Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. – Colossians 3:16
What dwells in you? What do you fill up on? What do you put into your mind and heart? In our culture the focus is on what we physically consume and put in our bodies. That affects physical longevity. But there is something more important than that. What you put in your mind and heart affects your eternity. If you feed your mind and heart with unholy, purely secular, worldly junk food you’ll be run down spiritually and clogged with sludge. If you feed your mind and heart with “the word of Christ” you’ll be fruitful and spiritually healthy.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to fill up on “the word of Christ.” This is the Bible which is the word of Christ in that “in the volume of the book it is written of Me” (Heb. 10:7; Psalm 40:7). Jesus is the central theme of scripture. Jesus is central and preeminent (Col. 1:15-20). Therefore it is logical and expected that Paul should refer to God’s word this way and then exhort us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you . . .”
Eternal life is all about knowing Jesus (John 17:3). Jesus reveals Himself to us in scripture. That is why it is so important for us to take in the word of God. A.W. Tozer spoke of this when he wrote:
"Let us seek to know Him in the Word. It is in the Word we will find the Holy Spirit. Don't read too many other things. Some of you will say, "Look who's talking!" Well, go ahead and say it, I don't mind; but I am reading fewer and fewer things as I get older, not because I'm losing interest in this great, big, old suffering world, but because I'm gaining interest in that other world above. So I say, don't try to know everything. You can't. Find Him in the Word, for the Holy Ghost wrote this book. He inspired it, and He will be revealed in its pages."
The word of God is living in that it is not some archaic irrelevant book that has nothing to say to contemporary society and its people. Far from it! The word of God is always pertinent (Heb. 4:12). It is the “Holy Bible.” “Holy” means unique. There is no other book like the Bible. It transcends history and serves as a timeless source of wisdom for the ages.
What does it mean for something to “dwell in you”? “Dwell in you,” a translation of one Greek term, means to inhabit, or dwell in. The grammar of this verb gives the sense of a continuous action that we practice and that is absolutely necessary. Therefore we could translate Paul’s words it is absolutely essential that you always take action to have the word of Christ dwell in you.
We are to always actively seek to have the word of Christ dwell in us “richly” or copiously, abundantly, richly. It’s as though we are to spare no expense and make every effort to see that the word of Christ is overflowing inside us. When was the last time you spared no expense or made it a priority to feed on God’s word?
Why is this so important? Because the word of Christ is God’s Holy Book. An unknown writer has described The Bible – God’s Holy Book in the following way:
This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and it’s decisions immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Christ is its subject, our good it’s design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is given to you in life, will be open in the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy precepts.”
We are to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly “in all wisdom.” The word wisdom means skill. If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, then wisdom is the ability to apply facts to solve problems. Therefore, we are to be skilled in applying God’s word to life and its many situations. We are to be diligent in studying God’s word in or that we can use it skillfully in life (2 Tim 2:15).
Paul says “teaching,” we are to teach the word of Christ. John Wesley spoke of his process of letting the word of Christ dwell in him and then from that he taught. He stated:
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing, — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri. [i.e. A man of one Book]. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights: — "Lord, is it not thy word, ’If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?’ Thou ’givest liberally, and upbraidest not.’ Thou hast said; ’If any be willing to do thy will, he shall know.’ I am willing to do, let me know, thy will." I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach.
The teaching of God’s word should flow out of personal contact with God through His word. Teaching the Bible is not a mere academic task. It is valuable to have an understanding of the original languages, theology, doctrine, but unless those things are applied personally and anointed by Holy Spirit empowerment, they are worthless.
Some seminaries are referred to in a derogatory sense as cemeteries. This is because there are Spiritless professors whose focus is on the letter rather than the Spirit behind God’s letters of His word. They lack a reverence for God’s word. They hack it up with pompous opinionated critiques. They put themselves in a place of judgment over God’s word. And because God’s word is God’s means of salvation and sanctification their desecration of it prevents them and their students from experiencing either (e.g. 1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-3; 2 Pet. 2). God’s word is settled in heaven, it lights our way, it is truth (Ps. 119:89, 105, 160; John 17:17). We have no right to change it; we forfeit our distinctiveness as Christians when we do (Deut. 4:1-8; Rev. 22:18-19).
Those who abuse God’s word inevitably become the white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones Jesus referred to (Matthew 23:27). These professors work hard at removing or discounting any true spiritual substance from God’s word. They look at the things of the Spirit miracles and anything supernatural with jaundiced eyes. They disregard the finger of God. They are unteachable skeptics who feel it their calling to “educate” away any spiritual life they see in students. They are like the hypocritical religious leaders of Jesus day who, “travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Mat. 23:15). There are Spirit-filled seminaries and seminary teachers. Such teachers are to be sought ought and appreciated. But there are others who sap the spiritual life of students and those should be set aside until they repent.
Paul spoke of “admonishing one another” with the word of Christ.” “Admonishing” means to caution, to gently reprove, to put in mind of, to caution or instruct. We are to live by the word and seek to be used by the Lord to help others do the same. We are to be able to find counsel for our life situations as well as counsel others in their life situations from the word of Christ.
C.H. Spurgeon spoke of the way we should approach and handle the word of God stating:
"How are we to handle this sword of 'It is written'? First, with deepest reverence. Let every word that God has spoken be law and gospel to you. Never trifle with it; never try to evade its force or change its meaning. God speaks to you in this book as much as if he came to the top of Sinai and lifted up his voice with thunder.
I like to open the Bible and pray, 'Lord God, let the words leap off the page into my soul; make them vivid, powerful, and fresh to my heart.'"
Our Lord Himself felt the power of the Word. It was not so much the devil who felt the power of 'It is written" as Christ Himself. The manhood of Christ felt an awe of the Word of God, and so the Word became a power to Christ. To trifle with Scripture is to deprive yourself of its aid. Reverence it, and look up to God with devout gratitude for having given it to you.
Interestingly, Paul speaks of admonishing or gently instructing “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Worship is a means God uses to instruct us in the word of Christ. Worship ceases to be worship when its focus gets off of Christ and His word.
“Psalms” are songs of praise, a sacred ode, and refer to song arrangements involving instruments and voices. “Hymns” are songs of celebration. Hymns may refer to Biblical Psalms. “Spiritual” means non-carnal, supernatural, eternal oriented, spiritual as opposed to secular. “Songs” means singing. The idea in all of these words is the edifying instruction of God’s word through music and singing.
Paul referring to “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in the context of exhorting the reader to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another” tells us that worship is to be scriptural. That means the songs we sing in worship are to be in agreement with scripture and include God’s word. Instrumentals in worship are nice, but they do not communicate words and therefore are outside of what Paul is speaking of here. And the songs we sing in worship are to be tools God uses to instruct those singing. The songs we sing are to be doctrinally sound so that they teach us the truth of the word of Christ.
What dwells in you, images of secular TV? Word pictures of impure worldly literature? The word of God is pure (Ps. 119:140). If you take it in it will clean you out (Eph. 5:26). The word of God will revive you (Psalm 119:25). The word of God will show you who you really are (James 1:23-25). The word of God is the scalpel God uses to perform spiritual surgery (Heb. 4:12). But the greatest thing about God’s word is that it is the word of Christ. Jesus is the word made flesh (John 1:14). Let that word of Christ dwell in you richly. You won’t regret it.