Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

There are some passages in Scripture that are, perhaps, more loved than others. When you ask someone about their favorite verse in the Bible, or if they have a Life Verse, it’s probably safe to assume they won’t quote Leviticus or Deuteronomy. (I don’t know why… personally, some of the Best Stuff of Scripture is in Deuteronomy!) Psalms and Isaiah get their fair share of quoting, and the Gospels and the Epistles. And that is how it should be, I think. When we speak of passages in the Bible that really impact us and change our hearts, it is often something that expresses God’s grace, His love, His desire and delight in His people. It’s still a mystery to me that God would love us, but He does.

One of the expressions we hear quoted often from the Bible is this one: “…speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” You’ve heard that one, right? These are Paul’s words, and like any honest writer, he actually uses this material in two different letters—to the churches at Ephesus (Eph. 5:19) and at Colossus (Col. 3:16).

If we go back and read the words surrounding each use of this expression, we find that the contexts are very similar. Paul is writing to encourage and admonish us in how to live—particularly, how to live as Christians and as a Christian body.

It’s just a beautiful idea, isn’t it? Speaking to one another in song? You’ve heard the analogy of the old dog who has a favorite bone that he always goes back to chew on? This is my “old favorite bone.” It’s always nearby, and I can be in the midst of some other study or project altogether, and I’ll find myself gnawing on it: Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? What did Paul mean? Was he just being poetic?

Largely, I think we assume he was being poetic—as evidenced by the fact that we don’t often experience gatherings of Believers wherein they are singing to one another. We sing together as a means of corporate agreement in worship, but we almost never sing to each other.

This morning, I was singing an old worship chorus and this idea of speaking in song came back to me; it birthed a new question.

What if we spoke to one another—not necessarily in song—but in the same manner and phrasing that we sing our worship songs and hymns? When we remove the music, do the words mean something? Or are they just fluffy and feel-good?

I need some volunteers. I need to test this out.

You will be agreeing to receive and respond to written correspondence with me through a medium of your choice—postal mail, email, or facebook messenger. It’s not ongoing (unless you keep responding, then we’ll make it ongoing).

What do you say? I need several people. I know there are a few I can count on already (you probably know who you are)…

Let me know.

Pax, friends!

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9 Responses to Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

  1. lewisksteven says:

    I think a different part of the brain is activated when one sings or hears music.

    I’m curious why Paul doesn’t tell the Thessalonians to sing, because they were going through more persecution.

    • semmie says:

      Good question, Steve…

      Music IS processed in a different part of the brain as speech (or conversation, more properly, which involves more than simply speaking), which is a fascinating conversation all its own.

      So… do you think there was a specific reason Paul used this idea with Ephesus and Colossus, but not Thessalonica? Coincidence, perhaps? (I don’t particularly believe in coincidence, but… I’m willing to say that Paul may not have had a conscious reason for what he wrote.)

      • lewisksteven says:

        I don’t know. My guess would be that Ephesians and Colossians is about faith, while Thessalonians is about hope. Perhaps Paul is thinking Spiritual songs reinforce faith.

  2. Theresa Wade says:

    Count me in for correspondence!

    Your words spoke directly to me! I am not one that is able to memorize passage so I am not one that is able to quote scripture….till now.

    At last weeks Bible study we were challenged to memorize Mathew 6:33-34. All the other table were mesmerizing the passage but I knew that wasn’t going to happen for me. Then the ladies at my table said “hey, didn’t we learn that at VBS?” So they sang the passage and it all clicked for me!

    So I can see where we all may be better learners of the Word if we sing it! Thanks Sarah for connecting the dots

    • semmie says:

      Music in the church can serve several important purposes, Theresa. I also tend to remember things better when I sing them. However, I’m not sure exactly how or why that happens, and I’m not exactly sure whether that is the “purpose” of singing in church, or whether it is simply a bonus. 🙂

      Thanks for offering to do this little experiment with me. I’ll explain more privately. Let me know the best way to correspond with you. I always prefer handwritten letters, but… whatever works best for you!

  3. Theresa Britt says:

    I’m interested. Let’s talk. Facebook messenger would be best

  4. Steve Ward says:

    Hi Sarah,
    It’s been quite a while since I last wrote to you. I hope you are doing well. So much has happened since my last visit to your website. I’ll check back later to read your reply. I’m still not on any major social media, But I have a couple of Google accounts if you want to contact me. I use this one mostly: It’s good to know that you’re still writing a lot.

    • semmie says:

      Well hey, Steve. I’m glad you stopped by. I hope you and your family are doing well. I am, indeed, still writing–though I’ve given up on the fantasy piece I began many years ago.

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