“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)
This is the only time that the phrase “the word of Christ” occurs in the New Testament. It’s normally “the word of the Lord” or “the word of God.” And it is in the context of how the body of Christ operates together. There is no hierarchy, or chain of command here; apart, I guess, from seeing this as an instruction from the absent apostle, like a memo from the boss. But even then, he is not telling them how to behave until he gets there, but simply how to get on with the business of living together as Christians.
So how do you do it?
You “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Remember that none of the readers of Paul’s letter had a New Testament, so what was “the word of Christ“? It must have been, first, the Gospel that Paul had preached (that is, the message about Christ).
You have to know the facts, after all. There’s no point going into an exam without any revision done, and there’s no point going into the world as a Christian if you don’t fully know what that means.
But there’s no reason to think that this was a complicated issue. This was “Good News,” after all, like announcing a cure for cancer, or telling your neighbor that the war is now over, or telling a grieving widow that her husband is somehow miraculously downstairs, alive and well. Paul was encouraging them to let the facts of Christ’s life, teaching, death and resurrection really take root.
And of course, those facts have consequences. If Christ healed people whilst he was physically present on the earth , can he heal now through the “body of Christ,” the church?
And if Christ could speak “Peace” into the storm of pain, and suffering, fear and darkness, can he announce that the war is over in my heart right now?
And if he truly conquered death on the cross, has he conquered death for us too?
Once the truth sinks in, nothing can ever be the same again. So “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
But note that word “let.” The word of Christ is ready and willing to dwell in us. The only issue that remains is our volition. The word will indwell us if we let it. We have to allow God to develop and nurture that word. The word “dwell” means to keep house. We should live in the Word of God like we live in our homes. Peterson paraphrases: “Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives.”
And remember, all this is not just for preaching purposes, or the list of items on a tract to be given out. This is the way we live together, building one another up in the faith. The word “you” is plural here.The idea is not of individual excellence in memorising Bible verses (though it’s not a bad idea, by any means!), but of knowing the stuff about Jesus, putting it into practice and sharing your discoveries with your best friends.“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another…” The word “teaching” means a straightforward presentation of facts. “Admonishing” means the applcation of those facts to what’s going on.
So, you “dwell” on the story of a blind man who received his sight. You ponder the teaching from Mark 16 that “These signs shall accompany those who believe. They shall lay hands on the sick and they shalll recover…” And you “stir one another up to good works...” to do the things that Jesus did, and to teach the things that Jesus taught,and to “be” Jesus in the world.
And this is a lifestyle. It’s the whole business of what we call “church.” And it is expressed not only in praxis, but also in praise. Supremely, we are the people who worship. So:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”