But did you know that the Bible tells us the kind of music that God enjoys?
In both Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 we are told to admonish and speak to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”. So congregational music is undoubtedly part of God’s plan for the church, and it is very purposeful. According to these verses, it has the potential to promote Christ-centered minds and Spirit-filled living.
Three kinds of music are specifically prescribed. Note that I said “kinds”, not styles. Varieties in style reflect generational and geographical cultural trends, and so a broad range is inevitable. (This is not to say, as some have suggested, that all styles are “amoral” and therefore equally valid for the worship of God. That is patently untrue, but a subject for another day.)
The three kinds:
What are Psalms? We can think of Psalms as The Inspired Compositions of God.
When we sing a psalm, we are simply singing God’s revealed Word. Right in the middle of our Bible God placed a song book with 150 different songs. And in a few other places in the Bible we have some scattered Psalms also. They are filled with human aspiration and emotion, because they were given through human writers, but at the same time they were preserved by the Holy Spirit as the very Word of God to us.
I love reading the Psalms, but they weren’t written to be read so much as they were designed to be sung. I encourage you to add a Psalm to your devotions every day, and worship the Lord with it.
Another great thing about singing the psalms is there is an appropriate psalm for whatever situation you may find yourself in. Are you happy? There are happy psalms to sing. Are you afraid? There are psalms expressing our fear and encouraging us to trust God. Is your heart broken? There are psalms expressing the agony of sadness. For any emotion of life you will find a corresponding psalm. So sing psalms!
What are Hymns? We can think of hymns as The Worshipful Compositions of Man.
The obvious difference between a psalm and a hymn is that the words of the psalms are inspired by God; they are God’s inerrant, infallible Word. Hymns may be “inspired” and inspiring, but they aren’t inspired in the same authoritative way as Scripture. Hymns are written by men and women who sat down with the intention of creating a song to honor God or to teach believers.
It’s like the difference between reading the Bible and reading the Westminster Confession of faith. The Westminster Confession is a venerable document – full of God’s great truth, and full of references to the Scriptures – but in itself it is NOT the Bible. I believe the Westminster writers were aided by God; but we cannot hold it up at the same level as Scripture. It may have errors. It is to be judged BY the Word of God.
And please understand that the Biblical definition of a “hymn” has nothing to do with style or era. In other words, the hymns we find in hymn books, and the more recent choruses and songs that we put up on the overhead screen WOULD ALL fall under the Bible’s definition of “hymns”. They are all the worshipful compositions of man.
There may be only one style of “hymn” you love, and maybe it is hymns from the hymnbook. And I understand that as a style preference; if I was forced to choose only one source to sing from other than the Bible for the rest of my life, I’d choose the hymnbook. But I thank God I don’t have to make that choice. Hymns ancient and very modern – songs written by hearts filled with love for God and for holiness – I love to sing them all.
#3. Spiritual songs
Did you realize that a lot of Christians only sing 2/3 of God’s favorite music? God also loves “spiritual songs”.
A good definition of these would be The Spontaneous Songs of The Spirit.
The actual Greek words help us understand this. The phrase in the Bible is ode pneumatikos. “Spiritual songs” is literally “SONGS OF THE SPIRIT”. A simple, spontaneous song of praise that someone sings to the Lord from a full heart moved upon by God’s Spirit.
The obvious difference between a hymn and a spiritual song is that the composer of a hymn sits down and works deliberately to structure a song. But the person who is singing in the Spirit is just letting a heart full of worship overflow in melody.
I don’t think Martin Luther was humming in the shower and just spontaneously began to sing: “A mighty fortress is our God; a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood; of mortal ills prevailing…” No, he thought about that for a while!
In contrast, an unknown singer sat down worshipping years ago and just began to sing the words, “God is so good; God is so good; God is so good; He’s so good to me.” And that spontaneous song was “so good” that it happened to catch on, and the church kept singing it for a long time.
Christianity has been called “The Singing Religion”. God has used songs greatly to teach and encourage and draw people out into worship down through the ages.
Are you a singing Christian? God loves psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs—so if there is grace in your heart, then sing TO Him, and ABOUT Him to encourage others.