When was the last time you had a conversation with another Christian about Jesus? If we’re honest with ourselves, it can sometimes be difficult, even within our Christian circles, to speak the gospel into each other’s lives. We find it much easier just to engage in small talk about the weather, the football scores, or where we would like to go for the holidays. Perhaps it’s because a part of us realises that speaking God’s Word to one another is serious business. We realise it will force us to confront our sin as our souls are pierced by the double-edged sword of the Spirit. We shy from it because allowing our lives to come under the scrutiny of the Word is as naturally appealing to us as going for a colonoscopy.
Yet, Col 3:16 clearly commands us with the following exhortation: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
As we break this verse down into its constituent clauses, it will help us to consider why it is important to constantly speak the Word to one another, and give insights into how we can help each other to live Word-saturated lives.
1. “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly…”
Some of us may be under the impression that the gospel is just for unbelievers. Some may think that it is merely the entry point to a life of faith, but once we come into relationship with Christ, we move on to other things. The first clause of Col 3:16 puts this misconception to rest. This command to “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly” is addressed to the early Church in Colossae. We may be wondering why it is important that we continue to speak the gospel to one another even after coming to faith. The preceding section of Colossians helps us to see that the young Church in Colossae is under threat from the dangerous teachings of the world. Col 2:8 reads “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”. It is by continuing to speak the gospel to one another that we are reminded of our blood-bought identity in Christ and how we are to continue to walk in him, “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col 2:7). We are reminded that we have died to our old selves and been raised with Christ through faith. Truly, we never graduate from the gospel no matter how long we’ve been Christians. As we help one another to understand the gospel more deeply, we see with greater clarity how precious Jesus Christ is, and desire to become like him more and more. We are encouraged not to shift from the hope of the gospel, to continue in the faith and to persevere until we meet Jesus again. What a blessing it is to be able to encourage one another with the glorious gospel of grace!
2. “…as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…”
However, as all of us must admit, there are times when we do not yearn for Jesus. The blindness of sin clouds our judgement. We who are younger in the faith may not have fully grasped and experienced what it means to abide in the gospel through suffering and trials. It is for this reason that the next clause of Col 3:16 specifies that we are to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom”. To be admonished is in a sense to be rebuked or scolded lovingly. And sometimes this is what we need to receive from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Self-centredness and love of the world may temporarily take hold of us. Therefore, God has lovingly placed us in relationship with one another that we may gently but firmly point each other back to Jesus. Rather than relying primarily on our own experience to counsel one another, God has graciously given us His Word, in which all wisdom is contained. As we minister to one another with the Word, surely our goal must be to bring each other back to a reverential fear of the Lord.
3. “ …through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts…”
But lest we end up thinking that speaking God’s Word to one another is simply a dour and sombre affair, the rest of Col 3:16 reminds us of the joy in engaging with the Word in song. While this part of the verse is typically applied in the context of corporate singing, I believe there is an application for us even in informal settings. While it may not be our habit to meet to sing Christian songs together or to form our own Christian bands, we can consider sharing helpful hymns and songs with one another via social media and other platforms. These songs can often be an encouragement that points us back to Christ in dark times. I have personally been blessed by such sharing on my Facebook Feed and would certainly commend this practice. My wife can personally attest to how Page CXVI’s rendition of ‘Be Still My Soul’ was stuck in her brain after I played it on loop at home for the better part of an evening. Not the worst way to help us remember the hope we have in the promises of our sovereign God .
God’s very own songbook in the Psalms is also a lovely place to go to reawaken one’s affections for Him. Through the Psalms, we are reminded of the realities of living in a fallen world, but at the same time, we are assured of the even greater reality that God is in control and cares for his covenant people. What a shame it would be if we ignored this wonderful resource as we ministered to one another!
It is my prayer that we would grow in our understanding and experience of what it means for us as a church to be letting the Word dwell richly amongst us. May God work his purposes mightily in and through us as we drink deeply from His Word and grow deep roots in Christ!