Thursday: Spirit-Filled Worship (Eph. 5:18-20)

In Ephesians 5:18-20, Paul imagines Christians gathered to worship. What does he depict them as doing in that worship?

In his final argument in Ephesians 5:1-20, Paul urges believers to turn away from the mind-numbing use of wine and instead experience together the presence and power of the Spirit. Paul bans drunkenness (probably with a quotation from Proverbs 23:31 in the Greek version of the Old Testament), suggesting he has in mind the injunctions against the use of alcohol as seen in the wisdom literature (Proverbs 20:1Proverbs 23:29-35).

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The evil things that come in the wake of drunkenness include crude, sexually explicit speech, mindlessness, immorality, and idolatry (Ephesians 5:3-14). These are to be exchanged for thoughtful, Spirit-inspired worship of God. Paul’s exhortation to be filled with the Spirit is a key one that is modified by a series of verbs in Ephesians 5:19-21 (“speaking”; “singing and making melody”; “giving thanks”; “submitting yourselves”).

Paul here applies the exhortation to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) corporately, imagining believers gathering in Spirit-inspired worship of God that nourishes unity (Ephesians 4:1-32) and that stands in contrast with egocentric, pagan behavior and worship (Ephesians 5:1-18). In this sketch of early Christian worship, musical praise dominates. It has been argued that the church was born in song; and this passage, together with Colossians 3:16, provides the best evidence for the claim (compare Acts 16:25James 5:13).

There is a “horizontal” element to worship since, in singing, church members are in a sense “speaking to one another” (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV). However, the specific object of the musical praise is the Lord, which, as indicated in Ephesians 5:20, identifies “the Lord Jesus Christ” (compare Colossians 3:16). The thanksgiving of Ephesians 5:20, described in parallel to the musical praise of Ephesians 5:19, is to be offered “unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the phrase “spiritual songs,” the adjective “spiritual” (Greek, pneumatikos) highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in worship since the term describes songs that are inspired by or filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s sketch of early Christian worship, then, portrays all three members of the Godhead as active participants.

How can you use music to enhance your own worship experience?

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