Ephesians 5:19 — Making Melody

By Wayne Jackson

The inspired apostle admonishes the saints:

“And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [psalontes] with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18,19).

Psalontes is from the Greek psallo. Advocates of the use of instrumental music in Christian worship claim that the term means to “pluck,” and therefore it authorizes the use of an instrument in church worship.

Several things can be said in response to this argument:

  1. Since “making melody” is a part of the command, if an instrument of music is included in the term, then every person in the congregation who sings is likewise obligated to play an instrument.
  2. W.E. Vine writes:

    “The word psallo originally meant to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, or to sing with the accompaniment of a harp. Later, however, and in the New Testament, it came to signify simply to praise without the accompaniment of an instrument” (First Corinthians, p. 191).
  3. If psallo did retain some association with “plucking” in the first century, the instrument would have to be supplied by the context. F.F. Bruce, not an opponent of the instrument in worship, admits that “the melody with which [Paul] is principally concerned is the melody of the heart, which accompanies the vocal singing” (Questions Answered, p. 107). The heart is the spiritual instrument of this context; no mechanical instrument is implied.
  4. McClintock & Strong observe that though some contend that psallein allows the use of the instrument, if such is the case it is strange that the early church fathers make no mention of instrumental music in their worship (Cyclopedia, Vol. VI, p. 759).

Underline the phrase “making melody with your heart,” and comment: No warrant for mechanical instrument; “heart” is the instrument.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.