“Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs”

Picture of hymn book ( clipart)
Picture of hymn book ( clipart)

(Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Sermon Outline by Thomas C. Hickey

I. PSALMS
A. “...some expositors refuse even to attempt to distinguish between them, urging that St. Paul had certainly no intention of classifying the different forms of Christian poetry, this statement, no doubt, is quite true; but neither, on the other hand, would he have used, where there is evidently no temptation to rhetorical amplification, three words, if one would have equally served his turn” (Synonyms of the New Testament by R. C. Trench, page 276: Associated Publishers and Authors, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
 
B. “In all probability the PSALMOI of Ephes. 5:19, Col. 3:16, are the inspired psalms of the Hebrew canon. The word certainly designates these on all other occasions when it is met in the N. T., with the one possible exception of I Cor. 14:26; and probably refers to them there; nor can I doubt that the ‘psalms’ which the Apostle would have the faithful to sing to one another, are psalms of David, of Asaph, or of some other of the sweet singers of Israel; above all, seeing that the word seems limited and restricted to its narrowest use by the nearly synonymous words with which it is grouped.” (Ibid, page 277)

C. “A ‘psalm’ might be... the story of man’s deliverance, or of a commemoration of mercies he had received; and of a” spiritual song” much the same could be said: a ‘hymn’ must always be more or less of a Magnificat, a direct address of praise and glory to God.” (Ibid, page 278).

II. HYMNS
A. “Augustine in more places than one states the notes of what in his mind are the essentials of a hymn— which are three: 1. It must be sung; 2. It must be praise; 3. It must be to God.” (Ibid, page 278).

B. “HUMNOS nowhere occurs in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, nor in those of Justin Martyr, nor in the Apostolic Constitutions; and only once in Tertullian. It is at least a plausible explanation of this that HUMNOS was for the early Christians so steeped in heathenism, so linked with profane associations, and desecrated by them, there were so many hymns to Zeus, to Hermes, to Aphrodite, and to the other deities of the heathen pantheon, that the early Christians shrunk instinctively from the word.
“If we ask ourselves of what character were the ‘hymns’, which St. Paul desired that the faithful should sing among themselves, we may confidently assume that these observed the law to which other hymns were submitted, and were direct addresses of praise to God. Inspired specimens of the HUMNOS we meet at Luke 1:46-55, 68-79; Acts 4:24; such also probably was that which Paul and Silas made to be heard from the depth of their Philippian dungeon...Acts 16:25.
“...more than one fragment of a hymn being probably imbedded in St. Paul’s own epistles (Ephes. 5:14; I Tim. 3:16; II Tim. 2:11-14...).
(Ibid, pp. 278-280).

III. SPIRITUAL SONGS
   A. “ODE is the only word of this group which the Apocalypse knows (5:9; 14:3; 15:3).”
B. “...ODE by itself might mean any kind of song, as of battle, of harvest, or festal, or hymneal, while PSALMOS, from its Hebrew use, and HUMNOS from its Greek, did not require any such qualifying adjective. This epithet thus applied to these ‘songs’ does not affirm that they were divinely inspired, any more than the ANER PNEUMATIKOS is an inspired man (I Cor. 3:1; Gal. 6:1); but only that they were such as were composed by spiritual men, and moved in the sphere of spiritual things.” (Ibid, page 280).

IV. EXAMPLES OF PSALMS, HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS FROM OUR SONGBOOK, SACRED SELECTIONS FOR THE CHURCH, compiled by Ellis J. Crum.

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