Ephesians 5:19

One of the most familiar verses in the Bible in the Churches of Christ is Ephesians 5:19.

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.

Among most of the Churches of Christ this verse is used frequently and holds a powerful significance for two reasons. First, it is one of a very few verses in the New Testament that mentions music. Second, it was adopted as a theological commentary on the musical form of Christian worship offered to God.

To me the essential question all Christians need to ask in regard to this verse is: what did Paul mean when he penned these words? Was he writing about a worship practice in the church of Ephesus? Was he trying to direct them in the theology of musical worship?

  1. As we dedicate ourselves to understanding Paul's encouragement in Ephesians 5:19, I want to begin by setting this statement in the broader context of Ephesians 5:1-21.
    1. First, I ask you to note something.
      1. The thoughts of Ephesians 5:1-21 come between (1) a powerful emphasis in chapter 4:17-32 that contrasts the lifestyle of an unspiritual person in Paul's day with a spiritual life style and (2) an emphasis on the type of marriage relationships spiritual people sustained.
      2. Please notice this entire section is a contrast between the lifestyles of people who belong to Jesus Christ and are filled with God's Spirit and the typical lifestyles of people in that time who did not belong to Jesus Christ.
        1. 4:17-32--Contrasts: a person who belongs to Christ lives life for different purposes (with specific contrasts given).
        2. 5:1-21--Contrasts: a person who belongs to Christ imitates God, not the values of people who do not belong to God.
        3. 5:22-6:4--Contrasts: a person who belongs to Christ develops and nurtures marriage relationships in a godlike manner.
    2. To call the contrast of 5:1-21 into focus, consider these slides on the emphasis in the texts. I ask you to turn to Ephesians 5.

    Slide # 1:
    The over-all emphasis of
    the section:
    Be imitators of God.
    The child-father analogy.

    Slide # 2:
    The section's focus:
    Christian lifestyle.
    The example:
    Jesus Christ.

    Slide # 3:
    The contrast is between the
    godly and ungodly.
    moral and immoral.
    pure and impure.

    Slide # 4:
    unselfish and greedy.
    thankful and silly, course.

    Slide # 5:
    The consequences of a
    Christian's dedication to
    forfeit inheritance.
    wrath of God.

    Slide # 6:
    Specific contrasts:
    light and darkness
    Lord and Satan
    wise and unwise

    Slide # 7:
    sober and drunk
    Spirit filled and
    wine filled

    Slide # 8:
    Point: those who are
    ambassadors of God
    through Jesus Christ
    must be holy people.

  2. The primary challenge of the section (Ephesians 5:1-21) is the challenge for the Christians at Ephesus to be imitators of God.
    1. For them to be imitators of God, they must understand they are God's children in a manner similar to Jesus' understanding he was God's son.
      1. In this challenge we see ourselves as God's beloved children in a similar manner that Jesus saw himself as God's beloved Son (thus our objective is to make God well pleased with who and what we are just as God was well pleased with who and what Jesus was).
      2. Jesus Christ shows us how to imitate God because he perfectly reflected God in his physical existence.
        1. Ephesian Christians had to allow Christ to teach them how to live lives of love (just as we must).
        2. In love he was God's sacrifice for those who would believe.
        3. Those who believe must be God's sacrifices also.
        4. Being God's sacrifice is reflected in the surrender of ourselves to God's purposes.
        5. This deeply pleases God.
      3. Saints (holy ones, Christians) are very different in the lives they live.
        1. The holiness of God, not the ungodliness of society, determines how they live their daily lives.
        2. They refuse to be immoral, impure, or greedy--allowing God to be their standard and concept of morality, purity, and greed.
        3. Their talk is filled with gratitude, not emptiness--to focus on values other than gratitude is to be deceived.
      4. The difference between how they lived right then as imitators of God and how they lived before they committed to imitating God was the difference between day light and the deepest darkness.
        1. The qualities of a life that is living in the light by imitating God were radically different from the qualities produced by not imitating God and living in the darkness.
        2. They are children of the light--they must look like people who imitate God.
        3. It was shameful to look like people who did not imitate God.
      5. They needed to give careful attention to how they lived their lives.
        1. They lived in a very evil time.
        2. They needed to be wise.
        3. They needed to understand living for foolishness was spiritual disaster.
        4. They needed to understand what God's will was.
    2. Paul then gave three specific examples:
      1. Example one: The "wise" existence that realized the foolishness of evil would not surrender to a life of drunkenness.
        1. Instead of being filled with wine, they would be filled with the spirit.
        2. Drunkenness will waste life.
        3. Being filled with the spirit will give life.
        4. The evidence that you are filled with the Spirit instead of filled with wine: your songs.
        5. You sing the songs that honor the God you imitate, not the songs of a drunkard.
      2. Example two: Your are grateful individuals.
        1. You give God thanks for everything.
        2. You do this by acknowledging what God gave you and gives you by allowing Jesus Christ to be your Saviour.
      3. Example three: you serve each other.
        1. Every Christians sees himself or herself as God's slave.
        2. He or she holds Jesus in such profound reverence, such fear, that just as Jesus surrendered himself to be God's sacrifice, the Christian surrenders himself or herself to God's purposes in other's lives.
        3. The focus in living is not on "what can I get" but on "what can I give."

Ephesians 5:19 was not written as Paul's directive on how the Christians in Ephesus worshipped, but how Christians in Ephesus lived.

Am I encouraging us to adopt instruments in our worship? No. I am just encouraging all of us to place the emphasis where Paul placed it in his directive.

We have far too many Christians who have decided that because they are saved by God's grace they can do anything they want to do. They can do whatever they wish to do sexually. They can get high on drugs. They can get drunk. They can indulge themselves any way they please. As far as they are concerned, it will not matter because God's grace will cover them.

Paul said not so. People who belong to God imitate God. That includes what they talk about. That includes what they sing about. That includes how they use their lives.

We desperately need to place the emphasis where Paul placed it.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 11 May 2003
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