be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians
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” (Colossians 3:16).
any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms”
Testament expression used in the title above is not infrequently brought up
in discussions regarding the congregational worship of God. Now as we are told
to sing to the Lord in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”, and as this
singing is a means of strengthening our faith and letting the
“word of Christ”
the infallible Word
dwell in us richly in all wisdom, it is important to understand what the
apostle actually means by the three different words.
is probably little contention over the word “psalm” (Greek “psalmos”),
because in today’s English the word generally signifies the book of
psalms, just as it did in the New Testament –
“And David himself
saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my
right hand” (Luke
“God hath fulfilled the
same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is
also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten
thee” (Acts 13:33).
“Wherefore he saith
also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see
corruption” (Acts13:35; cf. Psalm
second word in question is “hymn” (Greek “humnos”),
which simply means “praise”. This word is more controversial than
“psalm” because of the modern tendency to use it exclusively to
describe extrabiblical or man-made songs of praise, especially those written
in the style of such famous composers as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.
(Though undoubtedly very useful when written by faithful men of God, such
compositions can in no way be put on a level with the inspired poetry of the
no more than a biblical sermon or prayer can be
put on a footing with Scripture itself, so as to be constantly repeated in
worship by whole congregations.) However, not only is there no evidence that the
Greek New Testament word “humnos”
ever applies to fallible or uninspired songs, it is actually used in
reference to the praise of inspired psalmody. The New Testament translates
the words of the Lord Jesus (Psalm22:22) in this way:
“Saying, I will declare
thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise
[Greek, “hymn”] unto thee”
(Hebrews 2:12; quoting Psalm 22:22).
we are told that the Saviour and his disciples sang a “hymn”, or "praise" (Matthew
third expression, “song” (Greek “ode”),
which on its own has a rather broad meaning, is also used not infrequently
in Greek to refer to the Psalms, as in the Septuagint translation of such
titles as that of Psalm 65: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm and Song
[Greek, “ode”] of David”.
The threefold expression
theory that Paul is referring to three completely different kinds of praise
– one composed of a book of the Bible and the others man-made – becomes
even more unreasonable when it is seen that the inspired Hebrew of the Old
Testament uses three different words to describe the psalms: “mizmor”
(generally translated as “psalm”),
“tehillah” (a “hymn” or “praise”) and “shir”
(usually “song”). Similar threefold expressions are found elsewhere
in Scripture – for example the “statutes and judgments and laws, which the
LORD made” (Leviticus 26:46) – and it is most probable that in the passages in question
the apostle is using Greek equivalents of Hebrew words to describe the
contents of the one infallible collection of hymns.
Spiritual songs –
expression “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (which in the original
Greek is in this order: “psalms and hymns and songs spiritual”)
indicates that the songs we use in worship should come from the Spirit of
God. Only Scripture itself is infallibly inspired; and the Psalms of David
are plainly in this Spirit-breathed category:
“David the son of Jesse
said . . . the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The spirit of the Lord spake
by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:1, 2).
“Wherefore (as the Holy
Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts . .
.” (Hebrews 3:7, 8; cf. Psalm 95:7, 8).
Psalm singing biblical –
believers of early times who put their trust in the promised Messiah, and often died
for this faith (see Hebrews 11), sang the psalms of Scripture:
“Moreover Hezekiah the
king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the LORD with
the words of David, and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with
gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshipped” (2 Chronicles 29:30).
These psalms speak of Christ our Saviour (Luke 24:44) and the Christians of
the New Testament acknowledged this fact with boldness and joy (Acts 4:26).
The psalms gave comfort to the scattered Christians of the Middle Ages, and
burst onto the church scene once again at the
Reformation, when great
congregations sang them with the vigour of a new-found joy in a long-lost
Gospel message – that of salvation by grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
psalms are biblical and they are Christ-centred. They are
composed solely by inspiration of our Almighty God, whose
“praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10).
grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our
God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8).