The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "I and the Father Are One, Part 2," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
For this morning, I thought it might be helpful to us to just take a look at what the Bible says about music in the church, since this is the Lord’s Day that we are sort of inaugurating our new hymnal. I wanted to give you a refreshed perspective on music and the role that it plays in the church.
So let me ask you to turn to Ephesians, chapter 5; Ephesians, chapter 5; and there is a rather brief, but very important portion of Scripture, starting in verse 18 and running down to verse 20 – just those three verses. Ephesians 5:18-20. And the Holy Spirit says to us, “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.” Very simple and direct statements regarding the role that music plays in the life of God’s people.
Now, we’re obviously aware that music dominates our culture to a degree that it never has in the history of the human race. Like everything else that is now accessible through electronic means that is all floating in the air out there and can be immediately downloaded by an almost incomprehensible number of mechanisms, we’re exposed to everything; and that means there is an exposure to music that is beyond anything imaginable. There was a time in the world that if you wanted to hear music, you had to make it, or you had to be there when somebody else was making it. They were singing or they were playing.
Then, of course, eventually came recordings; and we all look back at the history of that. You had to have some kind of an instrument to play a recording. You had to be in a certain place where that was available. Then radio began to exceed that, and now we’re at a point where people go around most of the waking hours of their lives with plugs in their ears, listening endlessly to music.
It is admittedly a powerful, emotional stimulator. And it is a gift of God. It is a common grace. You couldn’t imagine the world without music, the world in which we now live. With more music than the world has ever known before, people are literally engulfed in music all the time. Doesn’t matter where you go; doesn’t matter what restaurant you’re in; doesn’t matter what store you’re in; doesn’t matter what gas station you’re in. Doesn’t matter where you are, you will be exposed to music.
What this tells us is that music meets a human need. Music finds a place in the heart of people. There is an occasion in Daniel 6 where the king can’t sleep, and it says that he has a hard time sleeping because nobody made music for him. Somebody had to come along and make music to soothe him from his cares to help him sleep.
First Samuel, chapter 16, Saul had a similar problem and had trouble sleeping, and called for a musician, someone who could come and play beautiful music to him to soothe his troubled soul, and also to drive away the evil spirit that was tormenting him. Turned out to be David, the sweet singer of Israel, and a player of a stringed instrument, who fulfilled that situation for Saul.
But music is not just associated with the need for comfort, rest, tranquility, peace, sleep. It’s associated with every other part of life. Music can be high, and noble, and exalted. It can be elevating. It can be uplifting. It can raise that which is honorable and pure. Or, music can be low, degrading, debasing, even ugly. It can literally tamper with all the ranges of human experience and emotion. But one thing is for sure: music rides the back of the culture in whatever direction it is going.
Music in our day is dominated by the rapidly degenerating corruption of our society. It is riding the culture’s corruption down. For music that is beautiful, music that is magnificent, we have to go backwards in time. We have to get out of this culture to another time and another place. We even call that classical music. We have to go back sometimes decades, maybe centuries, to find music that endures because of its quality, its elevation, its dignity, its excellence.
With the decline and the debasing of music has come the decline of musicianship. We have people with no talent playing music with no meaning, except to debase the culture. We are a sensual culture, and that’s where our music is taking us. Secular music will always reflect the culture. It’ll always reflect the attitudes of society. The changing, ever-increasing corruption of a fallen world is displayed in its music.
The music of the redeemed is different. We live in a different world. We are citizens of a different kingdom. The music of the redeemed is alien to the music of the world. The music of the redeemed is reflective of that which is most lofty, most elevated, most exalted, most noble: the truth of God – it never changes. So our music doesn’t ride the culture. Music doesn’t ride the culture among the redeemed, it simply reveals the truth, and the truth never changes.
Music of the redeemed displays elements of beauty, elements of loftiness, elements of majesty, elements of order and design consistent with God’s nature. It is intelligent; it is systematic; it is sequential. It is poetic; it is harmonic; it is rhythmic. It possesses resolution. That’s our music. And since our Bible is timeless and divine truth is timeless, there’s a timelessness about our music – or at least there should be in the church. It is amazing how eager churches are today to adapt the music of the culture and try to sanitize it.
Just a few misconceptions maybe to get started before we look at the passage. The first one, the first misconception is that music is worship. That is not true. Music is not worship. They’re not synonymous. Music is music, and worship is worship. But, typically, you hear people today say, “We’re going to worship,” and then immediately that is essentially defined by music.
Music is not worship. Music is a means to express worship, but it is not worship. Worship is the heart going up toward God in gratitude and thanksgiving for all that God has done: that’s worship. Worship is acknowledging God to be who He is revealed to be in Scripture. It is acknowledging what God has done; and in particular, that He has saved us, redeemed us, given us eternal life; and it is expressing gratitude to God. There are many ways to do that; music is one of them. But music is not worship. Music is a means by which a worshiping person expresses his thanks.
Secondly, a misconception is that music motivates worship, music induces worship. That’s not true either. That is not true. It gives expression to love; it gives expression to adoration. But the motivation for that has to come from somewhere else, not from music. Music enhances and enriches. But the motive for all of our songs is not a sound, it’s a truth.
Another misconception is that when people have trouble worshiping, music will create worship, music will create the mood for worship. Worship is not a mood experience. That needs to be said loudly and clearly. You go to many “churches” and you’ll be in the dark, and there will be sensual kind of music that appeals to the flesh at one level or another; and there will be lights flashing in all kind of directions. That has nothing to do with worship; and, frankly, does the opposite of inducing worship. It simply induces a fickle feeling. It’s a false substitute for true worship.
See, true worship is a permanent attitude. John 4, “We worship in spirit and truth.” That’s who we are. God seeks true worshipers. We are true worshipers. Philippians 3, “We worship in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” That’s a way of life.
Our way of life is gratitude to God for who He is, what He’s done, and for our salvation and all of its blessing. We don’t need a mood created by some form of music that basically shifts – in many cases shifts the mind into neutral and generates a kind of neutral, empty, vacuous feeling. That’s not creating worship. It is true, there is something that creates worship – this will shock people – it’s preaching the Word, or reading the Word, so that when you know the truth, your heart reaches forward to God to express praise and gratitude.
Another misconception is this, that non-Christians aren’t going to come to church unless we import their music. Music so dominates our culture. It is so ubiquitous that if we’re going to appeal to nonbelievers, we’ve got to change our music. We’ve got to do the kind of music that they like and somehow baptize it if we’re going to reach out evangelistically. That’s not true. Never, never in Scripture is music ever, ever stated to be used as an evangelistic technique in some direct sense.
In an indirect sense, it is because we’re singing of our Savior, right, we’re singing of salvation. But we’re singing to God, not the world, and not the unbeliever. There’s no mandate for the church to make its music appeal to the sons of Satan. So music is not worship. Music does not induce or motivate worship. Music does not somehow enhance worship by certain style and mood, nor is music ever intended for the satisfaction of nonbelievers as if that’s some entry into understanding the gospel.
So what is music? It is the gift of God, common grace to the world, to give them a means of expressing their emotion. That’s the broad part of music: their joys, their sorrows, their hopes, their aspirations, their disappointments. But for believers, it is a gift of God to allow believers to give expression of gratitude to God for who He is, what He’s done, and particularly for our salvation. The redeemed sing. Music reaches its highest level among Christians, its greatest usage among Christians. The music of the church is just that: it’s the song of the redeemed.
There are other songs that we enjoy. Some of you enjoy classical music. Some of you enjoy various kinds of music. Some of you enjoy jazz music or whatever it might be. Some of you enjoy country music. Those have a place in our lives like other common graces that God gives us. But the song of the redeemed is far beyond all of that. It doesn’t focus on our emotions, it focuses on God. And this is a song that is new, and only believers have it.
You might be interested to know that the word “new” appears in the psalms, the Old Testament psalms, more often with song than any other term. Go through the psalms and see the word “new,” and more often than any other term, the next word will be “song.” We are a new people. We have been recreated, we have been given life, and we have a new song. It is distinct from all the old music. It is the song of the redeemed.
Psalm 33: “Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the Word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness.” We are singing the new song of the redeemed to the Lord.
Psalm 40: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”
Incidentally, as the redeemed sing the new song of redemption, many will see, and through the music, be drawn to trusting in the Lord. It isn’t that music itself is designed to accommodate the world; it is that music is the expression of the song of the redeemed, because it conveys the joy and the gratitude of the redeemed, and the truth of God in the song. People can hear it and be drawn to the Lord.
Psalm 96, I read you earlier, begins, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 98, “O sing to the Lord a new song.” Psalm 147, “It is good to sing praises to our God.” Psalm 149 begins, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Isaiah 42:10, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Our music is not like the old music; it’s not the old song. It’s the music of joy, praise, and thanks to God for the gift of salvation. It’s always been an important part of the congregation of the righteous and their expressed worship.
Going all the way back to the 29th chapter of 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament, we can pick it up at verse 25. This is when Hezekiah was restoring worship in the temple and, “He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with harps, with lyres – ” that’s a form of a harp “ – according to the command of David and Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets.” So the Lord commanded, in the restoration of worship, the Lord commanded music.
“The Levites stood with the musical instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah gave the order to offer the burnt offering on the altar. When the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord also began with the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David, king of Israel. While the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.
“Now at the completion of the burnt offering, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped. Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph – ” two of the psalmists “ – so they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.” They sang and worshiped, which means that worship was something more than singing. They bowed down. How did they worship without singing? Praying, speaking to the Lord.
This is a massive Old Testament celebration at a great convocation of worship, and music played a critical role. The people of God made music a part of temple worship. The temple, by the way, had 38,000 people serving: 4,000 of them were in the music department – 4,000 of them, 1 Chronicles 23.
Back in Exodus, you remember Miriam led the women in a song in Exodus 15, the time of the exit from Egypt. The prophets, in 1 Samuel 10, made a male chorus. The prophets got together and sang as men, and also were accompanied by instruments. It’s wonderful at the Shepherds Conference when we put the student body of The Master’s Seminary up here and hear those men sing. The congregation in the Old Testament sang praise with instruments, and it says “with all their might loudly.” That’s the way the Lord like it.
David made a tabernacle choir. Solomon had a temple choir that was numbered 4,000 people when the temple was built. And the temple that followed after the destruction of the Solomonic temple came the temple that Zerubbabel built. He had a much smaller choir, but he had 200 in that choir. The revival under Nehemiah in chapter 12 featured an antiphonal choir, people singing back-and-forth to one another. The Old Testament talks about instruments: various stringed instruments, various percussion instruments, as well as the woodwinds, trumpets, clarinets, flutes, pipes, rams horns. All in all, they made a lot of music all the time. And that’s the past.
Looking into the future, if you go to Ezekiel – you don’t have to turn to it, we don’t have time – but if you go to Ezekiel 40, you’ll see that in the future when the Lord comes and sets His kingdom up on earth and reigns for a thousand years, there’s going to be a rebuilt temple; and the character of that temple is described in Ezekiel 40, and one of the features of that temple – Ezekiel 40, verses 44 and following – is a massive choir loft that’s big enough to hold 4,000 people. A millennial choir then could have 4,000 people in it. And during the kingdom of Christ, they will make glorious music to God and to the Lamb.
The New Testament, full of music, full of music. When the disciples with our Lord closed their evening in the upper room, they sang a hymn, Matthew 26 says, and then they went to the Mount of Olives and to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was to be arrested later. Paul and Silas, in Acts 16, are in jail. And what are they doing? Singing hymns.
First Corinthians 14 talks about singing with the spirit and with the mind, not mindlessly. And Revelation takes us to heaven – chapter 5, and chapter 14, and chapter 15 – and when we get to heaven, there’s music going on in heaven. They’re singing the songs of the redeemed. They’re singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”
Music always has and always will, even in heaven, occupy the redeemed. It will be elevated music, exalted music. It will be intelligent music, it will be truthful music, and it will be skillful. But let’s take that sort of as a beginning and look at our text, Ephesians 5. There’s a contrast here that I think is instructive: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Ancient pagan culture, ancient pagan culture was marked by drunkenness. They actually believed that if you were drunk, you were elevated to some kind of exalted communion with the gods, the deities, that you could literally induce by alcohol a state of mind that elevated your consciousness to commune with the other world. So they engaged in a drunken stupor.
I’ve been in some of the places in the Middle East where the ruins of these places exist, even the temple of Bacchus in Damascus. Sexual orgies were a part of that, excesses of all kinds of immorality, leading to demonic involvement. But music was a part of all of that debauchery. But the apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, says, “Don’t get drunk with wine.”
There’s no place among Christians for a hangover from paganism. The frenzied, immoral drunkenness, filled with corrupt behaviors and corrupt expressions supposedly inducing some kind of euphoria and connection with false deities, has no place in our lives. “That is dissipation,” he says. That’s dissipation. That’s destruction. On the other hand, “Be filled with the Spirit.” That’s what leads to our kind of music.
We can see the worst of verse 18 in the drug culture today. Seems to me that there are more severe drug abusers in the music industry than any other single profession. That frenzy has always been a part of pagan culture. We have nothing to do with that. That is debauchery; that is dissipation. That is the flesh; that is the devil. So much of the world’s music is associated with drugs and alcohol and sex. Why would we want to import any of it thinking we could somehow sanitize it?
Our music is not motivated by those things. Rather, verse 18, “Be filled with the Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit.” Very basic truth we’re all familiar with: “Be filled with the Spirit.” Not filled with spirits, or drugs, or any other kind of mind-altering concoction; but be filled with the Spirit.
The pagans were controlled from the inside by alcohol, or by drugs, or whatever. We are controlled on the inside by the Holy Spirit. This is a basic reality. It certainly has been abused even by people in the charismatic movement who think that the Holy Spirit is supposed to induce some ecstatic experience connected to nonsense and behavior that is ungodly. But what the Bible says is be filled with the Spirit: not be emptied, be filled.
Every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit. When you came to Christ, He came to live in you. We’ve seen that in our study of John’s gospel. Literally, the Trinity takes up residence in every believer. You are the temple of the Spirit of God. You are not your own, you’re bought with a price. The Holy Spirit resides in you. “He is in you – ” John 7 says “ – like a mighty river flowing.”
There is never a command in the Bible to a Christian to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That’s a fact; you already are if you’re a Christian. There’s never a command to be baptized in the Spirit. Seven times, baptism of the Spirit is mentioned in the Bible. Seven times, the verb is used never as an imperative, never is it a command. It is a statement of fact that you have been immersed in the Holy Spirit into the fellowship of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 1 says you’re “sealed by the Spirit.” So you have the Spirit living in you; you have been, by the power of the Spirit, immersed into union with every other believer in the Spirit in the body of Christ; and you are sealed until the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, who secures you to eternal life. You’re not looking to be indwelt by the Spirit if you’re a believer; you are. You’re not looking for some baptism; you already have been. You’re not looking for something for the Spirit to seal you so you don’t lose your salvation; that’s all finished.
There’s only one command with regard to the Spirit here, and one other one in Galatians, and Galatians says, “Walk in the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit.” Order your life consistent with the Holy Spirit. He’s in you. He’s placed you into the body of Christ. He’s secured you to eternal life. Walk in the Spirit. Order your daily conduct in the Spirit. Here it’s “be being kept filled with the Spirit, be being kept filled with the Spirit.” This isn’t some kind of ecstatic experience. This isn’t some kind of a mind-altering emotion. This isn’t some kind of hysteria or mystery.
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Well, let me just take the word “filled” here, plro, means just that: filled. Not statically like filling up a glass with water; that’s a static filling. But filled like wind in a sail that moves a ship. It’s a powerful kind of filling.
The Bible uses this word in the New Testament in a number of ways. But if you sort of add them up, they give you a good insight. John 16:6 refers to being filled with sorrow. Luke 5, filled with fear. Luke 6, filled with madness. Acts 6, filled with faith. Acts 5, filled with Satan. It means, literally, to be under the control of those things.
If you’re filled with sorrow, you’re no longer able to keep your equilibrium, you’ve lost it. And “you’re filled with sorrow” means you’re unable to find peace, tranquility; you’re overwhelmed. To be filled with fear means you can’t balance the way we normally live life, with a little bit of fear and a little bit of confidence, and we kind of keep them in balance. If you’re filled with fear, fear has completely taken over and it’s fear controlling you.
If you’re filled with madness, it means you’ve lost your reason. If you’re filled with faith, it means there’s doubt – has gone and disappeared. If you’re filled with Satan, it simply means he’s in total control. That’s how that verb is used. To be filled with the Spirit then simply means that you’ve yielded up everything of your own to allow the Spirit of God to control you.
Now, is that something that is a mystical experience? Do you feel that? Do you have some kind of an impulse about it? Not at all. In fact, it’s a very objective kind of reality, even though it’s describing a subjective ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Notice verse 18 ends, “Be filled with the Spirit – ” and immediately it says “ – speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs,” et cetera. Compare that with Colossians 3, Colossians 3. And we find the same thing here, verse 16, “teaching, admonishing one another – psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, thankfulness in your heart to the Lord.”
In Ephesians 5 it says that’s a result of being filled with the Spirit. In Colossians 3 it says it’s the result of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you. You see the same results then cause us to see the cause as the same. Being filled with the Spirit is letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It’s not an ecstatic experience. It simply means to be completely controlled by the Word of God. The Spirit is the author of the Word; and when you’re controlled by the Word, you’re controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit-filled life is not something you seek in a vacuum, it’s something you seek in your Bible. It’s something that flows out of your understanding of the Word of God.
We’re commanded to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit controls us by the knowledge of the Word of God. He activates what we know from Scripture. There’s no premium on ignorance; that’s why you have the charismatic movement where there’s doctrinal ignorance, theological ignorance, and the pursuit of some kind of ecstatic experience, and people run amok. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Word of Christ. Now the consequence in verse 19 is what I want to talk about as we draw this together.
The first result of a life under control by the Spirit of God, a life saturated with biblical truth is music. That’s the first thing: “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.” The first result is music. Amazing.
There are other results: mutual submission, verse 21; wives submitting to husbands, husbands loving wives; children obeying parents, parents not provoking children; slaves obeying masters, masters doing good to slaves. All human relationships fall under the positive influence of being filled with the Spirit, or driven by the truth of Scripture. But the first thing is music, it’s music.
There are three verbs used here: speaking, singing, and making melody; speaking, singing, and making melody. Speaking is lale. That’s an onomatopoetic word. Do you remember that? That’s a word, a definition of which sounds like the word. Laleó. “La-la-la-la. La-la-la-la.” That’s all that is. You just go through life, “La-la-la-la.”
That word is used sometimes to refer to animal sounds, and sometimes to refer to the cooing sounds of a baby. Sometimes it is used to describe the chirping of birds. It comes to mean actually even to sing. But, basically, it is “to makes sounds, to make sounds.” That’s what’s going to happen when the Word of God, the truth of God controls your life. You’re going to be making sounds that express your joy.
And then there’s the word “singing,” it means just that: to sing, to sing in general. And then there’s “making melody” psall, from which the word “psalm” comes. Literally, it means “to sing with the accompaniment of an instrument,” or, “to play an instrument.” These are just words to suggest a range, a breadth. We make music – vocal music, instrumental music – is the initial expression of a Spirit-filled believer. The worship that is in our minds, because we know the truth, comes out in music.
Several features of this are indicated here. Among whom do we do this? Speaking to one another, to one another, to yourselves. This refers to the corporate worship. We do this when we get together. This is not evangelism, this is not entertainment, this is corporate expression of joy and gratitude.
One of the horrors of the Roman Catholic Church among many was that the Roman Catholic Church basically robbed the church of music for a thousand years. And by the way, Christians are the only religion that sing. Muslims don’t sing, Buddhists don’t sing, Hindus don’t sing. They don’t sing. Some chant in a minor key; Christians sing. But when the Reformation came, music was reintroduced to the church; and you sing a hymn written by Martin Luther who launched the Reformation: A Mighty Fortress is our God. Five-hundred years after that, we’re still singing that hymn.
From where does this music rise? It comes in the collective worship of God’s people, but it rises from your heart, end of verse 19, “making melody with your heart to the Lord, your heart.” It’s the expression of your mind. Heart, in the Hebrew perspective, is the mind: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” So that’s the connection; it’s the mind. Amos, chapter 5, God says to the people, “Stop singing, your hearts aren’t right. Stop your songs, your hearts aren’t right. I don’t want your songs unless your hearts are right.”
So where does this take place in the corporate worship of God’s people? From where does it come? It comes from the mind that grasps the truth revealed in Scripture: the glory of God, His person, His work, His salvation.
To whom is all of this offered? The end of verse 19, “to the Lord, to the Lord.” Verse 20 adds to that, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Our worship is directed to Him. It’s not even to us. It’s not certainly to unbelievers, it is to God. It is to God. He is the audience. He is the audience. We’re not here to entertain each other; we’re not here to entertain nonbelievers. Our praise is offered to God.
“When the priests came forth – ” in 2 Chronicles 5 “ – from the holy place, and all the Levitical singers, they were clothed in fine linen, with cymbals and harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpets and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord. And when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying, ‘He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,’ then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests couldn’t stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” The temple was complete, and God came down in the midst of them singing praise to Him. Our praise is “soli Deo gloria,” as Bach put on every piece of music he wrote, “glory to God alone.”
The question then about all music is, “Does it glorify God?” not, “Does it entertain me?” and not, “Does it have some worldly appeal?” But does it glorify God? Will it bring honor to Him, glory to Him? Is it expressive of truth in a lofty and elevated way?
And by what means do we make this music? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: psalms, psalmos. Usually associated with singing with strings. But psalms have come to be directed at the psalms themselves, and so it’s music that focuses on God’s glory, God’s person, God’s work – anthems to the Trinity you could say.
And then there are hymns. What are hymns? Songs of praise. Five times in the Septuagint, it’s used to speak of songs of salvation. So we sing, if you will, psalms to God, glorifying Him, and then we sings hymns of salvation.
And then spiritual songs. What are those? Those are testimonials to the work of the Lord in our hearts like O How I Love the Lord, any song of devotion, any song of dedication. So we have this range of singing to God to lift up His glory; to Christ, to sing the songs of salvation; and then even songs of personal testimony. What a priviledge.
Pilgrim’s Progress – I don’t know if you remember this – but every time Pilgrim got out of a problem, every time he exited some kind of conflict, every time he recovered from some harm or some near disaster, Bunyan writes, “And he went on his way singing. He went on his way singing.”
You know, the world depends on music. They depend on alcohol to survive. They depend on drugs. They depend on all kinds of highs experientially, movies, entertainment of all forms. But they really depend on music, really depend on music.
An unimaginable day is coming before our Lord Jesus comes to set up His kingdom. It’s described in Revelation 18. It says, “The sound of harpists – ” verse 22 “ – and musicians, and flute players, and trumpeters, will not be heard any longer.” Can you imagine a world with no music, a world with no music? Some people would go mad. No, I don’t think there’s any music in hell, but I know there’s music all over heaven forever. That in itself should be an attraction.
But there’s going to be one special soloist in heaven. We’re told about the soloist in heaven in Zephaniah 3:17. Listen to this: “The Lord your God is in your midst. The Mighty One will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will greet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Really? The soloist is God who will sing a solo of joy over our presence in heaven. How astonishing is that.
One final thought. All our songs, all our songs flow out of one great reality: God’s grace, right? If we’re under law, then we’re bound by guilt, death, condemnation, eternal punishment. But we’re not under law; we are under grace. All our songs are songs of grace, and that’s why these are hymns of grace. They’re all of grace. We didn’t earn this relationship with God, it’s all grace, nothing but grace.
By grace He chose us. By grace He cleansed us. By grace He adopted us. By grace He justified us. By grace He purchased us. By grace He forgave us. By grace He taught us. By grace He promised. By grace He sealed us. That’s why Paul said, Romans 5, “We stand in grace.”
All our hymns are hymns of grace, and all to be directed, verse 20, as expressions of “always giving thanks for all things, all the things that God has given us by grace, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” We sing to the Father through the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to Him, hymns that express our gratitude for divine grace.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.