purposes. Interestingly, instruments of music in worship are conspicuously absent in the N.T. That is why some believe we should not have accompanying music in our song services and just sing. But that is reading too much into the Scriptures and making an argument from a position of silence, which is always dangerous, as nowhere in the N.T. does it state to not use accompanying instruments. Nevertheless, Christians practiced singing during the early Church in praise and worship of God, as we too should do today.
Mat 26:30, “…and when they had sung an hymn, they went out unto the Mount of Olives.” Cf. Mark 14:26.
Acts 16:25, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them.”
Rom 15:9, “I will sing unto Your name.”
1 Cor 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.”
Heb 2:12, “Saying, I will declare Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise to You.”
3. The purpose of our singing is the worship of God.
a. We praise and give thanks to God in our singing. Through the psalmist, God demonstrates His strong desire to receive our praise. The point is not that God needs our praise, but He appreciates our praise. Furthermore, our praise can lead others to Him. Therefore, honoring God in song is to be something we do gladly, willingly, and joyfully, not as drudgery or under compulsion. Cf. 2 Cor 9:7.
In many of his psalms, David pours out his heart to the Father expressing his innermost feelings. Singing is a medium through which we also can do the same. When we feel happy, sad, lonely, afraid, excited, or worried, singing is a means of expression and sharing. James relates this thought:
James 5:13, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”
Eph 5:18-20, “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Col 3:16-17, “ …and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
God has richly blessed us with spiritual blessings through Jesus His Son, Eph 1:3-6. We have a lot to be cheerful and thankful about, and singing hymns of praise is one way we can express to God our thankfulness.
Heb 13:15, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”
Rom 15:9, “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will give praise to You among the Gentiles and sing unto Your name.”
Acts 16:25, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Heb 2:12, “… saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You’.”
b. We are to teach and admonish one another through our singing. The following passage shows that singing is an effective method for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in the righteousness of God’s inspired Word, cf. 1 Tim 3:16.
Col 3:16-17, “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.”
Admonition, literally “a putting to mind,” is instruction in God’s Word and includes speaking both words of warning and correction, as well as words of encouragement and guidance.
c. We edify and encourage others through our singing. Singing plays a part in edification. Words are often easier to remember when set in melody, meter, and rhyme. Many truths of the Bible and the nature of God can become engraved in our hearts by the familiarity of song.
1 Cor 14:12-15, “…Let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel…. 15What is the conclusion then? … I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”
Eph 5:18-19, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Mat 26:30, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Cf. Mark 14:26. This remarkable snapshot of Jesus comes shortly after He reveals Judas as His betrayer and shortly before His ordeal in the garden. Imagine how Jesus must have been strengthened by this singing.
In Acts 16:25, the multi-purpose nature of singing is clearly demonstrated.
Acts 16:25, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
The verse plainly states Paul and Silas were singing praises to God. They had just been beaten and thrown into prison, so they were no doubt thanking God that they were counted worthy of that, and seeking His protection, as was done before, Acts 4:29; 5:41. As they sang, they were speaking to each other, which certainly gave them courage to bear the trial. The inspired writer makes the point that the prisoners were also listening, and the gospel message heard by the jailer that night in those songs, obviously touched his heart, vs. 29-34.
4. How are we to sing?
God is as much concerned about our attitude and manner of doing things in worship, as He is about the actions themselves. Even though we may be performing service in conformance to every detail of God’s Word, God is worthy of more than worship characterized by mindless routine. God has never been satisfied with superficial worship demonstrated by a mere outward show of reverence, Sam 16:7; Mat 15:8. In Leviticus, we see that the burnt offering sacrifices were to be of animals young and healthy, without blemish or defect, but it was the meaning behind the ritual that God was after, Heb 10:1ff. Correspondingly, the singing we offer in worship should reflect an effort to the best of our ability and with our body, soul, heart, and spirit involved.
Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Cf. Mat 22:37; Luke 10:27.
a. Our song and praise should be directed to God, and not to man.
Acts 16:25, “… sang praises unto God.”
Rom 15:9, “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy… and sing unto Your name.”
Eph 5:19, “… singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.”
Col 3:16, “… singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
While it is good to have singing that is beautiful to the ear, we must remember that we should be concerned about pleasing God and not men.
b. We are to worship according to the mandates of the God, 2 John 1:9-11. We cannot go beyond what God has commanded.
2 John 1:9, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”
John 4:24, “God is a spirit: and those who worship Him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
That means we are to be filled with God the Holy Spirit, Eph 5:18, so that our human spirit is in control of our soul as we apply His Word when worshipping Him. In other words, we do not make things up and call it worship when it is outside of the Bible.
c. Scripture indicates that our song service to God is to be sincere, from the heart, Mark 12:30; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16. As such, our singing must come from the heart, the right lobe of your soul. Therefore, our singing is to be from the mentality of our soul in application of God’s Word, and not from the emotional revolt of the soul in reversionism. There is a proper role for emotions in singing. It should be in response to thankfulness and gratitude, as an expression of our love for God, but not a leading of emotional overload from the sin nature.
Eph 5:19, “… singing and making melody in your hearts …”
Col 3:16, “…singing with thankfulness, (CHARIS – grace), in your hearts to the Lord.”
Our singing should be heart-felt, in sincerity, in sensibility, and devoid of worldly distractions. But half-hearted, nonchalant participation will have little influence on others for good, and it certainly does not honor God as He deserves. Conversely, if we are singing with a cheerful heart, believing what we are saying, it will be evident to others. We can convey our feelings not only by the words we speak, but also by our inflection and tone of voice. This holds no less true when we sing with meaning.
d. We must understand what we are saying, when we sing the words of a song of praise.
1 Cor 14:15, “What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind (understanding) also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind (understanding) also.”
This means that we need to understand the songs which we are singing, for it to be effective for worship. If we are singing meaningless songs without understanding of what we are singing, our worship will be meaningless too. This is why such things like humming or whistling without words, instrument solos, etc., should not be applied in our worship, albeit, when you are alone, there is no problem with humming, whistling, or playing an instrument while the words are running through your mind.
We honor God in our hearts by continually meditating on spiritual truths, as we are instructed, Psa1:1-2; Phil 4:8; 1 Tim 4:15, which we can do while coincidentally doing many other non-related activities.
Phil 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
In addition, repetitious words or phrases said over and over again, tend to lose meaning and your attention quickly, which means your worship is lost quickly too.
This demands that we be attentive to the messages of our songs. Our hymns, except those set to scripture, are composed by men and therefore may contain false doctrine. If we are not diligent, we might be teaching error in our singing. No matter how much we might like the melody or whether we have always sung a particular song for years, if we learn that it contains doctrinal error, we should stop singing it in worship. Our songs must be doctrinally sound.
Since Scripture reveals we are teaching when we sing, then all Scripture that gives instruction on teaching is justifiably applied to this aspect of singing as well. Consider the following passages now in light of singing:
Titus 2:1, “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.”
1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.”
Just as a preacher must give careful consideration to what he teaches, the song leader must give careful thought to the songs he chooses and the messages he conveys. If we would not teach in a Bible class the message contained in a particular song, then we should not be singing that song, no matter how beautiful the melody may be. We are supposed to be teaching with decency, but no one can learn if they cannot understand.
1 Cor 14:7-9, “…unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken…?”
1 Cor 14:26-33, “…for God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
5. With these things in mind, how do we make our song service more enriching?
a. For the Assembly.
Every person in the assembly should sing. Singing is not meant for the many to listen to the few. God wants each to sing if possible, Col 3:16. God has not purposed that our assembled worship in song should be competitive or for entertainment. This would lead to opening auditions outside the church to select the best singers for a choir or as soloists to display their talents, so others can sit passively and listen as spectators. Though often seen in religious organizations, this does not fit the pattern set in Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16. In assembled worship, the combined implication is that each one is participating by singing to all others, while they are all simultaneously singing to each one. This is the essence of fellowship, Acts 2:42.
Hold your head up, look up, and speak up when singing. Some members refrain from singing or just sing very quietly, because they feel they cannot sing well enough. This does not honor God as He deserves; God judges our hearts and our motives. God has not set rigorous technical requirements that all who worship Him in song must attain in order to be pleasing to Him. His command is simply that we sing. He is not concerned whether we get the melody exactly right or if our harmony is perfect. He desires that we open our mouths and make our voices heard. That which human wisdom might not perceive as beautiful is glorious to the Lord.
1 Sam 16:7, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Psa 81:1, “Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.”
This is not to say it is unimportant how well we sing. A careless attitude is unacceptable, and many of us are capable of improving with practice and effort. Remember that when we come to worship in song, we are in the very presence of a most holy God who created all of heaven and earth, which our service and praise should acknowledge with reverence, Psa 66:1; 95:1-7; 98:4; Rev 15:4.
Psa 100:1-3, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth! 2Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. 3Know that the LORD, Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
In addition, God’s Word instructs us to not be overbearing but to accommodate and tolerate one another, Rom 14:15-22; Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:13. Therefore, we should not try to intentionally, “out sing” or “sing over,” everyone else in the congregation. As 1 Cor 11:33, states, “wait for one another,” which applied here means, to singing together in harmony and unity in worship of God.
Therefore, we are to ponder and meditate on the thoughts in each song, and do not center your mind on what someone else is doing, what someone is wearing, or what you are planning to do later. We are to be concentrating on God and our praise of Him, and Him alone!
Finally, be understanding of the song leader when he makes mistakes. Be understanding of little mistakes that fellow worshippers may make too, when singing.
b. For the Song Leader.
To fulfill the New Testament command to have coordinated singing together within in a large body of people, we must have some way to agree on what psalm we will be singing, at what time we will be singing it, and in what tempo and musical key we will sing. The need for a song leader is therefore unavoidable.
Like gospel preaching, the singing in worship needs to be handled by competent and skilled leaders. The scriptures we have observed suggest that song leaders are gospel teachers and should endeavor to incorporate into the song service the characteristics of praise, expression, and edification. They have the serious responsibility of preparing the audience for other modes of worship while also concentrating on many different complex things at the same time.
Effective song leading in public worship is difficult and requires a degree of expertise and practice so that order might prevail. Not everyone can be an effectual song leader, no matter how sincere they may be. Unlike leading other acts of worship, song leading is inherently limited to only those who have a certain degree of special, natural ability. If the leader is not qualified, confusion and disorder often result. God gives each one of us different natural gifts, just as he gave different miraculous gifts to early Christians.
Rom 12:6-8, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
As with all areas of judgment, there is a call for balance. We should not get so caught up in precise musical technology that the spirituality and simplicity are lost. On the other hand, we should not minimize musical technique and expertise to the point that decency and orderliness are lost.
Two things determine the character of spiritual songs: the music and the message. A well written song will have a clear, simple message, coordinated comfortably with the music. However, if the melody is dull and monotonous, the participants may become listless. If the music and meter is overly complex or awkward, the singers may despair. If the lyrics are unnecessarily repetitious, the participants may become disinterested. If the lyrics are overly cumbersome, the singers may be distracted by the words, rather than attracted by their message.
In typical congregational settings, it will be difficult to engage poorly composed songs with rousing, hearty participation. Decency and orderliness may become compromised as well. Since the songs are for teaching, admonishing, and edifying, song leaders need to be attentive to these matters. If problems persist, deacons of the church need to issue corrective instructions, and song leaders need to submit, Heb 13:17. The deacons of the church have the responsibility of managing and regulating the worship activities to insure that decency and order are maintained, and song leaders have the duty to submit to their rule.
Therefore, choose songs that the assembly knows. Choose songs that are scriptural. Choose songs that teach the truth of God’s Word and discard those that teach false doctrine.
The leader(s) are to speak out clearly when giving instructions. Pick songs that are applicable to the situation.
Knowledge of music and notes, although not absolutely essential, will aid greatly in song leading.
Understand that you are the song leader, not the preacher. Leave the preaching up to the speaker. A few comments may sometimes be in order, but keep it very brief. Do the best you can, and rest assured that God will be pleased.
We have no way to know how early church singing sounded, so how is our singing today supposed to sound? The Bible simply says “sing,” but since no musical notation has been Divinely revealed, this is left for us to expedite. To the extent the word “sing” is generic, many different styles and forms of vocal music will acceptably fulfill the command, from simple, loosely metered chants to complex rhythmic and harmonic choral arrangements.
Singing styles vary from place to place, culture to culture, and time to time. For example, melodic phrasing is distinctly different in eastern countries from what is characteristic of western countries. In God’s wisdom, He allows us to use melodic forms familiar to us where ever and whenever we may live. We should be careful not to criticize the singing in worship in other places and other times, because it is different from what we may be doing now where we live, as long as it is truly singing as the scriptures instruct. Even today, primitive cultures exist in the world, and we should not expect that the singing in worship there should sound like it does everywhere else on earth.
There is something to be said for decency and appropriateness as well. In our society, culture naturally places certain expectations upon how songs of reverence should sound. Though human traditions are not to be our standard of authority in the church, the scriptures make it abundantly clear that our customs must be considered in matters of liberty and judgment, 1 Cor 8-11; Rom 14. These principles are legitimately applied to our singing, so we understand that certain musical styles would probably be considered inappropriate for hymns today. For example, a song in the form of a ninth century Gregorian chant performed in services today might be more of a distraction than if a more modern style were used. Similarly, a popular form of music today, the rap, would probably have a similar effect of drawing attention to the musical style and away from the spiritual message. Most hymnals in use today are compiled with appropriateness considered. We need to be careful that the line of good judgment is not crossed.
Singing is a beautiful expression of our worship and adoration of the Lord God. Let us strive to make it more pleasing to our master and more edifying to each other. For our songs in worship to be instructional, edifying, and praising to God, they must be content rich with the Word of God. Singing is a medium which God has ordained for His Word to richly dwell in us, giving us wisdom, Col 3:16. We maintain our filling of the Holy Spirit by speaking to one another with His words of truth, and signing praise to God, Eph 5:18-19. For our songs in worship to be spiritual, their messages will pertain to things of the Lord, such as His Divine character, Word, work, love, praise, and church, rather than things of the flesh or of this world.
God has specified what we are to do: sing hymns and spiritual songs. How we go about doing it, (the means, methods, and tools), are left to our judgment, as long as we are doing nothing more and nothing less than what is specified in His Word. Providing that we maintain the spirit and the truth with decency and orderliness, we can expedite our worship function as we deem appropriate.