Some thoughts on music!!

One of the things we miss most when working in Italy is the ability to sing (some of you would say we are missing this most of the time anyway!!) but I mean the ability to sing in our own language. The music is wonderful and can give us a real sense of the Lord’s presence but when we are able to understand and participate in the singing it lifts us to another dimension when we are in worship. With that thought I want to share some quotes which I have found helful in the last week and which I hope will challenge all on the place of music and the purpose of music in our life walking with the Lord.

So here they are :

A few words as to how God looks at our music making. . . . Music making is an offering to God; . . as musically magnificent as the offering might be, it has no special merit; and . . the condition of the offerer’s faith takes precedence over the time, circumstance, and quality of the art. There is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ, author and finisher. All sacrifices, living and inanimate, are saved to the uttermost when they come to God through Christ. This means that God sees and hears all of our offerings, perfected. God sees and hears as no human being can, all because our offerings have been perfected by the giver. The out-of-tune singing of an ordinary believer, the hymnic chant of the aborigine, the dance of a Barishnikov, the open frankness of a primitive art piece, the nearly transcendent “Kyrie” of Bach’s B Minor Mass, the praise choruses of the charismatic, the drum praise of the Cameroonian—everything from the widow’s mite to the poured-out ointment of artistic action—are at once humbled and exalted by the strong saving work of Christ. While the believer offers, Christ perfects. It is all of Christ and it is all by faith.

–Harold Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, 155-56

Most of Ephesians 4 and all of Ephesians 5 address what it means to live as children of light, or  more conventionally, what it means to live holy lives.  Paul gives many commands and  instructions, but ultimately men and women are made holy by the Spirit who is called Holy.   Therefore Paul’s command in Eph. 5:18—“Be filled with the Holy Spirit”—is the culmination of  these chapters, both rhetorically and theologically.  The passive imperative—“be filled”—is  followed by four subordinate participial clauses:  (1) speaking to one another in songs, hymns,  and spiritual songs; (2) singing and making music in your hearts; (3) giving thanks to the Lord;  (4) submitting to one another. These participles are grammatically dependent upon the verb,  and they give substance and content to the command to be filled with the Spirit. And  remarkably, two of the four clauses—three of the five participles—have to do with making  music.

–Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003),  639.

Finally, it is at the climax of these warnings and exhortations [in Ephesians 4 and 5] that Paul writes: “Be filled with the
Spirit.  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (5:18‐19).  In other words, to a Christian community surrounded by
ignorance and immorality; to a people who themselves were prone to the blindness and
indulgence of their former way of life; at the conclusion of a passage warning against
irrationality and sins of the flesh—Paul urges singing and music making. . . . Paul shares the
same broad concerns as Augustine and Calvin, but the recommendation emerging from those
concerns is entirely different.  To put it very crudely, Augustine says: “Irrationality is bad.
Sensuality is bad.  Therefore, be careful about music.”  Paul on the other hand says, “Foolishness
is bad.  Sensuality is bad.  Therefore, you had better sing.”]

–Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638.

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:1-5)

“You can’t summon the nations to sing if you aren’t singing. Our job in missions is, first, to sing.”

–John Piper (sermon: “Declare His Glory among the Nations”)

 This final one is a real challenge to both of us as we seek to develop our lives in a missional context but I would ask you to think about how you see it in your own context – which of course is no less a missional context than ours!!

I would love to hear your commenst and maybe even see a discussion about this aspect of our lives.


4 thoughts on “Some thoughts on music!!

  1. “you can have a song in the night” I have heard is an old song but have not found the source yet, but, it is true!

  2. Hey guys! Singing is great – it’s an opportunity to let yourself go a bit, and use the poetry of the words to worship God and to learn about him. Even times when I’m really struggling, singing with other believers is a huge encouragement.

    The best praise session I’ve been at this year was in Nepal – even though I couldn’t understand the words, I could tell everyone around me really believed it, and really wanted to praise God. Maybe that’s the best part – a united community, praising God and receiving encouragement from him and each other. But also, if you don’t understand the words and can’t join in maybe it’s isolating then? Maybe it actually excludes people who aren’t comfortable? What do you think?

    1. Amen Andy!! We often feel this when we are among Italian believers – the words are important too but the sense of His Spirit being present is what brings us together. Sometimes we feel a bit tired of trying to understand the words but we can just rest in the Spiriit as we are carried up to heavenly places. A sense of being part of His body is the element which when we understand the words we often focus only on ourselves and not on one with each other.
      What do other people think about this – if you dodn’t have the words what would it be like for you?

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