Colossians 3:16 by Robert Dean
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:47 mins 18 secs

Priority on the Scripture Col 3:16


Colossians 3:16 NASB "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

This is a significant verse for a number of reasons. The first reason is because of the basics command that is there, that we are to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us. But the second half of the verse also gives us one of the results. It is the first in a series of results that come in the subsequent verses—"with all wisdom" with the result that we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The second half is foundational for understanding the theology of music in the church.

There is in evangelicalism today something that is sometimes referred to as worship wars, and the focal point of these worship wars today is on music. There is a lot of heat and little light in the discussions on music and that there are a lot of things that are going on today related to that. Here at West Houston Bible Church we sing what is usually referred to as traditional hymns. Our focus isn't on tradition, though, it is on the content of the words and the quality of music. Today we need to understand why that is important.

But now to understand the foundation for that we need to understand the first part of this verse which focuses on the dwelling of the Word of Christ in us. First of all we have to understand this basic command. It uses a word in the English that is often a word that we use to describe various other aspects of our Christian life. We talk about the fact that we are all indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. It is a form of this word, not the exact word, but the English word is something that by frequent use often loses its impact. It is a compound word in the Greek, enoikeo [e)noikew]. oikeo is the root verb which means to make dwelling somewhere or to live somewhere. It is prefixed by a Greek preposition en, which intensifies the meaning of the verb and it emphasises establishing your dwelling, your habitation some place, taking up residence somewhere, and it indicates that something makes a home there. So the command "Let the word of Christ richly dwell" seems somewhat passive and we get away with thinking, well if I go to church once a week or if I affirm the Scriptures that is okay. This is a much more powerful command than that. The word enoikeo has the idea of someone coming and moving into your house, becoming part of your family, and where they have made your house their home. That is the idea here. The Word of God should be as much at home, if not more at home, in every aspect of our thinking and our life than anything else.

To put that in context, most of us have a career that demands a lot of our time and attention. We are very much at home with whatever it is that is our profession. We may have done this now for many years and really understand what it is that we do, and we are very comfortable with that. Some are younger and haven't done that for very long, so they are still trying to make their profession or career at home in their life where it is second nature to them. That is the idea with the Word of God, except that it should be more at home in our life than anything else that we do.

For many people there is something of a tension in their life because they have to devote a certain number of hours every week to their vocation, whatever that may be. That is part of their application of the Word of God and part of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within them. But the challenge is that most Christians today are compared to believers in the past amateur wannabees. Believers in the past were biblically literate and well informed. Growing up in the education environment of that day meant that you had probably read through most of the Bible several times by the age of fourteen or so. You graduated from high school and went to college and were taught a curriculum—especially in the colony of Massachusetts—that included Greek and Latin so that you could sit and be a productive member of your congregation because you could read along in the Greek text of the New Testament as the pastor taught. It was not unusual even in the 19th century for a congregation to have as many as ten or fifteen men who were as at home in the Greek text of the New Testament as the pastor.

So when we talk about this idea of letting toe word of Christ dwell richly in our lives then we need to understand a little more about what that means. The focal point here is on the phrase "the word of Christ." This is a term that refers to special revelation. Special revelation is a theological term, not a biblical term. It is a term that relates to God's direct disclosure of His message to us and for us. It is communicated by various means. For example, in the Old Testament as well as the New dreams, visions, theophanies, Christophanies, audible communication, and it is also recorded for us in the 66 books of the Bible. There were things that were revealed via special revelation that we have no access to. There were certain things that were revealed to David, to Abraham, to Noah that we have no knowledge of; but they had a knowledge of those things. That all comes under the category of the word of Christ. This phrase "the word of Christ" is only used this one time in the Scripture. Usually we have the phrase the Word of God or the Word of the/our Lord. The focal point is the same. Paul uses the word of Christ here in Colossians because the focal point of his message in this epistle is to remind the Colossians of the superiority and the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ as the fount of all knowledge. He is one with the creator and the source and sustenance of all strength, the one who sustains believers in all manner of situations.

In the original, whether in the Hebrew or Greek, often refers to just a specific statement or a command of God. For example Isaiah 39:5 NASB "Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, 'Hear the word of the LORD of hosts.'" That is how he introduced what he had to say. It was a specific message from God to Hezekiah at that point in time when the Assyrians were threatening the kingdom of Judea. It was a specific message, so it has a narrow meaning in that sense. It also has to do with certain commands of God, as we see in Psalm 33:6 NASB "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host." There we have a reference to what took place in Genesis chapter one. And as we go through each of the days of creation in that chapter we read such as: "And the Lord said, Let there be light." So there was this utterance of a command by God and instantly there was light. So it is by the word of the Lord, the command of the Lord, that the heavens were made. The word of the Lord can also refer to the Scripture. Isaiah 28:13 NASB "So the word of the LORD to them will be, 'Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there,' That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive.'" That is, how the Word was taught. It also refers to the broader sense of all of God's special revelation to man, as in Isaiah 40:8 NASB "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." This is not talking about an individual command or message but the entirety of God's revelation to man.  

In the New Testament the Word is used in this broad sense when it is speaking of the entirety of Scripture. For example, Hebrews 4:12 NASB "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Also 1 John 2:14 NASB "…because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you …" That word "abide" has to do with fellowship, and because of fellowship the Word of God is dominating, controlling the thinking of these young men when they are in fellowship.

Just as an aside, the word "abide" is a synonym to the word we have in Colossians 3:16, enoikeo, meaning to take up residence. Abide has a different sense, a different nuance, and the word enoikeo has the idea of making completely at home, where as abiding has to do with something that is staying, remaining and controlling.

When we look at the use of this phrase "the Word of the Lord" we see that it is used in a way that is similar to the law of God. The term "law" is one that we sometimes restrict in our thinking to just the Mosaic Law. Actually the word "law" in Hebrew is the word torah. Torah has the idea of law not just in terms of statutes and ordinances but of instruction—instruction in the way of God. Sometimes even all of the Old Testament is summarised by this word torah, so the law of the Lord is not just talking about the Mosaic Law itself, it is talking about the entirety of God's revelation.

We also have an emphasis on the value of the Word of God in the meditation in the second part of Psalm 19. Psalm 19 is divided into two sections, the first six verses focus on general revelation and starting in verse seven the focus is on special revelation. And note that we have various synonyms for God's Word just as we do in Psalm 119. Psalm 19:7 NASB "The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." The Word of the Lord is also described as statutes in verse 8, "The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. [9] The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether." Having read that we see that the Bible is perfect, sure and certain, it is right, pure, it converts the soul, it makes the simple wise, it brings joy to the heart, it brings understanding and enlightenment to our thinking. Now why in the world wouldn't we want that? Why wouldn't we want something like that to completely control and dominate our thinking?

When the psalmist comes to his conclusion in verse 10 he says, "They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb." So he compares it to wealth and to physical appetites of hunger. So why do we spend time pouring into things that just have temporal value. That is not to say that it is wrong to have hobbies or things of that nature. [11] "Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward." The reward is the reward of a life that is well lived because it is lived on the basis of truth and for the glory of God.

Another passage that helps us to understand this concept of letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within us is Deuteronomy 6. Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" "Hear O Israel" is a command to listen. This command in Scripture is not just a command to stop and pay attention, it is a command to do what you are being told to do, to listen to instruction and then perform the instruction. It is the idea of not just academically listening to something but listening and responding and performing what is being taught. "Listen, Israel! Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh alone."

Then we have the first command. Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." This is the preface, the foundation for what comes afterwards. The command is to love Yahweh, their God, and then it is modified by three phrases: all your heart, all your soul, and all your "very" [Heb.]. Very what? Very usually modifies something else, but there is no something else there. It is usually translated "with all your strength" or something of that nature, but literally it should be translated "with all your very." It is as if you reach a point in your description of something and you no longer have the words to describe what you are trying to say. You are building to something enormous, a crescendo, and when you get there you are lost for words to describe what you are trying to say. So what God is saying here is love the Lord your God with all your mind, i.e. with what you think, with all your soul, all the dimensions of your soul. And then with all your "everything." Everything that you have you are pouring into your love for God.

This kind of love, though, needs to be defined and it is defined in the context of Deuteronomy in terms of obedience to what God has told Israel to do. They are to listen and learn all that God has told them. They are to let God's Word richly, fully dwell in their lives, in other words. But how is it described here in terms of specifics? This is seen in the next three verses.

Deuteronomy 6:6 NASB "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." The Hebrew preposition there is not the preposition which would mean inside of or in, in terms of something internal; it is the preposition which means to be over, above or around. It is a word that has more than forty different translations. It is a preposition that covers the extent of. It is talking about the heart which in Hebrew understanding an expression of the makeup of a human being talking about the innermost part of the person. It is your thinking. It also includes your volition in many cases, but it is the totality of what makes you you in terms of the totality of your soul. These commands should be "upon your heart." When we talk about something being on our heart, what are we talking about? We are talking about something that we are constantly thinking about. The idea here is that the Word of God should be on our thinking continuously.

How has that been developed? Assuming that you are a parent or a grandparent, Deuteronomy 6:7 NASB "You shall teach them diligently to your sons [children]…" The word for "teach" is shanan, and it literally means to repeat, to recount, or to recite something. What happens when you are reciting things back is that you should be thinking about what it is that you are saying. This is how people learn things—rehearsing, reciting, reviewing. Parents were to recite and rehearse the commandments of God for their children. This was supposed to be part of their ongoing conversation with their children. The word "diligently" has been added in English to try to intensify the idea of teaching, but the Hebrew concept is really to recite this or to rehearse this. This was how the Word of God would be passed on from one generation to another.

" … and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." Reciting has to do with teaching, talking and reciting something. When do you do this? Throughout your life, day in and day out, as you are living your life you need to be relating to that to the Word of God. Not in a pedantic sort of way, ramming and cramming it down your kids throats, but just because you live and walk and breathe your life in God's creation and as you are relating to the creation of God around you, you make those observations in relation to your children.  

Deuteronomy 6:8 NASB "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." In rabbinic Judaism later on this was taken literally and this refers to the phylacteries that orthodox Jews are often seen wearing. They take it literally and physically but the idea of the sign on the hand is that this is to impact the things that you do, the things you produce in life. With the frontlets on the forehead the thought is that this is to control what goes on between the ears or, in the Hebrew sense, behind the eyes. They are going to think about God's Word. 

Deuteronomy 6:9 NASB "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." The word for doorposts in the Hebrew is a word that refers now to a small ornament-looking thing seen on usually the front door of a Jewish home. Inside there is a copy of this Scripture standing for the entirety of the Mosaic Law. It is taken literally, but the idea here is that everything that goes on inside of our homes should be organised and ordered around the Word of God as its ultimate priority so that the Word of God permeates everything that we do in life. Another word that we find in Scripture that talks about this is a word for meditation. Meditation also has this sense of reciting and reviewing something. When we memorise Scripture we rehearse it. It is reflecting upon the Word of God. 

So we are to let the Word of God richly dwell within us. That is another word that indicates wealth, abundance. It is used in a number of passages to indicate the super abundance of God's mercy in our life. So how do we do this?

First of all, everyone should make Bible reading a part of their life. We should be reading our Bibles just so we become knowledgeable of Scripture. We sing in a hymn, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." That is a reference to an event that occurs in 1 Samuel 3 and 4 related to God's deliverance and victory for the Israelites in a battle where they set up a monument stone as a reminder of who God is. Ebon = stone; ezer = strength, aid, assistant. So it is a rock of help, a reminder that God is the one who aids, helps, strengthens Israel and who gave Israel victory in the battle. So when this is used in a poetic manner—"Here I raise my Ebenezer"—it is a memorial stone of how God has been the assistant, the helper who strengthened the writer of the hymn. If we don't read our Bible and figure out these names and references then when we sing a hymn it means nothing to us.

Another thing we should do is take notes. Taking notes is a way of helping us concentrate on what is being taught. Later we can go back and review those notes and be reminded of what was said.

Another area of challenge is that we should increase attendance in Bible class. The emphasis in Scripture is that we are to assemble together to encourage one another. We should also challenge ourselves to memorise Scripture: "Your Word have I hid in my heart."