The strings of the heart

This particular truth is presented as if it is the ultimate “’aha!’ moment.” Someone heard from someone who told them that the Greek word in Ephesians 5:19 for “making music” actually means “plucking the strings of.” The passage, as you probably know, goes this way:

“Addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” The word translated “making melody” (psallo) indeed means to “pluck the strings of” (as in, a harp, lyre, etc.).

So does this mean that instrumental music is indeed supported by Scripture? Have Churches of Christ’s steadfast stand for a cappella music been wrong headed from the start?

There is, it should be said, an instrument mentioned in this text.

Paul could have said: “Making melody with your harps.” He could have said, “Making melody with your lyres.” Do you see the instrument he actually names? Read the verse again. Paul declares that we are to make “melody in your hearts.”

Beloved take note, the instrument whose strings are to be plucked is our hearts! When we sing, the words will sink into our ears, dissolve into our hearts, and the strings of our hearts will begin to vibrate. In the words of the blind song writer Francis Crosby:

“Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.”

Or that well-known song by Robert Robertson:

“O thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy praise.”

I knew a good brother who liked to tell a joke. One Sunday night he approached me with a smile and declared: “Brother Mitchell, I brought my organ with me tonight.” Then he waited to see what reaction I had. Then he added, quite perceptively: “I brought my heart; that’s an organ, isn’t it?”

You know, he was right.

We spend a great deal of time worrying about whether our voice is in tune, but the Lord is concerned whether our hearts are in tune!

First, this is a good indication that New Testament music was vocal and from the heart. Second, perhaps even more importantly, it tells us that when we worship in song, it should pluck the very depths of our being, our very hearts.

This Sunday, bring your organs to worship; your voice, your mind, your heart.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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