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.
We know what the world thinks about God’s word, don’t we? They don’t think it is anything special. Some might think it to be a great literary book, but that is rare. Most think it is just a book written by men, in order to keep people in their place and control them. To them, God is a myth, Jesus wasn’t real, and the Bible is full of errors. But the world lacks understanding of spiritual things. In fact, the Bible tells us that the world can’t understand the Bible for a good reason, and that reason is found in
1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
As believers, our view of Scripture should be the exact opposite of the world’s view. The author of the Bible is God, even though God used men to write it. 2 Tim 3:16 says:
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.
Our view of Scripture is so important. When we think about God’s word, do we have the same thoughts as Job? He says:
Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
That is why Job could face the trials that God allowed to happen in his life. He loved God, and he loved His Word more than food. I think that in general, most Christians starve themselves when it comes to the Bible. We never miss a meal, but when it comes to the Bible, do we starve ourselves spiritually? The only way we can prevent spiritual starvation is to, as Paul says, allow the Word of Christ to abundantly dwell within us. After all God has done for us, our response should be to learn more about Him, and to spend time in His Word, meditating upon His greatness, and His salvation that was abundantly supplied to us.
In Col 3:16, the apostle Paul doesn’t tell us to let God have 10 or 15 minutes of your time every day. He tells us to let the Word of Christ live in us! God’s Word should influence every part of our lives. God has an answer for every issue we face in life, but are we searching out His Word to find and understand that answer?
When we let the Word of Christ richly dwell in us, our life is different. Trials are easier to face. Hard decisions seem to be clearer. And our lives become more joyful and more peaceful. It sounds as if I’m teaching a prosperity gospel. Come to Jesus and all will be well. In a sense that is what God’s Word says. But it is a spiritual prosperity, and a spiritual blessing that the Bible speaks of. When we let the Word of Christ richly dwell within us, we have joy and thankfulness in our hearts.
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.
Now I want to make something very clear here, before we look any further at this verse. Who is Paul writing to in this Epistle? Was he writing to just the elders? Was he writing to just the elders and deacons? He was writing to all the Colossians, right?
Col 1:2 says: “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae:”
Therefore when Paul says that we are to teach and admonish one another, he is talking to you. All of you. No one is left out. We all have a ministry to teach and admonish one another. You can’t escape this responsibility by saying “Well, its not my job. The preacher and the elders are supposed to do that.” Paul says that’s what you do, as a believer.
Let’s look at how this works. Paul mentions two specific results of the Word of Christ abundantly dwelling in the believer; one is teaching. Teaching is the giving of God’s truth. The other is admonishing. Admonishing means: “to warn people of the consequences of their behavior.” Both of these are the result of a life where the Word of Christ richly lives.
Now I’m sure it is easy to see how we are to be teaching one another. We all are lacking in some area of our understanding of God’s Word. And we don’t get that understanding by certain steps that we follow in some formula, or even by following someone’s plan on how to read through the Bible in a year. Now I’m not saying to stop that, but when we spend time in God’s Word, we need to seek to understand it, or we waste our time.
In John 14:26, Jesus said:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
Understanding comes not from Bible commentaries, not from some TV or radio preacher, not from that prayer cloth you paid $20 for, not from me, but from the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not our teacher, then we are being misled, and not instructed in God’s Word.
Paul speaks of both teaching and admonishing. Many believers avoid this issue of admonishing. We might think that we are being judgmental. Our we might worry about how someone might react to what we say to them. But think about it. If you were visiting a state park and saw a person with poor vision walking toward a cliff, would that concern you? Of course it would. And when believers are spiritually walking to that cliff, we should also want to warn or admonish them so that they won’t go over the edge. We don’t do it because we think were somehow better than them, or we are closer to God. But we do it to keep them from falling into temptation, and save them from judgment. If we do nothing, when we see a brother or sister in Christ heading toward danger, it’s not much different from us pushing them over the cliff.
Also, when we teach or admonish others, we do it with the knowledge and wisdom of the Spirit of God, and we do it with love in our hearts. Notice what Paul says in our text… He says “teaching and admonishing with all wisdom.”
Proverbs 3:13, 14 speaks of wisdom. It says:
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
When we teach and admonish with wisdom, then and only then are we doing it in a Biblical manner. Wisdom makes sure that our teaching and admonishing follows James 3:17 which says:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Paul then tells us one of the ways that we do this teaching and admonishing: “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
Psalms were taken from the Old Testament book of Psalms. The early church sang psalms put to music, like we do today. The hymns Paul mentions were expressions of praise to God that the early church put to music, just like the Psalms were. Spiritual songs were those that placed an emphasis on testimony. They express in song what God has done for us.
So these “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” were, according to Paul, to be used as a way of “teaching” and “admonishing”; and since that is the case, shouldn’t our songs therefore be doctrinally sound? Music is a teaching tool, says Paul in our text. Music can shape our thinking. Have you ever caught yourself singing a popular song that had a great tune? I think we’ve all done that, but what do we teach others when they hear us singing songs like:
“Hold On To Your Men, ‘Cause She’s Single Again” or “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”
Spiritual songs give a message, just like country songs. And if our songs are doctrinally correct, and telling the truth of the Bible, then these songs can be used as ways to teach, to encourage, and to admonish other believers.
A song like “Amazing Grace” is a great summary of biblical teaching. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” Scripture certainly tells us that we were wretched sinners! “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.” There are many passages that talk about salvation in terms of being lost and blind – the hymn just takes these images and puts them to music.
Paul continues and says, “…singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Thankfulness is the Greek word charis, meaning: “grace or thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving is very suitable here. Our singing should reveal a grateful spirit. Singing our hymns should be from our hearts and not just our lips.
When Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned for preaching the Word of Christ, how did they respond?
Acts 16:23-25 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;
It makes sense they would pray. If we were in that situation, we’d be praying “Lord, deliver me from these heathens.” But they were praying and singing. What an impression that must have made on the other prisoners! It says, “And the prisoners were listening to them” – what a great testimony! The Greek word here means: “to listen intently.” The other prisoners knew what had just happened to them, yet here they are singing praises to God.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Paul brings this paragraph to a close with this command. Whether we are working in the field, mowing lawns, making dinner, changing light bulbs, or walking the dog, we do it all for our Savior. That’s what makes us different from the world.
This verse is a simple but all encompassing rule for how we live. We have words that come out of our mouth. Paul says let those words bring glory to Jesus Christ. Don’t dishonor Him with anything we say. And the same with our deeds. All our deeds should reflect what God wants us to do. When that happens, God is glorified. Paul says this same thing in 1 Cor 10:31:
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
“What would Jesus do” is a common phrase today. It is a challenge to us. If we are to do all “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” then everything that we do or say should be done or said according to His character and will as revealed in Scripture. When we do things in His name, we do them for Him, and it reflects and reveals Jesus in us.
So, we must evaluate everything we do and say by that standard. Is this something that I can do in His name? Is this something that I would say in His name? Would I be doing this if Jesus were here beside me? Would I say this if Jesus were here next to me? We should so clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ that when people look at us, they see Christ.
Paul closes verse 17 with what I believe is a defining mark of a believer who has the Word of Christ abundantly dwelling in them – “giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” A Spirit-filled, Word-filled believer gives thanks to God for everything.
If a believer is not being thankful, they should examine their relationship to God. I think the root cause of not being thankful, is sin. Being thankful is at the heart of our worship of God. It is an indicator of true worship. The ability to offer thanks in the midst of any situation, good or bad, is the ability to praise God. A thankful heart sees beyond the difficult circumstances to the sovereignty of God. As we let our Savior live through us, others should see Christ in all we do.