|Vol. 14 No. 2 February 2012||
Gregory K. Circle, II
Our young Christians need to be taught the arguments for such issues as instrumental music in worship so they can “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). The new arguments are simply the old arguments. This discussion will be about some of the Greek words in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, especially the word, psallo, and the arguments related to it. Each of these words represent a different type of music.
First, the word translated “song” is the Greek word ode, which simply means a song in its general sense. The word may be recognized in its transliterated form from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” This word can mean any type of song. Many odes were sung for the welcoming home of heroes. However, if the adjective “spiritual” is added to modify the word, then the song becomes a specific type of song, namely, one that would be sung as worship.
Second, the word “hymn” is translated from the Greek word humnos. In the Bible, this word only occurs in the two verses being discussed here, and while the word ode simply means a song, humnos is more specifically, a religious song.
Third, note the word that is transliterated, “Psalms.” It is the Greek word psalmos. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, this word is even more specific. While ode means “a song,” and humnos means a “religious song,” psalmos means “a religious song that is sung in Hebrew.” It refers to the Psalms of the Old Testament. These “psalms,” according to Strong, could be accompanied with the voice, harp or other instruments. Those arguing for instrumental music in worship often use this fact to what seems to be their advantage. However, notice that it can be accompanied with the voice or other instruments. The instruments do not have to be present in order for it to be a “psalm.”
It is often asserted that the base word for psalmos is psallo, which means to “pluck, pull, or twang.” (This word is used in Ephesians 5:19 and translated by the phrase, “making melody.”) Many will say that in order to pluck, pull or twang, you must have a mechanical instrument. This is simply not true. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us what “instrument” we must use while we are “singing and making melody.” Ephesians 5:19 says, “…in your hearts.” We are to “pluck, pull or twang” our heartstrings according to this biblical command.
It is also important to note that in the KJV, the word psallo is used four other times and is translated “sing” those times. There is not a case of mechanical instruments being used in the New Testament to worship God. The Bible commands singing and nothing more.
In 536 B.C., Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a proclamation that profoundly affected the Jewish people. This proclamation allowed the Jews, who had been taken captive to Babylon earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, to return to Jerusalem. Over 40,000 people responded. When they reached their destination, one of the first things they determined to do was rebuild the Temple.
When the foundation for the Temple was laid, many wept with a loud voice. They perceived this temple to be insignificant, compared to the one Solomon built earlier (Ezra 3:12). All the things they would do in the coming years would be viewed as small and unimportant. To this attitude God responded, “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). When the work is for God, nothing is inconsequential; everything has a place in His plan.
Our lives are spent mainly in tending to small duties. We have a normal routine we follow most days. Few of us will be called by the governor or the president, or do that which society would consider great. Even so, such a life is nothing to despise! A great life consists in doing small things well every day. The importance of prayer, phone calls, cards, visits, meals, etc. is significant when we do them for the Lord. How many lives have you touched, sick strengthened and weak cheered through prayer? How many people have you encouraged through a visit, a card or a call? How many have been blessed by a meal you offered? How many have the hope of salvation because of your influence, persistence and love in reaching out to them with the Gospel?
Jesus said, “And whoever gives to one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). A body of the Lord’s people, doing what they can in service to Him, will find together they can be of great value to the Master. It is through Him that “…all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase which is from God” (Colossians 2:19).
Do not underestimate the importance of what you do for the Lord, great or small! Nothing is insignificant when done for the glory of God. We can all resolve to put God first in all we do, to make sure what we do is done with excellence, to please God. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Despise not the day of small things.