A collaborative post by Josh Lawson, Nathan Odell, and David Bolton
for “The WORD in 3D“.
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“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
Colossians 3:16 NIV
Before times eternal there burned the love of a Father for his Son. The Father’s cup overflowed with unrestrained affection for His only begotten, and it was not enough to keep the sight of such peerless worth to Himself. Unable to contain His love, He decided to create. Why?
Because God wanted eyes that were not His to see the beauty of His Son.
So the Father spoke, and by His Word an entire creation came into being, all pictures and shadows of Christ. And when the fullness of time came, the Word Himself became flesh. Creation was granted to see what God looks like in human dress.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the overflow of the Father’s unending heart. This Word gives light to every man and woman who comes into the world, but He dwells especially in His saints. The same Christ who resides in the heart of God, resides now in the heart of men.
“Let his dwelling within you be rich and overflowing,” Paul admonished the Colossians. In other words, do not lock up His expression in your heart, but do as the Father did: Let the Word of Christ which is in you spill forth unto one another.
Speak forth and sing out the Christ who inhabits your spirit. Teach one another by His Word. Admonish one another. Give Him expression any way you can, just don’t be silent. For the Word that is in you is meant to flow through you.
As each member of Christ awakens to the Lord’s indwelling and begins to express his or her unique portion of God’s Word, the entire Body is advanced unto spiritual fullness. For Christ is so magnificent that no single member can ever hope to contain or express Him fully. Should you wish to see Christ as He truly is, and was, and is to come, it will only be as you do so through your participation in His Body, alive and fully functioning.
So the next time you gather with the saints, let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (the “you” is plural by the way, as in “you all”). His indwelling is made rich and overflowing only as you open your mouth to share Him with your sister or brother, and as they do the same for you. So do it.
Christ has clearly chosen us as His habitation. He is in each one of us individually and He is in us corporately as His Church. The indwelling Christ is the foundation of our Christian life and shapes how we experience God. If Christ did not live in us, we could not know Him intimately nor could we experience Him or hear Him. He would simply be a person we read about in the Bible. Thankfully, He has chosen to be close enough to us that we can actually know Him as brother, friend, and lover.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the first portion of Colossians 3:16.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
There’s a picture I’d like to expand that fits this portion quite well. When someone comes to stay in your home, it’s generally on the basis that you have “let” them or given them permission to stay in your home. You allow them to have access to certain areas of your house and allow them to perform various functions in the house. In this portion, Paul says we must “let” the word of Christ “dwell” within us. In other words, Paul is saying that we must let Christ and His word take residence in us. We must give Him permission to invade or inhabit our lives and hearts. We must give him access to every part of our being, and in doing so, allow Him to live richly in us. For Him to live richly, He must be completely welcome, and our hearts must be fully available for Him to enjoy and speak into.
The only barrier to Christ dwelling richly in us, is if we lock a few doors. He’s not one to do things against our will, so He will only enter into areas of our heart where we let Him. We often feel like hiding certain things from Christ behind these doors, either because we are ashamed or afraid of what He might say. However, He is very gracious and wants to take away whatever might be causing us shame or fear. When we let our home become His home, everything that shouldn’t be there will be cleared away. We must simply open each and every door for Him to enter. As we let Him in and as we spend time talking to Him, His words will fill our hearts richly.
In essence, the Christian life is simply surrendering and allowing Christ to take up habitation in us. He wants to live with us and spend time with us. It’s quite simple to do, but has profound implications. One thing that happens, when we let Him in, is He starts to transform us from the inside out. His word starts to become our words. His wisdom starts to flow out of our hearts. He teaches us and even corrects us when we make mistakes, in a loving way, which manifests in us being able to teach and admonish our brothers and sisters. We share wisdom, teach, and admonish one another because Christ has shared His wisdom, taught, and admonished us. Living with Christ in this way is very enjoyable and will often cause us to sing songs of joy, which we can share with one another.
Therefore, we should carefully consider if we have let Christ and His word fully into our hearts, and may we be able to enjoy the Lord in a real and free way that will ultimately allow Christ to impact others through us.
As I consider this verse, I’m captured by the phrase, “the word of Christ”. This phrase is unique in that it is only found this once in Scripture. So why did Paul use it here, and what did he mean by it?
I believe the key to understanding this phrase, and this entire verse, lies earlier in this same epistle.
If we go back to Colossians 1:25-2:3, we see that Paul is declaring to the church the very heart and heartbeat of his calling and commission from God.
He begins,“I have become (the church’s) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (1:25-27)
Paul had been given “surpassingly great revelations” of this “mystery of Christ” and as a result of the Father being “pleased to reveal His Son in” him, was commissioned to “preach… the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (see 2 Corinthians 12:7, Galatians 1:15,16, Ephesians 3:4,8)
This all-consuming, all-encompassing revelation of Christ was the burning passion of his heart and the furnace that fueled his ministry.
He then goes on in Colossians to say, ‘We proclaim Him (Christ), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom…” (vs. 28)
Can you see the striking parallel here with Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom…”?
This inward revelation Paul had of “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you” was what Paul proclaimed. This was “the word of CHRIST” dwelling in HIM richly! And this is what he then exhorts the church to have dwelling in them richly so that they may express the glorious riches of Christ to one another as he had been doing!
Paul’s ultimate objective is that the church may come to a full and complete knowledge of Christ. This would only happen, though, as the saints themselves took up this ministry among themselves.
Paul said, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (2:2-3)
This treasury of Christ is so vast and deep and wide and full that He can only be explored, experienced, expressed and enjoyed collectively by a body that is “encouraged in heart and united in love.” This is a corporate endeavor and experience. It takes all of us supplying Christ to one another, in encouragement and love, in wisdom and revelation, in teaching and admonishment, in word and song, in gratitude and praise, to begin to have the full riches of complete understanding of this glorious Mystery of Christ among us.
This, then, is why Paul exhorts the Church to, “Let THE WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
May we be those in whom the Father is pleased to reveal His Son, and may Christ, Himself, and the life-giving expression of Who He is, dwell in and among us richly for the glory, pleasure and satisfaction of the Father, and for the edifying of the body of Christ in love!
Together we say: (a collaborated prayer)
Father, fill our hearts with the endless affection you possess for your Son,
that as the two of you are one in the same Spirit of love, we also may be one in You.
May we dwell with you openly in oneness and richness of life, imparting to others what you freely impart into us, so that you may have preeminence in all things.
And may the rich treasures of Christ fill and overflow our hearts in word and song, in gratitude and love, as the life-giving Word dwells in and among us richly.
Please take time to visit and explore the contributing authors’ respective blogs for more Christ-honoring content by them:
Josh Lawson at “In Search of the City” (No longer active)
Nathan Odell at “Joined to Him“
David Bolton at “Christ-Centered Christianity”
For more information about “The WORD in 3D” initiative, please see here.