Paul’s view of music is not simply benign. Rather, he sees music as having a role to play in sanctification. One scholar of church music observes that the NT has relatively little to say about music, aside from “a stray remark in two of the Epistles about the singing of hymns and spiritual songs” (Eric Routley, Church Music and the Christian Faith, 15). Routley is referring to this passage in Ephesians and the parallel passage in Colossians. But this is certainly not a stray remark.
—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638‐39
There is an analogy of form between the sound of people singing together and the unity to which the church aspires, and for this reason music is a particularly apt vehicle for worship. In Ephesians 5, it is in connection with the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit that Paul urges his readers to sing. Music offers a sounding image of the kind of diversified unity brought about by the Holy Spirit—“simultaneous voices which are nevertheless also one voice.” “There are many parts, but one body,” is how Paul expresses the same ideal in 1 Corinthians (12:20). It is by the Spirit that Christians are baptized into one Body (1 Cor. 12:13); but it is also the Spirit who gives diverse gifts (1 Cor. 12:7‐11)—who gives to each part of the body its special function, to each voice its distinct part in the great chorus.
—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 644
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. 5:18—“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 duty of singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections.
—Jonathan Edwards (cited in Woods & Walrath, The Message in the Music, 121)
It is good for the seeker to know that there are riches in God’s truth far beyond his present grasp, riches treasured by Christians through the centuries, that he will never appreciate unless by God’s grace he adopts a whole new way of thinking.
—John Frame, Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense, 23
There is a place in the Christian life to ponder complexities. But there is also a place in the lives even of the most mature Christians to ponder the profundity of the simple.
—John Frame, Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense, 27
We need to discover how Christians from different races and cultures have expressed themselves in song to God. Song structures, musical style and instrumentation will vary. Learning to enjoy such variety is a way of experiencing the breadth of Christian experience beyond the limitations of our own context.
—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together, 139