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Colossians 3:16 & Ephesians 6:18-20 by Robert Dean
The purpose of singing hymns is to teach and admonish one another. Does that answer give us a hint as to what kinds of hymns we sing with regard to the words and the music? Will a repeated chorus of “Do Lord” teach and admonish through the potency of the written Word which is alive and powerful? What are some practical ways for us to make certain the Word of God is in our minds and our memories? If the reason we sing is to express our joy and response to God, is singing an option in worship? Is singing a significant part of our spiritual life?
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:41 mins 14 secs

Meditation; Singing to the Lord. Col. 3:16, Eph. 6:18-20

 

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."

We have been focusing on the initial command in this verse that we are to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within us. As we do this there are certain things that will result from that, and one of these results is the teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  It puts its stamp upon our life when we are letting the Word richly dwell within us; it becomes obvious and apparent that it is at home in our life. 

We can see from the Scripture that there is a value placed upon the knowledge of the Word. One of the passages we have looked at is in Psalm 19 which is a meditation upon the Scripture. There are various ways in which the Scriptures are described by different phrases: the law of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, the judgments of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord. In conclusion the psalmist says in verse 10, "They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb." Everything is of less value than the knowledge of God's Word. Because, v. 11, "Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward." We learn wisdom so that we do not get caught up in the traps of this life where we make bad decisions, and another result is that by walking in obedience to the Word we will experience great reward—not necessarily financial reward but the benefits and the blessings that come from walking consistently with the way God created everything in life. Rather than in creating our own reality we are walking in the reality that God created and therefore as a result we will experience blessing. That blessing comes from the application of His Word. 

Hebrews 4:12 is another passage from the New Testament that talks about the Word of God. 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." It is living and powerful, not just the words of some old dead writer who lived thousands of years ago, and it springs from the very mind of God and therefore it is like God is—eternal. It is the eternal thinking of God and so it is just as alive and real and true today as it was when it was written. Its power derives from the fact that it is truth, the thinking of God Himself as He has revealed Himself to us. It is described as being sharper than any two-edged sword. The metaphor here is that it is sharper than a physical sword because a physical sword can merely separate a head from the torso or a limb from the body but this is a sword that pierces to the very inward parts of our being, our person, who we are. It distinguishes between the soul and the spirit. In many case these terms are used synonymously but this verse emphasises that there is a distinction. The soul is the immaterial part of us—our mentality, our will, our conscience, our volition. The spirit is that element in our nature that energises the soul so that it can have a relationship with God. The Word is a discerner, i.e. it exposes our internal thoughts and our motivations, the intents of the heart. So the Word of God is viewed here as that which has real power, and that power derives from its truth and the truth comes because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:16, it is the mind of Christ.

So if the Bible is what it claims to be then nothing in life is more significant for us than to know the Bible. That doesn't mean that nothing else in life is significant but this is what gives meaning and definition to everything in our life.

The command in Colossians 3:16 is to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our lives. We have looked at examples of this in Scripture, e.g. Deuteronomy 6:4ff. Throughout the whole course of our life we should be constantly enriched by the Word of God so that it always flavours and is a part of our conversation.

Memorise verses word for word perfectly. As we do this and rehearse it in our mind we need to think about the meaning of the words and the phrases and what that verse is communicating. By thinking it through like that, thinking about the relationship of the phrases and clauses within the sentence it helps to understand what it is that we are memorising and it becomes a little more real and significant for us in our thinking. This is all part of what the Bible refers to as meditation. Meditation is a very important concept in the Scripture. The meditation that is emphasised in the Bible is very different from the meditation that we find as a technique of psychology or as a technique in the eastern religions. In eastern religions specifically the idea of meditation is to empty the mind of thought. In the Bible and Christianity meditation is filling your mind with what God has revealed. It is a focus on biblical content; it is to think about what God has said and what He has revealed.

For example, Moses instructs Joshua. When Moses was going to leave to go up on to Mount Nebo and die and is transferring leadership to Joshua, he said: "This book of the Law (Part of Scripture) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night…" What part of the clock doesn't fit within day and night? "… that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it." Notice the order there. First you meditate on it, think about it. The Hebrew word there for meditate means in some places to utter, to mutter, to moan, to meditate, devise and to plot. It has a wide range of meaning. It has the idea of thinking through something, devising a plan, bringing together something you give intense thought to as you are planning something. The idea here is to give something details thought, concentration. First you think about it, then you put it into practice—"observe to do." The result: "Then you will make you way prosperous, and you will have good success." This is not talking simply about material prosperity or business success; it is talking about success in life, success in our relationship with God and accomplishing that which God intends for us.

There is another word that is used for meditate and in the Psalms it is used at times as a parallel to the word used in Joshua 1:8. It has the idea of talking. Sometimes it means to muse, to reflect, sometimes it has the idea of complaining. What happens when you complain? You just talk about the same thing negatively all the time. That is the idea: repeating something over and over, talking about it.

Psalm 77:12 NASB "I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds." Notice the movement here. It is from thinking about your work. Where do we learn about God's work? By studying His Word. We spend our time thinking about God's Word and then we talk about it. It is a natural progression from study and thought to application.

Psalm 105:2 NASB "Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders." Too often in too many churches today people have lost a sense of why we sing, or they have the wrong idea of why we sing. We live is a music oriented culture and music is related to entertainment. But that is not what we do with the music when we come into the church. The purpose for music in Christianity from the Old Testament to the New Testament was never on entertainment; that is not its function. Yet that is how all of us have been brainwashed by our culture to think about music. Music is a way in which we express our joy and response and what is going on in our soul in response to who and what God is. It is a vital and significant part of spiritual life, and yet today we have too many Christians who don't understand that. It is just something that has been done traditionally, but the real thing is on the teaching of the Word. But as we will see, both Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19ff basically are saying, "Be filled by means of the Spirit" and the first result is singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you" and the result is "that you will teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." This isn't optional, it is not secondary; it is vital. If you are letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within you or within the congregation, if you are filled by means of the Spirit, then singing is a vital, central, core, significant element that is the result of that.

Some Christians say they don't really like to sing. Get over it! Let the Word of Christ change your stupid thinking, because that is what that is—stupid, shallow, trivial cliché thinking. We have too many people today who think terribly about the role of music in the church in a lot of different ways. They have too much of it and it is entertainment, or they don't think it should be there. That is not what the Bible says. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament this is central: it is a priority, it is vital, it is a sign of spiritual health. Without it, and poor singing by a congregation it is a sign of spiritual weakness. In Psalm 105:2 the word "speak" is the same word as for meditate. There is a connection there between the hymns, the content of the hymns and meditation.

Psalm 119:15 NASB "I will meditate on Your precepts And regard [contemplate] Your ways." [23] "Even though princes sit {and} talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes"— the contrast between the believer who is obedient and those who are antagonistic to the Word. [27] "Make me understand the way of Your precepts …" Result: "… So I will meditate on Your wonders." Meditation, thinking about it, talking about it, rehearsing it, is the result of understanding it. [48] "And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes." [78] "May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; {But} I shall meditate on Your precepts." The contrast is that when we are under assault we think about the Word of God, we think about the content of Scripture. It is in Psalm 119 that the psalmist says, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee." It is the whole concept of memorisation that makes it a part of us so that the Word of Christ can dwell richly within us.

So when we look at our passage in Colossians 3:16 the starting point is to let the Word of Christ richly dwell, inhabit, take up its residence in our life. And then there is an issue related to punctuation. Remember that in the Greek text there is no punctuation. The way the King James version translates this is that they put the phrase "in all wisdom" connected to "Let the word of Christ dwell" and that is not the best place to put it. That phrase really is a modifier of the subsequent participles teaching and admonishing. It should be repunctuated this way: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you" and then "with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another." It is the application of the Word that produces wisdom, and the application of wisdom is what lies behind the writing of hymns.

We understand that there is a priority of letting the Word of Christ inhabit our souls, our thinking, and then the first result mention is "with wisdom" or "in the sphere of wisdom" it results in teaching or admonishing. These two verbs—here in participial form, which indicates result—express what should follow in letting the word of Christ richly dwell within us. First of all it involves teaching. The first thing we should note whenever we are going to sing anything is whether it teaches us anything about the Word. What is the teaching in the verse and is the teaching accurate. It is not simply the sort of endless repetition of a phrase or two of Scripture.

We are to teach and we are to admonish. The word for admonish is the word neutheteo [neuqetew], building off the Greek noun nous for mind. It is addressed to the mind to challenge the mind to a course of action, so it is addressed to challenge the will to a course of action. So the purpose for a hymn is to instruct and to challenge people to a course of action. Note: it is not to make us feel good, not to uplift us. Those are secondary but they are not the criterion. The criterion: does it teach the Word of God and does it challenge us to obedience to the Word?

We see the same emphasis in Ephesians 5:18 in the last phrase: "be filled with the Spirit, [19] speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Incidentally, we will find a lot of different explanations of "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." The LXX uses all three of these phrases to refer to the psalms of the Old Testament. Some people will say the psalms refer to the psalms of the Bible and hymns refer to hymns that have been written in the course of the church, and spiritual songs refer to songs with spiritual content. That is not how the words were used in the Old Testament. All three of these terms were used as synonyms to refer to the book of Psalms. There are some older denominations where all they will sing are the Psalms, but that is limiting because the Psalms don't speak of New Testament truth. So we add to that.

This relates us to this whole concept that we are singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs because it is a priority. It is part of our spiritual life; it is a sign that we are filled with the Spirit an walking by the Spirit. That needs to challenge us. We should sing and sing well because we are singing to God.

The hymn Soldiers of Christ arise is a great example of hymnody. It was written by Charles Wesley. Notice the words, and the words should always drive this. One of the things we will observe when we talk about hymns and what we sing is that the words are what should create any emotional response in us. Having an emotional response is not wrong. It can be but in and of itself it is not. Music is always designed to impact our affections.  

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o'ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.

Stand then against your foes, in close and firm array;
Legions of wily fiends oppose throughout the evil day.
But meet the sons of night, and mock their vain design,
Armed in the arms of heavenly light, of righteousness divine.

Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
Indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind that was in Christ, your Head.

But, above all, lay hold on faith's victorious shield;
Armed with that adamant and gold, be sure to win the field:
If faith surround your heart, Satan shall be subdued,
Repelled his every fiery dart, and quenched with Jesu's blood.

Jesus hath died for you! What can His love withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield, and who shall pluck you from His hand?
Believe that Jesus reigns; all power to Him is giv'n:
Believe, till freed from sin's remains; believe yourselves to Heav'n.

To keep your armor bright, attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain's sight, and watching unto prayer.
Ready for all alarms, steadfastly set your face,
And always exercise your arms, and use your every grace.

Pray without ceasing, pray, your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!

In fellowship alone, to God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, besiege His throne with all the powers of prayer:
Go to His temple, go, nor from His altar move;
Let every house His worship know, and every heart His love.

To God your spirits dart, your souls in words declare,
Or groan, to Him Who reads the heart, the unutterable prayer:
His mercy now implore, and now show forth His praise,
In shouts, or silent awe, adore His miracles of grace.

Pour out your souls to God, and bow them with your knees,
And spread your hearts and hands abroad, and pray for Zion's peace;
Your guides and brethren bear for ever on your mind;
Extend the arms of mighty prayer, in grasping all mankind.

From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well fought day.
Still let the Spirit cry in all His soldiers, "Come!"
Till Christ the Lord descends from high and takes the conquerors home.