Paul gives us a second way to evaluate whether we are putting Christ first in Colossians 3:16.
Are we devoted to the Word of Christ?
He writes, “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.”
He’s talking about the implications the Lordship of Christ has for what we think about and what we talk about and how we worship.
To understand this particular verse, we have to understand what Paul means by the word dwell.
It literally means to take up residence in. The word dwell it highlights the idea of permanence. Picture the church, the people of God as a house. Paul is saying that the Word of Christ is to move in and stay put.
It’s not simply to merely visit us. As you know Marda and I just got back from visiting her relatives in California. We were there for two weeks and stayed in their homes. That’s the relationship many professing believers have to the Word, it comes and visits for a while, but it isn’t living there and it in fact isn’t there very often.
It’s not merely to take up temporary residence in us. We’ve often had people stay in our home for a month or two. Some have even been there long enough to receive mail at our house. But they are not living there anymore. That’s the relationship many professing belivers have to the Word. It once resided in their hearts, and others think it still lives there, but by and large they’ve abandoned it.
If we are going to submit to Christ’s Lordship, the Word must not merely visit us or live with us for a while, it must take up its residence in us.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you…”
As if Paul were anxious for us to understand the importance of doing just this, he adds yet another metaphor. Let the word of Christ dwell in you “richly…”
When you think about riches you think about abundance. The natural contrast is poverty. Someone who is rich has a lot, someone who is poor does not have a lot. Well, we’re to be a people who have a lot of the Word.
Paul is saying we can’t overemphasize the Word of Christ. A word that might help you get the idea of what the term richly means is the word ‘saturated.’ When I get pancakes I put just a little dab of butter on them. When my daughter Cambria was younger, whenever she got pancakes she wanted me to just put the whole stick of butter on it. Then she’d lick the butter off and ask for more. She didn’t want there to be one little section of her pancakes that doesn’t have butter on it. That’s the way we are to be with the word. We don’t want just a dab of it, we want to be saturated with it.
To go back to our house metaphor, if the church were a house you could say the Word of Christ is to be in every room. You can just imagine visiting a house and the owner greets you at the door. You walk by him and he follows you into the living room. You go into the kitchen and somehow he beats you in there. You go upstairs to the bedroom and you can’t believe it, but he slipped passed you on the stairway and he’s in the bedroom before you can even get there. You run down to the dining room and bam he’s down there. And you are like man, you are everywhere.
That’s the way it should be in our lives and in our church. People should go away shaking their heads; man the Word of Christ is everywhere. A Christ-centered Church is a Word-centered church.
That’s the command found in this verse. Next comes the explanation.
But before we look at what Paul explanation of what Word-centered church looks like, let me ask you. If you were asked to describe what exactly a Word-centered church looks like, what would you say?
I’m guessing the first thought that comes into most of your minds is what the pastor does. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, meaning pastors preach the Word…” What I find interesting is that although that obviously is a key part of what is involved in allowing the Word to dwell in us richly it’s not the aspect Paul brings up.
Instead he refers to what every one of us should be doing. “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.”
First, when the word of Christ dwells in a church richly that church is characterized by relationships in which believers are teaching and admonishing each other in light of the word, and doing so with wisdom.
Think about the word teach. If we are going to be a church that is submitting to the Lordship of Christ in a real way we are going to be a church where the members feel a real responsibility to help others understand what the Word means. We’re going to have relationships outside of Sunday morning where we are helping each other learn what the Word of Christ means. That’s what the word teach is all about, right? We’re to teach each other the Word.
Think about the word admonish. If we are going to be a church that is submitting to the Lordship of Christ in a real way we are going to be a church where the members feel a real responsibility to counsel each other according to the Word. We’re going to have relationships outside of Sunday morning where we are helping each other deal with very specific problems in our lives in light of what the Word of Christ says. That’s what the word admonish is all about.
If I showed up on a Sunday morning and didn’t preach, if when the music stopped I just sat there and looked at the pulpit, and we did that for about forty five minutes I’m sure you guys would go home talking about it. That would be awkward. You’d be like I can’t believe Pastor is not fulfilling his responsibility.
Well, the pastor is not the only one with the responsibility to teach and admonish. You have that responsibility as well. And if you don’t do it, it may not be as obvious as me sitting there in the pew on a Sunday morning, but over a period of time the effects will be just as devastating.
Which means that you can’t be all ear. There are people who are like one big old ear. That’s all they are. They listen, listen, listen but they never speak up. Yeah, you’ve got to listen. You’ve got nothing to say if you are listening to God’s Word. But you’re not merely to listen, you’ve got to speak up. You’ve got to get involved in relationships with others where you can help them understand what the Word means.
Second, the word of Christ dwells in a church richly that church is characterized by singing with thankfulness. We talk about expository preaching, well we also need expository singing. It’s an essential.
I think that for some reason it’s easy to downplay the importance of singing. I know for me I’m not much of a singer. But hear this, singing, please get this, singing is not a preference issue. It is not take it or leave it. Because if we’re not singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, we’re not letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. And by the way, as kind of a footnote, we’re not filled with the Spirit; because Paul says over in Ephesians 5:18 “be filled with the Spirit…” well what does that look like? “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…”
Sometimes people are like, well I don’t like singing. Just know this, there are a lot of other people out there who are like, well I don’t like preaching. God wants preaching in the church and He also wants singing.
This is about the Lordship of Christ.
We can evaluate whether or not we are putting Christ first by evaluating our relationship with each other, are we controlled by the peace of Christ? And we can evaluate whether or not we are putting Christ first by evaluating our attitude towards the Word, are we devoted to the word of Christ?