The Indwelling Word
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Writer James Chapman created a list of the most read books in the world based on the number of copies each book sold over the last 50 years. He found that the Bible far outsold any other book, with a total of 3.9 billion copies sold over the last 50 years.
So it would appear, at least that the Bible is the most popular book in the world. But my question is: how many people who own Bibles actually take the time to read them? 100 years ago when Bibles were more expensive to print, families might have only one Bible. It was called the family Bible. It would be very large, perhaps on its own stand, with the family history recorded in it: births, deaths, marriages, etc.
Today the Bible can be read online, or listened to on CDs or ipods, or iPads, or your smart phone. It is so common now that it is taken for granted. There is really not much interest even among church-goers in reading the Bible. In fact you are ridiculed by many if you do. Teachers in public schools and colleges are increasingly hostile toward anyone that reads a Bible or believes the Bible to be true.
Unlike us, the believers in the early church placed a high value on the study of God’s Word. Our text says to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us, so that we might teach and admonish one another. And in Acts 2:41-42 it says:
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
“Continually devoting” in the Greek means: “to be constantly diligent, to adhere closely, to be devoted to.” They diligently observed two things: the apostles’ doctrine, which basically was the New Testament Scripture; and fellowship, which consisted of breaking of bread and prayer.
Colossians 3 focuses on the Christian life. It makes clear some behaviors we should put off from our life as well as some that should be put on. The Word of God should be a large part of the Christian life, and we should follow closely what it says. God’s Word reveals to us what God’s will for our life is. In our text for today in Colossians, Paul tells the believers that they are to be devoted to the study of God’s Word.
Let’s look at what Paul is saying here, and then we will see how we can apply it in our lives.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”- the word of Christ – can be translated as either the word spoken by Christ to the Apostles, or the word about Christ from the Apostles. Either way, they are the same words, whether coming from Christ, or coming through the Apostles.
This precise phrase (word of Christ) is only found here and in Romans 10:17. In Romans 10:17 the Apostle Paul says:
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
So we can see that Paul has a high view of the words of Christ. Higher, in fact than any other words. They are the words that lead to eternal life. In Colossians, he is exalting Jesus Christ. The false teachers came to the Colossians with man-made traditions, and human philosophies, but their teachings did not magnify or glorify Jesus Christ. Only the word of Christ, the truth of the Gospel, does that.
Paul tells the Colossians that they are to let the word of Christ “richly dwell within you” – Dwell is an imperative and it means: “to live in,” or “to be at home.” Paul calls upon believers to let the Word take up residence in their lives. This Greek word “dwell” is used 5 times in the New Testament.
In Rom 8:11 it speaks of the HS who dwells in believers.
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
Just as the Holy Spirit indwells believers, the Word of Christ is to indwell us.
2 Corinthians 6:16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
Here, Paul quotes a New Covenant prophecy that said God will dwell in all believers.
2 Timothy 1:5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.
Paul says to Timothy that faith dwelt in his mother and grandmother, and also in Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
Once again this last verse states that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in believers. So this word is used of God dwelling in believers, faith dwelling in believers, and the Word of God dwelling in believers.
The word “dwell” literally means: “to keep house”. The word of Christ should feel right at home within us. It should not be at war with us, internally. There should be no fighting or bickering in the house where the word of Christ dwells.
In verse 16, Paul also says that the word is to “richly” dwell in us. This word occurs four times in the New Testament. “Richly or abundantly” basically speaks of quantity. When we let the word of Christ richly dwell in us, we are letting His words instruct us in all things. From the big decisions we make, to the little ones, we consider what Christ has taught us. His words become the basis for what we do, what we say, where we go, and how we use all that God has given to us. This word “richly is used in:
1 Timothy 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
Titus 3:6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
2 Peter 1:11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
These three uses of the word all talk about how God “richly” blesses believers in Jesus Christ. So, we could say we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us the same way in which God blesses us – richly or abundantly.
The teaching of Christ should affect all we do and say: every thought, word, and deed.
There is a story about a young French girl born blind who learned to read by touch. A friend gave her a Braille copy of the Gospel of Mark which she read so often that her fingers became calloused and insensitive. In an effort to regain her feeling, she cut the skin from the ends of her fingers. Tragically, her calluses were replaced by even more insensitive scar tissue. She sobbingly gave the book a goodbye kiss saying, “Farewell, farewell, sweet Word of my heavenly Father.” In doing so, she discovered her lips were even more sensitive than her fingers had been and she spent the rest of her life reading her great treasure with her lips!
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a desire like that for the Word of God!
Paul continues, saying, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…” The word of Christ is something that should be part of our being. It is a personal characteristic. The teachings of Jesus Christ should be part of what defines us, a part of who we are. If you think about it, what Paul is saying here is simply another way of saying “be filled with the Spirit.” Eph 5:18 says
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”
And in Gal 5:22 Paul says this about the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Being controlled by the word of Christ is the same as being filled with the Spirit. A believer who is controlled by the Holy Spirit is one in whom the word of Christ richly dwells. There is a strong relationship between the indwelling of the word of Christ within us, and the indwelling and control of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If someone says they are a believer but they don’t show the fruit of the Spirit in their life, then what does that tell us? And if someone says that the word of Christ is dwelling within them, then their life should reflect that indwelling.
Sometimes it is very obvious to see the contradictions in peoples lives. In fact most of us are experts in identifying issues or problems that other people have. But we fail to see the problems that we ourselves have in our own lives. Jesus said in Mt 5:7
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Every believer should be able to say that the word of Christ is dwelling within them. This is not some special blessing, or grace, or level of knowledge that we get. Its not something that we can earn. But it is something that comes with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. When we come to Christ, when we believe in Him, when our sins are forgiven and nailed to the cross, then we receive all we need for our salvation in one package. God gives us, or equips us with all things necessary to live for Him.
When we come to Christ, it is a package deal. When God makes our adoption official, then we are truly His children and we receive all the blessings, and promises, and gifts of that adoption. But sometimes we don’t open the adoption package completely. We don’t search it out to see what is in it. We need to search out everything that God has given us as gifts to be used in service to Him, and in service to one another.
When we come to Christ and receive our adoption papers, we are truly blessed. In just one of the many verses in the Bible that speak of God’s goodness to His children we find so many blessings. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance. We just read Gal 5:22. The “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;” The world does not have these things. The world can’t even have these gifts. They are reserved for God’s children. This is just a part of what we receive as God’s children. These are things that the world cannot take away from us. They could take our building, our homes, and our money, but they can’t take the most precious inheritance we have… the indwelling word of Christ, the gift of the Spirit, and our eternal inheritance.