Instrumental Music: Further on Eph 5:19

glory in Solomon's templeI recently enjoyed a lunch conversation with a bright, inquisitive young member of my congregation. We discussed instrumental music. As we were talking, several themes of the Scriptures came together.

We start in 1 Kings, at the dedication of the Temple by Solomon. When the ark of the covenant was brought into the Holy of Holies, a wondrous thing happened —

(1 Kings 8:10–11 ESV) 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.

Yahweh himself, represented by an intensely bright cloud called God’s “glory,” filled the Temple — and so filled the space that the priests couldn’t perform their duties — being the very duties that God required of them.

Why? Why would God interfere with the priests’ services to God? Well, I think it’s because God was making several points, one of them being that what’s most important in the Temple is not the ritual, the sacrifices, or the priests, but the very presence of the Creator. The Temple is only the Temple because God himself chooses to live there.

And for centuries, God had a special presence — an indwelling — in the Holy of Holies in the Temple that Solomon built — until God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the Temple. God sent the Jews into exile to punish them for their idolatry and unconcern for the needy.

Ezekiel tells the (true) story of the glory of God leaving the Temple so that the Babylonians could destroy it. He begins by describing the glory of God —

(Ezek 1:26–28 ESV) 26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Much later, Ezekiel describes the departure of the glory from the Temple —

(Ezek 11:22–23 ESV) 22 Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. 23 And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.

The glory left Jerusalem traveling east, through the east gate, and then lingered over the Mount of Olives, as though taking one last look back at the city God was abandoning.

Much later in the book, Ezekiel speaks of the end of the exile,

(Ezek 39:21–24 ESV) 21 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. 22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward. 23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.”

God declares that when the exile finally ends, he will set his “glory among the nations.” God’s presence will return.

(Ezek 39:29 ESV) 29 “And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

And when the exile ends, God will “pour out” his Spirit on his elect.

(Ezek 44:4 ESV) Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple of the LORD. And I fell on my face.

And once again, the glory of the Lord will fill the Temple.

70 years later, Ezra and Nehemiah led a handful of Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. But when the Temple was completed, God’s glory did not return. And while there was a brief time of prophecy — Zechariah and Malachi — the gift of prophecy then left the Jews until the coming of John the Baptist.

The exile was not over when Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls and the Temple. If the exile had truly been over, then God would have returned to his Holy of Holies and the Spirit would have been freely given to God’s people. And it didn’t happen. Not yet.

Jesus entered the city from the Mount of Olives, through the East Gate, and headed toward the Temple, as the crowds waved palm leaves and hailed him as king — on Selection Day, the day that the Jews were to choose the Passover lamb to be sacrificed.

Jesus retraced the path by which God’s glory left Jerusalem, and in so doing, became the presence of God himself, the Glory of the Lord, returning and marking the end of exile.

And so Jesus became the Passover Lamb, unwittingly sacrificed by Israel for their sins. And when Jesus breathed his last on the cross, the veil hiding the Holy of Holies was torn in two by the hand of God, showing, I believe —

* That there is no longer a veil separating God from his people.

* That God no longer lives the Temple. The Holy of Holies is empty.

Most likely, Jesus was crucified on the east side of the city, outside the city gates. And if that’s correct, as seems very probable, Jesus’ crucifixion re-travels the path of God’s glory leaving Jerusalem. The story repeats itself.

And then on Pentecost, the offering of the first fruits and the anniversary of the giving of the Law of Moses, God poured out his Spirit on, as Joel prophesied, all flesh — beginning with the scattered Jews, gathered into Jerusalem from every nation.

Jesus had become the Temple —

(John 2:19–20 ESV) 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

“This temple” is Jesus. Jesus didn’t mean “this temple” as in “temple of the Holy Spirit.” That comes later. No, he was claiming to be the new Temple. After all, the Temple is where sins were forgiven, and yet Jesus forgave wherever he was. The Temple is where sacrifices are made, and Jesus himself would be the sacrifice made outside the city gates.  And Jesus was all that. The Temple was a house of prayer, a place to go to be close to God, which Jesus also is. And the Temple is where God has his most real, most visible presence on the planet.

On Pentecost, as God added converts to his church, they were baptized into Jesus Messiah. And as the body of Christ, the special presence of Jesus on earth, the church became the new temple in union with Jesus.

And this brings us to Ephesians.

(Eph 1:13–14 ESV) 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s not just the “Holy Spirit.” He’s the “promised Holy Spirit,” a reference by Paul to the many prophecies that God would pour out his Spirit at the end of the exile and the coming of the kingdom.

(Eph 2:18–22 ESV) 18 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

And so Paul concludes that we, God’s elect and church, are “a holy temple in the Lord” and “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” We serve the same purpose in this world that Solomon’s temple served 3,000 years ago.

We are where forgiveness is found, because are the elect of Jesus. We are where God’s glorious, powerful presence is visible to the naked eye. We are the people for whom the intensity of God’s presence is even more important than doing the rituals and rites. We are being built together by God to show the world the glory of God.

(Matt 5:14–16 ESV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

What city on a hill was Jesus thinking of? Surely most especially Jerusalem, built atop two mountain peaks, capped by God’s Temple that shone for miles even in the daytime.

But now the church is God’s temple, and so we are the light of the world, placed on a pedestal by God himself to reveal his glory!

(Eph 4:30–5:2 ESV) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. … 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In this Trinitarian passage, we are called to imitate God by living sacrificially as Jesus lived. That’s the theme of chapter 5.

(Eph 5:17–21 ESV) 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

How do we follow Jesus? How do we become like God? Well, we allow God to fill us with his Holy Spirit. This is the command. “Be filled.” That and “do not get drunk on wine” are the only commands in this passage.

The verb “be filled” is modified by a series of participles: addressing, singing, making, giving thanks, and submitting. These are not how we become filled but the results of God’s filling. “She’s in college getting an education.” “Getting an education” is a (but hardly the only) result of being in college. And the participles that hang on “be filled” speak of some of the consequences of the Spirit’s filling.

Why these? Well, in the Temple in Jerusalem, pilgrims sang praises to God, they brought thanks offerings, and they submitted to God in prostration. They bowed before his presence.

Now, Paul makes some subtle but important changes. As the Spirit fills us, making us more and more into the Spirit’s temple, our submission is not merely to God, it’s to each other. We sing not only to God but to each other. And our thanksgiving is “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is better and bigger than Solomon’s temple!

And so, God’s glory has returned from exile, offering not just the Jews but all nations the opportunity to become God’s people — as well as a Temple of the Spirit here on earth, showing the glory of God in countless ways to a lost and hurting world.

The point of Ephesians 5:19 is not whether a piano is right or wrong. After all, the list of things the Spirit prompts in us is far from complete. Paul was giving examples of how the Spirit changes us as God continues to build us up into his temple.

And this fulfills prophecy going back to Genesis. Paul’s point is hardly about how to conduct ritualized worship. It’s not a prohibition. It’s about who we are to become.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to Instrumental Music: Further on Eph 5:19

  1. Alan Scott says:

    Enjoyed the article, but question your claim that Golgotha was east of Jerusalem. I do not know of any scholar nor ancient tradition that places Golgotha anywhere except north or west of the old city.

  2. arkie55 says:

    Ezekiel said that the Glory of God departed the city from the East gate of the Temple and stood on the mountain to the East side of the city. Some say that the same thing was replicated in the crucifixion and that Golgotha and the Mount of Olives were both to the East of the city.

  3. Dwight says:

    God decetralized worship and the things associated with it as well. As we have become the temple of God worship can be done anywhere and anytime. Any type is the question. We are given types prayer and singing and worshipping and yet specific handlings were not specified such as sacrifice and how to do it, except that we are to be a sacrifice in ourselves. It appears worship was brought back to how it was before the Law was set up and was to be more free will in nature. Many of us haven’t got the message and still want it to be highly structured and controlled and done only at certain times at certain places in certain ways. Now it must all be done with respect for the creator, but this doesn’t mean we drain ourselves and emotion from it.

  4. Joe Baggett says:

    If you look at what Paul specifically said about what worship in it’s essence it was not the time, place format etc, he says to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, this is your true act of worship holy and pleasing to the Lord”. He also says that greed is idolatry which is the “worship” of other gods. Neither of those contextually specifies or implies a list of approved ecclesiastical acts. So let’s think a minute in a radical new way. If worship is more about what we actually give our lives to and what is alive in us spiritually then our idea of what worship is may be wrong to begin with. Currently we define worship as a biblically approved list of ecclesiastical acts to be performed during a regular assembly. This is essentially what the woman at the well was telling Jesus she thought worship was. What if we were to define worship in it’s essence then let that determine what specific ecclesiastical acts help accomplish that? I suggest if we look at it this way it would be a more consistent gospel based method. Further more when Paul talks about the purpose of the assembly he says it is to encourage, and provoke one another on to good works, and to be transformed. He also says to speak to one another with songs, hymns and spiritual songs. So I suggest the essence should be the foundation for determining the ecclesiastical format. When Jesus told the women at the well that the time was coming when the true worshippers would worship in Spirit and Truth he was telling her that the time, format and place of the worship were of no consequence if what is in you is spiritually dead. This is why the issue of her multiple husbands and cohabitation was brought up in this context. If what we do during a one or two hour assembly is not leading to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and being continually transformed then the essence is not accomplishing it’s purpose! Believe me God is more pleased with a group of Christians that is continually overcoming sin, being transformed, and expanding the kingdom through being living sacrifices than he is with an assembly that mostly concerned with the ecclesiastically perfect format. In fact if the ecclesiastical format is not accomplishing the purpose then it is not worshipping in Spirit and in Truth it is just performing a list rituals and acts which is the equivalent of arguing whether the woman at the well had to do her rituals at the well or the temple.

  5. Grace says:

    God never abandoned the true Israelites. God promised His people that He would continue to be with them even though they were not in Jerusalem. This was a major concern to the Jews because they believed that God was present primarily in the temple. However God assured them that He would continue to be their God regardless of where they were in this world. The true Israelites, even though they were far from home, would always be protected by God.

    Ezekiel 11:16 Therefore say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.

  6. Dwight says:

    Joes is headed where I was headed essentially. If our life is to be service to God and we are the Temple, then we are the place where we worship is at. Now if worship is divided along the realm of regulated acts, then if we sing a song, which many say must be regulated, but if we sing a song to a person or about a person…let us Say Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, then are we defying God by singing to another or about another who is not God since we are the Temple? Many argue that in “spirit and in truth” means how we technically do it, but in reality it means the difference between doing it without heart and doing it with dedicated heart. David worhipped God by dancing and singing and the playing of instruments, not commanded, but accepted. He did it because he loved God and we want to technically contain and direct that love. Now God did have rules for worship, but these were priest and temple rules, but now we are the priest and temple and our life is dedicated.

  7. Grace says:

    Ezekiel 39:21-29 The prophetic regathering of the all the Jews back to Israel that we see this very day will finally be completed because of God’s miraculous victory over the Gog-Magog armies. Every Jews of the Northern 10 tribes after having been scattered throughout the world will immigrate to Israel, as the Sovereign LORD says in verse 28, “not leaving any behind.”

    Ezekiel 39:28 Then My people will know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them away to exile and brought them home again. I will leave none of My people behind.

    After witnessing the supernatural victory of God in the Gog-Magog Battle, the Jews as a people will again truly believe in Jehovah God and will worship Him again. They will worship God in their newly built Third Temple

    Romans 11:26-29 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

    Ezekiel 39:22 And the house of Israel will know that I, the LORD, am their God, from that day on.

    The Jewish people shall all be God’s people, and be a praise in the earth. Now, they are a proverb of reproach, then, they shall be eminently distinguished.

    Ezekiel 44:1-3 Then the man brought me back to the outer east gateway of the Temple area, but the gate was shut. The LORD said to me, This gate will stay shut; it will not be opened. No one may enter through it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered through it. So it must stay shut. Only the ruler himself may sit in the gateway to eat a meal in the presence of the LORD. He must enter through the porch of the gateway and go out the same way.

    Jesus entered Jerusalem through the East Gate around 30 A.D. long before it was blocked by the Ottomans.

    Ezekiel says concerning this closed gate that the “Prince” who is Jesus shall enter it again. The Eastern Gate is presently considered by the Arabs to be their exclusive property. It is sealed up and blocked off. However one day, the Messiah will stand on the Mount of Olives, with all His saints, and walk down to and right through the Eastern Gate and into the Temple area.

    The Eastern Gate remains shut, just as Ezekiel said, and is awaiting the coming Prince of Peace! This temple complex is built after the fact of the gate being shut.

    In Ezekiel 44:4, Ezekiel is brought to where he witnesses something wonderful as the glory of the LORD again fills His house, the New Third Temple and ultimately with the New Jerusalem!

    Ezekiel 44:4 Also He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD; and I fell on my face.

  8. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the note. I was working from memory, which is always a bit chancy.

    The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is one traditional site, and it’s to the west of Jerusalem. However,

    The likelihood of a 1st-century tomb being built to the west of the city is questionable, as according to the late 1st-century rabbinic leader, Akiva ben Joseph, quoted in the Mishnah, tombs should not built to the west of the city, as the wind in Jerusalem generally blows from the west, and would blow the smell of the corpses and their impurity over the city, and the Temple Mount.[51] Additionally, the Aedicule would be quite close to the city even if the west wall of the city had been to its east; yet Akiba remarks that Jewish law insists that tombs should not be built within 50 cubits of a city.[51] The archaeological record indicates that the instructions reported by Akiba, for choosing a burial location, were rigidly adhered to; almost all of the tombs from classical Jerusalem are to the east of the city, on the Mount of Olives, except for a few located over a kilometre to the west, and those in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.[52]

    If the tombs were to the east of the city, to avoid defiling the temple and the residents of Jerusalem, then Jesus was likely crucified on the east side, because they were able to take his body down and prepare it for burial before the sunset — the Sabbath beginning at sunset. It seems unlikely that the Jewish authorities would have been keen on having a corpse taken through the city to the opposite side in general, given the uncleanness of corpses and the fact that Passover was about to begin.

    But tradition is to the contrary, and may be right. Nonetheless, given the extreme fastidiousness of the Jews of Jesus’ day when it came to being ceremonially unclean, and the necessity of everyone being “clean” before Passover (or else it could not be taken), the crucifixion and the grave had to be near each other. There otherwise just wouldn’t have been time to take the body down, prepare it for burial, bury it, and then undergo ritual cleansing before Passover and the Sabbath.

    I should have not been as certain in my statement as I was, but there is good reason to believe it all happened to the east of the city.

  9. Dwight says:

    There is the rgument that the place of Jesus death was within site or direction of the Temple entrance. At his death the veil was torn in two, but there were actually two veils one to the holies and one to the hliest of holies where the Ark had dwelt. Only Christians are called the priest, but Jesus is the High priest who only has access to God as the mediator. All very interesting, but I don’t know what it has to do with the subject of worship in instrument form.

  10. Ken Sublett says:

    I did a quick take on your Fork of the Road. There are numerous and extra-Biblical passages which say that when you see music as WORSHIP when God ordained a School of the Word (Regulative Principle) you have taken a fork and there is no turning back. The singers, players and all craftsmen are sorcerers and they will/have be cast alive into the lake of fire. So, I know that you have taken a path which is ANTI Biblical. I have quoted you some context and word definitions. Psallo has no musical content: it has the same root meaning as SOP.

    When the KABOD or heaviness filled the Temple all easy contact with God was lost. The priests could not enter and Solomon reluctantly agreed that God doesn’t live in temples built with human hands.

    The same smoke will fill the church in Revelation when Abaddon or Apollyon was/is unleashed as the king of the locusts or MUSES. Apollyon is the LEADER of the Musical Worship Teams.

    It’s too bad that you got too much of that ANTIism in North Alabama. I grew up in Bennie Lee Fudge’s church. LEGALISM is defined exclusively as the nomos or laws of rhetoric, singing, playing instruments, acting or dancing.

    Take a read and buck up some courage and respond. Time is short.

  11. Larry Popwell says:

    Christ strengthens me.
    The essence of truth is that Christ lives in me.
    Music – a profound way of my soul reaching out.
    I am to old to not recognize it is all about Jesus, and when I – we place Him first, all the “issues” we place so much importance on, while of more importance to some, are not on the level of accepting other believers, just where they are as Christ did and continues to do now and throughout eternity.

  12. Dwight says:

    Ken, I notice you didn’t offer any scriptural reference for your thoughts. I don’t know of any conservative churches that deny that instruments were played to God and commanded by God, even though they will state that they are without spirit and truth. God commanded silver trumpets in Num.10, in Josh.6 seven rams horns, then later in I Chron.13 David made many different instruments and they were played along side of the instruments commanded by God in the Temple. There are no scriptures that align instruments with paganism as opposed to the Jews. If you read Psalms there within the headings it shows the intent that the psalms were indeed meant to be sung with musical instruments as David who played the harp wrote many of them. Even heaven in Rev. has musical instruments present. Legalism is looking at scripture as if it is a set of legal documents that instructs us how to do things instead of a way of living that affects the heart and we do things because of love. It is not about crossing all of the Ts, but being an follower of Christ.

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