Well, as we have been very deeply entrenched in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the eighth chapter of Romans, it occurred to me that we have been talking an awful lot about the work that the Holy Spirit does in us, and we really haven’t said anything about our part of it, our responsibility.
And so, I thought, for tonight, I would direct your attention to the fifth chapter of Ephesians and verse 18. Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 18. It reads, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Be filled with the Spirit.
Those of you who have been believers for a long period of time can remember when this was a main topic in the life of the church. Speakers spoke about it; preachers talked about it; Bible study leaders addressed it; books were written about it. But that seems to be in the far-distant past. You very seldom hear any really careful teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit definitively and faithfully representing what Scripture intends to communicate.
And again, I think that’s partly because the charismatics have redefined this concept, redefined these terms, redefined the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And good people shy away from the truth because it exposes their error in many cases. That is not a reason to do that; it’s all the more reason to be clear about the truth of what Scripture teaches.
So, let me read, for the text, from verse 18 down to verse 21, and we’ll talk about that a little bit tonight. Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
When it comes to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctifying the believer, we have talked in detail about what it is that the Holy Spirit does: conforming us to the person of Jesus Christ, from one level of glory to the next, as we gaze at the glory of our Lord. We understand that sanctifying ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Here is the one verse that I think, more than any other – that is verse 18 – defines the responsibility that we, as believers, have. This is a command. First there is a negative statement, “Don’t get drunk with wine,” and then a positive command, “Be filled with the Spirit.” In the construction of the original language, it really could be read this way, “Be being kept continuously filled with the Holy Spirit.
And that’s very important, because what we’re talking about, when we talk about being filled with the Spirit, is not an event. We’re not talking about some kind of momentous experience. We’re not talking about some kind of euphoria. We’re not talking about something that zaps you out of nowhere. We’re not talking about quote-unquote “being anointed.” Rather we’re talking about a constant way of life, a constant reality – be being kept continuously filled with the Spirit. And it is speaking, again, about the necessity to have the controlling influence in our lives be the Holy Spirit. It speaks about an internal reality, an internal ministry that the Spirit of God sustains in us.
And when you talk about filling - without getting technical at all, I can give you a simple way to understand it – even in our own word, the English word, we understand that “filling” can have a number of meanings. To say you fill something could be static: you filled a box with goods; you filled a glass with water. And that’s a static kind of filling, but that is not what is in view here. The word here speaks not of filling up, but filling through. The contrast would be the difference between filling up a glass with water and filling the sails of a sailboat with wind. That is a very different kind of reality. One is static, and the other is not. We’re not talking about being filled up with the Holy Spirit, as if that is some kind of momentary experience, but rather living an entire life that is literally carried along, moved along by the Holy Spirit like wind filling sails to move the ship along.
In fact, the idea of this verb here is permeation – powerful permeation. Put those two words together – “powerful permeation.” And I can give you some illustrations of it. In John 16:6, it refers to being filled with sorrow – filled with sorrow. In Luke 5:26, it talks about being filled with fear. In Luke 6:11, it talks about someone who is filled with madness. In Acts 6:5, it refers to someone who is filled with faith. And do you remember, in Acts 5, it talks about Ananias who was filled with Satan?
What is that talking about? That is talking about a dominating influence. To be filled with sorrow means that you can no longer mitigate that sorrow. Sorrow has taken over, and you are filled with sorrow. To be filled with fear means that you can’t mitigate that fear with any kind of balancing thoughts; your fears have dominated you. To be filled with madness means that you cannot control your behavior because you are taken over by madness. That’s what it means to be filled with the Spirit; it means to be totally controlled by the influence of the Holy Spirit. And we are commanded to be in that condition at all times. Under the continual control of the Holy Spirit. Now again, is this some kind of mystical experience? Is this something that you feel? Is it something that you sense? Is it some kind of a euphoria that comes over you, some kind of discernible feeling?
Well, the answer to all of that, of course, is no, not in any way, and I will show you that by giving you a comparative passage in Colossians 3:16. Colossians 3:16 says this, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” – that again is a present tense command, “Let the word of Christ continually dwell within you in a rich sense.” In other words, the rich, full truth concerning Christ let it permeate your inner thought life, your spirit, your soul, your mind. This is exactly the same thing. To be filled with the Spirit is to be permeated by the truth concerning Christ revealed in Scripture.
How do I know that? Because if you go back to Ephesians, I’ll show you a little bit of a contrast. In Ephesians we just read, “Be filled with the Spirit” - and the result of it we’ll talk about in a moment – “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks. Verse 21, “Being subject to one another.” Verse 22, the wives demonstrate being Spirit-filled in their subjection to this husbands. Husbands demonstrate being Spirit-filled, in verse 25, by loving their wives. Parents demonstrate being Spirit-filled, in chapter 6, verse 1 – or children rather – by obedience to their parents. And parents, in verse 4, by not provoking their children to anger. Spirit-filled slaves are obedient, verse 5, and Spirit-filled masters care properly for their slaves. Everything that we saw there, all the way into the sixth chapter, is the effect of a Spirit-filled life.
Now look at Colossians 3 for a moment. Colossians 3, and we see that instead of be being kept filled with the Holy Spirit, it says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you” - and here comes the same results – “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to the Lord.” And here we go, “Wives” – that let the word of Christ dwell in them richly – “are subject to their husbands. Husbands” – that are filled with the truth concerning Christ – “love their lives.” Spirit-controlled, word-controlled children are obedient to their parents; and Spirit-controlled, word-controlled parents don’t exasperate their children. The same with slaves and masters in verses 22 to the end of the chapter.
So, when you have the same effect, you’re talking about the same reality. When you have the same effect, you’re talking about the same cause. So, what does it mean, then, to be filled with the Spirit? It means to be dominated by the truth revealed concerning Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work in the believer is in direct response to that believer’s exposure to Christ in all the fullness of his glorious revelation.
That’s why 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that as you gaze at his glory, the Holy Spirit does His work of changing you into His image. Being filled with the Spirit, then, is being moved along in the progress of sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit because you are so focused on the revealed truth concerning Christ contained, of course, in Holy Scripture. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what it means to be Spirit-filled. It is not an ecstatic experience. Again, I say, it is not an event; it is not some kind of momentary, heavenly anointing. It is simply an ongoing reality that the Spirit of God moves us along, under His power, insofar as we commit ourselves to focus all our inner attention on the glories of the person of Jesus Christ. This is the work of sanctification, and this is our part in it. Salvation is the work of the Spirit of God, but not apart from our faith. And sanctification is the work of the Spirit of God, but not apart from our obedience to all that has been revealed concerning Christ.
And again, I remind you that the charismatics have tortured this concept and associated being filled with the Spirit with falling down, babbling, material prosperity, physical healings, all kinds of external phenomenon, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with any of that. This is about holiness. And as I told you this morning, ironically, the holiness movement is far more interested in what is external than it is what is internal. And that is why it is so rife with scandal and sin.
The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to conform us to Christ. Christ is the model of perfect humanity – we’ve been saying that. As we gaze at the perfection of Christ revealed on the pages of Scripture, the Spirit takes that truth and by means of His power shapes us into that very image. The goal is internal transformation.
Now, as we look at this passage, we’re going to see three things: the contrast, the command, and the consequences. Let’s look, first of all, at the contrast. And I know this is a familiar passage, but I have something in mind here, and it’s going to come out under this first point. The contrast is this – verse 18 – “Do not get drunk with wine.” Now, it seems to people that that’s a bizarre kind of contrast, as if those were the two options, either be filled with the Spirit or drunk. Well, of course there are not stark, isolated options that can be reduced to those two realities. But the truth of the matter is, in ancient pagan religion, the notion was that communion with deities could be induced by drunkenness. They use drunkenness – purposeful drunkenness – in Gentile worship, in the Roman and Greek world, to take them into a state in which they actually believed they communed with God, with their deities. They carried it even beyond that into orgies, there were temple prostitutes; into gluttony, there were temple feasts where they gorged themselves, induced their own vomiting, and then gorged themselves again; and indulged in every imaginable and unimaginable carnal stimulation. This, they believed, was how communion with the gods was induced. And not really too far different from Timothy Leary back in the ‘60s who thought that a drug high on LSD would catapult you out of this world into the world of the supernatural. That’s an age-old deception.
Paul says, in contrast to that, Christians commune with God, worship God, enjoy God, love God, serve God not by being drunk, not by being filled and carried along by the power of alcohol but by the Holy Spirit.
This was so much a part of ancient life that – do you remember on the Day of Pentecost, when all the 120 disciples were gathered together, and the Holy Spirit came, and it says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you remember that? Acts 2? And they began to speak the wonderful works of God in all the languages of all the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost? And what did the people say by that? “It’s early in the morning, and they’re already” – what? - “drunk.” They assumed that they were drunk because that’s the pagan way. You get drunk; you engage in all kinds of sensual stimulation, all kinds of carnal expression, lose your mind, get out of control, and that’s how you attain to some communion with the deities. They were very, very used to seeing these kinds of drunken frenzies associated with religion.
But the apostle Paul says, by contrast, “We don’t commune with God in that way. We will not be controlled by that. We will, rather, be controlled in our behavior by another internal force, another internal power, another internal mind dominating influence, namely that of the Holy Spirit, by our attention being given to the truth of the Word of God.” For us it’s the Holy Spirit.
Now, I just want to give you a little bit of a heads up on this. As I was thinking about this, I realized that this is a good place to talk about whether a Christian should drink alcoholic beverages. So, I’m going to do that. I’m going to talk about that – not tonight, but – and I think next Sunday night may be communion, I’m not sure but that’s not a problem; we use grape juice. But if not next Sunday night, it’ll be the Sunday night after. I want to do a series on, “What should be the Christian’s position with regard to alcoholic beverages?” And I’m not going to give you my personal opinion. I am going to give you a clear path through the Scripture, using what the Bible says and what the Bible implies to make a wise decision with regard to that. We don’t need that; we don’t engage in that religiously, of course. Then the further question is, “Should we indulge in it at all?”
Just as a kind of a teaser for what’s coming up, you might assume that alcohol consumption in America is increasing. You would be wrong. Alcohol consumption in America is decreasing at a very rapid rate. Less than half the population of the United States drinks any alcoholic beverage - less than half - at the same time that pastors in evangelical Christian churches are telling their people that they should repent for not drinking alcoholic beverages and go have some drinks. What kind of juxtaposition is this? What is causing a national downturn in the secular community in alcohol and a new interest in advocacy for alcohol in the church?
Well, it’s obvious why drinking is down in America: alcohol kills people, and we’re getting it. We’re getting it. So, how strange a juxtaposition that at a time when the secular world is waking up to the deadly dangers of alcohol, evangelical pastors are making campaigns to increase the drinking of the people in their churches. So, we’re going to talk about that, but not tonight.
So, that’s the contrast. And the contrast is born out of what was going on in the religion of the time. It was unique – it was unique to say, “Look, we do not indulge ourselves in those kinds of things as some form of elevation, some form of ecstasy that connects us with God, but rather yield to the mind-dominating, internal influence of the Holy Spirit, which means we focus totally on the revelation of Holy Scripture, which gives us the majestic picture of Christ, to whom the Spirit is consistently conforming us.
You know, sometimes – well, no, not sometimes – most of the time people think that I overdo the teaching of the Word of God, and that I need to lighten up on it and that our church is too obsessed with it. There is no other means for the sanctification of the believer. There is no experience. There is no music. There is no lighting. There is no mood that we can create that has anything to do with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes you hear a preacher say, “I can feel the Spirit of God in this place.” No you can’t. What does that mean? That just means nothing. You can’t feel the Spirit of God. You can feel whatever you feel, whatever feeling has been induced or created or manipulated or generated or whatever, but you can’t feel the Spirit of God. What the Spirit of God is doing is not available to the senses; it is internal; it is a conforming of the believer to the image of Christ as that believer focuses on the Word. So, if the Spirit uses the Word to show us the example and to shape us into that example, how important is it that we be in the Word? How important is it that we focus on Christ?
The gospel give us the story of Christ. The book of Acts gives us the spreading of the story of Christ. The epistles explain Christ and the gospel of Christ. The whole of the New Testament focuses on Christ. And as we’re going to see, some weeks down the road, even the Old Testament shows us the glory of Christ. We can focus in no other place and see the word of Christ that will richly dwell in us and yield the sanctifying progress that is the desire of the Holy Spirit.
All right, so, enough about the contrast. And next time we talk about this we’re going to talk about this whole idea of the Christian and alcoholic beverages. But for now, let’s go to the second point. Now, I’m not going to keep you tonight very long, but I just want to let this kind of settle in your mind. The command is a simple command. We saw the contrast, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that leads to dissipation.” That’s a warning, “Don’t go that direction because it leads to dissipation.” It’s a very strong word in the Greek, and we’ll say more about that later. But the command is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now, let me just start with a very basic understanding here. Every believer possesses the Holy Spirit. Every believer. We saw that in Romans 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he’s none of His.” Flip that, “If you belong to Christ, you have the Holy Spirit.” We heard even quoted tonight, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Your body’s the temple of the Spirit of God, which you have of God, you’re not your own. You’re bought with a price.” We’ve all been made to drink of the one Spirit. Jesus said whoever believes in Him, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water, and that’s the mark and the movement of the Spirit of God.
Now listen, there is never, anywhere in Scripture, a command to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Never, because that is a fact for every believer. There is never a command in the New Testament to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Seven times in the New Testament there’s a reference to the baptism of the Spirit. None of those seven is an imperative; none of them is a command. You are never commanded to seek the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You’re never commanded to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that is the very defining doctrine of the entire Pentecostal Movement. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues – that’s the whole movement.
In fact, it’s been sort of labeled the BHS Movement – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Movement. They’ve even reduced it to three letters. That’s what it is, the idea that you are to seek something beyond your salvation, something secondary to your salvation, something after your salvation, something subsequent to your salvation, at some point called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and when you get it, you speak glossolalia. Glossolalia is the word for gibberish. They tried, in the early years of the movement, to define it as xeno - xenolalia, which would mean languages. But when they examined it, it was clear it wasn’t languages; it was gibberish. But that, in the movement historically, is the sign of the baptism of the Spirit, and that’s what you seek.
And again I say seven references in the New Testament to the baptism of the Spirit; none of them is a command. We are never told to seek that. Never. Why? Because we have already received the Holy Spirit in His fullness. He lives in us. We are His temple. And we have been baptized by Christ, with the Holy Spirit, into His body. First Corinthians is crystal clear on that. In fact, it might be worth reminding you about it, 1 Corinthians 12. These passages are unmistakable. “Even as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, and all have been made to drink of one Spirit. We have all received the Holy Spirit, and we’ve all been baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.”
The only thing we’re ever commanded to do – not commanded to be indwelt as if it were something to pursue, not commanded to be baptized as if it were something to attain, not commanded to seek the sealing of the Holy Spirit- the only thing we’re commanded to do is here, in Ephesians 5, “Be being continuously filled with the Spirit.” Or to borrow the language of the apostle Paul to the Colossians, “Be so utterly and completely focused on Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture, that the image of Christ dominates our thought and by that domination, by that attention given to the honor and glory of Christ, the Holy Spirit is empowered to shape us into His image.” That’s the Christian life; that’s our part.
In Ephesians 4:30, we read, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” – do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God wants to sanctify us, desires to sanctify us, wants us to focus on the glory of Christ and be changed into His image by the Spirit’s own power. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” – how would you avoid doing that? What grieves him?
Well, if His goal is to conform us to the person of Christ, who is the model of perfect humanity, then anything that would hinder that, retard that, deviate from that would grieve Him. And that’s why this statement, in verse 30 of Ephesians 4, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” is surrounded by things like this, verse 25, “Laying aside falsehood”; verse 26, “Be angry, but don’t sin; don’t let the sun go down on your anger; don’t give the Devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer.” Verse 29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” Verse 31, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” – all evil. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Or chapter 5, verse 3, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you.” Or how about “filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting.” These are the things that grieve the Spirit, because these are the things that hinder His sanctifying work. These are all contrary to everything that Christ is.
So, living a Spirit-filled life is simply dominated by the things that honor Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 we read, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Do not quench the Spirit. That simply means to pour water on the fire. How would we do that? How would we avoid doing that?
Well, if you back up in 1 Thessalonians 5, it says, “Encourage one another, build up another. Appreciate those who are over you in the Lord; esteem them highly. Admonish the unruly. Encourage the fainthearted. Don’t pay back evil for evil. Seek what is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. Don’t quench the Spirit.” All those things are the things that the Spirit longs to see in our lives. They don’t quench Him. They don’t stand in the way. They don’t hinder. They help the Spirit to achieve His end of our sanctification.
In Galatians 5:25, it says, “Walk by the Spirit.” Walk by the Spirit. How would you do that? Verse 24, “Crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.” Verse 26, “Don’t be boastful; don’t challenge one another; don’t envy one another.” In other words, these statements of not quenching, not grieving, all come back to the issue of the Holy Spirit’s desire to sanctify us. Any sin, any self-indulgence in our lives stands in the way, hinders, halts, grieves, quenches the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now, when a person is filled with the Spirit, the result is not the gifts of the Spirit. Did you get that? When a person is filled with the Spirit, the result is not the gifts of the Spirit. I’ll use myself as an illustration. I have been given a certain gift by the Holy Spirit, which I exercise in front of you all for your good, I trust, in the ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God. I can give you what’s in my notes whether or not my heart is right. Correct? I can give you what is in my notes. I can explain the meaning of the Bible because I know what a portion of Scripture means. That says nothing about the condition of my heart.
You can exercise the gift that the Lord has given you in any spiritual condition. It goes on, sad to say, all the time. But where there is the filling of the Spirit, the result is not the gifts, because the gifts have been distributed to all of us, haven’t they? When a person is filled with the Spirit, the result is not the gifts of the Spirit; the result is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. Those are evidences of sanctification. That’s Galatians 5:22 and 23.
So, that’s what it means to be filled with the Spirit; it means to be captive to the truth of the Word of God concerning the glorious Christ who is the model of perfect humanity. It is to be lost in wonder, love, and praise, looking at Jesus Christ in all His beauty and all His glory. And as we do that, with the focus of our minds and hearts, the Spirit takes that image, and by His own power conforms us increasingly to it.
I can never – I can never stop talking about Christ. I can never stop preaching about Christ because I understand this. I hear preaches all the time – I torture myself listening to them - some of them. And I’m always saying this – and my dear wife, Patricia, has heard me say it 10,000 times – “Why doesn’t he talk about the Lord Jesus Christ? Why does he continue to talk about people and their problems and give them little formulas and little gimmicks? Why doesn’t he talk about Christ?” Listen to the preachers. Listen. Who do they talk about? Are they helping their listeners to let the Word concerning Christ dwell in them richly? Profoundly? Deeply? That’s what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s not mystical; it’s not experiential. It’s to be consumed with Christ. So, that’s the command.
Let’s look at the consequences. And the consequences could drag us, as I showed you earlier, all the way into the sixth chapter, but we won’t do that; we’ll just take it down to verse 21. And this is good. The immediate consequences, the first one is music. Music. Being filled with the Spirit results, first of all, in speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
Can I sum that up in one word? People who are filled with the Spirit manifest the fruit of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love – and what’s the next one? – joy. Joy. They’re not in rank order. It’s a bouquet. When you’re filled with the Spirit, they all exist concurrently. They all exist simultaneously. It’s a package deal, and joy is an important element.
The immediate result of the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God on people, who are focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and thus being shaped into His image from one level of glory to the next, is music. Music. And he says a lot about music here. First of all, He tells us among whom we make music, “Speaking to one another” – speaking to one another. Some translations say, “Speaking to yourselves” – in the plural.
Boy, one of the tragedies of the Roman Catholic Church, through all its history, has been that it robbed the people of music. There’s no music. Occasional chanting. I said this in the Christmas concerts, Christians are the only ones that sin. The only religion that sings – sing in a major key. Redemption has given us a song – given us a song.
In Psalm 33, he talks about a new song, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” It’s always a song of redemption. Psalm 40 talks about singing to the Lord a new song. Psalm 96, Psalm 98, Psalm 144, Psalm 149. And then the Psalms end in Psalm 150 with an orchestra. And when we look into the future, in Revelation 5:9, and we look around the throne of God, “Everyone gathered around His throne,” it says, “with singing a new song.” The word “new” always shows up in all those psalms – new song, new song, new song, new song. Not the old song, not the song of the world, it’s a new song. It’s a song of redemption; it’s a song sung only by the redeemed. And this is true in the Old Testament. It was the song of Moses in Exodus 15. It was the song of Deborah and Barak in Judges chapter 5; a triumphant song of joy over the salvation of the Lord.
In 2 Chronicles 29, it was the song of Hezekiah as he reinstituted worship in the temple, and the hearts of the people were full of joy. Music is a very important part of the expression of the Spirit-filled life. In the temple – the great temple – there were 38,000 people serving. That’s the way God designed it: 38,000 people serving there; 4,000 of them – nearly 1 in every 10 – were in the music department. You’d love that, wouldn’t you, Clayton, 4,000 people in the music department?
It’s in Exodus 15 that when Israel was brought through the Red Sea and delivered on the dry land, and the army of Pharaoh was drowned, the song of Moses was sung, but it was followed by a woman’s chorus led by Moses’ sister Miriam, who led all the women in a song of joy.
In 1 Samuel chapter 10 and verse 5, the prophets had a male chorus. We do that. We – at the Shepherd’s Conference – we have all the preachers over at the seminary come and sing to the men. In 1 Chronicles, 13, verse 8, the whole group of people gathered together in worship of the Lord sang in congregational praise and instruments. And it says they sang with all their might. God likes it that way.
First Chronicles 16, verses 4 and 5, David had a choir. In Ezra 2, Zerubbabel, who built the second temple, had a modest choir – not 4,000 musicians. After their return from captivity, in the modest temple there were 200. Among the Levites, who attended to the needs of the temple and served along with the priests, many Levites were skillful singers, soloists, song leaders, instrumentalists.
In the great revival of Nehemiah, when the book of God was discovered and read, and people repented and returned to God, there was great music. And it was loud, and it was antiphonal. It was back and forth. In 2 Chronicles 5:13, they sang in unison.
The Old Testament talks about a whole lot of different instruments. There was an asor, which is like a harp; a dulcimer – struck rather than plucked; a harp; a sackbut, a large, handheld harp; drums; timbrel; bells. There were instruments you blew into: trumpets and coronets and flutes; pipe organ; ram’s horn. God really loves music. And He gave us music as a way to express our joy.
One of the interesting things in the book of Ezekiel – chapters 40 to 48 of Ezekiel give us a picture of the temple that’s going to be built in the millennial kingdom when Christ comes back and establishes His rule for a thousand years on the Earth. He’s going to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem. And we get an insight into what’s going to go on in that millennial temple from Ezekiel 40 to 48. In the fortieth chapter, it tells us there will be a choir loft, and it gives us the dimensions of the choir loft in the millennium, and if you work out the math, it’s large enough for a 3,000-voice choir. We should understand this. The scripture says, “Make a joyful” – what? – “noise unto the Lord.” It’s about joy. It’s about the song of salvation.
The New Testament is full of music. When they concluded the Lord’s Supper, Matthew 26:30 says the last thing they did was sing a hymn, and they went out to the Mount of Olives. When Paul and Barnabas were locked in stocks in Philippi in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, what were they doing all night long? Singing hymns.
First Corinthians 14:15, which again deals with the false tongues issue in the church at Corinth, the apostle says, “Sing with your mind and with your spirit, because you worship in truth and in Spirit.”
First Timothy 3:16 is a hymn. And there are a few other places, in the New Testament, where we have an early church hymn. Go into the book of Revelation and you’ll find music there in chapter 5 in the future in heaven - in chapter 14, in chapter 15. We sing a new song. We sing a song of redemption.
And listen to this, because this is the point I want you to understand: the music of the church is not evangelistic. The music of the church is a gift from God to give wings of expression to our joy by being filled with the Spirit. We sing to ourselves and to God. Let’s put it another way – we sing among ourselves to God. The last thing we care about is what unbelievers think of our music. It should be as alien to them as our theology. The music of the world reflects the world. And frankly, the more degenerate the world is, the more degenerate society becomes, the more corrupt it becomes, the more corrupt and degenerate will become its music because its music is simply an expression of its culture, of its heart. The corruption of a culture is on display in its music. It will descend at the same pace and the same level as the society.
The music of the redeemed is different; it’s reflective of timeless truth, eternal truth, unchanging truth, and an unchanging God, and an unchanging revelation. Our music displays features that are consistent with God. It is intelligent, systematic, sequential, orderly, poetic, harmonic, rhythmic. It even possesses – imagine – resolution. It is beautiful. It is pure. It is virtuous. It is lofty. It is whole.
Music is not worship. It is a means of worship. Music doesn’t motivate worship. You talk to people who think that in order to make people worship, you have to crank up the music. That is a Pentecostal-charismatic deception, manipulation of the external. Music does not motivate worship; worship motivates music. The worship comes from the heart. Music, the songs of the redeemed, are not designed to appeal to the unsaved. That is the last concern that we have. We are speaking to ourselves and to our God. Music is not an evangelistic tool. The world is at home with its own music. Its fallenness is mirrored in the fallenness of its music. Let them have their music, and let us have the songs of the redeemed.
From where does our music come? Among whom? One another, yourselves. From where does it come? Go back to verse 19, “making melody with your heart.” That’s why I say it’s internal. Music doesn’t create worship; music isn’t worship. Music doesn’t motivate worship; worship motivates music. You make melody first in your heart. The point of origin for the music is the heart.
And, you know, I don’t know how you are, but I sing to myself all the time. All the time. I need music playing all the time, not because I want to drown out the world or because I want to escape. It’s because my heart sings, and I can’t go through life going through, “La, la, la, la, la.” So, I need somebody to compose volumes of music for me to express my joy. You know, when the heart has no joy, there’s no song. There’s no joy, there’s no song.
Psalm 137 we read, “By the rivers of Babylon” – these are the Jews in captivity – “there we sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept, and we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors were saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’” No song came out of those beleaguered, heartbroken captives.
If the heart is not filled with joy, there is no song. If the heart is not filled with the Holy Spirit, there is no song. But where the heart is filled with the Holy Spirit, there is a song to sing, a song of joy, a song of redemption. And that is why we love to come together and sing. This is the purest form of expression of Spirit-filled joy.
Oh, there are hypocrites. In Amos 5, the prophet Amos said to the people of Israel, “Stop your songs; your hearts aren’t right. I don’t want to hear your songs.” There are hypocritical singers and hypocritical songs. And there are people who are hypocritical singers who make a living as hypocritical singers. But the redeemed have a song, nonetheless, in their hearts.
He further tells us by what means we give expression. Verse 19, “Singing and making melody.” Singing and making melody. It starts in the heart. From ado - the verb ado – the voice is the means with this verb. Singing. It means exactly what it says.
By the way, the human voice, with some exceptions, is the most beautiful instrument. There are some who somehow got missed. The human voice is the most universal, most usable, most flexible, most beautiful of all instruments. So, we sing and make melody. That’s the verb psallō – psallō from which we get psalms. And what that verb actually means is to twang. Hmm. To twitch, to pluck. So, we sing, and we play an instrument to make our music. It literally means, in the Kittel Greek Dictionary, to play an instrument.
So, with a voice and with instruments, we make music that starts in our hearts. Further, there’s another word that is used here where he says, “Speaking to one another in psalms.” I love this word - “Speaking” to one another. What is the word “speaking?” Get this. It’s the great verb laleō. It’s onomatopoetic – la-la-la-la. It’s used of birds whistling; it’s used of people humming. We hum along, whistle along, sing along, make music on an instrument. The idea is making sounds. And those sounds take all kinds of forms: psalms, hymns, spiritual songs.
Well, are they – are those distinctively different? Can you say, “This is a psalm, and this is a hymn, and this is a spiritual song,” and draw really bold lines? Mmm, not so much. But what you get, when you get these three words, is simply an indication that there is a wide range of expression musically, both vocally and instrumentally.
Psalms – psalmois. Again, the verb and the noun refer to the striking of musical instruments and later came to refer to someone singing along with a musical instrument.
Humnos from which we get hymns. Hymns basically are a festal song of praise to God.
And spiritual songs – ōdēs – in English odes. It can be sad, can be joyful, always used in the New Testament of praise to God or to Christ.
So, we sing psalms; that is we sing to God playing an instrument. Hymns, those particular songs directed directly at praise to God, sung in an upbeat, festal way. And we sing spiritual songs which can be upbeat or sad, mournful or joyful, but always directed at the Lord.
You might say that psalms emphasize history and theology; hymns look at the glory of God and honor him for it, and odes or spiritual songs are those songs which give expression to our testimony.
And that leaves one final element in this matter of Spirit-filled music – to whom do we sing? Verse 19, “With your heart” – to whom? to whom? – “to the Lord.” To the Lord. It’s to the Lord we sing. I wish I had time to take you all the way through the Old Testament and show you all the places where people sang to the Lord, and sang to the Lord - 2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13, 2 Chronicles 5, all through the Psalms, Isaiah 42.
Our music – the music of our souls, the music of our hearts, the collective music that we sing among ourselves is directed to the Lord as Bach put it – and he had it right – “The aim of music is the glory of God.” To the Lord – kurios. And this indicates the Lord Jesus in particular, especially to Christ. Our song is not the same – listen – as the Old Testament songs. We sing of Christ, and we sing to Christ as well as to the Father and the Holy Spirit. So, God is the audience to whom we sing. God must be honored by our music. God must be honored by our melodies. God must be honored by our lyrics. God must be honored by our style. And it must be clearly the new song of the redeemed. All of this speaks of joy, and joy is the first result of a Spirit-filled life. James says this – James 5:13 – “Is anyone cheerful? Sing praises.” That’s the natural, immediate response to joy.
Music is not an evangelistic tool. It is not offered to non-Christians. It isn’t to entertain us. It is offered to the Lord as a form of joyous worship, and He is not pleased when the kind of music being offered is a direct reflection of the corruption of a sinful culture at its lowest level.
Well, the first byproduct and result of being Spirit-filled is singing, making music. The second one is saying thanks. Quickly look at verse 20, “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” I can tell a Spirit-filled person in a conversation by this alone: gratitude. Gratitude. I can see it in the joy; I can see it in the gratitude. You meet a person who has no thankfulness in their heart - you know, like Thomas Hardy once said, he had a friend who could find the manure pile in every meadow. You know, if you have people like that – you know, I can tell Spirit-filled people because they’re always thankful. They’re just incessantly thankful. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.” And it’s true of Spirit-filled people.
And then there’s a final result, in verse 21, submission. Singing, saying thanks, and submitting. “And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” That’s just humility. Spirit-filled people are joyful, Spirit-filled people are thankful, and Spirit-filled people are humble. They submit. They don’t have their own agenda; they don’t want to dominate. They eagerly step aside and give way to others.
This is how we are to live, dear ones. This is the way we are to come alongside the mighty, powerful work of the Holy Spirit sanctifying us, by continually focusing on the glory of Christ revealed in Holy Scripture by which the Spirit conforms us to His image. And as we continue to be filled with the Spirit, our lives will be dominated by joy, gratitude, and humble submission. It’s a beautiful thing.
Father, we do thank You for this wonderful evening together to share in Your Word, this inexhaustible treasure of – treasure house of rich truth. We’re so grateful for the grace that has been poured out upon us as individuals and collectively as a church family. And we give You thanks and praise for every good gift that You’ve given to us. We love You, and we express that gratitude not only tonight, but we express it every day as we walk in obedience to Your holy will, desiring to lift up the one we love and serve, our Lord Jesus Christ. And we pray in His name, amen.
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