Music is important to God. This idea is not more clear than in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Paul uses five different musical terms in one relatively short section in Ephesians (four in Colossians). Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, sing, and make melody. Of course, this is no doubt a reflection of what Paul learned about the importance of music from the book of Psalms, where all of these terms are found (and used interchangeably) over and over again.
Paul uses five different musical terms in one relatively short section in Ephesians (four in Colossians).
Specifically, Paul is very likely thinking of these Psalms:
27:6 — And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
57:7 — My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!
108:1 — My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Notice, especially, Psalm 108, “I will sing and make melody with all my being,” and its similarity with Ephesians 5, “singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” In fact, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the version Paul used and often quoted) the words for “sing” and “make melody” are the same words he used in Ephesians.
God has so blessed us that the only appropriate response is celebrative, musical, praise and thanksgiving to Him.
All three of these parallel Psalms, and many others that use the same terminology, reflect the concept that Paul seems to be trying to get across in both Ephesians and Colossians: God has so blessed us that the only appropriate response is celebrative, musical, praise and thanksgiving to Him(see Luke 19:37-40). True worshipers (those “filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18) can’t help but express their joy to God through music.
The Psalmists, and Paul, certainly had a high view of music. Unfortunately, that high view has not always been reflected in the church. Augustine warned of the seductive and carnal nature of music, and seemed to view it as a sort of necessary evil. Zwingli had the view that the true music was in the heart, and, so, “silent singing” (in your head) to God was preferable. And, even David Lipscomb, one of the great movers in the Restoration Movement, said this in his commentary on Ephesians 5:19 (Gospel Advocate series, p. 108):
The music of the song is only a means of impressing the sentiment sung on the hearts of both singer and hearer.
To many, music in worship is like my third grade teacher teaching us the fifty states in alphabetical order. It worked. I still remember the song and the fifty states.
In other words, Lipscomb encouraged a concept that I heard often in Bible classes and sermons growing up: that the purpose of music in worship is to help the worshipers remember and learn the words they sing. To many, music in worship is like my third grade teacher teaching us the fifty states in alphabetical order. It worked. I still remember the song and the fifty states. And, it works in worship. I can sing hundreds of songs from memory. But, is that all there is to music in worship: a tool to help us remember scriptures and biblical concepts?
If that were true, then Paul could have expressed that concept with his first phrase in Ephesians 5:19 (and Colossians 3:16): “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on in the very same verse to say, “singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” In other words, make music to God.
Because, again, Paul could have told us to pray to God, or to simply tell God how much we love and appreciate Him. But, he encourages us to sing and make melody to God. He encourages us to give music to God that comes from our hearts, just like the Psalms encourage us to celebrate our joy and thanksgiving through song.
Here is what I am saying, and what I believe the Bible is saying: that music is an excellent, God-given way to express our devotion, thanks, and emotions to God. In other words, music is worship.