When the Holy Spirit Comes to Church Pt. 3


“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

Ephesians 5:18-21

In this series of posts, we are examining worship from Ephesians 5:19-21. We are considering what it looks like when the Holy Spirit gathers with His people. We must let the Bible teach us what is true worship. 

So far we have considered that when the Holy Spirit is filling believers there is regular assembly and rejoicing awe. Last time we broke down rejoicing awe into its means: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Then we considered its motivation, making melody in your heart.

Now we are on our third point under rejoicing awe: the mark.

Do not miss this! The text says we are singing and making melody to the Lord.

Our mark, our goal, and our aim is the resurrected and exalted Christ. We sing to the King. We are not singing about how great and worthy we are, but how great and worthy He is. 

I do not want to hear songs that diminish the glory of Christ and exalt man. I want to hear rich, deep, full, and glorious singing that honors and adores our King. This is the kind of singing God requires of us. 

We also honor the Son when we honor the Father and the Holy Spirit. We sing songs about, to, and for the Trinity. Our singing first and foremost is about the glory and honor of God. 

Sometimes, by the way, that means we sing songs that show the reality of who we are apart from Christ. We are vile worms deserving of hell in our fallenness, rebellion, and sin.

Modern music does not like to address our depravity because of our present culture. We need to sing of God’s wrath and our wretched condition because these truths serve a much greater end, namely, the exaltation of our King. We are singing to the Lord. Above all else, this is the driving mark for our songs. We want to honor Christ.

This ought to help us move past personal preferences. Perhaps you like one style of song and I like another style. But these preferences fade as we look to Christ as the goal of our singing. 

This also means songs we thought we liked because of style should sometimes be eliminated from our singing because they are not theologically accurate. We are singing to the Lord and our goal is to honor Christ. Bad theology dishonors Him and therefore undermines this purpose: lies should never characterize our worship in Spirit and truth.

We have considered the means, motivation, and mark of rejoicing awe. We must finally consider the message.

Our songs ought to be rich. We sing the psalms, but also hymns and spiritual songs that are rich and deep. 

Consider some of the modern songs some people sing. And I quote:

“Way Maker, miracle worker, promise keeper

Light in the darkness

My God, that is who You are

Yeah, Yeah

Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper

Light in the darkness

My God, that is who You are

Sing that is who You are

Oh, that is who You are

That is who You are

O and that is who You are

That is who You are

Yeah and that is who You are, yeah

That is who You are

Oh, that is who You are

Oh it’s who You are, now Jesus”

There is definitely some truth in that song. I am not trying to pick on the song so much as to show you a contrast. Consider the lines of this old Charles Wesley hymn: 

“He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race;

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.”

Also, consider this line from Isaac Watts: 

“O Lord of hosts, Almighty King,

While we so near thy presence dwell,

Our faith shall sit secure, and sing

Defiance to the gates of hell.”

There is so much depth and richness packed into these concise sections of song. There is so much gospel and so much truth instead of repetitious shallowness. 

I am not merely saying that old is good and new is bad. The songs we sing, whether old or new, should have rich messages. You will remember the songs we sing far longer than the finely crafted and alliterated points of the sermons your pastor preaches!

The songs we sing minister to our souls. They comfort our hearts. They inform our minds. They teach us. Many songs even call sinners to look to Christ and be saved.

“Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,

And be washed in the blood of the Lamb,

There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,

O be washed in the blood of the Lamb!”

Let us then obey this text by singing rich and full songs.

No one is going to sit around a hospital bed with a man’s dying breath and sing “Reckless Love.” But they will sing, and I have sung, “My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord O my soul!

Consider again Ephesians 5:18, which commands, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

What do drunkards do? They sing little ditties. Maybe crass or funny songs. Little catchy tunes. But the church is not drunk. She is filled in and led by the Spirit of God, so her singing is much deeper and richer and fuller than that of a drunkard. 

We sing truth. We sing of Christ. We sing of sin’s defeat. We sing of Satan’s downfall. We sing of the cross and the resurrection. We sing of trusting the Lord. We sing of His mercy. We sing of His grace. We sing of our Triune God. We sing of the birth of Christ. We sing of His resurrection. We sing of our blessed hope! We sing and sing because this is what it looks like when the Holy Spirit comes to church. 

Will we embrace here the Bible’s depiction of Christianity? Will consider this subject further in part four.

For further reading
Ephesians by Charles Hodge
Ephesians by John MacArthur
Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde
Before the Throne: Reflections on God's Holiness by Allen Nelson
Allen S. Nelson IV

Allen S. Nelson IV

Allen S. Nelson IV is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Perryville, AR, where he resides with his wife Stephanie, and their 6 children. Allen is the author of From Death to Life: How Salvation WorksBefore the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness, and A Change of Heart: Understanding Regeneration and Why it Matters. He is an M.Div graduate of Grace BIble Theological Seminary in Conway, AR.

March 8, 2024

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