Vol. 7, No. 1
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
I believe that we are to sing and not play because it is not authorized in scripture. What do you do when someone tells you that the context of Ephesians 5 does not talk about worship? I was wondering if you could shed some light on this subject for me and what about the elders and their harps. If you could I would appreciate it. Thanks ~ Ryan
Irrespective of what one may conclude regarding the surrounding context, Ephesians 5:19 does address one aspect of worship, a specific kind of worshipful music--singing! The verse reads: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Colossians 3:16 is comparable to Ephesians 5:19, and reads: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" rather than or combined with instrumental music, humming, percussion, etc. is authorized as worshipful music, such as one would find in an assembly of Christians for worship (1 Corinthians 14:15).
However, what many people fail to realize respecting Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is that the place or occasion is not addressed in those verses, but the activity of worshipful music is addressed in those verses. Hence, the place or occasion is irrelevant as to the affect on worshipful music. Whenever and wherever one proceeds to voice psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, irrespective of the place or occasion, the Bible only and exclusively authorizes singing. Incidentally, instrumental music, humming, whistling, voices imitating instruments of music, etc. are incapable of "speaking" (Ephesians 5:19), "teaching" and "admonishing" (Colossians 3:16) with spiritual truths.
Finally, whatever God may have permitted under former dispensations or what may be permitted in heaven is irrelevant to the here and the now as we are amenable exclusively to the New Testament. In addition, few if any would concede literal, physical harps in the spiritual realm of heaven (Revelation 5:8; 14:2; 15:2).
Does God hear the prayers of little children and others who are safe? I understand the safe ones to be those who have never developed in mind to the point they are accountable to God. We believe God hears all things. Does he answer the prayers of these? How do we harmonize all of this with the Christian have the right and privilege of prayer? All help appreciated. ~ Don Turnmire
As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address or provide an example of how God responds to the prayers of unaccountable children. Any suppositions we avow, based on whatever principles to which we may appeal, probably evidence diminished certainty. Sometimes we must defer to the principle of Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."
However, we should include instructions about prayer in the upbringing of our even small children; we must teach them to pray (Luke 11:1; Ephesians 6:4). Further, that Jesus instructed accountable persons (his disciples and others present) to imitate the virtuous traits of small children respecting salvation (i.e., humility, Matthew 18:3-4), indicates that the children of God (Christians today) need to acquire the innocency of small children (who are safe rather than saved). Therefore, it is reasonable to acknowledge that unaccountable children enjoy a relationship with God that accountable persons can obtain by becoming as little children (in the way the Gospel prescribes), by which they can pray acceptable prayers to God. Yet, though an unaccountable child may enjoy a relationship with God that would accommodate meaningful prayer, if a child offers a meaningful prayer to God, is that child unaccountable or accountable (and if accountable, needing to become a Christian)? If an unaccountable child offers a meaningful prayer, is that prayer really the child's prayer or what an adult has taught a child about praying? Whose prayer is it? Whose prayer, really, would God be answering?
Would this be appropriate to sing in the worship services: Lonely tombs?
The songs that are appropriate to sing in the worship services are songs that could rightfully be considered "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). These "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" must contain "teaching and admonishing" about spiritual matters as well as glorify God (Colossians 3:16; Revelation 15:3-4). As such, then, singing in worship should not have as its primary or overriding function to entertain either the singers or others who may be present.
These "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" by lexical definition are "psalms" meaning "a sacred ode," "hymns" meaning "a religious ode," and "spiritual songs" meaning "non-carnal" or "religious" for the word "spiritual" and "chant" or "ode" for the word "songs" (Strong's). The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says of "ode" that it "...originally meant any lyrical piece adapted to be sung." Doubtless our four part harmony in even what we consider traditional hymns is far different from the chants that passed for singing in first century worship; the mere difference between singing in the first century and singing traditional hymns would certainly shock a first century Christian. Contemporary or praise songs that are lately popular often make modern-day brethren (and likewise would make first century brethren) at least a little uncomfortable (I personally much prefer our traditional hymns).
Therefore, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs sung in our worship assemblies are governed by Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 and as well need to be composed of singing with which the singers are comfortable (not entertained). Few if any of our worship songs are divinely inspired and all of them take some so-called literary license. Grandpa Jones from the Grand Ole Opry used to sing a religious song, "There's a Hole in the Ground for You and Me." That song contained some blunt but thought-provoking messages, though I'm just not ready to begin wafting that melody from my lips Sunday morning. I am not familiar with the song, "Lonely Tombs," but I imagine it is lively and appeals to lively Christians. If it is appropriate, some Christians may not be ready to make the adjustment required to waft its airs in corporate worship. At the same time, if it is appropriate as are some other praise songs with which some of us are uncomfortable, we need to bend as much as we desire others to bend when we sing loudly those traditional hymns.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators.