March 16, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with 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 the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs 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.
The foundation of the Christian life is God’s grace given through Christ. This grace is communicated through the good news as it is proclaimed, taught, and enacted. The gospel should live fully and freely in our Christian communities. We can help this happen as we remind each other of God’s love in Christ.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Live Who You Are.
Colossians 3:12-17 teaches us to live who we are as people chosen, holy, and beloved by God. We do this by “putting on the clothing of Christ,” being compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient (3:12), putting up with and forgiving each other (3:13), clothing ourselves with love (3:14), and letting the peace of Christ govern our hearts (3:15). Colossians 3:16 adds a new “garment” to our Christian wardrobe: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
Let’s unpack this imperative carefully. The phrase “word of Christ” could refer to the teachings that Jesus gave while he was on earth. But that’s probably not what it means here. Rather, in this passage, the word of Christ is the word about Christ, the message about what God has done in Christ for us and our salvation. The word of Christ is what we often call the gospel, the good news of God’s grace in Christ by which we are saved, redeemed, and restored.
Colossians 3:16 says we are to let the word of Christ—that is, the good news, dwell in us. The Greek verb translated here as “dwell” literally means “to make your home someplace.” We could translate this imperative, “Let the good news of Christ be at home in you.” The Message puts it wonderfully, “Let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives.”
Before we finish our examination of “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” we need to scrutinize the word “in.” That could mean “inside of each one of you individually.” Surely, the good news of Christ should be at home in each of us. But the Greek word translated here as “in” can also mean “among.” Thus, the first phrase of verse 16 could be translated, “Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly.” (That’s what the NIV does, by the way.) Given the context for this imperative, which has to do with the corporate life of the church, I think “among” is the more accurate translation. Yes, the word of Christ should live in each one of us individually. No question about this. But also and importantly, the good news should dwell among us in our life together in Christ.
Notice the word of Christ is to dwell among us “richly.” The indwelling of the gospel is not an insignificant or incidental part of our life together. Rather, the good news of Christ needs to fill our lives, our fellowship, our worship, our relationships, and our witness. As the Message puts it, the word of Christ should have the run of the house in our church.
How? How will this happen in the life of a Christian community? What can we do so that the word of Christ will have the run of the house, so to speak? There are many good answers to this question, but today we’re going to focus on one. Tomorrow we’ll examine another from the last part of Colossians 3:16.
In the original language of verse 16, there is one imperative (“let dwell”) followed by two supporting participial phrases (teaching/admonishing; singing to God). Thus, the first half of this verse could be translated in this way, “Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly by teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” Here’s one way to let the word of Christ dwell among us. We teach and admonish each other in all wisdom.
Teaching refers to a wide range of instruction. We can teach theological doctrine, practical living, spiritual disciplines, social ethics, and all sorts of other things found in Scripture. Admonishing is a more focused kind of communication. It involves helping a person who has gone off track get back on track.
Notice that we’re to teach and admonish each other “in all wisdom.” Whenever the New Testament mentions wisdom, we first think of Christ. As it says in Colossians 2:3, in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Christ, as the Word of God incarnate, is the ultimate embodiment and communication of God’s wisdom. Thus, whatever we teach and however we admonish, Christ must always be central. The word of Christ, the gospel, should pervade all of our teaching.
Now, when we let the word of Christ dwell richly among us in this way, when we teach and admonish each other in all wisdom, then the word of Christ will also dwell richly in our individual hearts and minds. The gospel will become more and more central to how we think, feel, act, and speak. Moreover, we will be equipped to teach and admonish others in light of the good news of God’s grace in Christ.
This kind of teaching doesn’t happen only in official church gatherings. And it isn’t done only by church officials (pastors, preachers, priests, etc.). All of us are exhorted to teach “one another.” Most of the time we will do this in conversations among friends and family, in small groups and ministry teams, as we remind each other of the good news of Christ. Ephesians 4:15 makes a similar point in slightly different language, “[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Who speaks the truth in love so that we grow up in Christ? We do, we, the members of Christ’s body.
If we do, then you do. Or you should, at any rate. If you are a member of Christ’s body, then you are called and empowered to be a speaker of the truth, a communicator of the gospel. By your words and deeds, you will help the word of Christ to dwell richly among your fellow Christians. As this happens, you will be living faithfully who you are in Christ.
In your experience, what helps you to have the good news of God’s love in Christ alive in your soul?
Who are the people in your life who “teach and admonish you in all wisdom”?
Who are the people in your life who help you to remember God’s love for you?
In what contexts are you teaching and admonishing others in all wisdom?
In the next few days, remind someone that God loves them.
Gracious God, thank you for the good news of your grace in Christ. Thank you for the truth of this good news. Thank you for those who have helped me to know and believe this news. Thank you for those who continue to remind me of your love for me.
Help me, Lord, to be one who helps the word of Christ to dwell richly in my Christian community. May I be available to teach and admonish others. May your wisdom, the wisdom of the gospel, fill my speaking and acting.
At the same time, may I be open to being taught and admonished by my sisters and brothers in Christ. Help me to hear your truth and to receive your guidance through them. Together, may we let the word of Christ dwell richly among us. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: “I’m Doing Alright by Myself” (Colossians 2:1–23)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.