The reason we go to a particular verse often dictates the meaning we find in the verse. If we go to Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 looking for instruction on how to worship we end up missing some of what Paul actually wrote. Here is what he wrote,
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:18-20
“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Col 3:15-17
In Ephesians 5:18-20 we have Paul write that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…making music…to the Lord…giving thanks to God…in the name of Jesus.”
Our worship is directed at God but it can also be directed at each other. This is the horizontal and vertical components of worship mashed into these few verses. If that isn’t enough, look at Colossians 3:15-17, which tells us that our singing in worship has an instructive component, where we both teach and admonish each other through our singing, while we are singing “to God”…”in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Again, we have the vertical and horizontal component of our worship held in perfect balance.
When we sing we are instructing. People often learn as much theology from their song books as we do from our Bibles. What is more, as we sing and as we hear others sing we need to allow room for personal instruction. So I sing to the Lord AND I am listening for instruction, even correction.
This is what singing is intended to do. It serves the whole body and reflects the values of the greatest commandment and the other command that is like it – that our singing is both to one another and to God and Jesus…it is both to God while instructive to each other. Let us be encouraged by the songs that we sing and not feel guilty that we are somehow making it about us.