One common objection against exclusive psalmody is that if we only sing the psalms we will fail to sing the “name that is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). I believe this objection fails for a number of reasons:
1) Of the supposed hymnic fragments found in the New Testament, only one actually uses the name Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).
2) This passage does not command us to sing the name of Jesus, as other exclusive-psalmodists point out (any more than it commands us to compose or write songs of our own making). Rather, the command is that every tongue confess Him. Furthermore, the confession is not limited to simply saying the name Jesus but that Jesus Christ is Lord. Arguably, this is done every time we sing Psalms 16 & 110.
3) If it is required that we sing Jesus name, does this have to be done every time we gather together? In every song? The latter would require the exclusion of the psalms as songs of the church even though many advocates of hymns, and more importantly the scriptures themselves, require us to sing psalms. So in what way is this to be fulfilled?
4) If we literally are called to sing Jesus’ name, we would have to do so (it would seem) with the original Greek in mind. Very few Christians, if any, would ever speak the name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous) from the NT Greek. This is ironic since hymnodists often accuse Psalm singers of inconsistency since they do not sing the original Hebrew of the Psalms and often sing them in rhyme and meter.
5) Even the heavenly songs of Revelation (as found in chapters 4,5,7,11&15) do not use the name Jesus. If the name Jesus is so important (i.e. required) to be sung, surely one or more of these songs would record His name.
6) In no instance do Jesus’ closest disciples ever speak of Him with that name. Never once is Jesus Himself called by that name by others except by the demons and the notable exception of the blind men at Jericho and the lepers in Samaria who spoke of Him as “Jesus, Master.” Typically when He is addressed He is simply called “Lord” “Master” or “Teacher.” This does not mean that the name Jesus is insignificant. But it does mean that we should be careful how far or in what manner we require the name to be used in worship.
7) As Richard Bacon points out, Jesus did not include His name in the baptismal formula (Matthew 28:19). If we are not required to be baptized in Jesus’ name, why would we be required to sing Jesus’ name in order to honor Him?
8) Jesus name is also not found in institution of the Lord Supper. It is “my body” and eaten in “remembrance of me” but not, strictly, in ‘Jesus’ name. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul speaks of the “body of Christ” and the “blood of Christ” but not that of Jesus. Likewise in chapter 11, the apostle speaks of proclaiming “the Lord’s death.” Furthermore, the song that was sung after the celebration of the first Supper was a psalm and, therefore, did not contain the name Jesus (Matthew 26:30).
9) The Psalms, however, contain the titles of Jesus (Anointed, Son etc.) and even the very words of Jesus (Psalm 22:1 for example). Psalm singers never fail to honor Jesus even if they do not literally mention his name.
10) That Psalm singers do call upon the name of Jesus is evident from the names given to Him at His incarnation. In Isaiah 9:6 we read that “his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” For “Wonderful Counselor” see Psalm 16:7; for “Mighty God” see Psalms 24:8 & 45:3; for “Everlasting Father” see Psalm 45:6 & 145:13 and for “Prince of Peace” see Psalm 72:7.
11) The name Jesus refers to His redemptive work (saving His people from their sins – Matthew 1:21). The Psalms are richly filled with references to His salvation for us.
12) That psalms can be properly sung unto Jesus or in his name without having to use the name Jesus is demonstrated in the New Testament. In Acts 2 Peter addresses his fellow Jews with a message about Jesus of Nazareth. He references Psalms 16 & 110 as speaking of “this Jesus” (vs. 32).
-Daniel Kok © 2017
1. Concerning this matter see Hymn Fragments in the New Testament.
2. This would exclude the singing of “Amazing Grace” which does not use Jesus name.
3. Bacon, Richard. “Review of Exclusive Psalmody.” The Blue Banner. Faith Presbyterian Church Reformed, January 10, 2008. Web. January 23, 2016.
4. See, for example, Psalm 8:4-6 (cf. Hebrews 2:5-8), Psalm 16:8-11 (cf. Acts 2:27, Acts 13:35), Psalm 22:22 (cf. Hebrews 2:12), Psalm 23:1-3 (cf. John 10:11,14), Psalm 31:5 (cf. Luke 23:26), Psalm 34:20 (cf. John 19:36), Psalm 40:6-8 (cf. Hebrews 10:5-12) & Psalm 110 (cf. Hebrews 1:13; 5:6,10; 7:17, 21).