Speaking one to another …
This reference is probably to the custom of Christians “singing by turns a hymn to Christ, as to a god.”
“By turns” is also rendered “antiphonally”; but from 1 Corinthians 14:26, the custom was actually that of singing by turns.
Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs …
Although these can be differentiated, there is no need to do so. The teaching declares that not all songs are acceptable in the worship of God, but only those with spiritual value.
Regarding the question whether or not the public assemblies or worship services of the Christians are referred to here, it seems best to construe the passage as having exactly that application.
To make it applicable to all types of gatherings would be to prohibit a Christian from singing any kind of music except sacred music, a prohibition that does not appear in the passage at all.
With Lipscomb and many others it is viewed here as instruction regarding the public worship of the Christians.
God’s command for Christians is that they should sing, and if playing instruments of music is an acceptable part of divine worship, it is difficult to understand why it would not have been so stated in this place.
Arguments from the ancient meaning of [PSALLO] are, irrelevant to the question of instrumental music, one way or the other.
WHY INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD IS REJECTED
1. There is nothing strange or unusual about some Christians rejecting mechanical music as in any manner appropriate or permissible in Christian worship.
The entire Protestant world maintains exactly the same religious position with reference to use of the Rosary of the Virgin Mary, the sign of the cross, the burning of sacred incense, the sprinkling of holy water, the sacrifice of the mass, prayers for souls in purgatory, the lighting of holy candles … and a hundred other innovative additions to Christianity, as being not taught in the New Testament.
The identically same arguments which support the non-use of such devices as those here cited are valid when applied to the use of mechanical instruments of music in God’s worship.
The burden of proof therefore rests upon those who reject some of the historical church’s innovations, but do not reject them all.
To many devout souls, it appears mandatory to reject all innovations (Matthew 15:9).
2. It is accepted by many that the use of musical instruments in the Old Testament was an innovative change from David and that the change was not approved by the Lord.
This, of course, is vigorously denied by some; but their denials are refuted by the truth that the Orthodox Hebrew Communion through the centuries has clung to the non-use of mechanical instruments, maintaining that God did not approve of them; and they know the teaching of the Old Testament on that point better than any modern scholars.
3. Mechanical music as worship of God is antithetical, by nature, to spiritual religion.
Although Paul did not have such things in mind when he declared that “God is not worshipped with men’s hands,” the text truly applies to this question (Acts 17:25, KJV).
The introduction of mechanical instruments into the worship of Christ involves the service and skills of technical and profession craftsmen who tend to emphasize “art” more and more, and “worship” less and less, resulting usually in the professionalizing of the “singers” as well as the players.
Anyone who has ever known the internal workings of a big city church choir can testify to the blight that inevitably follows. There was never anything on earth more “unspiritual.”
There are many other persuasive and convincing things to be said on this question, but the above are cited here because they were determinative in the thinking of this writer, at a time when he was a member of a “choir” and struggling with this question himself.
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs …
It would appear that “spiritual” in this verse is the modifier of all that may be properly used in Christian assemblies.
By their nature of being in the Old Testament, psalms are surely spiritual, and “hymns” are so by definition; but, as for any song so used, it must likewise be spiritual.
Significantly not even all singing is permissible in Christian worship.
What is the bearing of this passage on the use of instrumental music in Christian worship?
It is contrary to the injunction here for congregations to “whistle” or to play mechanical instruments, the latter having been associated throughout history with pagan worship (Daniel 3:4-7).
There is no refutation of the fact that the founder of Christianity, namely, the Christ and the blessed apostles simply left them out.
Arguments from the word [PSALLO] to the effect that it refers to playing a harp fail in the light of the truth that the instrument of God’s praise appears in the passage, not as anything mechanical, but as the human heart itself.