The apostle Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5 to “walk in love” (verse 2) conclude with this beautiful exhortation for worship (verses 18-21):
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. 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, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"
First, we are to be filled with the Spirit of God who gives purpose and joy to our worship. The Spirit does not give us a temporary “high” or a momentary “fix.” Instead, the Spirit renews our desire and capacity to understand and obey the will of the Lord (verse 17).
In worship, we may prefer to listen to the band or choir. Amid Covid precautions, we may be uncomfortable singing in a mask. Or feel silly singing aloud with a live-stream service at home. But to sing in worship is a command, reiterated over and over again in Scripture.
We are to make music “from our hearts.” Yes, there are distractions in worship. Our minds wander or we just don’t “feel it.” Remember: singing is a discipline, like prayer or Bible study, something that we do whether we feel like it or not; so we sing, and our heart will follow (Matthew 6:21).
We are free to sing a wide variety of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (verse 19): free poetry and poetry in stanzas; Scripture texts and songs written from the hearts of Christ-followers through the centuries; teaching texts with deep truths and devotional lyrics meant to give us space to reflect.
We direct our singing “to the Lord” and “to one another” (verse 19). This is one reason why individual worship is no substitute for coming together to worship. Worship is meant to encourage, exhort, and build up Christ’s Church. We speak to God and to one another through our worship.
In worship, we encounter the triune God who forever is—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We sing with the Holy Spirit, to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This communion with the Trinity brings meaning and purpose to our worship!
The instruction that follows these verses is vital: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (verse 21). We submit to one another when we sing a song we may not like; when we hear and enjoy the worship of the people with limited musical ability; when we worship our shared God with people of a variety of economic statuses, ethnicities, and ages.
These verses are a good guide for worship in any style, in any venue, in any gathering of Christ-followers, in any generation: Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. Give thanks with the Spirit, to God the Father, in the name of Jesus. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This post is a condensed version of a recent blog by Carrie Davies. Carrie currently serves as Director of Worship at Parkminster Church, in Rochester, NY. As a worshipper of Jesus for 40+ years, a worship facilitator for 30+ years, and a worship director for nearly 20 years, she comments that she’s had lots of thoughts on worship, some worth sharing. You can read the full post on her site, my little worship blog.