Because Christ is the undisputed Head of His church, we seek Him to do all things to the glory of God. He always does the things which please His Father (John 8:29). There is no room for others who want to tell us how we can/do approach God other than what the Lord has said. Colossians spends so much time exalting Jesus and denying what men say in “the appearance of wisdom” about Who He is and how we relate to God (Col. 2:23). For example, when we teach the gospel of Christ “speaking the truth in love,” God is glorified (Eph. 4:15). When we forgive one another as we have been forgiven through Jesus, God is glorified (Col. 3:13). When we worship God with the word of Christ dwelling in us, God is glorified (Col. 3:16-17).
Notice that in the practical section of Colossians 3, it is unashamedly Christ-centered as the epistle demands: We always seek Jesus (3:1-2). We died with Jesus and will live with Jesus (3:3-4). We put to death the things that are not like Jesus (3:5-10). We seek Christlikeness with the people of Jesus (3:11-15). We fill the church with the word of Jesus and are always reminded to respect the authority of Jesus (3:16-17). We center our homes and our relationships on the lordship of Jesus (3:18-4:6). Consider for a few moments what is accomplished in “teaching and admonishing” in this section of Colossians 3:16-17:
The word of Christ is undisputed among His people. The first word of 3:16 is important: “LET.” This is something that Christians have the choice to happen. “Let the word of Christ dwell…” The “dwell” is an imperative. It means that the Master is at home. In London, the flag raised over Buckingham Palace shows the queen is home, so people know she is there. The word of God held and allowed to dwell in Christ’s people shows Jesus is the undisputed Head of House and He is at home! Jesus is at home among His people when they deeply respect His word (Col. 1:15-18). There can be no real “teaching and admonishing” when we choose to ignore the word of Christ! It is right to apply in asking both in an individual and in a congregational setting, “how ‘at home’ does Jesus feel in me and the congregation where I work and worship?”
There are means of allowing the word of Christ to dwell in His people. “Dwell” is the verb, and there are three participles (“ing” words) which tell how “dwelling” happens: teaching, admonishing, singing. Simply put, teaching is to put the information into the mind and heart. Admonishing is to keep the information in the mind and heart. Singing shows it has affected the heart. Said another way, people learn what is right, and people remind each other that this applies to all we do in Christ, and people show the attitude of gratitude for the Word. A person may be taught and understand forgiveness, but in the heat of their own struggle, they need to be admonished to do the right thing and correctly apply the teaching (Jas. 1:22). Both teaching and admonishing are necessary to let the word of Christ dwell in us and the singing shows the word has affected us.
There are prescribed modes allowing the word of Christ to dwell in His people. “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” show how teaching and admonishing takes place as God’s people allow the word of Christ to dwell in them richly. These song distinctions, while important in their own discussion, lead us invariably to the fact that teaching and admonishing is coupled with joyful praise and devotion to the One who has saved us. It is one thing to teach someone what’s right, remind them of what’s right, but still have them grumbling and complaining along the way. With teaching and admonishing coupled with songs of praise and devotion to our Savior, God’s people joyfully say and sing, “All to Jesus I surrender!”
The thankfulness is obvious in the singing of the people who let the word of Christ dwell in them. “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” shows a tangible result of the people who have received the “teaching and admonishing” and are joyfully doing the word of Christ to the glory of God. The reason so many churches suffer in their song services by people not singing or not singing out, may come from this reason: we have failed to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly!” Thankfulness flows naturally from genuine appreciation for the gift and the Giver. For one who doubts this, reread Colossians 1 and see how Paul compels the reader to drop to his knees in thankful appreciation to and for Jesus. When the word of Jesus has deeply impacted us, it will show in our songs.
There is always a reminder of the authority of the One whose word dwells in us. George Orwell’s terrifying novel, 1984, details a society with ominous reminders everywhere for all citizens, “Big Brother is watching you.” It was meant to assert the authority of a totalitarian state. Paul, not by authoritarian means, but by the appeal of thankful hearts reminds Christians that all we say or do, we do with submission to Christ’s authority. We are the ones who have received the teaching of Christ and admonishment of Christ and we dedicate ourselves to letting the word of Christ dwell in us and to apply it correctly. Thus, all we do glorifies our heavenly Father through our Savior whom we serve with our whole hearts.