[K:NWTS 23/3 (Dec 2008) 13-50]
In recent years, many have questioned the regulative principle of worship, even in Reformed circles. Those who have defended it have often been in the Exclusive Psalmody camp; they are to be highly commended for this. Biblical evidence and the history of Reformed theology are in favor of the regulative principle. However, it is the contention of this article that the regulative principle, far from supporting Exclusive Psalmody, demands that the church sing more than the Psalms in public worship.
This demand gives God his rightful due in worship and Christians their rightful liberty, a precious freedom that flows from the indicative of redemption. The traditional doctrine of the regulative principle defends Christian freedom by the two-edged sword of prescription and restriction. It requires worship to include those elements that liberate the church in her redemption. And it restrains the clergy from imposing anything on the conscience of the laity not grounded in Scripture.
The claim of Exclusive Psalmists is that those churches that prescribe hymns not found in the Psalter rob God of his glory and impose extra-biblical burdens on the consciences of Christians. The claim of this article (following the regulative principle) is that churches that restrict worship to the Psalms rob God of his full glory (manifest most fully in the historical accomplishment of Christ’s death and resurrection) and impose an unnecessary burden on the freedom of Christians, by restricting their worship to the Psalms. The issues are significant since the worship of God our Savior (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the goal of all our theological reflection.
Exclusive Psalmody is often supported by the claim that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer exclusively to the Old Testament Psalter. The burden of this article is to prove the opposite, namely that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refer to more than the Old Testament Psalter. By implication, they include vocal music composed after Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, addressing songs not sung by men prior to Christ’s appearance.
This article does not deal with the debate over the use of inspired (versus uninspired) songs in public worship. Instead, it only intends to counter the Exclusive Psalmist claim that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) refer exclusively to the Old Testament Psalter. Any other biblical theological reflections of this article relate to this exegetical issue.
Exclusive Psalmists rightly point out that all three terms “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs” can refer to the Psalter. However, they wrongly conclude from this that these terms refer exclusively to the Psalter—that they cannot refer to anything else. As stated, we hope to show shortly that the contexts of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 strongly indicate that these terms refer to more than the Old Testament Psalter. If this is proved, it follows that the terms “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refer to a broader category of which the Psalter is only one subcategory. In other words, our contention is that these terms refer to a genus of which the Psalter is only one species.
We are suggesting that Exclusive Psalmists make a category error. They do not recognize that these terms refer to the Psalter simply because it is one species of the broader genus “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” In other words, as a set of terms referring to a genus, these terms refer to all the species within that genus just as “cat” refers to both lions and house cats. As everyone knows, just because “cats” refers to house cats that does not necessarily mean it refers to them alone. So also, just because “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refer to the Psalter, this does not necessarily mean that they refer to the Psalter alone. Thus, the remainder of our article will seek to show that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” also refer to other songs composed after the close of the Psalter.
We begin our study with an examination of Ephesians 5:19 in its broader context. To introduce things, our claim can be divided into four considerations.
First, the revelation of the mystery in Ephesians 3:4-6 is the basis of the praise of 5:19. In Ephesians 5:19, Paul is calling the church to sing songs about the revelation of the mystery. This mystery “in other generations was not made known to the sons of men” (Eph. 3:5). It has only now “been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (3:5) during New Testament times. It was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets—including the Psalmists. Therefore, Paul is calling the church to sing more than the Psalter.
Second, this mystery is that (in the kingdom age) Jews and Gentiles would be united in one body. It is not that Gentiles would become worshippers of God. This was clearly revealed in the Old Testament prophets. It is that they would become “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6, emphasis mine). With Christ’s historical death and resurrection, he has brought this mystery to pass. He has brought semi-eschatological reconciliation—in Christ abolishing the curse of the law that separated Jews and Gentiles. Thus, Paul is calling Gentiles to look back at these events, to explicitly praise God for the accomplishment of Christ’s work, by which they have been made partakers of the body.
Third, in the context of Ephesians, being one body involves being equal participants in the house of God, the heavenly temple of God (2:16, 19, 21). The realization of this mystery is thereby tied to the arrival of the semi-eschatological temple. While all the saints of the Old Testament participated in this heavenly temple before the time, it has now been more fully realized (semi-eschatologically) with the accomplishment of Christ’s death and resurrection. Thus, in public worship, the church is called to sing songs that correspond with the way in which she now (more fully) participates in that heavenly temple.
Thus, our access to the tabernacle above is connected to the mystery of Christ and our union with him (2:18). The work of Christ is the historical foundation of this heavenly temple (in its present manifestation). In Christ, semi-eschatological reconciliation has abolished the visible curse of the law that hung over the nation of Israel. Jesus identified with his people, taking upon himself the enmity of the law (Eph. 2:15-16). Thereby he has abolished the ceremonial law (2:15) and brought Jews (as well as Gentiles) to the semi-eschatological temple above (2:18, 21-22). In him, they have greater access to the Father above than the saints of old. Thus, as dwellers in heaven, Jews and Gentiles alike are called to praise Christ for already building the foundation of this temple in his death and resurrection.
Finally, Paul’s exhortation to sing follows a series of commands in Ephesians that are dependent on the new revelation of the mystery that has come in Christ (4:15, 25; 5:18; 4:1-4a, 17-18, 22-24, 25-32, 5:1-17). In two cases (4:15, 25), the language of these exhortations even reflects that of Ephesians 5:19. In other cases, clues from their vocabulary or context indicate their dependence on the mystery (4:1-4a, using “one body;” 17-18 insofar as it addresses Gentiles; 22-24, and by implication 4:25-32 and 5:1-17). Together they all strengthen the case that Paul grounds Ephesians 5:19 in the mystery. These commands (in the fullness with which Paul gives them) could not have been made had Christ not already come and brought his semi-eschatological kingdom.
In summary, Paul’s exhortation to sing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a command that could not have been given to the church (in the way Paul intends it) prior to Christ’s historical appearance, death and resurrection. This exhortation is a call to sing out of the semi-eschatological temple in Christ. The mystery (in which Jew and Gentile are united in one body) is essential to the nature of the semi-eschatological temple—and the worship that takes place in it. Neither the semi-eschatological overlap of the ages nor the union of Jew and Gentile in one body was revealed to the prophets of old. Thus, Paul’s exhortation is a call to sing out of the mystery that has now been fully revealed in Christ—to sing in a way that one could not have sung prior to Christ’s coming. This mystery has now been revealed through the New Testament apostles and prophets in a manner that surpasses the revelation given to the Old Testament prophets—including the Psalmists. By calling us to sing out of the mystery, Paul is surely calling us to sing more than the Psalter.
Now, let us summarize how the exhortations are connected to one another and to eschatology in Ephesians before we examine some of them in greater detail. A few points are worthy of notice. First, Paul’s exhortation to “speak” to others in the church (v. 19) is repeated several times in Ephesians (4:15, 25). Thus, these exhortations mutually correspond and mutually interpret one another. We will argue that these earlier passages (4:15, 25) are dependent on the mystery and the semi-eschatological arrival of the kingdom. Therefore, the exhortation to speak in Ephesians 5:19 is also dependent on the same mystery.
Second, the command to be filled with the Spirit (v. 18) governs a proper understanding of the continuing exhortation in verse 19, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” This command (to be filled with the Spirit) is dependent on the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit that has only come in fullness with Christ’s resurrection. Thus, the command to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” is also dependent on the semi-eschatological arrival of the kingdom. The nature of the kingdom governs the nature of the commandment.
Third, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (v. 21) follows the exhortation of verses 19-20. This subjection is intimately tied to “singing to one another” (and seems to flow out of it). Therefore, this singing must be of such a nature to adequately account for the subjection. Verse 21 then also connects us to the exhortations that follow (vv. 22-6:9). This submission is dependent on the fullness of revelation in Christ (v. 25, sacrifice in Christ). Therefore, the songs by which we submit to one another ought also to be dependent on the fullness of revelation in Christ.
Finally, the Lord at the end of verse 19 is the Lord Jesus Christ. And “giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” must fit with a proper interpretation of verse 19. Thus, the nature of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” must fit with Paul’s usual understanding of “giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Let us look at these things in more detail. First, we will look at the general context of the mystery and its connection to Ephesians 5:19. In this examination, we will look at the mystery in Ephesians 3, its relationship to worship, and then its connection to chapter 2 (the inclusion of the Gentiles). Then we will show the exegetical connections between chapter 3 and Ephesians 5:19.
Beginning our analysis with chapter 3, we can see that Paul speaks of the mystery in relationship to worship. First, his ministry involves making this mystery known (3:9). Second, it was God’s purpose to make this mystery known through the church. At this point, the focus may only seem to be on preaching, not so much the church’s singing. However, as we move to verse 11, we see that making known this mystery is connected to the church’s worship. Making known the mystery is in accordance with God’s eternal purpose in Christ—in whom we have access to worship in his heavenly temple. This access is a general category and by implication includes all aspects of our worship. Thus, making known the mystery to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places also occurs in every aspect of access/worship. Every aspect of worship must make known the mystery.
The fact that Paul is speaking of worship is further emphasized in 3:14-19. The riches of his glory (v. 16) are the semi-eschatological riches of Christ (v. 8). The mystery (for the Gentiles to participate in one body) involves them becoming equal participants of these riches. Thus, Paul discusses the riches after he says, “from whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name” (v. 15). The implication is clear; the Gentiles are called to praise God for the revelation of the mystery—that they are full participants in the blessings of the kingdom. If so, they must praise God with more than the Psalms—because the Psalms did not reveal this mystery.
Now we will see how the revelation of this mystery is dependent on the historical accomplishment of Christ’s work and the inclusion of the Gentiles—how chapter 3 is dependent on chapter 2. Ephesians 3:3 states, “I wrote before in brief.” This may refer to chapter 2. Or perhaps 3:4 refers to the whole letter of Ephesians—“by reading this,” which would emphasize that the whole letter is about the mystery. Even if this is not the case, chapter 3 clearly follows chapter 2, suggesting that chapter 3 develops the arguments of chapter 2.
Here in chapter 2 (vv. 11-18), Paul speaks about this “access” as well. By it the Gentiles are now brought near as fellow heirs with Israel. And this took place (vv. 15-17) by the accomplished act of Christ’s reconciliation. Bringing the Gentiles near is something new that God has done in redemptive history after Christ’s historical appearance. It is a new work that was not accomplished in the Old Testament period. Thus, the accomplishment of this reality presents a relative contrast between the present time and the old covenant period. The application of reconciliation in the present age takes on a new (fuller) dimension that it did not possess in the previous age. Now there is more for which to praise God. The praise we now give God in the eschatological temple must involve praise to him for the actual accomplishment of this event—for this greater reconciliation. For this greater reconciliation is the ground of the semi-eschatological temple found in the verses that follow.
Verses 19-22 expound this semi-eschatological temple—directing the reader’s gaze to the Gentiles. “You” (v. 19) have “been built upon the foundation” (v. 20)—“being built into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (v. 22). The access that Paul expounds in chapter 3 is thus access to the semi-eschatological temple of God—access to life in the Spirit. This is access to the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit, a reality only now fully granted after Christ’s resurrection.
Paul’s discussion of his subject connects the Spirit’s gift to this semi-eschatological period of redemptive history. For the Gentiles to be “in the Spirit” is a fulfillment of the mystery—a blessing only found in fullness after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ brought this greater fullness of reconciliation, ushering it in only after he accomplished his death and resurrection in time and space history. Greater reconciliation has brought greater blessings in Christ, bringing the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit.
Paul continues to think of the Spirit as a semi-eschatological gift at the end of chapter 4 when he says, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (4:30). This sealing reflects Ephesians 1:13-14 in which the sealing of the Spirit is given as a down payment of the future inheritance. That is, to possess the Spirit is to possess the substance of the eschatological inheritance, presenting the Spirit as the eschatological gift par excellence.
This discussion is the background for Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit.” Paul is exhorting the church to be filled with the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit in their singing—singing out of the semi-eschatological temple above. When Paul tells the church to live out of the Spirit, he expects their objective behavior to mirror the reality of the Spirit. He does not simply expect them to use the subjective power of the Spirit to mirror the prior reality embodied in the previous history of redemption found in the old covenant. This is his consistent approach—expressing the gift of the Spirit as the objective indicative upon which he grounds their objective imperatives. Their external behavior (as well as experience of the heart) must mirror the new reality that has now come in Christ.
Thus, when Paul tells the church to be filled with the Spirit, he expects their singing to objectively reflect this semi-eschatological gift. They must sing of the semi-eschatological reality of reconciliation, this greater reconciliation brought by Christ. For without it they would not have the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit. Without it they would not have access to the semi-eschatological temple. They must praise God for this new reality in Christ, praising him for making them fuller participants in the heavenly temple.
The connection between chapter 3 and 5:18 is further reinforced by the content of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. In chapter 4, Paul calls the church “one body” (4:4), reminding us of the mystery now revealed, in which “Gentiles are…fellow members of the body” (3:6). This unity results from Jews and Gentiles being reconciled in “one body” through the cross (2:16). Thus, Paul’s other statements of unity flow out of this same reconciliation. When he urges them to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” we are reminded of the peace of the new reconciliation (2:17), reconciling the enmity between Jew and Gentile in Christ, making them a “dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:22). “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” and “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” also suggests that Jew and Gentile are now equal participants in these blessings. These realities result from the fullness of the mystery now revealed in Christ.
So also the language of Christ being raised and giving gifts to men, giving to the church various gifts, suggests that Gentiles as well as Jews are God’s gifts to the church, suitable office holders in the church. These gifts, just as Christ’s resurrection, are cosmic—“that he might fill all things” (4:10). They are extended throughout the Gentile world redeemed by grace. This new reconciliation is so pervasive that it not only allows them to be joint members of the body of Christ, but also makes them contributors to its very building.
The new reconciliation in Christ influences both the “already” and the “not yet” of Paul’s proclamation. If Jews and Gentiles have already been reconciled in one body, then the goal of the church’s life is the consummation of this newly established unity. Christ has given gifts to his church for the “building up of the body of Christ” (4:12), the body that has recently been made one, leading them on to further “unity” (4:13). Because Christ has already made Jew and Gentile “into one new man” (2:15), they look forward to becoming a “mature man” (4:13), attaining “the measure of the stature belonging to the fullness of Christ.” This “whole body,” of Jew and Gentile newly reconciled in Christ, builds one another up in love (4:16). Here we are set to look at Paul’s further imperatives in 4:15 and 25.
When we come to Chapter 5 (in which we find our verses—18-20), we find a continuing discussion of this unity, based on the new reconciliation in Christ. Chapter 5 introduces a series of exhortations dependent on the discussion of the mystery in chapters 2-4. Thus chapter 5 begins with “therefore,” following the mystery of chapters 2-4, live out of this mystery. Paul is still fleshing out the implications of the mystery when he arrives at verse 18. Thus, when he calls them to be filled with the Spirit, he is calling them to live out of this reality, to sing of this reality, to praise God for the new reconciliation they have in Christ.
Now we are ready to see the connection between two of Paul’s exhortations in chapter 4 (vv. 15, 25) and his following exhortation in 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” In these two exhortations (just as in 5:19), Paul calls the Ephesians to “speak” to one another (vv. 15, 25). “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head, even Christ” (4:15). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (4:25).
We have already observed that the “body” language of chapter 4 is grounded in the “one body” of Jews and Gentiles reconciled in chapter 2. The reconciliation of this one body is the mystery now revealed (3:6). Here we will suggest that 4:15-16, 4:25, and 5:18-19 are all tied together as similar exhortations. All three have the same nature. If 4:15 and 25 call the church to speak of this newly revealed mystery, so does 5:18-19.
The discussion of “body” that precedes these two verses (4:12-13) is grounded in the mystery. Verses 15-16 themselves continue this discussion, with verse 16 focusing on “the whole body” and its union. Further, Paul can speak of “the building up” of “the body” (4:16) just as he spoke of the building of the semi-eschatological temple (2:21-22). Both are united as the semi-eschatological habitation of God in the Spirit.
This is the context in which we find Paul’s exhortation in 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head, even Christ.” The eschatological associations of this verse are reinforced by two further facts: first, that the “truth” has eschatological overtones, and second, that we are growing up into him—the head.
The “truth” brings us back to Ephesians 1:13. There Paul says “you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” This message of truth refers back to Ephesians 1:9-10, “He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his kind intention which he purposed in him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” Thus, gospel of truth refers specifically to the good news that the fullness of the times has arrived in Christ. It is the message that the semi-eschatological age has already arrived.
In Ephesians 1:10, we also find the second element of 4:15—Christ’s headship, which further indicates that Paul is focusing on the same themes in 4:15 as he was in this context (1:9-14). Only now, in the fullness of the times, have all things been summed up in him to the degree Paul describes in Ephesians 1:10. Thus, to “grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head” involves growing up in conformity with Christ’s resurrection life, to live as possessors of the fullness of the times in him. It involves living out of the semi-eschatological inheritance that he has given to the church as a result of his headship over all things (Eph. 1:10-11, 13-14).
This administration is the administration of the fullness of the times. It is the new administration that has come in Christ, in which is revealed the “mystery.” Thus, the gospel of truth that reflects upon this refers to this full administration. It does not refer simply to salvation as it was in all respects similar in the Old and New Testament periods. It refers to the fact that all things have already been headed up in Christ in his resurrection. This is further confirmed by the result of this salvation. The Gentiles have been sealed with the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit as a result of believing this message (1:13-14). Thus, Paul’s exhortation “speaking the truth” involves speaking in union with the truth of the semi-eschatological gospel revealed in Christ, speaking out of the fullness of the mystery. It is grounded in the fact that Christ has already come, that he has already brought the fullness of the times, heading up all things in himself.
Now we will look at the following exhortation in 4:25. This follows the old man/new man contrast of 20-24, which informs speaking the truth in love. Interestingly, Paul’s old man/new man contrast in Colossians 3 is more than an absolute contrast between fallen and redeemed humanity. It also refers to a relative contrast between the old Jewish administration and the new reality in Christ. It is not clear to the present writer that the same contrast is involved in Ephesians 4. However, the redemptive-historical transition that takes place for the Gentiles is at work here in this text. First, the old man is clearly associated with the Gentiles in their sin. Second, the fact that they are “excluded” from the life of God (4:18) reminds us of their being “excluded” from the commonwealth of Israel (2:12). Thus it appears that present unconverted Gentiles are living in a state that is comparable to Gentiles before Christ. In this way the old man represents the state of the Gentiles before Christ. As a result the new man represents their state after the coming of Christ. This suggests that the old man/new man contrast is redemptive-historical in character.
Thus we come to the statement “laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (4:25). The exhortation to lay aside falsehood (vs. 25) refers back to verse 22, “lay aside the old man.” Thus, the exhortation entails, “laying aside the old era (in which Gentiles were excluded) speak truth to one another.” Even if this is not the case, Paul’s exhortation flows from the mystery when he says, “we are members of one another,” members of one another in the new man. This language is clearly dependent on Paul’s discussion of chapter 2 where Paul states that Jews and Gentiles are one body, the language he carries forward in chapter 4, stating there is “one body.” The new man is the one body in Christ. The new man is dependent on the mystery of the revelation of the union of Jew and Gentile in one body.
Thus, when Paul calls the church to speak truth “because we are members of one another,” he is making an exhortation that depends on the revelation of the mystery of the new man, the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body. Speaking truth to one another must fit with the laying aside of the old era, clothing oneself with the new era in which Gentiles are not excluded, having equal access in one Spirit. Thus, the speaking of truth must involve speaking the mystery hidden beforehand. When Paul calls us to speak the truth to one another in all things, he is calling us to live in union with the truth of this new reality in Christ, to live out of the fullness of the mystery. Because you are now members of one another, speak the truth to one another.
This “one another” language, which reflects the mystery, is also found in Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another.” The very exhortation Paul gives to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is grounded in the mystery. It is grounded in the fact that we have been united to one another in Christ, that Jews and Gentiles have been united in one body. The “one another” language in this epistle is not incidental. Its preeminence suggests that Paul intended this. Just as he commanded the Ephesians to “speak” truth because we are members of “one another” (4:25), he exhorts them, saying, “speaking to one another” (5:19). Both flow from the mystery revealed in Christ—that we (Jews and Gentiles) are one body. Both flow from the greater fullness of reconciliation that has come in Christ. Now that we are at peace, we are called to sing to one another representing our unity in the Spirit.
Does this new reality only influence our subjective experience; or does it also inform the objective content of our song? For Paul’s other indicative/imperative pronouncements, the two are never separated. The greater indicative of semi-eschatological redemption is always the foundation for greater imperatives. As the indicatives of the kingdom grow organically out of the older administration, so also the imperatives. Both grow out of the same reality.
So why should it be any different here? And the context suggests that it is not. As in Paul’s other indicative/imperative structures, he grounds the command in the new reality found in Christ. “Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another” (4:25, emphasis mine). The new indicative is the ground of the imperative. As the indicative is greater, so also is its resulting imperative. The metaphysical nature of the new reality determines the nature of the imperative that flows from it. Both possess the same organic continuity and development as the other.
This pattern is found in other Pauline letters. For instance, in Galatians 5:16-26, Paul presents the church with greater imperatives based on the greater indicative—the fuller gift of the Spirit. Thus Paul presents the Spirit not only as the subjective power of our new obedience, but also as the objective standard of righteousness. The phrase “walk by the Spirit” that encloses this section (vv. 16, 25) is comparable to the statement “walk by this rule” (6:16). ‘Walk by the Spirit as a rule, as the objective standard of righteousness,’ might aptly paraphrase the apostle. Just as he calls the “new creation” a “rule” by which Christians are to “walk,” so he implies that the Spirit is that standard.
The language “walk by,” in both cases, implies that the new creation and the Spirit are intimately related. This relationship is reinforced by another connection in Galatians. For instance, Paul connects the Spirit with the Jerusalem above, describing them both as mothers (Gal. 4:26, 29). In this context, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 (Gal. 4:27), implying that the gift of the Spirit (i.e. the Jerusalem above) is the semi-eschatological fulfillment of Isaiah’s eschatological Jerusalem (Isa. 54:1; see also 65:19, 66:20). In so doing, Paul alludes to a set of associations in Isaiah, which connects the eschatological Jerusalem with the new creation (Isa. 65:17-18; 35:1-2, 5-6, 9-10). In this way, we discover that the Spirit is associated with the Jerusalem above and is thereby associated with the new creation. We might diagram it as follows: The Spirit Û the Jerusalem above Û the new creation. Thus ‘walk by the Spirit’ is synonymous with ‘walk by the new creation.’ As a result, Paul teaches that the Spirit is the rule by which we are to walk just as he teaches that we should walk by the rule of the new creation.
Since the gift of the Spirit is the semi-eschatological fulfillment of Isaiah’s New Jerusalem, so the Spirit is more fully bestowed with the arrival of the semi-eschatological age. The fuller provision of the Spirit in the new creation is the rule by which we walk. Therefore, the greater gift of the Spirit brings greater imperatives.
This is fleshed out in terms of the fruits of the Spirit. They are subjective reflections of a new objective reality and standard. For instance, Paul discusses the fruit of joy elsewhere in Galatians (4:27). Isaiah’s imperative to “rejoice” is grounded in the coming eschatological “Jerusalem above” (Isaiah 54:1, Gal. 4:26). From Isaiah’s point of view, the coming eschatological Jerusalem would never be destroyed by covenant curses as was the present Jerusalem. This called forth a greater imperative to “rejoice.” While the Old Jerusalem could be lamented over (and Jeremiah could legitimize that lamentation in his book of Lamentations), the New Jerusalem calls for something greater, a joy that never ceases, eternal in the heavens. The greater indicative calls forth the greater imperative. And Paul believes that day has arrived in the Spirit. Thus, the fruit of the “Jerusalem above,” the fruit of the Spirit, is “joy” (Gal. 5:22). The new standard of the Spirit requires greater joy, giving what it commands, providing the new reality that makes it possible.
The new objective reality in Christ grounds a new objective standard, a standard that organically unfolds the previous standard of the history of redemption and fills it out. This is represented continually in Paul’s epistles by his indicative/imperative structures. We may even observe it in Ephesians where Paul grounds the command to love one’s wife in the mystery—“because we are members of his body” (5:30). This mystery fills out the command to love one’s spouse found in the previous history of redemption. And here in 4:15, we find a similar structure: “speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (4:25). If the nature of the indicative determines the objective nature of the imperative (as it does elsewhere in Paul), then Paul is calling the church to speak truth that objectively conforms to the new reality in Christ.
This is further confirmed by the nature of truth telling that we have observed in Ephesians. Paul’s call to tell the truth in all things involves telling one another the truth of the mystery, the new reconciliation found in Christ. Thus, like his parallel imperative to tell the truth, his imperative to sing implies that we must sing to one another songs that disclose the new mystery in Christ. They must objectively conform to our new unity in the Spirit.
In both 4:15 and 4:25, we have learned that Paul’s exhortation to “speak” calls the church to speak words that conform to the new mystery found in Christ. If this is the case, it strongly implies that his exhortation in 5:19 to “speak” also suggests that the church speak to one another words that objectively conform to the new mystery revealed in Christ. As a result, the terms Paul uses to express the content of what they are to speak, must refer (at least in part) to songs that objectively convey this mystery. Therefore “…speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” implies that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (whatever their referent) convey the mystery. Since he says that the mystery was not so revealed to the Old Testament prophets (3:5), these songs must refer to more than the Old Testament Psalter. Their referent must be broader than the Psalter. They must include “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” that reveal the mystery—songs not found in the Psalter.
If these indications are not enough for us, there is further exegetical glue that suggests that Paul’s exhortation in 5:18-19 flows from the semi-eschatological blessings of the kingdom found in the previous chapters. Specifically, we find that 5:18 is directly dependent on the semi-eschatological nature of the “light” of the new creation (vv. 8, 13). This semi-eschatological nature of the light further reinforces the semi-eschatological nature of the Spirit we have already observed.
Paul compares being filled with the Spirit to walking in the light (v. 8, 13). This is seen by the fact that Paul’s exhortation to be filled with the Spirit flows out of his discussion of light and darkness (vv. 7-14). Verse 15 reads “therefore” followed by a series of three oppositions: “not as unwise, but wise” (v. 15); “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (v. 17); and “do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18). These three exhortations (together with their opposites) reflect the opposition between light and darkness (vv. 7-14).
And this light is the semi-eschatological light of the kingdom that has arrived in Christ. This is indicated both by Paul’s allusion to the “kingdom of Christ” (5:5) and by the association of light with truth (5:9). To possess an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ not only looks forward to the future, but also implies something about the present possession of that inheritance, as it does in Ephesians 1:14. It is to be a partaker of the kingdom rather than a partaker of darkness (5:7-8). To be a “partaker with them” entails that one is “darkness,” that is, that he is identified with darkness. Thus, if one is “light,” he is a partaker of the kingdom. The light is the light of the semi-eschatological kingdom of Christ.
Paul also associates light with truth (5:9), which, as we have seen, possesses semi-eschatological overtones. It is unlikely, in light of Paul’s discussion of truth in chapter 4, that this is a more general notion of truth. But even if it is, the clear association of this light with the kingdom suggests that it is the semi-eschatological light that has appeared with Christ.
It is this light which informs the imperatives of 5:15-20. As we have seen, verse 15 introduces this section with “therefore”—“therefore” as a result of the semi-eschatological light of the kingdom. And this “therefore” governs three oppositions, the third of which is “do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit” (v. 18).
Thus, the semi-eschatological light of the kingdom calls the church to be filled with the Spirit. This further indicates that when Paul exhorts the church to “be filled with a Spirit”, he is urging her to live a semi-eschatological life in Christ. However, the connection between light and the Spirit reveals more than that. It shows that when Paul commands the church to sing, he is calling her to sing out of this semi-eschatological reality, to sing out of the light of the kingdom.
There are a few other indications within our verses (5:18-21) suggesting that Paul was calling the church to engage in unique semi-eschatological songs of praise. They are ‘giving thanks’ and ‘being subject to one another.’ Exclusive Psalmists claim that the Psalms (all by themselves) can satisfy “giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus” since they reveal Christ. While we wholeheartedly agree that the Psalms reveal Christ, we do not believe that they alone do justice to Paul’s exhortation here. In this verse, Paul calls the church to give thanks for “all things,” including the fact that the gifts of the new covenant have already been bestowed on them in Christ.
Another reference in Ephesians to giving thanks further suggests this point. In Ephesians 1:16, Paul gives thanks for the Ephesians because they have been made participants of the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit. He gives thanks to God for a gift that is only fully bestowed after Christ’s death and resurrection, during the semi-eschatological age. He then prays that they may be enlightened to understand the fullness of this inheritance they have in Christ, an inheritance in the heavenly places only bestowed in this fullness after Christ’s death and resurrection (1:3, 11, 13-14). This reinforces what we have observed about the mystery of Christ and its application to singing in 5:18-19. Both fit together most consistently with the notion that Paul is calling Christians to sing out of and give thanks for the mystery that has only now most fully been revealed in Christ, granting them the semi-eschatological inheritance above.
Finally, this singing appears to be connected to being “subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (5:20). Paul expands on this subjugation in 5:22 to 6:9. A fuller exposition than we can offer here would substantiate the fact that the fullness of these imperatives arises from the fullness of the revelation of the mystery in Christ. But a few indications will suffice. First, Paul bases his exhortation for husbands to love their wives on the mystery (5:32-33). They are to love their wives following the pattern by which Christ has loved the church, the pattern by which the church has received semi-eschatological reconciliation. Paul alludes to semi-eschatological reconciliation here when he says, “that she should be holy and blameless” (5:27). For it is this new holy and blameless character that has enabled her to possess the semi-eschatological inheritance in heaven (1:3-4). Since the historical arrival of Christ and his work has brought these semi-eschatological riches, it seems that Paul is alluding to them. He is making God’s semi-eschatological work of redemption the paradigm out of which husbands should love their wives. They are to love their wives in union with Christ in his greatest work of redemption.
This is further reinforced when Paul unites the husband’s headship to the new headship that Christ has received in the fullness of the times (5:23), now specifically as head of the church. And as already noted, Paul reflects on the “mystery” (5:32) when he speaks of Christ as Savior of the “body” (5:23), the new body of Jew and Gentile that has been made one in Christ (though this consideration may be a bit more remote now). Still “because we are members of his body” reminds us of the “mystery.”
Second, the exhortation given to masters is grounded in the new reality in which there is no distinction between slave and freeman as there was in the Jewish theocracy. That is, “there is no partiality with him” (6:9). This reminds us of Peter’s statement to Cornelius that now God does not show partiality as he did under the older administration (Acts 10:34). And Paul connects it to the heavenly reality that has most fully dawned now in Christ (6:9).
Even if one is not convinced by these latter two considerations (giving thanks and subjection to one another), we do not believe they are essential to our case. At best they help reinforce our central thesis cumulatively. That is, they are further indications in an inductive argument, not essential links in a deductive argument. Therefore, they are not subject to the criticism for which John Murray is so well known, that an argument is only as strong as its weakest link. For this is only true of deductive proofs, whereas the last two points are only two unessential inductive pieces of the puzzle. What the puzzle portrays as a whole is still clear without them. Thus, even if the reader is not convinced by these latter two considerations, we believe the exegetical case that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to more than the Psalter is still compelling.
In summary, Ephesians focuses on the semi-eschatological temple. The worship that Paul calls for in 5:19 implicitly takes place in the heavenly temple. It must therefore partake of the nature of that temple. But this semi-eschatological participation in the temple above (in which Jew and Gentile are united in one body) is founded on a mystery that was not made known in the Old Testament. No Old Testament revelation (including the Psalter) revealed this mystery. However, this mystery is essential to the nature of the church’s semi-eschatological union in that temple. And so it is necessary to the nature of the worship that takes place in it. Therefore, the songs that Paul calls us to sing must reflect that mystery, the fact that Jews and Gentiles have already been made one body in Christ Jesus, that the blessings of the new inheritance in Christ Jesus have already arrived in the fullness of the times.
After considering these things from Ephesians, some may object: you haven’t made a substantial argument against Exclusive Psalmody. You’ve only proven that we must sing of Christ. But the Psalms sing of Christ. Therefore, the Psalms alone are sufficient to satisfy this requirement.
In reply, we begin by conceding (and wholeheartedly agreeing—moreover praising God for the fact) that the Psalms sing of Christ. Every new covenant Christian, when he or she sings the Psalms, is to sing in their hearts out of the fullness of Christ. For Christ is truly present in the Psalms.
However, we believe it has been shown that Paul calls the Ephesians to sing out of the revelation of the fullness of the mystery that has now been revealed in Christ. The Psalms (as Old Testament prophetic revelation) do not reveal the fullness of the mystery. Thus, they do not objectively reveal Christ to the same degree of fullness—that Christians are called to praise him. As a result, whenever new covenant Christians praise Christ with the Psalms, they do so with the objective knowledge of New Testament revelation subjectively reflected in their hearts. The Psalms themselves (apart from this connection to the New Testament) do not objectively reveal this fullness of the mystery. That is, by themselves they do not objectively teach the fullness of the mystery in Christ.
However, our thesis here will be that in Colossians 3:16, Paul calls Christians to objectively teach one another the fullness of the mystery in their vocal music. That is, he commands them to teach one another wisdom insofar as it is fully revealed in New Testament revelation. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
What Paul said of the mystery in Ephesians is no less applicable to the wisdom of Christ in Colossians. It is a revelation not fully made known to men in previous generations. Ephesians sets us up for this fact when Paul compares the mystery to “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9-10). Paul also makes this connection in Colossians when he speaks of “God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3). The wisdom of Christ (in the fullness described by the apostle here in Colossians) is God’s mystery, a mystery that was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets—including the Psalmists. Paul makes this clear in Colossians 1:26 when he states, “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to his saints.” As in Ephesians, this mystery involves the fact the Gentiles would be full members in union with Christ, “the mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). Therefore in Colossians 3:16, Paul is calling Christians to sing songs whose objective content is capable of teaching other Christians the fullness of the mystery, the mystery hidden from the Old Testament prophets, including the Psalmists. Thus, when he says to sing “with all wisdom,” he is calling the church to sing more than the Old Testament Psalter.
Some may object: he does not tell them to sing songs whose objective content reveals the fullness of the wisdom of Christ, only to teach one another the fullness of this wisdom through the Psalms. That is, the hearers’s subjective appropriation of new covenant revelation should be sufficient for them to see that the Psalms prefigure this revelation.
However, Paul’s view of teaching is much more explicit in its nature than this. He says that as a preacher and an apostle, he is a teacher, a teacher of the Gentiles (1 Tim. 2:7). And his preaching, which involves teaching, is “according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested” (Rom. 16:25-26). Out of this mystery, he teaches the nations. He does not simply teach the Old Testament (or read it) in isolation from the new revelation given to him as an apostle of Christ.
To teach people always has as its goal taking them from one subjective state of understanding to another. This can only be done by objectively leading them beyond their previous subjective understanding. One does not teach when he relies solely on the present subjective state of the recipient to provide the new content. However, if we teach others the fullness of the wisdom of Christ exclusively through the Psalms, this is precisely what we are doing. We are simply relying on their present subjective understanding of how the New Testament fulfills the Psalm. Then we are hoping this previous subjective understanding alone will lead them to a greater understanding of how the New Testament fulfills the Psalm. We are not objectively teaching them how the New Testament fulfills the Psalm. Thus we are not leading them on from one state of understanding to a richer understanding. That is, we are not teaching them.
Certainly, reflecting on the Psalms themselves can lead us to a greater understanding of how they are fulfilled in the New Testament and thus indirectly give us a greater appreciation of the wisdom of Christ. However, this alone does not do justice to Paul’s understanding of teaching the fullness of the mystery. That involves objectively teaching the wisdom of Christ with the fullness revealed in the New Testament. Such was the nature of Paul’s ministry. And he is calling the church to make its worship an extension of his ministry—so that she might thereby reveal the fullness of the mystery (“the manifold wisdom of God”) to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph. 3: 9-10). So Paul commands the Colossians “with all wisdom teaching” (3:16). It is true that if we sing the Psalms, we are presenting them objectively. However, if we only sing the Psalms, we are not objectively teaching one another the fullness of the wisdom of Christ. Instead we are relying on the subjective understanding of the hearers to supply the appropriate insight into the Psalms. For in the Psalms we are only objectively teaching the revelation of the Old Testament prophets who did not fully grasp this mystery. We are not objectively teaching the fullness of the mystery as Paul did in his ministry.
Now let us look to the broader context of Colossians 3. Here we begin by examining our thesis in the light of Colossian 2, considering its teaching of semi-eschatological redemption. This will help us understand Paul’s view of being raised with Christ (Col. 3:1-4) in the new man (Col. 3:9-11) and thus of teaching “with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).
Thesis: “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” taken together must include more than the Psalms of the Old Testament. We are called to teach and admonish one another in the word of Christ with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Thus they must be an objective means of instruction that correspond with the fullness of the revelation that is found in the word of Christ, who is the wisdom of God. This is expounded in some of the following reasons.
As we have noted, the word of Christ is the “mystery” that is revealed in fullness with the coming of Christ (2:2). This mystery is the true wisdom (2:3) and knowledge of God (2:2, 3). This connects back with our verse 3:16. For 3:16 calls us to teach and admonish one another with this wisdom—with all wisdom. This wisdom then defines what the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are.
Thus, the question arises: what is this wisdom? We have already noted that Paul connects it with the “mystery.” Now we are prepared to see how this mystery has unfolded in Colossians 2:13-17. These verses are the background for chapter 3. They indicate that Paul contrasts this mystery (relatively speaking) with the Old Testament administration. This will be important for our present question. If the wisdom of God in Christ surpasses Old Testament revelation, then to sing in a way that teaches others in all wisdom involves singing more than Old Testament revelation. Thus, we must see that Paul is (relatively speaking) contrasting the wisdom of Christ to Old Testament revelation. That is, while it appears that Paul is also combating a syncretistic Jewish heresy, he is doing so partially by noting that Christ surpasses the Old Testament administration itself.
This is indicated when Paul makes “therefore” (2:16) his connecting link between 2:13-15 and 2:16-17. “Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things that are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” In the Old Testament period, it would have been appropriate for someone to judge you if you did not eat according to the dietary laws or follow the Jewish festival calendar. Obviously the fact that Christ has already accomplished his work in history (2:13-15) has changed all that. As a cause, it has “therefore” brought a new effect in redemptive history. It means that Christ’s work is applied to the New Testament people of God in a way that it was not applied to the Old Testament church. There has been a redemptive-historical transition.
Christ has “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us” (2:14). The “decrees…against us” certainly remind us of God’s absolute curse on fallen humanity. But they also remind us of God’s visible curses on the nation of Israel when he said, “I will set my face against you” (Lev. 26:17, emphasis mine), giving you sword, famine, nakedness and plague. Even these latter curses have been taken away from the people of God in the New Testament period (Rom. 8:33, 35; Col. 2:14). That is, Christ has canceled the debt of the New Testament church in a way that he did not do so for Old Testament saints during their pilgrimage under the law. This is clear when we recognize that this cancellation has had an effect on the New Testament church that it did not have on Old Testament saints during their pilgrimage. It means that no one can judge us with regard to Jewish cleanliness laws and festivals. However, Old Testament saints under the law could be judged with regard to these things.
But why could they be judged? Because, by implication these things were necessary during the time in which the visible curse was still placed upon the covenant people. That is, these things had something to do with temporarily alleviating the covenant curses during the older administration. In this way, they looked forward to the time when Christ would eliminate these visible curses from his people—as well as the absolute curse of eternal judgment. In other words, we are suggesting that by telling us what these things looked forward to, Paul is telling us something about their nature. Jewish ceremonies looked ahead to the elimination of the covenant curses in the New Testament era. Therefore, they temporarily alleviated the visible covenant curses during their own time—albeit imperfectly. Of course, as ineffectual in themselves, they could only do this as intrusions of the work of Christ to come.
Some may object, claiming that Paul is only discussing the cancellation of the eternal debt of judgment and not the cancellation of the visible covenant curses of the Old Testament on the covenant people. This would be to suggest that the application of Christ’s work to Old and New Testament saints during their pilgrimage is identical in all respects. However, Paul teaches differently. This cancellation has a new effect for New Testament Christians. They now cannot be judged with regard to Jewish food laws and festivals. The fact that there is a new effect for them implies that the way in which the cause of salvation is understood with respect to them takes on a new dimension. The nature of the cause must be adequate for all its effects. And since the pivotal point of transition takes place after the cause has been accomplished historically, it appears that the historical accomplishment of the cause leads to the fullness of its effects. Only after the historical accomplishment of Christ’s death and resurrection would it yield new effects—the cancellation of the visible covenant curses on God’s people.
This is consistent with Paul’s doctrine of semi-eschatological justification in Romans and Galatians and his doctrine of semi-eschatological reconciliation in 2 Corinthians and Ephesians. Christ has taken away the visible curses placed on corporate Israel. Even though these curses were administrations of the Mosaic covenant of grace, they still had to be eliminated before the semi-eschatological age could come to the church. Only then could she be raised with Christ to the degree described in Colossians 3:1.
Therefore, Paul’s language in Colossians 2 involves a relative contrast between the Old Testament administration (even properly understood) and the New Testament administration.
This relative contrast between the two eras is the background for Paul’s expression “all wisdom” (3:16). Showing this will be significant for our purposes. For if “all wisdom” teaches that the transition from the Old to the New has already taken place, then “all wisdom” includes New Testament revelation.
Clearly, the texts we have already examined (2:13-17) teach that the transition has already taken place. If these explain the meaning of “all wisdom,” then all wisdom cannot refer to Old Testament revelation alone. For Old Testament revelation only revealed that this transition was yet to take place.
But how can we show that when Paul used “all wisdom” he was implying this? How do we know that Paul was picking up this theme of transition from old to new in Colossians 2 when he used the phrase “all wisdom” in chapter 3? We know this for one simple reason: Paul’s discussion of the transition from the Old to the New in 2:13-17 was an expansion of his discussion about Christ as the “wisdom” of God in 2:2-3. That is, Paul spoke of Christ embodying “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” in 2:3. Then he expanded this in the following discussion (2:4-23), of which 2:13-17 is an essential part. Thus, when Paul used the phrase “all wisdom” (3:16) he was not only referring back to “all…wisdom” in 2:3; he was also referring back to its expansion in 2:13-17. He was implying that the transition from the Old to the New Testament period had already taken place.
Thus, to show that “all wisdom” (3:16) refers to specific New Testament revelation, it is sufficient to show one thing: that Colossians 2:13-17 is carrying on the discussion of Christ as the wisdom of God in 2:3. To show this, lets look at 2:2-17 in a bit more detail, beginning at 2:16 and working our way back to 2:2-3. When we look at Paul’s use of “therefore” in verse 16 (“Therefore let no one act as your judge”), it appears to be a conclusion arising from verses 6-15. These verses can be divided into two parts: verses 6-8 and 9-15. Verses 6-8 contain a set of exhortations that Paul afterward grounds in the indicatives of verses 9-15. Verse 16 flows from these indicatives, suggesting a connection with the other imperatives (vv. 6-8) that are also grounded in verses 9-15. Thus, verse 16 is similar in nature to the imperatives of verses 6-8.
How then do we know that verses 6-8 (together with their companion in verse 16) carry on the discussion of 2:2-3, of Christ embodying “all… wisdom?” Because “therefore” in verse 6 is a conclusion drawn from verses 4-5. Verses 4-5 in turn, refer back to Paul’s statement about Christ embodying “all…wisdom.” This can be seen in verse 4 when Paul says, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument.” What does he say, about which no one may delude you? What he just said in verses 2-3: “…attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
This brings us full circle. For Paul introduced his claim that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are found in Christ by saying that Christ is God’s mystery. This reminds us of Colossians 1:26 and “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations.” This new administration, in which Gentiles are made equal partakers in Christ (Col. 1:27), has only “now been manifested to his saints” (Col. 1:26). Thus, it is fitting for Paul to expand on Christ as the mystery (Col. 2:2-3) by discussing the transition from the old to the new era (Col. 2:13-17).
Therefore, the fact that there has already been a transition from the Old to the New Testament period (2:16-17) is a direct logical deduction from the revelation of all wisdom in Christ (2:2-3). “All…wisdom” clearly refers to more than Old Testament revelation because Old Testament revelation did not reveal that the transition from old to new had already taken place. Nor did it reveal that the Gentiles would be equal partakers in Christ.
Of course “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” as hidden in Christ is picked up by Paul in Colossians 3:16 when he says, “with all wisdom teaching” (emphases mine). In light of what we have seen, all wisdom refers to more than Old Testament revelation. Thus, it refers to more than the Psalter. Paul is exhorting the church to sing more than the Psalter when he calls them to teach and admonish one another “with all wisdom.” This phrase “all wisdom” qualifies what he means by “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (3:16). These clearly refer to more than the Old Testament Psalter.
We believe this should be sufficient to make the case. However, to reinforce the fact that Paul’s discussion of “all…wisdom” in chapter 2 continues in chapter 3, we note some of the ways in which chapter 3:1-17 carries on the discussion of chapter 2.
As we suggested, being raised with Christ in 3:1 results from the transition from the old to the new in 2:13-17ff. This is reinforced by the fact that the transition from the old to the new man involves a transition beyond the older administration (3:11). Paul is specifically speaking about the new man when he says that this is a renewal “in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” This is very similar to Paul’s language in Galatians 3:28. Colossians 3:11 adds the note of “barbarian” and “Scythian” not found in Galatians 3:28, perhaps giving the passage in Colossians greater cosmic significance in light of its themes (chapter 1). And perhaps by focusing on the other distinction in the theocracy that involved inheritance rights (male and female), Galatians places greater emphasis on the new inheritance as opposed to the old. However, both passages suggest a transition from the old covenant to the new covenant and from the old age to the new age. Both are redemptive historical and cosmic. In our text, Paul discusses three distinctions that were legitimate divisions in the Old Testament: the distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, and slave and freeman. The fact that he says these distinctions are no longer valid indicates that we have moved beyond the Old Testament administration. He could not make these statements if we had not.
As a result, this suggests that his discussion of the contrast between the old man and the new man includes a relative contrast between the older administration of the covenant of grace and its new administration. The old man/new man contrast also involves an absolute contrast between fallen humanity and life in Christ, but this absolute contrast does not exclude the other contrast between the old and new administrations. Both are involved, as 3:11 makes clear. This suggests that in chapter 3, Paul is still discussing the relative contrast between the two administrations found in Colossians 2:13-17. And he is doing this by focusing on the greater/fuller union with Christ bestowed in the present administration. This greater fullness of union means that “Christ is all, and in all,” resulting from all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being found in him.
The exhortations of verses 12-17 result from our new identity as the new man in Christ Jesus (vv. 10-11). This connection is seen clearly in verse 12 where Paul explicitly calls the church to “put on” certain virtues, as he told them to “put on the new man” (3:10). They are to put on Christ in his full-resurrected life revealed in the New Testament. Just as the old man/new man contrast involves a relative contrast between the old and the new administrations, these exhortations express the same relative contrast. They are dependent on the full wisdom of God now revealed in Christ in the New Testament.
A few other details in our verses (3:15-17) may indicate their connection to the preceding verses. First, Paul says, “to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (3:15). The “peace” that should rule in them results from the fact that they are “one body.” This probably reflects the new union they have in this new administration found in 3:11. If so, then their thankfulness specifically flows from the new reality that has dawned with the coming of Christ. For this thankfulness flows partially from their being “one body” (v. 15).
Presumably the ground for their thankfulness in verses 16 and 17 (“with thankfulness,” “giving thanks”) would in part be the same—thankfulness for the fact that the new administration has arrived and they have been made one body in a new way. This would reinforce the fact that giving thanks to God the Father involves explicitly thanking him for the new revelation and administration in Christ Jesus, as it does in Colossians 1:12. In this latter passage, Paul implies that the Colossians give thanks to the Father because he has qualified them “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” That is, they thank God for being given the greater inheritance of the new administration. This is further indicated in 1:13 in which they are transferred into the “kingdom of his beloved Son.” Here they give thanks for already participating in new covenant blessings, for the fact that the new administration has already arrived in Christ.
Both these considerations (thanks for “one body” in 3:15 and “to God the Father” in 3:17) lend strength to the idea that Paul is exhorting the Colossians in 3:17 to explicitly give thanks for the new administration in Christ. This would fit with the fact that they are called to teach one another in their songs about this new administration in “all wisdom.” And thus “singing with thankfulness” in their “hearts” to God is not simply singing in their hearts about a reality that they do not sing with their lips. Instead it is the reflection in their hearts of the objective reality they sing to one another with clear words of praise. They sing songs that accord with this new reality, having been made participants of the full wisdom found in Christ. They sing as one body, having been made partakers of the new inheritance above.
While we believe the case has been made, we note a few objections before closing this article. Some may still object, saying that “all wisdom” does not define the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Instead, the Psalms define the wisdom. Thus, it might be argued, the wisdom is simply the degree of revelation about Christ found in the Old Testament. If there is progressive revelation of the wisdom of God in Christ, Paul’s reference to the wisdom found in Christ is sufficiently satisfied by Old Testament revelation. The Old Testament (it might be argued) simply looks forward, while the New Testament simply looks back. And this is sufficient to teach “all wisdom.”
However, this does not fit with Paul’s claims about the “wisdom” of God in Christ in Colossians. As we have seen, this is a wisdom that leads us beyond the older administration. This wisdom teaches that the transition from the old to the new administration has already taken place. Paul’s claims about the nature of the wisdom of God in Colossians are so clear that it is impossible to reduce that wisdom to the level of Old Testament revelation. But that is what we do if we say that the Old Testament Psalter is objectively sufficient to teach this fullness of wisdom.
Others may still object even though they acknowledge that the wisdom of God in Christ in Colossians takes us beyond the wisdom of God in the Psalter. They may claim that when we sing the Psalms, we do it in light of the fullness of revelation in Christ, and this alone is fully sufficient to teach one another the wisdom of Christ. As a result, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are nothing but the Psalter. This amounts to saying that when we sing the Psalms, we do it with a subjective understanding arising from the full flowering of organic progressive revelation in the New Testament, that the Psalms contain the revelation that eventually flowers into the fullness of the revelation of the mystery and wisdom of Christ. And indeed this is true.
However, if the Psalms alone are used to teach “all wisdom” this means (as we have suggested) that all this understanding of the fullness of wisdom growing out of the Psalms arises from the singer’s previous subjective understanding of New Testament revelation. It is not being “taught” to him at that moment by his brother in Christ. However, Colossians 3:16 implies that his brother in Christ is teaching it to him at that moment. We concede that the Psalms themselves objectively contain the organic threads of revelation that unfold into the full flowering of the wisdom of Christ. However, when they alone are objectively presented in worship, they are cut off from an objective presentation of their full flowering. In effect they are isolated from the organic continuum of which they are a part, so that in the worship service they do not objectively teach their organic fruition, that the fullness of their organic threads have already been realized in Christ. And this is what the wisdom of God in Christ requires as a minimum. Thus, whatever “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” are, they must of themselves (considered as a whole) objectively teach the fullness of the revelation of the mystery of Christ.
Exclusive Psalmody provides us with an objective inadequacy and tries to make up for it with the subjective understanding of the recipient. But in so doing, it does not follow the pattern of redemptive historical teaching (found throughout Scripture) in which the objective presentation always precedes the subjective appropriation. And it cannot satisfy Paul’s call to objectively teach one another the wisdom found in Christ. If all that is sung is Old Testament revelation, then it is only a partial means of teaching the final revelation in Christ. Old Testament revelation must be completed with the fullness of New Testament revelation. Singing the Psalms must be completed with singing songs proclaiming that Christ has already triumphed (semi-eschatologically). Otherwise our singing cannot satisfy Paul’s command to teach with “all wisdom.”
This is consistent with preaching as an objective means of teaching. The preacher should never preach an Old Testament passage and simply let his congregation subjectively supply the New Testament conclusion to the story—drawing the appropriate conclusion only from their own previous knowledge. The preacher is called to make it explicit—to explicitly move from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
The same is true of our songs if they are to teach all wisdom in Christ. Thus, whatever “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” are, they must (as a whole) objectively teach the fullness of revelation in Christ. And the Psalter does not do this. Thus, as claimed, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” includes more than the Psalter. These terms refer to a broader category of which the Psalter is only one subset.
Someone may further object: you are making singing an objective means of grace that exercises the keys of the kingdom. We reply, however: while singing to one another may not be on the same level as preaching (as an objective means of grace involving the keys of the kingdom), Paul does describe it as a means of general Christian “teaching” and “admonition.” Thus, it has an objective character even if it is not an objective means of grace by the power of the keys.
We suggest the following: perhaps the congregation can move from songs reflecting Old Testament revelation (the Psalter for instance) to songs reflecting on the fullness of the wisdom in Christ (found in New Testament revelation). In the songs of God’s people, this would reflect the movement from Old to New Testament revelation found in the preaching of the Word. This is no doubt appropriate since worship is a covenantal engagement with God—God first offering himself to us in grace and we responding with sincere devotion. Thus, our response mirrors his word—the word revealing God’s progressive mighty acts.
This is in accordance with the pattern of song we find throughout progressive revelation—the pattern in which saints sing about the glories of the mighty acts of God. They do not restrict their praise to the more remote acts of God’s redemption. But like Mary in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), they sing of the most recent mighty acts of God. So also Paul calls the church to sing out of the fullness of God’s mighty acts as they have culminated in the work of Christ—the mighty acts of his life, death, and resurrection. These have brought the new semi-eschatological reconciliation found in Christ, the wisdom of God. These have brought the semi-eschatological gift of the Spirit. And these are the reality out of which we are called to sing praise to God, fully thanking him for all things in Christ Jesus.
We have attempted to show that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to more than the Old Testament Psalter. In Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:19, he exhorts the church to sing out of the “mystery of Christ; which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men” (Eph. 3:4-5), including the Psalmists. To support this, we have seen the exegetical connections that tie Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:19 to the mystery revealed in Ephesians 1-4—the mystery that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body” (3:6). And we have found that this mystery is grounded in the semi-eschatological reconciliation now found in Christ (2:13-16).
In addition, this mystery is the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9-10) revealed in Colossians. As Paul says: “God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3). In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts the church to sing out of this wisdom, teaching each other “all wisdom” with the objective content of their worship songs. As we have seen, the context of this exhortation also indicates that it arises from Paul’s discussion of Christ as the wisdom of God (Colossians, chapters 1-2). According to Colossians 2, this wisdom indicates that the new administration of grace in Christ has already arrived. The curses of the covenant upon the Old Testament people of God have been canceled, abolishing the ceremonial law. Therefore we find (as in Ephesians) that this wisdom is “the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations” (Col. 1:26), including the Psalmists. Both in Ephesians and Colossians, Paul is exhorting the church to sing songs whose objective content speak of the mystery, the wisdom of God in Christ not revealed to men in previous generations. Thus when he tells them to sing to one another in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,” he is calling them to sing more than the Old Testament Psalter.
If this case has been made and if these texts refer to public worship (as we suggest), then it follows that the church is required to sing more than the Psalter in public worship. The church is called to express with her lips and with her heart the fullness of grace found in Christ. She is called to exalt in the fullness of God’s glory, rejoicing in his mighty acts in Christ. She is exhorted to sing songs that proclaim that Christ’s work has already been accomplished, bringing semi-eschatological blessings to his people. Thus, to restrict the church’s song to Old Testament revelation in the Psalter is at odds with the Regulative Principle of worship. It robs God (in worship) of his full glory in Christ. It unduly restricts the consciences of Christians whose Christian duty calls them to sing more than the Psalter. And it binds the liberty of Christians, whose liberty frees them to sing of the full glories of their redemption, the semi-eschatological reconciliation they now have in Christ Jesus.
The church is freed from the curse semi-eschatologically; freed to sing out of this new reality. She is lifted up to heaven—to make God’s heart her heart. She is brought to the feet of Jesus. There she enters into the sweetest union with her Savior, as he rejoices in resurrection glory in lavish communion with his Father. With the lips of Christ, she drips eschatological praise. And so she effuses the sweetness of Christ to the nations that they may say—what a union of delights, ‘God is truly among them.’
 As a response to Exclusive Psalmists, most of whom believe that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to public worship, we will also assume these texts deal with public worship. We will not engage in detail the question of whether they simply refer to private worship. However, we ask, if they refer to private worship, how can they refer to it exclusively? Even if “singing to one another” suggests private worship, would not the content of worship song extend to public worship? Would the apostle intend us to conduct public worship more loosely than private worship? Or would he not expect us to sing even more fully out of the same reality in public worship? Further, we will show later in this article that Paul’s call to sing “to one another” arises out of the mystery now revealed—uniting Jew and Gentile in one body. It does not narrow the focus of attention to private worship.
 This point would require its own article, dealing with the implications of Psalmodic prophetic utterance for new covenant worship. (For a brief summary of the Exclusive Psalmody argument that worship songs must be songs revealed by prophetic utterance, see Sherman Isbell, The Singing of Psalms, 1996, chapter 3, available at http://www.masterstrumpet.org/psalms.html). If these implications were to prove that only songs revealed by prophetic revelation may be used in public worship during the New Testament period, the case would be closed—then only songs revealed in the New Testament (and elsewhere in the Old Testament) may be sung in addition to the Psalter. However, if Psalmodic prophetic utterance does not imply the necessity of special revelatory song, then such an article would have to go further. Assuming that this present article proves its point (that Ephesians and Colossians require more than the singing of Old Testament revelation in public worship), this would imply that at a minimum the songs revealed in the New Testament are required in worship. Then an article dealing with the question of inspired versus uninspired hymns would also have to analyze the songs found in the New Testament itself. Assuming they are required in worship, such an article would also have to assume that whatever clues the New Testament gives us for them are sufficient to satisfy the regulative principle. That is, if the present article implies that they are required, but the specific texts dealing with them do not make specific commands that they be sung, then specific commands are not necessary to satisfy the regulative principle. Instead, general commands or other arguments of necessary implication are sufficient to satisfy the regulative principle—since these are the only criteria used in the New Testament to satisfy the regulative principle for its own songs. (Of course, Exclusive Psalmists themselves would presumably be open to this argument since many of them argue that the general command to sing Psalms found in some of the Psalms is sufficient to satisfy the regulative principle with respect to the whole Psalter.) Such an article dealing with the question of inspired versus uninspired hymns would then have to examine whether these same criteria sufficiently argue the necessity of uninspired hymns.
 To put the case more precisely, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” taken together may represent an order (borrowing a term from the biological taxonomy: order, family. genus, species), referring to all the musical compositions Paul considers appropriate in public worship. Then each of the three terms considered individually may refer to a family, at least one of these families having genera both inside and outside the Psalter. Further, the genus of “songs” in the Psalter (under the family “spiritual songs”) may contain more than one species. This allows us to recognize different types of “songs” within the Psalter, falling under different categories. Finally, each of these species of “songs” contains one or more individual instances, e.g., Psalms 120 and 121. As with biological classification, just because the branching of subcategories is extensive with respect to one leg of the tree, this does not mean it has to be just as extensive with respect to another branch of the tree. Thus, under the family of “songs,” the Psalter may contain a genus with several species. Yet a different book of Scripture may contain a “song” genus with only one species and perhaps only one individual instance.
 Again, more precisely, “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs” each refer directly to their own subcategories. The contexts of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 make this more plausible than saying that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” can only refer collectively to an individual instance (e.g., the Psalter) which contains all the subcategories “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs.” For we will argue that at least one of these terms in Paul refers to songs of the New Testament era, and the New Testament does not contain an individual collection of songs consisting of all three subcategories. Neither does the Greek construction require them to be taken collectively with reference to an individual instance.
 When we say that Paul commanded singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we must admit that “be filled with the Spirit” is possibly the only imperative in Ephesians 5:18b-21 (strictly speaking according to the canons of Greek grammar; see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, pp. 639, 644-45, 651.) Wallace argues that the participles “speaking…singing…making melody…being thankful…being submissive” are not imperatival participles. Imperatival participles are rare in Greek. Instead, the participles in Ephesians 5:19-21 are dependent on the main command to be filled with the Spirit, similar to the stringing together of participles in Ephesians 1:13-14. Wallace suggests they are participles that speak of the result of fulfilling the command to “be filled wit the Spirit.” Thus he distinguishes “result” from “attendant circumstances. “Seeing no distinction between the two would make the participles coordinate commands, while taking them as result would regard them more as the overflow of one who is Spirit-filled (cf. Gal. 5:22-23 for a similar idea)” (644-45). However (as we would also argue with respect to Galatians 5:22-23), while the focus of the command is on being filled with the Spirit, its effects are implicitly commanded with it. Imagine someone saying to his servant, ‘light a match in such a way that it results in a fire in the fireplace.’ If the servant lit a match that was quickly snuffed out and then walked away, he would not be doing the will of his master. To do his will, he must light a match and produce a fire. Thus, the command to do something with a specific result implies that the result is commanded too (by necessary implication). It may be that Wallace’s suggestion separates the resulting participles from the imperative, connecting them only with the state of being filled with the Spirit. That is, he may be connecting the participles only with the condition arising from fulfilling the imperative, not with the imperative itself. However, if this is his argument, it only holds water if the resulting participles are simply possible results and not necessary results of this state. For if they are all necessary results of being filled with the Spirit, then it is necessary to express these fruits in that state. Those who are not expressing these fruits are not in that state. And so they are not fulfilling the command to be filled with the Spirit. Thus, to fulfill this command, one must live out of the resulting participles, giving them imperatival force (even if the stress is first and foremost on being filled with the Spirit). It may be that Wallace’s discussion reflects more his Dispensational theology (in which certain fruits may or may not result from the Spirit’s work, i.e., carnal Christianity) than a solid analysis of Greek grammar. The grammatical construction clearly indicates that the participles are dependent on the imperative “be filled with the Spirit,” not simply on the state of being filled. Therefore, when we refer to Paul’s command to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in this article, we are acknowledging that they are participles that are dependent on the imperative to be filled with the Spirit. And (with Wallace) we may also call them “result participles,” if we consider the qualifications noted above. However, we are suggesting that this endows them with imperatival implications.
 Geerhardus Vos, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. by Richard Gaffin, 91-125.
 In this article, we will refer to this greater reconciliation, fuller reconciliation, fullness of reconciliation, or new reconciliation in Christ. In each case, we are referring to what we might call semi-eschatological reconciliation. In terms of the relationship between reconciliation and justification, semi-eschatological reconciliation is comparable to Paul’s doctrine of semi-eschatological justification. See my “Paul and Eschatological Justification, a Critique of Dunn and Wright,” an unpublished address from the 2005 Kerux Conference, available from Northwest Theological Seminary.
 It is true that Paul uses different Greek words in these two passages. In Ephesians 4:25 he uses ἀλλήλων and in 5:19 he uses ἑαυτοῖς. Initially, one may think that Paul is therefore not focusing on the same theme. However, two things suggest that he is. First, while ἑαυτοῖς is often used as a reflexive pronoun in the New Testament, Daniel B. Wallace suggests that in Ephesians 5:19 it is used like a reciprocal pronoun, a pronoun more commonly indicated by ἀλλήλων (op. cit., 351). Second, Paul himself uses both ἀλλήλους and ἑαυτοῖς together, practically as synonyms in a discussion that arises from the mystery. Like his use of ἀλλήλους, Paul’s use of ἑαυτοῖς in Ephesians 4:32 is reciprocal, for Paul is not simply calling each individual in the church to forgive himself. He is calling them to forgive one another, and the parallel use of ἀλλήλους in this verse confirms this. To underscore that Paul is discussing the mystery in 4:32, we note that the ἀλλήλους of this verse connects us back to the ἀλλήλων of 4:25 in which Paul says “for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25 began this mini-section with “therefore,” alluding to the mystery in which we are members of one another and verse 32 ends this mini-section with an exhortation to be kind to one another (ἀλλήλους). Therefore, verse 32 also discusses imperatives that arise out of the mystery. Further, since Paul makes a parallel exhortation in the same verse using ἑαυτοῖς, he clearly intends us to understand it in the context of the mystery as well. And thus we believe we are justified in claiming that Paul’s use of ἑαυτοῖς in a similar context in Ephesians (5:19) also alludes to the mystery.
 In this passage, Paul also alludes to Isaac being born according to the Spirit (Gal. 4:28-29). This suggests the substantial continuity of salvation before and after Christ. It also suggests that Isaac really participated in the eschatological Jerusalem above before the time. Still, this should not blind us from recognizing the discontinuity found in Galatians 4: 21-31. Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1, suggesting that the Jerusalem above is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Gal. 4:27). From Isaiah’s point of view, he was looking forward to a new abundance that did not exist during his own lifetime. It would only come when the Messiah arrived. Therefore when he came, Christ must have brought something new. He must have brought a greater abundance of being born according to the Spirit. And so he did on the day of Pentecost. This is consistent with the way that Paul interprets the history of Sarah/Isaac verses Hagar/Ishmael. Isaac’s supernatural birth prefigured (as well as embodied) the supernatural resurrection of Christ to come (Rom. 4:16-25). In this respect, Isaac’s supernatural birth was prophetic of the present time, in which the birth from above participates in a greater touch of the supernatural. The present semi-eschatological age displays the supernatural more abundantly. For in it, supernatural birth disregards all concern for national descent according to the flesh (Rom. 9:3, 8-9, 23-26). It is birth exclusively according to the Spirit. As such, Gentiles are not required to become Jews by circumcision to participate in the full blessings of the covenant. This fits with the greater contrast between the flesh and the Spirit found in Paul’s writings, describing this semi-eschatological period. Paul finds in the patriarchal history a prophecy of the time in which the new administration will transcend the older administration of the covenant of grace (Gal. 4:21-31). Isaac’s birth looked forward to the day in which God’s people would possess the Spirit in greater fullness. Thus, Galatians 4:21-5:1 suggests that Paul is making a relative contrast between the two covenants even in regards to their legitimate use within their own respective periods. This relative contrast suggests that when the new administration comes, it must supersede the older administration. Those who do not recognize this must be absolutely condemned. For they have thereby denied the prophetic dimension of the older administration and turned it into something it never was in the first place.
 It must be admitted that two different Greek words are used here. Ephesians 4:15 uses the participle ἀληθεύοντες (from the verb ἀληθεύω) while 4:25 uses λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν. However, the verb ἀληθεύω used in 4:15 and the phrase λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν (4:25) are essentially synonymous. Even if one still questions the connection between 4:15 and 5:19, the relationship between 4:25 and 5:19 remains compelling, both of which use the verb λαλέω.
 “Therefore” introduces 5:1ff, 5:7-14, and 5:15ff
 At the same time, Paul is making an absolute contrast between the wisdom found in Christ and the Old Testament administration when it is cut off from the full revelation in Christ. However, the fact that he is presenting this latter contrast should not blind us to the fact that he is also making a relative contrast. This relative contrast is between the Old Testament administration itself (properly administered) and the new administration flowing from the full revelation of Christ as the wisdom of God. This will be borne out by the following two paragraphs of this article. If proven, it sets up the case against the exclusive use of the Psalms (even given their proper sense according to the time in which they were revealed) for teaching the wisdom of Christ.
 Each of the terms “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs” taken individually also refers directly to its own family (to use a term from the biological taxonomy: family, genus, species). At least one of these three families contains several genera throughout Scripture, e.g., “songs” in the Psalms (Ps. 18:1, 48:1, 92:1, 108:1, 134:1), “songs” in Isaiah (Is. 5:1, 26:1), “songs” in the book of Revelation (Rev. 5:9, 15:3), etc. In this article, we have loosely described the Psalter as a subset of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” because it is composed of genera from all three families: “psalms,” “hymns,” and “songs.” However, for something to be a “song,” it is sufficient that it fall under the family “song.” It does not have to be a part of a collection containing genera from all three families: “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs” (see fn. 4).
 When Exclusive Psalmody points out that “psalms,” “hymns” and “spiritual songs” refer to musical compositions in the Psalter, it is correct (e.g. 2 Chron. 29:30). But when it concludes from this that all three of these terms in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to them alone, it is in error (as indicated by our study of these passages). Therefore, it has made a category error. It has assumed that the phrase “spiritual songs” (for instance) refers exclusively to the narrow category of “songs” in the Psalter. Instead, we should recognize that “songs” refers to songs in the Psalter simply because the Psalter’s songs represent one subcategory (i.e. songs in the Psalter), falling under the broader category “songs” found throughout the whole Bible. This is the necessary conclusion of Paul’s claim that “spiritual songs” (taken as a whole) reveal the mystery not revealed to the Old Testament prophets. The same may also be the case for the terms “psalms” and “hymns.” However, it is possible that (strictly speaking) our study has only proven that one of these three terms must refer to songs teaching New Testament revelation, not all three. Still, this is all that is necessary to disprove Exclusive Psalmody.
 Union with Christ is a continuing theme in Ephesians, sometimes only alluded to by the phrases “in him” (1:4, 10) or “in whom” (1:7, 11, 13; 2:21-22; 3:12). The use of the latter phrase in 3:12 indicates that new covenant saints are called to praise God in union with Christ. This suggests that they are to praise the Father out of the same perspective from which Christ praises the Father. For in Christ they have this new access to the Father (2:18). Christ has access to the Father in the Spirit (2:18) by which he has been made a partaker of the inheritance above (1:13, “sealed in him”). Thus, by implication, he also praises the Father in his access to him. For the place of access to which he has been raised is the heavenly temple. And the temple in the Old Testament was known preeminently as a place of worship. As head of his people, Christ leads the way for them in all things. (In fact, Paul’s “in whom” statements seem to imply that Christ is the forerunner of all those blessings he describes in Ephesians.) Therefore if Christ has access to the heavenly temple, he worships the Father there.
The focus on reconciliation in Christ (2:16) does not detract from this, implying that Christ is simply the means of access for others in this heavenly temple. For even in the Old Testament, the offering itself was burned as a sweet smelling aroma to God. It was consecrated to him in his holy temple. Elsewhere, Paul himself speaks this way when he tells Christians to “worship” God by presenting themselves as a “holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1). In voluntarily presenting oneself as a living sacrifice, one is worshipping God. So also is one who presents the fruits of his sacrifice to God. Thus, Christ himself worships the Father in the heavenly temple—praising him for his resurrection and his eschatological reward.
In union with Christ, the saints are also called to praise God that Christ has already been raised from the dead into the heavenly temple above. And they are to praise God that they have access to the heavenly temple with him this side of the resurrection. This semi-eschatological participation is a new reality for both Jews and Gentiles in Christ Jesus—a greater fullness for the Jews and totally new for the Gentiles.
This union of praise is not undermined by the fact that there remain discontinuities between the way in which Christ and his saints praise the Father. For instance, the saints do not praise the Father that they have been given children by means of their own objective work of atonement (Heb. 2:11, 13). Instead, they praise the Father that he has given the Son his children through the Son’s own atoning work. Nor does Christ praise the Father for delivering him from his own personal sins since he had none. There remains a distinction between Christ and his people even in their union with him. However, in those ways in which we may speak of the similarities between Christ and his saints in union with him, so also we may say that they praise the Father for the same realities for which Christ now praises the Father in heaven. Both do so from the perspective that they have already been seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), in fulfillment of the prophetic prophecies about the coming kingdom.