Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We know that all Scripture is God breathed and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. No one verse in scripture has more value than another but at the same time some passages do seem to carry more weight and cause you to stop and give them your undivided attention.
I find some passages almost cry out more loudly than others, drawing you back to them time and time again. It’s as if they demand more than reading, they require time, meditation, thought and scrutiny. Although such passages can become familiar, they still refresh and renew, they still reshape how you think and cause you to re-evaluate how you live. Maybe we should never be content with just a surface scan of scripture, maybe we should open the word and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate it and then give time to dig deep, unpack each word, each line. After all God has so much to say.
Colossians 3:16 is one of those passages I go back to. I don’t know why but I do, it just sort of sticks and keeps on speaking. Perhaps it’s because this is one of the rare passages in the New Testament that provides us with a glimpse of how the early church worshipped. There is much debate on how we “do church” and so many strong opinions. For me this verse gives simple clarity.
Some translations of this verse say, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing in your hearts to God with thanksgiving.” They do so because of the parallel passage found in Ephesians 5:18-19 where Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”
Let’s begin by looking at what Paul means by the phrase, “the word of Christ.” We can describe it this way, “the word about Christ,” that is to say, all the truth that has been revealed and is now in Scripture concerning him. Most likely “the word of Christ” is identical to what Paul wrote in Colossians 1:5 where he spoke of “the word of the truth, the gospel.” The “word of Christ” is the totality of biblical revelation concerning Jesus: who he is, his mission, his life, his redemptive work, his character, his will and his ways.
At the centre of the life God’s people must be the person and work of Jesus. The importance of this for today is easily seen by a quick glance at the predominant themes in our pulpits and on our platforms. Harsh as this may seem, but in my opinion there is a preoccupation with ‘self’, and ‘me’ which seems to have overtaken the importance of the centrality of Christ in the believers life . It’s very subtle though!
How can I be fulfilled? How can I conquer? How can I enter into my destiny? How can I triumph over my enemies and claim my inheritance? How can I better cope with life’s daily struggles? How can I relate more effectively with my peers and work colleagues? How can I feel better about myself? If Christ is mentioned, and he usually is, he exists to aid us in our search for significance. He is important only so far as he awakens us to our importance. We talk about him so we can feel good about ourselves. Jesus is so much more than the solution to a problem.
I am not saying those things are not important or should not be addressed, they should but Paul’s point is that the “word of Christ” or put simply the person and work of Christ is far more important than you or I. We sing, “it’s all about you Jesus” but maybe that is more of a challenge than we imagine. The redemptive suffering of Christ for his Church, his dominion as Lord and his authority as the judge of all things, all have a direct and practical impact on how we function on a daily basis.
If the “word of Christ” is not allowed to exert an influence on our beliefs behaviour and thinking, if He himself is not enough, if He is not our satisfaction whatever occurs, then Jesus will become the menu for self significance, not the Son of God, Saviour, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, full stop. If he gives you or me nothing he is still all of those things and worthy of all praise.
This “word of Christ,” says Paul, must “dwell” in us “richly.” The word Paul uses translated “dwell” should not be taken as some sort of inert or static presence. It has a dynamic force, a transformative and powerful force within and among us. I say “within and among us” because Paul likely has in view more than simply an individual experience. Given the context, the use of the words “one body” and our obligations one to another (see verses 11-15), the “word of Christ” must dwell “among us,” that is to say, in our midst as the body, exercising its authority and power within the life of the gathered community of God’s people. He is the centre of us all.
So, Paul’s point is that we must grant the “word of Christ” the highest priority and place in the corporate experience of the church. It must be preached, proclaimed, explained and applied. Whatever use is made of drama, multi-media displays, or other forms of communication, “the word of Christ” should be the focus. It should dwell “in us” individually and “among us” corporately, not haphazardly or insignificantly, but “richly!” In other words, let the truth about Jesus be taught and known and obeyed in all its glory and beauty and richness. Give it full sway. Let its power and splendour do its work in and for you. Be Bible people.
Would that we might leave every church meeting and every small group gathering saying, “The word of Christ dwelt richly among us here today!
We heard from him, it was about him, we were thrilled by him. All that we know of him governed what we said and sang and did.”
Jesus doesn’t just sit in the seats at our show, he is the star of the show.