No Excuse

The clergy’s eagerness not to panic the Shepherd’s sheep must never become an excuse to represent the crassest kind of schmoozing, the kitschiest sort of art, and the limpest displays of intellect as worthy offerings in worship.

–Daniel Frankforter, Stones for Bread: A Critique of Contemporary Worship, 71

Singing and Being Filled with the Spirit

Most of Ephesians 4 and all of Ephesians 5 address what it means to live as children of light, or more conventionally, what it means to live holy lives. Paul gives many commands and  instructions, but ultimately men and women are made holy by the Spirit who is called Holy. Therefore Paul’s command in Eph. 5:1 —“Be filled with the Holy Spirit”—is the culmination of  these chapters, both rhetorically and theologically. The passive imperative—“be filled”—is  followed by four subordinate participial clauses:  (1) speaking to one another in songs, hymns,  and spiritual songs; (2) singing and making music in your hearts; (3) giving thanks to the Lord;  (4) submitting to one another. These participles are grammatically dependent upon the verb,  and they give substance and content to the command to be filled with the Spirit. And  remarkably, two of the four clauses—three of the five participles—have to do with making  music.

–Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003),  639.

The Need to Sing

Finally, it is at the climax of these warnings and exhortations [in Ephesians 4 and 5] that Paul writes: “Be filled with the
Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (5:18‐19).  In other words, to a Christian community surrounded by
ignorance and immorality; to a people who themselves were prone to the blindness and
indulgence of their former way of life; at the conclusion of a passage warning against
irrationality and sins of the flesh—Paul urges singing and music making. . . . Paul shares the
same broad concerns as Augustine and Calvin, but the recommendation emerging from those
concerns is entirely different.  To put it very crudely, Augustine says: “Irrationality is bad.
Sensuality is bad.  Therefore, be careful about music.”  Paul on the other hand says, “Foolishness
is bad.  Sensuality is bad.  Therefore, you had better sing.”]

–Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638.

On Making Music

A few words as to how God looks at our music making. . . . Music making is an offering to God; . . as musically magnificent as the offering might be, it has no special merit; and . . the condition of the offerer’s faith takes precedence over the time, circumstance, and quality of the art. There is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ, author and finisher. All sacrifices, living and inanimate, are saved to the uttermost when they come to God through Christ. This means that God sees and hears all of our offerings, perfected. God sees and hears as no human being can, all because our offerings have been perfected by the giver. The out-of-tune singing of an ordinary believer, the hymnic chant of the aborigine, the dance of a Barishnikov, the open frankness of a primitive art piece, the nearly transcendent “Kyrie” of Bach’s B Minor Mass, the praise choruses of the charismatic, the drum praise of the Cameroonian—everything from the widow’s mite to the poured-out ointment of artistic action—are at once humbled and exalted by the strong saving work of Christ. While the believer offers, Christ perfects. It is all of Christ and it is all by faith.

–Harold Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, 155-56