We Are to Sing and Make Melody in Our Heart; Why not Sing A Psalm, Hymn and Spiritual Song?

A querist wrote:
Paul writes in Eph 5: 19, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” If the phrase “singing AND making melody in your heart to the Lord” means both singing AND making melody” have to occur in order for an individual to be acceptable to God, then why doesn’t speaking to one another in psalms AND hymns AND spiritual songs” have to occur in order to be acceptable to God?

James replied:
When we speak to one another in songs in our assembly, we obviously have to sing in order to speak. However, when we speak to one another in song, two things are to happen: 1) sing with your mouth and 2) make melody in your heart. The time elment is specified in this command. Sing and make melody are to take place when you speak to one another.

In the command speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs the frequency is not specified. As long as these three (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs) occur sometimes in your song services, then you are obeying the command. Nothing requires that each time you meet, every one of these types of songs must be sung. The time element is not there.

How would you know if you obeyed the command anyway? The distinction between psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is hotly debated. There is no divinely prescribed list of each song. One song might actually fit the qualifications of all three genres. However, since God did not specify, how are we ever going to know for sure if we are right?

The only way we can establish authority is for God to command it, or we have an example where it was always done, or there is a necessary inference that it must be done. We have authority to speak to one another in songs in our assemblies because God commands it it. History tells us the early church sang at least one hymn before the LS, but when they met in the catacombs they may not have even done that for fear of being heard. Nowhere is a frequency specified for these three types of songs. We are not at liberty to bind where God has not bound.

There is another scripture that gives an example of singing in the assembly (I Cor 14:26). However, Paul only uses the generic term “psalm” to refer to aparently whatever kind of song was sung. We can necessarily infer from Paul’s remarks that multiple psalms were sung in the assembly, but he says nothing regarding hymns and spiritual songs. From Paul’s remarks in I Cor 14:26, Eph 5:19, and Col 3:16, I conclude that as long as the song selection is from the set of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, that you can sing as many of whatever type of song that you choose, as long as it is done decently and in order.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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