NT Worship - Singing

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Text:  Ephesians 5: 17-19; Col. 3: 16-17

Thesis:  To prove that the only authorized way to worship God in songs is congregational 

             and the only instrument is the heart.


(1)    One needs to worship God according to the way that it has been prescribed in the New Testament (John 4:24).

(2)    There are five different acts of worship that we offer to God under the New Testament: The Lord’s supper, giving, preaching, prayer, and singing.

(3)    The area of worship that we will examine will singing, and we will examine three various points of it:



I.                   The Command Given:

A.     God has commanded us to sing.

1.      There are nine verses that are found in the New Testament that mention singing (Mat. 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; Jam. 5:13).

2.      The way that we are to sing will be found by taking all of these verses together, and seeing what the verses teach.

B.     Is a command necessary?

1.      All of these verses presuppose the activity.

2.      Hence, singing is something that naturally follows a merry heart.

3.      The verses really give examples of the activity or regulations placed upon it.

II.                The Regulations Stated:

            A.  Singing is to be congregational.

            1.    First, we will examine Ephesians 5:19.

a.       “Speaking to one another” is a reciprocal reflexive pronoun.

(1)    It is like looking in a mirror, which would mean that you would do as I do when I do it (see Dave Miller’s Singing in New Testament Worship).

(2)    The construction of this verse is an imperative followed by participles that explain how to fulfill the imperative.

(3)    The same idea is found in Colossians 3.13, 16, which Lightfoot points out there that the reciprocal emphasizes “the idea of corporate unity” (221).

b.      The letter to the Ephesians is addressed to the Church at Ephesus (Eph. 1:1), and that would mean that Ephesians 5:19 is addressing their congregational worship and more specially, the individual item of singing.

c.       Therefore, they were commanded to have congregational singing, and this same truth applies today to Christians.

2.   Second, we will examine Colossians 3:16.

a.       The phrase “teaching and admonishing one another” was commanded to the Church of Colosse (Col. 1:1).

b.      The only way that one could carry out this command is to be a part of the teaching and admonishing, because one would be just being taught and admonished if he were not involved in the singing.

c.       Therefore, the Church at Colosse was to have congregational singing, and the same truth applies today to Christians.

B.   Singing is to be a cappella only.

1.      The Bible simply says “sing.”

2.      Observe the principle from silence:

a.       Hebrews 7.13 – “of which Moses spoke nothing concerning the priesthood”

b.      Gen. 6.14 – “ark out of gopher wood”

c.       Lev. 10.1-2 – “unauthorized fire”

d.      Remember Rev. 22.18-19

3.      The Greek word psallo (Stong’s # 5567) means “to sing.”

a.       Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it as “in the N.T., to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song” (675).

b.      BDAG points out that modern Greek usage of the word means “sing” exclusively with no reference to instrumental accompaniment (1096).

c.       LXX used the word to translate passages in the OT with reference to the instrument because the word used to have a meaning in reference to an instrument.

(1)    Nevertheless, this meaning is not what is means today.

(2)    Even if one were to accept this, then note this:

(a)     Every time it is used in reference to an instrument, then the instrument is specified.

(b)    This would be true in the N.T. – “in the heart” (see Hardeman-Boswell debate).

4.      The early church did not use instruments.

a.       The early church did not have only mainstream problems until around A.D. 950 (Hester Among the Scholars 49).

b.      As the New Catholic Encyclopedia affirms, “The rejection of all musical instruments from Christian worship is consistent among the fathers.”

III.             The Objections Considered:

A.    “Instruments were used in the Old Testament.”

1.      The burning of incense, animal sacrifices, etc. were also used in the OT.

2.      We are under the New Testament today (Heb. 8).

3.      To go back to one point of the Old Testament is to go back to all of it.

B.     “The instrument is only an aid such as is a song book.”

1.      An aid is something that helps the activity to be done without adding or taking away from it.

2.      The instrument is something that is an addition to the singing.

C.     “What about the use of instruments in heaven?”

1.      This is taken from Rev. 14.2: “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.”

2.      The point to remember is that this is figurative language and that a literal mechanical instrument will not be in heaven.  A sound was heard that could be compared to one of them.

3.      Even so, that is in heaven to come and we are here upon this earth living in the Christian dispensation needing NT authority for what we do now.

D.    “As long as I am sincere, then God is pleased.”

1.      Remember the past lessons from the OT.

2.      Col. 3.17 stresses the importance of having NT authority.

3.      How can one be sincere when he/she is failing to do what he/she knows what ought to be done?

4.      Even so, consider this scenario:

Standing before God –

Chris, why didn’t you use the instrument?

Chris, why did you use the instrument?

IV.             Some Suggestions Offered:

A.    Sing from the heart – Not sing well

B.     Be willing to learn new songs and how better to enhance your singing

C.     Attend some “Friday-night singings”


(1)    Singing is a blessed act of our worship of God where we may praise Him.

(2)    Let us all be involved in our singing “in spirit and in truth.”

(3)    Let us make sure that our lives are also living the words that we sing.

(4)    If our lives are not, then let us change today.



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