I am happy to present to you one of the chapters from my new book, 'The Spiritual Song: Exploring Prophetic Worship.' I have been singing spontaneous songs and worship all of my Christian life and want to share the important things I have learned both from the Scriptures and my experiences. I hope you will be inspired by these insights that I have gained through the years!
CHAPTER 7: PSALMS, HYMNS AND SPIRIT SONGS
‘Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.’ 1
‘Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.’ 2
These two passages give us the most significant directions for worship in the New Testament. They are alike in that they both tell us what kinds of music are to be sung in the gatherings of the people of God for worship. They are different in that in the Colossian passage, the inspiration for psalms hymns and spiritual songs comes from the ‘word/message of Christ’ or all of the writings of the New Testament. In the Ephesians passage the inspiration for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs comes from the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. These are the eternal sources of music for the Christian age, the Word and the Spirit.
1 The New International Version. 2011 (Col 3:16). Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
2 The New International Version. 2011 (Eph 5:18–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
In both passages the horizontal relationship is expressed; ‘teach and admonish one another…’ (Col.)
…‘speaking to one another…’ (Eph.) In both letters the
vertical relationship to God is encouraged; ‘singing to God…’ (Col.); ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.’ (Eph)
In these simple encouragements to sing the
‘psalms’ the New Testament endorses the entire scope
of the Psalms experience. ‘The Gentiles have been made a part of something already existing…The Gentiles enter into the world of Abraham and David, where the Psalms had been sung and prayed.’3 This includes all the directions for worship, for God would never command us to sing the words and not perform the actions. It includes the instrumentation of the psalms, the instructions of David for worship, the concept of those who are dedicated to the ministry of prophetic worship and the understanding that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of the songs.
When Paul tells us to sing psalms it ‘may well include the OT Psalter, now taken over into the worship of the Christian communities; but one would be bold indeed to limit it to such.’4 Psalms would be representative of singing passages from all of the Word of God; the Law, Psalms, Prophets and the New
Testament. There is a unique power in singing the Word and it is not without design that Psalms are mentioned first in both the Colossian and Ephesians references. A number of sections of the New Testament are thought to be ‘psalms’ such as Colossians 1:15-20.
‘Christ is the visible image of the invisible God
He existed before anything was created and
Is supreme over all creation,
For through him God created everything In the heavenly realms and on earth…’ (Col 1:15,16)
Mary’s Magnificat equals or excels any psalm
portion of the Bible:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’
(Lk 1:46, 47 ESV)
The meaning of this word is a song that is in praise of God. ‘In the Greek world, this word was used exclusively of songs sung to deities or heroes…’ 5 It would include all the compositions of human origin that are in praise or prayer to God and Christ throughout
the centuries. Today we refer to hymns as an older
style of music as distinct from our contemporary worship songs but in the context of the biblical
meaning most contemporary worship songs are
Hymn singing could refer to not only the type of
songs but the act of singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as a whole. ’ Paul and Silas were ‘hymning’ and praying in the Philippian jail right before the miraculous earthquake shook their prison doors open. Mark 14:26 tells us that Jesus and the disciples sang a ‘hymn’
before going to Mount of Olives the night before the
crucifixion. Most likely they were singing (hymning) the
‘Hallal’ section of the Psalms, 113-118 that is
traditionally sung on the Passover evening.
SONGS FROM THE SPIRIT-
Song is the Greek word ‘odais’ and covers the whole range of songs and styles from the Greek world. This little admonition opens up the door of creativity to Christian music. All genres of ‘song’ can be used by the Holy Spirit to communicate the message of Christ.
‘Spirit’ is the word ‘pneumatikais’ meaning ‘from the
Holy Spirit’ and ‘supernatural.’ ‘…this most likely indicates a kind of “charismatic hymnody” in which Spirit-inspired, and therefore often spontaneous, songs were offered in the context of congregational
worship.’6 This verse encourages the spontaneous
These songs would be ‘prophetic’ in that they would have the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit much like the singers in the times of the creation of the Psalms. No modern expression of prophecy carries the equivalent authority of the Holy Scriptures and must be judged or discerned as to their content. Spiritual songs are mentioned 3d place in order of worship as the source of inspiration for a prophetic music would be from the heartfelt singing of psalms and hymns.
When we are told to ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord’,’ the focus is not so much on our attitude toward God as we sing, but on our awareness of his attitude toward us that prompts such singing in the first place.’ 7Our singing of Spirit Songs is a
response to the grace that He pours upon us.
? Spirit Songs are a part of the threefold dimension of NT worship
? They are inspired by the Word of God and the infilling Holy Spirit
? They can be sung horizontally to one another or vertically to God
? Songs can be sung from the Psalm passages throughout the Bible
? The Holy Spirit uses our intellect and creativity in the Spirit Song
? The Holy Spirit can add the supernatural element of prophecy and spontaneity
? Prophetic songs do not have equivalent authority to the Word of God
? The Spirit Song is a response to the grace of
God revealed to us