Monday, September 7, 2015

Music in the Church: A Few Meditations

Notes from a Sunday School lesson I did recently...

Music in the Church
Ephesians 5.18-20


·      Psalm 33.1-5
·      Psalm 63.1-7

·      God’s people sing

·      The character of God and his works call forth for singing

·      Enabled by God’s grace to sing

·      Presence of God calls forth singing

o  Example: Angels at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest”

·      Ephesians 5 is our starting point for our meditation today

Ephesians 5.18-20: Notice some of the details here…

1.    “filled with the Spirit”: leads to singing in the congregation!

a.    Singing is counter-cultural

                                              i.     “Do you ever gather with your friends to sing about what is most deeply meaningful to you?”

2.    v. 19: two perspectives on the same activity

a.    “speaking to one another…”

b.   “singing and making melody…”

3.    Two Audiences

a.    “to one another”:  horizontal focus

b.   “to the Lord”:  vertical focus; NOTE: “Lord” = Jesus Christ (see v. 20)

                                              i.     NOTE: Go to Colossians 3.16

1.   Col 3.16: sing to God

2.   Eph 5.19: sing to the Lord (Jesus Christ)


4.    Two Purposes: linked with two audiences

a.    “to one another”: instruct and edify (Col 3.16)

                                              i.     Issue of “intelligibility” again

b.   “to the Lord”: praise and thankfulness from the whole heart

5.    Helps explain song choices sometimes…

a.    Some songs are very didactic: full of theology and theological content

b.   Other songs: direct address, intimate, expressive

c.    Consider some Psalms…

                                              i.     Psalm 70: direct address to the Lord

                                            ii.     Psalm 104: Creation

                                          iii.     Psalm 105: Deliverance from Egypt to Promised Land

                                          iv.     Psalm 106: Same time frame as Psalm 105; focus on Israel’s rebellion

                                            v.     Psalm 117: 2 verses

                                          vi.     Psalm 119: 176 verses

                                        vii.     Psalm 131: imagery of intimacy

                                      viii.     Psalm 134: Simple

                                          ix.     Psalm 136: Repetitive

d.   Full range of Songs…

                                              i.     Styles

                                            ii.     Emotion

                                          iii.     Length

                                          iv.     Content

                                            v.     Focus

1.   Psalm 105/106: same time frame; different focus

2.   Consider songs about the cross of Christ: different emphases

a.    victory, pain, shame, blessing

The same God who inspired the Epistle to the Romans also penned Psalm 23.  If some who relish the sophistication of Romans would dare to claim that God “dumbed down” the Scriptures when he inspired the simple Shepherd’s Psalm, they would simply indicate that they had confused excellence with complexity.

·      Some have been guilty of this… confusing excellence with complexity

Excellence in all dimensions of worship expression, including music, must not simply be defined by cultural standards of sophistication, but by the ability of the expression to strengthen, deepen, and develop faith.  We should neither demean songs that a congregation knows and loves nor allow it never to move from them.  Creating uncertain and muted praise by demanding highly sophisticated expression from an unprepared congregation denies God the passionate worship he deserves from his people.  Yet to allow the congregation to settle for clichéd worship and unthinking routines does the same.  The healthiest congregations with the most thoughtful worship engage in an eclectic mix of worship expression that keeps faith fresh, serves multiple generations, stays rooted in the past, blossoms toward the future, stimulates childlike love, strives for excellence in presentation, bridges cultural barriers, and encourages ever-greater understanding.
                  Bryan Chapell Christ-Centered Worship, p. 140

Turn back to Ephesians 5.19… 2 audiences and purposes!

6.    Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs à a few comments…

a.    Psalms: not limited to the OT Psalms but inclusive of it

                                              i.     Luke uses the word for the actual Psalms

1.   Luke 20.42; 24.44; Acts 1.20; 13.33

                                            ii.     Word used in 1 Cor 14.26: a song of praise; perhaps inspired by the Spirit

b.   Hymns: festive hymn of praise

                                              i.     Word: used 2x’s in NT: Eph 5.19; Col 3.16

                                            ii.     Used in Isaiah 42.10 (LXX)

1.   “Sing to the Lord a new song”
2.   Context: Future deliverance centered in the Servant
3.   Isaiah 42.1-4: Jesus at Matthew 12.18-21
4.   Isaiah 42.6: Paul at Acts 13.47

The song is new, for it is to celebrate the new things God will accomplish.  A wholly, new manifestation of God’s power and goodness calls forth new, fitting songs.  E. J. Young Isaiah vol. 3, p. 125

·      I don’t believe in Exclusive Psalmody

·      New acts of God call forth for new songs

·      In this regard, is it even remotely possible that the greatest divine deliverance of all, the redemptive work of Christ, should not evoke new songs?
John Frame Worship in Spirit and Truth, p. 125

c.    Spiritual Songs

                                              i.     “spiritual” may cover all the words: psalms and hymns too

                                            ii.     Word (“song”) is used in Revelation 5.9; 14.3; 15.3

                                          iii.     Revelation 15.3

1.   Song of Moses and Song of the Lamb

2.   One song…not two

3.   Song of Moses (Ex 15) prefigures the deliverance brought by the Lamb

4.   Old songs can be sung in new ways; with new depth

5.   Psalms

a.    King: Jesus Christ

b.   Zion: Heavenly Zion (cf. Heb. 12.22)

c.    Temple: gathered people of God (1 Cor 3; 2 Cor 6)