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Each one has a hymn

Posted by on Jun 25, 2012 in edification, gathering | 18 comments

Each one has a hymn

The title of this post comes from 1 Corinthians 14:26 – “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)

In this part of his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul exhorts the believers to gather together in order to edify (build up) one another. While Paul mentions several different activities such as teaching, prophesying, praying, seeing, etc., he does not explain how to carry out those various activities. Instead, he focuses on the purpose of any activity that is done while gathered with other believers: edification. In fact, the entire chapter is focused on edification.

But, have you ever thought about how hymns and singing would edify others?

We know from other passages that singing can be directed only to God. For example, consider this statement (also from Paul) about singing:

[B]e filled with the Spirit…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… (Ephesians 5:18b-19 ESV)

Notice that in the statement above, Paul says that singing is one result of being filled with the Spirit. But, he lists two different kinds of singing: 1) addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and 2) making melody to the Lord with your heart. So, there is a type of singing that is prompted by the Holy Spirit which is directed from the individual directly to God. But, there is another type of singing which is also prompted by the Holy Spirit which is addressed to one another.

This second type of singing is the kind that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 14 and which Paul says should result in edification (building up). In fact, Paul specifically says in 1 Corinthians 14 that those activities that are specifically between the individual and God but which do not edify others should not take place when we are gathered with others.

For example, in the passages below, Paul says that we should not pray, sing, or speak in tongues (without interpretation) – among other activities – if others are not edified:

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. (1 Corinthians 14:15-17 ESV)

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27:28 ESV)

Paul never says that the prayer, singing, or tongue speaking are invalid or not in the Spirit. Instead, he says we should only pray, sing, or speak in tongues (among other activities) in ways that are both understandable and edifying when we are with other believers.

Thus, when we are gathered together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, our singing is to God, but it is also to one another (i.e., “addressing one another”). Similarly, our singing is for the purpose of building one another up as much as it is for the purpose of praising God.

So, when we come together with other believers and when we sing, how do we sing in a way that edifies one another?


18 Comments

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  1. 6-25-2012

    I am thinking, the singing is to get people in the mood, after singing for a little bit, it brings out relaxation, comfortability. your thoughts are on praise and worship of the Lord. This could be good or bad. For after that is all over is where the sermon comes. And I think it good to be in the Spirit not all comfy and relaxed, taking in anything that is said as truth. The verse be wise as a serphant comes to mind and harmless as a dove
    My sining is btween God and I, going out to battle every day, bringing the gospel with me ready in and out of season the reason for the joy that is iminent in me from God the Father of Christ Jesus.

    I really like your post you shared while gone Alan wont get fooled again, and asking if I can post it on my blogger

  2. 6-25-2012

    I have experienced in gatherings of one anothering that individuals spontaneously get a hymn or song that they know already, come up in their heart that encourages the rest and brings more focus on what Jesus is threading as a message in the gathering. I’ve also had the experience of two or more singing a song that they have never heard before, as a prophetic song of encouragement. Personally there have been many times that I have prophesied and was prompted to sing it, not say it. That has happened both at times when the group is giving place to sing and when I am ministering in a more one on one encounter. It has appeared to me that sometimes the prompting to sing a prophetic song to an individual in the group emphasizes the gentleness or exhortation in the message. I often wonder if it also helps the receivers remember the message better. On the other hand it could just be that it helps me personally release the message. It’s not about being able to carry a tune, it’s about being willing to step out and give someone love.

  3. 6-25-2012

    Alan, we need not inject a “two different kinds of singing” dichotomy, as from a gathering I participated with yesterday afternoon: recognizing “Christ in you”, we are singing both to our Lord and to the man/woman whose life is hid in Him. Edification and the glorification of God in Christ not mutually exclusive? If Christ is glorified, I am edified. So also should you.

    “Paul says that we should not pray, sing, or speak in tongues…”
    Wait up, here… Paul is not giving us list of “should not”. Look carefully for how these things are expressed, and from an interlinear Bible, the apologetic style of much of Paul’s writings.

    Anything can be “invalid” if it is not coming by way of the Spirit. Haven’t we all heard songs & hymns in verse conflict with Christ? Much singing has been undertaken by men as the crooning of hypocrisy & lies.

  4. 6-25-2012

    Howard,

    There is definitely an emotional aspect to singing (i.e., getting people in the mood), but I think there is more to edification than that. According to Paul, when you are with other believers, your singing is not just between God and you.

    Dori,

    Thanks for the examples. In tomorrow’s posts, I’m going to share how we use singing as a form of edification as well.

    Marshall,

    Paul’s lists of responses to being filled by the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-21 includes 4 different items (delineated by participles): 1) addressing, 2) singing, 3) giving thanks, and 4) submitting. So, Paul does separate singing into 2 different types.

    This is definitely a “should not” (in any translation and in the Greek text):

    If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28 ESV)

    The other passages I listed above include “should nots” as well, such as you should not pray among others in a way that they cannot understand.

    -Alan

  5. 6-25-2012

    Howard,

    Yes, you can use anything that I write.

    -Alan

  6. 6-25-2012

    Alan, how do we rightly draw “should not” from use of the “dia” prefix, and absent a negative particle? Yet, as from the ESV you cite, the grammar is plainly “let”: allow-ing, permit.

    “kai” is used to point at Ephesians 5:19 “speaking to selves psalms and hymns and spiritual singing kai playing music in your heart to the Master”, which should be telling us that these things conjoined are not intended to be understood separately.

    Infamous is the way of systematic thinking to be partitioning & dividing that which is by God made together as one.

  7. 6-25-2012

    Marshall,

    The command “let” is associate with the term “be silent” as opposed to “speak.” Thus, the command “let… keep silent” is the same as “let… not speak.”

    Singing is always to be done to God… just as everything we do is to be done to God. The distinction is that some singing is ONLY for God, while other singing is both for God and for others. When we are with others, the second kind of singing is appropriate, but not the first.

    By the way, Paul makes several systematizing statements in 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, and other places. Systematizing is not bad. For example, Paul makes a distinction between speaking in tongues with interpretation and speaking in tongues without interpretation. He makes a distinction between hymns, instructions, prophecies, etc.

    -Alan

  8. 6-25-2012

    “But, have you ever thought about how hymns and singing would edify others?”

    Yes, Alan, I have. I think I posted about this once. How this could flesh itself out, though, I’m not certain.

    “But, there is another type of singing which is also prompted by the Holy Spirit which is addressed to one another.”

    I think country Baptists call this “special music.”

    I’m afraid, though, that any type of singing “to” one another has been ridiculed by the purists among us as “entertainment,” which of course to them has no place in the church. This should remind us to check with the entire bible before we start on some crusade against things we don’t like in the church.

  9. 6-25-2012

    Alan, you have written:
    “the command “let… keep silent” is the same as “let… not speak.””

    “let [permit them to]… keep silent” and “let [permit them to]… not speak.”

    What then is the “command”? Not to silence, but rather that we be consenting where/when the silence occurs among us.

    “Singing is always to be done to God… just as everything we do is to be done to God. The distinction is that some singing is ONLY for God, while other singing is both for God and for others.”

    So also as by understanding we can know that nothing in this present age is done to God alone; the hosts of heaven, with many of our brethren, bear witness to our song; our words and deeds.

    Alan, you have written:
    “Systematizing is not bad. For example, Paul makes a distinction between speaking in tongues with interpretation and speaking in tongues without interpretation. …”

    God makes a clear distinction between justice and sin, while it would be folly to build our understanding of Him upon distinctions, categories, delineations or specifications. Yet, this is the very thing that has been blindly foisted upon you and me via profession men. Pray God we come to alert.

  10. 6-25-2012

    Steve,

    I think I have heard singing that was entertaining and even emotional, but not necessarily edifying. I agree that the whole “audience of one” thing misses much of what we read about the church in Scripture.

    Marshall,

    The third person imperative command “Let… keep silent” is not the same as the verb that would mean “permit to keep silent.” That would be a different verb and a different form. Paul used a command.

    The distinction that I’m making between singing for God alone and singing for others is the same distinction that Paul makes when he tells the tongues speaker to speak only to God if there is no interpreter. It’s pretty clear and straightforward.

    -Alan

  11. 6-25-2012

    Alan, you write, “The third person imperative command “Let… keep silent” is not the same as the verb that would mean “permit to keep silent.””

    Alan,
    Would this be reasoning contra English dictionaries? a la, are you excepting common English translation? or, possibly do you wish us to endure in granting special religious meaning to the English word, “let”?

    More soberly, and with respect for the marked precision of koine Greek, greater than a verb form is required for us to correctly discern a command; a charge. [I Thessalonians 5:27; I Timothy 1:3; 6:17; Matthew 12:16; Mark 8:15…] Awesome is our God, for nearly everything in the Kingdom of God is “imperative” while dependent upon Almighty God (not men). It is wise for men to not stand as if to impede Him, and this reflected in the attitude of Paul throughout the bulk of his writings. If we will be honest with the text, Paul is not attempting to set men & women in place through a plethora of new commands.
    [Colossians 2:20-23; Philemon 1:8-9]

    Does Ephesians 5:19 truly compare or correspond with I Corinthians 14:28? Corinthians describes what is occurring conditional upon a missing piece; not so with the Ephesians reference. Examining this more closely, it nearly seems bizarre that a division at Corinth is being proposed to categorically divide our thinking in the ekklesia at Ephesus.

  12. 6-25-2012

    Marshall,

    No, my understanding of the Greek imperative comes from Greek grammar, not English grammar.

    I was using Ephesians 5 as an example, not a correlation. In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about two kinds of singing: in our hearts to God, and to others. I was simply using that as an example… Singing in our hearts to God is not edifying to others. However, “addressing one another in hymns and songs and spiritual songs” should be edifying to others – since Paul says that everything we do when we are together should be done to edify one another.

    -Alan

  13. 6-25-2012

    “Singing in our hearts to God is not edifying to others.”

    ahh, “heart” of the trouble!
    A song in the heart [Hebrew correlate: mind] shows through the man.

    For any that’s not edifying to others found in Christ, may we not presume such a heart or a singing acceptable to the Father. amen.

  14. 6-25-2012

    Marshall,

    As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, there are some things (such as speaking in tongues without interpretation or singing/praying in a way that is not understandable to others) which can edify the individual, but does not edify others. Both are important, but when we are gathered only those things that edify others are proper. Thus, a song in the heart should (at times) be kept in the heart between the individual and God, and at other times should be shared with the group – if it edifies the group.

    -Alan

  15. 6-25-2012

    Thanks Alan I agree

  16. 6-25-2012

    Thank you, what site address do I use when I recommend your site, that this is from God using you

  17. 6-26-2012

    Alan, I do appreciate the above simplification of your proposition.
    yet please consider:
    1) The example of “tongues and interpretation of tongues” is obscure to singing, if only because singing/psalming doesn’t incorporate a language barrier (unless we envision, “singing in tongues”) that would impede edification of the Body.
    (btw: edification of self (though noted) is not called for or prescribed by Paul, Christ, or by the ekklesia.)
    2) to glorify (highly esteem) God reliably edifies the Body of Christ (and vice versa), even when His glory takes other than a verbal/oral expression.
    3) kai. Ephesians 5:19 conveys an undivided, conjoined action (though English rendering may be somewhat weaker to show this).
    4) In Christ there is no thought of deed we may take outside the perusal of Him or His Body.
    5) frankly, Alan, the distinction you have proposed here will tend to lift individuals rather than to edify the ekklesia (and thereby glorify Christ. This is the substantial test.

  18. 6-26-2012

    Howard,

    You can either use the link to this site or the link to the specific page. Either one is fine with me.

    Marshall,

    Thanks for the discussion on this topic. Again, I only desire to make the same distinction that Paul made which (according to Paul) results in edifying the whole church when we are gathered together.

    -Alan