by Michael Hickox
via The Sincere Milk of God's Word
"Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
These two verses teach the truth about how we must worship God through music. Notice toward the beginning of both verses that the phrases “speaking to one another” and “teaching and admonishing one another” are used. An important purpose of “congregational” singing is to edify one another.
This does not mean though that the purpose of such singing is to please ourselves. Notice the ending of both verses says “to the Lord.” It is God who we must please. It is God who has the right to determine what is and is not acceptable in our worship. We must therefore follow His commands.
The New Testament commands He’s given concerning worship in song all reference singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13). The examples He’s given concerning New Testament worship in songs also reference singing (cf. Acts 16:25; I Corinthians 14:15).
In the Old Testament, worshipping God with mechanical instruments of music was acceptable (cf. Psalms 33:2), as was offering animal sacrifices. The fact that animal sacrifices were willed by God under the Old Law does not make it so under the Law of Christ. Likewise, the presence of mechanical music in the Old Testament does not make it God’s will for worship today (cf. Colossians 2:14-17).
Some question how worshipping with mechanical instruments of music can be wrong if God has not directly forbidden it. Consider an illustration. If we are asked to paint someone’s kitchen white, we would recognize that it needs to be painted white. The person asking doesn’t have to say not to paint it green, blue, or any other color. The understanding is that white means white alone.
When God asked Noah to make an ark of gopher wood, God did not have to list hundreds of woods that could not be used (Gen. 6:14). The command necessarily inferred that gopher wood was the only kind of wood that was acceptable.
In the New Testament, God commands making melody in our heart by singing. Making melody (in worship) with a piano or other mechanical instrument is worshipping God differently than He authorizes.
Having said all of this, it’s important to note that the need for obeying God’s command to sing is not fulfilled only by ensuring our outward actions follow His pattern of “singing.” Our singing must be sincere, as indicated by the phrase “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Our hearts should be moved as we worship in song. Those who are afraid their singing is not up to par should remember that God listens to our hearts.
We must also sing with thanksgiving, as Colossians 3:16 says. A thankful heart that means the words being sung pleases God. This should be the goal of our worship of God.
Mankind can devise numerous ways to worship that seem good. Yet, only those who follow God’s commands are showing the love for Him He desires (I John 5:3). May we sing with grace while making melody in our hearts, and thereby make a sound that is beautiful to God and edifies others.