Receive the Word (7)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3.16, 17
Paul’s vision for the church
We cannot read the epistles of Paul without realizing he held a clear vision of the local church. He considered that Christ had raised and called him to lay out the blueprint for His Church-building agenda (cf. Matt. 16.18; Eph. 3.8-10, 4.11-16). Paul saw the church as a community in which the Word of God is firmly planted, has taken deep root, and is bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17, 18).
Since we are all members of the Body of Christ, it is our duty and calling to contribute to this community of the Word of God. As the living Word of God dwells richly in us, we must contribute to the enrichment of our local church by bearing the fruit of the living Word with our fellow church members.
What forms should we expect that to take?
Teaching and admonishing
First, Paul commands us to express to one another what God is impressing on our souls from His Word.
The words “teaching and admonishing” cover a wide range of activities, both formal teaching and informal conversations, simple exposition and earnest warnings, individual and corporate settings. Christian learning is active learning, and everyone has a role to play as student and teacher. We have a duty to one another, in encouraging one another for wisdom, and for love and good works (Heb. 10.24), to take an active part in the instruction and discipleship of those who are fellow members with us in the Body of Christ. We must insist that the educational opportunities in our church be structured to allow, and even insist on, discussion, interaction, accountability, planning, and prayer, under the oversight and direction of skilled teachers and shepherds.
The Lord has placed pastors and teachers in each congregation, and the greater burden of instruction falls on them (Jms. 3.1) But each member in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly must also take responsibility for teaching and admonishing others, so that together the Body of Christ can realize more of the unity of the Spirit and attain increasingly to the maturity of Christ (Eph. 4.3, 13-16).
A second way the indwelling Word leads us to contribute to our local church is by our active and lively participation in the worship of God.
Worship is not a spectator sport. And worship is not about us – what we expect, enjoy, or want. God insists on being the focus of our worship, as well as our worship leader. We are worshiping God as He prescribes when we are actively adoring Him, attending to Him, and assisting our fellow worshipers to do the same. We should sing robustly the praises of the Lord, pray earnestly with thanksgiving and confession, and make sure we do not distract our fellow worshipers in any way from seeking the Lord. Paul says the fruit of the indwelling Word will be manifest as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord, as we give Him heartfelt thanks together for all His abundant goodness, and as we submit to one another before Him (Eph. 5.18-21).
Such worship begins in our heart, where we daily respond to the Lord’s kindness, and it continues as an ongoing celebration of the Lord whenever we are together with His people as the Body of Christ. Worship that does not draw us together into the very presence of Jesus Christ, and through Him, to the Father of glory, may be fun and exciting and something we want to do more and more, but it will be little more than worship of ourselves, and what we will and want (Col. 2.16-19; Ps. 50). Such worship will not contribute to letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly.
Everything in Jesus’ name
Finally, the members of Christ’s Body will represent Him to the watching world as they go out from their times of instruction and worship to live for Christ in every area of life.
Local churches should have a vision for how they can impact their communities for the Lord, to bring the beauty, joy, and presence of the Lord into every nook and cranny of their community (Ps. 48). Pastors and teachers must equip their members to receive the indwelling Word, and to let it live through them in lives of service, witness, and social and cultural engagement for the glory of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.11, 12).
When Jesus came into a community, everything changed. People rushed to Him expectantly, wept at His good works, marveled at His teaching, and longed to be near and touch Him. This should be the same wherever His Body is living out the living Word together. A community of the Word of God will make a Kingdom impact on the larger community as it follows the example of Christ and the vision of Paul to turn the world upside down for Jesus Christ (Acts 17.1-9).
Each of us in whom the Word is beginning to dwell richly must make every effort to contribute to the health and growth of our local church, for it is as a community, where the Word of God dwells in all its richness, that the church becomes a true sign of and outpost for the Kingdom of God, spreading righteousness, peace, and joy throughout its community in the name and for the glory of Jesus Christ.
1. What opportunities for teaching and admonishing are available for you? Are you making the most of them?
2. How would you evaluate your own active participation in worship? Do you see any areas of your worship where you might improve?
3. What do you think would be the hallmarks of a true community of the Word of God? In what way are you seeking to contribute to realizing this objective?
Next steps – Transformation: How might you begin to make a more consistent contribution to your church becoming a community of the Word? Talk with a pastor or church leader about this question.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.