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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

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. (Col 3:16)
Now, they tell me this is not intended to be the marching orders for the Worship Leader at your church, but I beg to differ ... sort of. It is a command, to be sure. It is a command to the readers to whom Paul sent the letter and, consequently, to "the saints and faithful brothers in Christ" (Col 1:2), whether in Colossae or anywhere or anywhen else. Okay, so ... not the Worship Leader. On the other hand, you have to ask, "Are you saying your Worship Leader is not among the saints in Christ?" And, of course, you had better answer "No." So it is to all saints ... including those who happen to be Worship Leaders.

So, what are we looking at here? Well, there are "psalms", ψαλμός--psalmos--possibly any sacred piece of music, but because of its root in "stringed instruments", it suggests songs accompanied by voice, harp, or other instruments, and may specifically refer to songs from the Psalms themselves. There are "hymns", ὕμνος--humnos--which appears to reference celebratory songs (perhaps without accompaniment). And let's not forget "spiritual songs", where ᾠδή--ōdē--is for the word "song" and suggests a metrical composition and πνευματικός--pneumatikos--specifies songs which are "non-carnal"--spiritual.

Now, I have been a worship leader. And I have sung both "contemporary" and "traditional" music in church. And I far prefer hymns. But I would like to point out that an argument from the text that "The Bible commands hymns, not your lousy contemporary music" doesn't quite work. So we can't really go there. Where can we go? Where should we go?

Remember the point: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom." A command for Worship Leaders ... and every other saint on the planet. Include a variety of musical styles in your teaching and admonishing, but, above all, teach and admonish in order to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Yes, do that.


Unknown said...

It might help if we noted that the three words used here were the three categories of the Psalms as listed in the Septuagint.

David said...

Your last paragraph is why I stand against most contemporary songs. They are neither teaching nor admonishing. On any given Sunday, I typically hear only 1 or 2 of them that actually even mention Lord, God, Christ, Jesus, King, Savior, or Spirit. A lot of them are repetitive feel good songs about how "he" or "you" make me feel. If it weren't for the context of church, they could typically fit in as any love ballad between people. I want my worship music to be just as theological as my sermons. You find very little theology in contemporary music.

Unknown said...

I've led hymns and modern worship songs both. Both styles have incorrect theological lyrics and both styles have uplifting, biblical, God-centered lyrics. Let not the form distort the function. :) Good post though. I enjoy your blog very much. Blessings, brother!