Letting the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Colossians 3:12-17, ESV)

The church in Colossae, like others where Paul had ministered, comprised a very diverse group of people—Jews and Greeks, Roman citizens and others without that status, slaves and free people, men and women. They came from different backgrounds, but were now united in Christ. Though all part of God’s design for the Body of Christ, this diversity could very naturally lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, judgmentalism, and division. Because Paul recognizes that God has chosen them to be part of His body, he urges them to exercise patience, kindness, humility, meekness, and to have compassion, one for another. He also recognizes that conflicts will happen, and calls them to forgive one another as God has forgiven them, and to put on love and let Christ’s peace rule in their hearts, which leads to harmony in the midst of diversity. Though written long ago, the church needs this same message today. Too easily, our differences can drive us apart when God wants us to be one body, living a life of love, forgiveness, and harmony in the midst of our diversity. Paul goes on to share a means to foster this kind of unity—that being in how we spend time together in the Word.

This passage powerfully reminds us why it is important for Christians to study and understand the Scriptures. It is not so others will see us as smart or knowledgeable, or to feel self-satisfaction as we figure out difficult portions (like ciphering a mystery novel or a puzzle). Rather, it is that we be equipped to teach and admonish one another wisely, ministering God’s Word to one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together (Harper & Row, 1954), explains why God gives us His Word and how we are to use it to support one another.

But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. (pp. 22-23)

As you lead your Bible study group, you are not merely leading them to understand and apply Scripture in their own lives, you are equipping them to minister God’s Word to one another. You are multiplying the ministry of the Word, and it is important they gain a vision for how God can use them to teach and admonish one another. Reading and reflecting on this passage together could be a good way to start.

One powerful way that we speak God’s Word to one another is through the songs we sing together, be it a Scripture song or other worship song that summarize important Biblical truths. When we gather around the Word, taking time to corporately sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we rehearse and affirm the truths of the Word, encouraging one another in light of these truths. Music helps us recall lyrics, helping us to remember portions of the Bible and truths we need to live by. (For example, how many commercial jingles do you remember from your childhood? Advertisers know, and use, the impact of music in helping us remember their products.) Finding and using songs that underscore the Scripture portion your group is studying is one way to help them remember what they have been learning, to speak these truths to one another, and to encourage one another.

It all begins with letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! As you prepare to lead your group, spend quality time in the Word and allow God first to teach you, so that you are able to teach others from the work God is doing in your own life. In turn, encourage your students to let the Word dwell in them, over time shaping their understanding, their desires, and their response in obedience. God will equip them in this way to speak His Word to one another, planting seeds that multiply the ministry of the Word.

Father, thank you for those who have spoken your Word to me, encouraging me to pursue the kind of unity, love, and peace you desire in your body. Help me to welcome your Word into my life, allowing it to dwell in me richly, so that I may grow to be more like your Son, Jesus, and be equipped to teach, admonish, and encourage others with your Word. May the songs we sing together, with thankful hearts, affirm the message of Scripture and encourage our response of obedience to you. Amen.

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