Grace For The Journey
In today’s blog, we come once again to Colossians 3 and Paul’s description of the manner in which a Christian should live. The characteristics described are impossible to carry out unless there is a radical change in the individual. The person without Christ, including those who have a false profession, might be able to carry out some of these commands with the people they love or want to impress, but they cannot do it to all people as is required of the Christian. The believer has to live according to these virtues even with their enemies.
Those who place their faith
In the Lord Jesus Christ
And His atonement for
The forgiveness of their sins
Are radically changed by God.
They are redeemed,
Reconciled with God
Though the sacrificial death
And resurrection of Jesus.
Their old self dies with Christ
And a new self is raised
To newness of life.
Here in Colossians 3, Paul describes that as “the old man” and “new man.” The old man is dead and needs to be put off, and the new man needs to be put on. The new man occupies the same old physical body of the old man and has to contend with a brain that has been trained to think in wrong patterns and view the world incorrectly, but those things will change as the believer is conformed into the image of Christ.
The old man is dead and Christian needs to quit dragging his old corpse around. His previous deeds and attitudes are to be put to death – immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed along with anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech. In their place . . .
The deeds and attitudes of the new man
Are being developed through
The cleansing of God’s Word,
The renewing of his mind,
The empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The believer’s character is changed so that he is marked by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other and agape love. These virtues are not limited to friends and loved ones, but are extended to all men. The result of this is a disposition of peace and thankfulness. Because the believer has peace with God through Christ, he can be at peace himself and extend peace to others. A peace that is not just the absence of conflict, but a peace of harmony in relationships. Obviously, such harmony requires both parties involved to work at being at peace and it may not be possible if one of them refuses to do so. That is why God only commands us to be at peace with all men so far as it depends on you. Such an effort would include living out these Christian virtues.
Let’s look at how we can love the Word of God . . .
1) The Indwelling Word of Christ.
I feel a need to concentrate one more day on verse 16. This verse shows us another area of the work of God in our hearts that arise out of the change of character in the Christian faith in the Christ brings.
Verse 16 says, “Let the word of God 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.”
This is the only place that this particular phrase, the word of Christ, occurs. This is one of the used to describe the Scriptures. Another common phrase is “the word of the Lord.” Every time it is used it refers to the communication that God has given to man so that man may know Him and His will. In short . . .
It is a reference to the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, and reinforces the fact that the Scripture, both the Old and the New, place the emphasis on their teachings on Jesus Christ.
This parallels the phrase “the peace of Christ” in the previous verse and it would be an important emphasis to the Colossians. Remember that throughout this letter Paul stresses the superiority of Jesus Christ in correcting the false teaching that was occurring there. The false teachers were claiming that they were speaking the things of God. They advocated such things as religious rituals, keeping holy days, worship of angels, self-abasement, and ascetic practices as the way to God. Paul makes it clear that . . .
It is Jesus Christ and Him alone
That shows us the way
To live for God and
Have life in Him.
The Bible teaches that God delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us in the kingdom of His beloved son, Jesus (Colossians 1:13).
- It is in Jesus that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14).
- It is Jesus that created all things in the heavens and the earth, visible and invisible including thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities. All things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15).
- It is Jesus that holds everything that exists together (Colossians 1:16). He therefore is the architect, builder, possessor and sustainer of everything that has been created.
- In addition, Jesus is the head of the church, the first born from the dead and preeminent in everything (Colossians 1:18).
- It is in Jesus that the fulness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form (Colossians 1:19; 2:9).
- Jesus is the one that reconciled us with God so that we have peace with Him (Colossians 1:20).
- It is Jesus that makes us complete (Colossians 2:10) because it is in Him that we have been buried in baptism and made alive together with Him so that we are raised up as new men (Colossians 2:12-15; 3:1).
- And finally, we will be glorified with Him when He returns (Colossians 3:4).
In view of all of this . . .
It is only reasonable
That His teaching should
Dwell in us so
That we will
Carry out His will.
The idea of “dwell” is for the teachings of God to reside within in us.
It is to live in us so that
We can live it out
In what we think,
What we say,
And in how we live.
Jesus Himself made the same point in John 15 when explained that He is the vine, we are the branches, so we must abide in Him to have life. We are to abide in Him and His word is to abide in us if we are to prove to be His disciples. David expressed this idea in Psalm 119:11 when he explained that the way to live a pure life was to hide God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin against the Lord.
Paul adds here the adverb “richly” to describe . . .
The degree to which
This should occur
In the life of a believer.
It is to be within us
The word of Christ
Should direct every
Thought and decision
That we make.
We should be striving to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:15) so that we can make and live out decisions that will glorify Him.
The third part of the Great Commission is to teach believers to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:20). But . . .
None of this can happen
If you do not know the teaching
And truths of the Bible.
There is a knowledge base
That must be present
And that knowledge needs
To be present in abundance.
You need to know
God’s Word richly.
As important as this is, it is becoming increasingly hard to find professing believers that actually know even the basics of Scripture much less know it “richly.” Is it any wonder then that there is little difference between the manner of life between most people who claim to be Christians and those that do not. It is one thing to have little knowledge when you first become a Christian because it does take time to learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. But what can be said for those who claim to have been believers in the Lord Jesus Christ for 5-10 years and they still have only read a very small portion of the Bible, they are ignorant of major portions of Scripture, the number of verses they have memorized is minuscule, and they can hardly find a reference during a sermon – if they even brought their Bible with them.
How sad that some true believers are in this condition because that is the model of the Christian life they have been taught in their church. But for others, this is no longer just ignorance, it is passive rebellion resulting in active sin because they still do not know God’s will for their life. Perhaps that is why they desire to remain ignorant, and if so, there is a question about what they really believe about Jesus and salvation from sin.
I don’t think I am being harsh here in the least, and I am glad that in comparison with other churches the percentage of folks in our church that do know their Bibles and are striving to live holy lives as a result is high. However, we should never rest on our laurels or compare ourselves to others.
We must continually strive
To have the Word of God
Dwell in us richly
Because we want
To know and
Live for Him.
I hold no illusions or expectations that others in this church should know the Scriptures as well as I do considering I have been able to spend so much more time studying it over the past 53 years since I first read through the entire Bible. However . . .
I do think it is reasonable for me
To think that other professing believers
Should have a similar desire
Of wanting to know
The Word of God better.
What is your desire toward the Scriptures? Do you want the Word of God to dwell within you richly? The fact that you reading my blog today tells me you have at least some interest of this for that is our focus here and I commend you for it. But I also want to challenge you to go further. While devotionals like the Daily Bread are helpful, go beyond just the printed verses. Pursue reading through the entire Bible. Get involved in a small group Bible Study where you can interact with other believers about what you are learning so that you can help each other live accordingly. Don’t let the distractions of this world keep you from learning the Word and gaining its riches.
Paul continues on in the remainder of the verse to explain a practical way that believers can help each other know the blessings of the indwelling Word . . .
2) The Blessing of the Indwelling Word to Others.
Paul states in verse 16 that in having the Word of God richly dwelling within us then with all wisdom we are to be teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Wisdom is the ability to take knowledge and apply it to life. There are many people who suffer from having a lot of knowledge but without wisdom. The Lord wants us to take the knowledge we gain from His Word and apply it to life. Not just our life, but also the lives of others because we are part of His body and we are to help one another walk with Him.
Again, that is the third point in the Great Commission. We are to help one another walk in obedience to the Lord’s commands. We are to apply the knowledge we have gained from the Word of God richly dwelling within us and help one another walk in a manner worthy of our calling by Him.
The word “teaching,” is the word from which we get “didactic.” It refers to “instruction in knowledge.” It is telling someone the facts and their relationship with each other. This is the positive side of imparting truth. We pass on to others the knowledge that we gain in learning from our own study and from others also.
The word “admonishing,” has a root meaning of “to put in mind.” It can also be translated as “exhort,” “teach” or “give instruction” though it is focuses on “pointing out things that are wrong and giving warning about them.
We teach someone how do right
Admonish them about doing wrong.
We actually already saw both of these words in our study of Colossians 1:28 in which Paul states the goal of his ministry was that he might “present every man complete in Christ.”
His means for accomplishing that goal
Was to proclaim the Lord while also
“Admonishing and teaching
Every man with all wisdom.”
The Scriptures were written down for our instruction (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) and Paul labored in teaching wherever he went (1 Corinthians 4:17). While there are certain gifted men God gives to the church to teach and instruct as elders and pastors (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9), this responsibility also belongs to all those within the church.
Paul told the Romans that he had confidence in them because they were full of goodness and knowledge that they would be able to admonish one another (Romans 15:14). He urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to, “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”
Our goal needs to be the same as Paul
In desiring to present every man complete in Christ,
And we are to accomplish it by the same means
Of teaching and admonishing one another
Based on the Word of God which is to dwell within us.
In that way we share with others the blessings we have received from having the Word of God dwelling in us.
3) The Expression of the Indwelling Word to Others.
What is somewhat unusual in this passage is the particular means that Paul states we are to use in teaching and admonishing. Obviously those activities are normal parts of preaching. As already pointed out elders / pastors are to be instructing from both the positive and negative sides and Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). Instructing and warning would also be normal parts of counseling someone.
But here Paul states that teaching and admonishing are to be done through the means of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. There are several ramifications in this verse to our use of music within the church and as individual Christians which I want to expand on, but first I want to make some general comments about music in the church and explain the general meaning of each of these types of music.
There is a wide variety of passages that mention music in the Bible.
- Music is often a response of joy to salvation and all its ramifications. The Israelites sang after their escape from Egypt (Exodus 15). The Christian sings in response over the joy of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ.
- Music has been part of the church from its foundation and it will be part of our activities in heaven where we will join in the chorus of praise singing the song of the Lamb (Revelations 15:3).
- The various Psalms clearly indicate that godly music includes a wide range of subjects. There are many that are prayers of trust (Psalm 3 & 4) or petitions for protection (Psalm 5) or mercy (Psalm 6). There are Psalms that focus on the majesty of God in various ways including His greatness displayed in the heavens (Psalm 8 & 19), His mighty works in Israel’s history (Psalm 68, 77) and in answering prayer (Psalm 66). Psalms extol various attributes of God including His goodness (Psalm 92), eternity (Psalm 90), power and dominion (Psalm 97), omniscience and omnipresence (Psalm 139) and faithfulness (Psalm 99). There are Psalms of mourning over sin (Psalm 38) thanksgiving for forgiveness (Psalm 32, 51). There are various petitions for deliverance (Psalm 59) and punishment of evildoers (Psalm 58). There are laments over suffering (Psalm 60, 79) and calls to worship (Psalm 100, 148).
Ephesians 5:19 has almost the same phrasing as Colossians 3:16 to describe what should be the normal expression of being filled with the Spirit. Those who are controlled by the Spirit of God demonstrate that by “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
When we consider both of these verses together, we find five types of music: psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody.
Psalms refer primarily to the Old Testament psalms put to music. But the term is also used of vocal music of any type and especially those accompanied by a string instrument. We have already seen that Psalms has a wide variety of specific subjects, but primarily they are focused on God, His character, work, and petitions to Him. Many of the Psalms as well as other Scriptures have been set to music in modern times. In our hymnal I Will Sing of the Mercies is from Psalm 89, Thy Word is from Psalm 119:105, and Come Let Us Worship & Bow Down is from Psalm 95:6. Others are adaptations of Psalms such as Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven based on Psalm 103 and A Mighty Fortress is Our God based on Psalm 46
Hymns center more on songs of praise and differ from the psalms only in that they specifically praise the Lord Jesus Christ. Many scholars believe that certain Scripture passages such as Colossians 1:12-16 were used in this manner. A Hymn would include songs such as May Jesus Christ Be Praised, Worthy is the Lamb, Our Great Savior and Majesty.
Spiritual songs were probably songs of testimony that covered a broad category of any music that expresses spiritual truth. This would include many of our modern choruses as well as songs such as My Jesus, I Love Thee, He Touched me, Just as I Am, and Have Thine Own Way, Lord.
Singing simply means to make music with the voice. You may sing well, you may sing poorly, but God wants you to sing. It is to be part of your worship of Him. Ephesians 5:19 adds “making melody” to the types of music. “Melody” comes from “psallo” and means specifically “to pluck on a stringed instrument” especially a hand harp. The closest instrument we have to that now would be a guitar, but the word is also used for a wide range of other instruments.
As I close our study today, let me now expand on some of the ramifications of Colossians 3:16. First, note that there is no mention about the quality of the music. While it is beneficial to have those with better ability performing special presentations for the congregation lest we drive people away, yet every believer is to be involved in singing whether you have perfect pitch or you can only carry a tune in a bucket. The phrase “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” occurs seven times in the Psalms. While there were special opportunities for the trained musicians and singers to make beautiful sounds as is detailed in the temple worship, there is also an important place for everyone to be involved. This verse specifically states that music is to be used in teaching and admonishing one another which includes everyone, but this also points out the next ramification of this verse.
Secondly, a lot of new songs focus more on the “beat, rhythm, and volume of the music” and have no biblical content or message. While there are new songs that are written in accordance with this passage, I am sure this verse would probably come as a shock to a lot of those involved with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) in its various genres for so much of it is just empty blather. Many are repetitious phrases without any content. Many others make allusions to something, but it is never made clear exactly what. Todd Friel refers to one genre of these as “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs because you can’t tell if it is talking about Jesus or a boyfriend. A classic example of this is You Light Up My Life which was very popular in CCM thirty years ago. The song was supposedly about Jesus, yet contained the phrase, “how could it be wrong when it feels so right?” That does not apply to Jesus, so the song is not about Him, yet the great ignorance of the Word of God gave cover for the delusion that it was a worship song. It has only become worse since then.
Thirdly, I am amazed that a number of CCM artists are even called Christian considering that the use of any of the names of Jesus or of God the Father are very rare. Who can tell what is really being sung about? Why make allusions instead of telling it like it is? You can sell a lot more recordings and become more popular if you write your lyrics in such a way that they can mean anything the listener would like it to be. It is also the reason for such repetition of bland phrasing in so called “worship music.” It is easy to “praise the Lord ” if nothing of substance is said about Him so that you can believe whatever you want. Like tofu, which can be made to taste like nearly anything, much of CCM music has lyrics that can be flavored in any manner desired by the listener. Such songs cannot offend because they say little and leave the truth about God and how He wants us to live to the imagination of the hearer.
Fourthly, added to this is the problem of Biblical ignorance on the part of the wider Christian community which accepts and propels songs and artists to the heights of popularity without discerning the actual message being presented. “Christian” radio stations plays songs that are aberrant or even heretical in their theology, yet Christians of all stripes accept them as being Christian because they got air time on the “Christian” radio program. The same thing happens with concerts because the artist is performing at a church.
Paul states here that we are to teach and admonish each other by the use of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
He is not referring to just
What is performed in a church
Or at a worship service,
But rather what should
Fill our days and
Fellowship with one another.
Before radio, smart phones, ipods, and the internet, people would sing to themselves and to one another while working and in gatherings for socialization and entertainment.
Paul makes the point here
That those should be seen
As opportunities to help
One another in
Walking with Christ.
The ability to fill our days with recorded music only adds to this command. As a Christian you need to be thoughtful and careful about the music that you make part of your life. I am not talking about the music you hear that you have no control over. I am talking about the music you listen to and play for others when you do have a choice. Do your musical choices help the Word of God to dwell richly in you? Do they teach you about God, His character, His will, how to live a righteous life? Do they warn you against straying from the narrow way that leads to righteousness?
I have observed within the greater Christian community that such discernment is increasingly rare. Professing Christians freely listen to music that glorifies evil instead of warns against it. The supposed “Christian” music they listen to is filled with tofu lyrics, have pablum for doctrinal content and may even have aberrant or heretical theology in them. My fear, beloved, is that you can fall victim to this as well. I challenge you to become and be discerning in your choice of music.
Now in saying all of this I hope you understand that this applies to all the types of music you listen to, not just what is supposed to be Christian music. There is plenty of room in life for all sorts of music including happy songs, sad songs, ballads, instrumentals, songs about relationships, work, play and life in general. There are even times when fun or silly songs can be appropriate. Yet in all of them . . .
We must be discerning
That the message of them
Fits within the parameters
That God has set.
God is honored.
Righteousness is promoted.
Sin is admonished.
Songs that glorify sin or mock righteousness or disparage God are always out of bounds.
4) The Worship Arising from the Indwelling Word.
The final part of this verse brings in again the use of music in the worship of God. We are to sing with thankfulness or grace in our hearts to God. When the Word of God dwells richly within you, then there will be a proper response of worship to God for all that He has done. The word “grace” here can also be translated “thanksgiving” because it is the response to God’s grace received that we respond with gratefulness in singing in our hearts to Him.
The idea of singing in your heart is not a reference to emotion or singing silently, though it is certainly fine to have a song in your mind that you do not express audibly. This is rather a reference to a response of worship that arises from within your core of being with the heart being a metaphor for what you think and choose. The origin of true worship is always internal. Many people can sing with their lips or make skilled sounds on instruments, but if the heart is not included, it is not spirit filled music of worship and so will lack in its ability to truly praise God or be a spiritual blessing to others. A non-Christian can sing a song about our Lord, as many of them do in singing Christmas carols or some popular gospel song, but it is not worship. Only a true Christian redeemed, regenerated and reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ can fulfill this command to sing with thankfulness in their heart to God in true worship of Him.
Our motivation and protection against the subtleties of the world and the flesh is to have the Word of God richly dwell in us so that we are discerning about truth and error and what is actually edifying and what is detrimental.
Local bodies of believers can help one another become more knowledgeable about God’s Word and how to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded us. However, it must be your own desire to have the Word of God richly dwell in you before it will actually happen.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”