Summary: Verse 16 teaches us what should be dwelling inside us so that we can wear the right clothing and attain the rule of peace.
Colossians 3:16 The Word’s Dwelling Place
1/25/15 D. Marion Clark
As we move along in our passage of Colossians 3:12-17, we have so far learned what to wear, what to put on so that our clothing matches, and what to be ruled by. Verse 16 teaches us what should be dwelling inside us so that we can wear the right clothing and attain the rule of peace.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
The opening of verse 16 parallels the opening of verse 15. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” is matched by “Let the word of Christ dwell in you.” Consider the phrase, “word of Christ.”
This is the only time that this phrase appears in Paul’s writings and in the New Testament. Perhaps “the peace of Christ” caused him to think of “word of Christ.” Whatever the case, it is clear what he means. He is speaking of the gospel, which he has already spoken of in his letter.
In the first chapter he writes, “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel” (v. 5). Then later in verse 23, “the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Paul’s calling was to take and proclaim the gospel into regions where it was not known and particularly to the Gentiles. He speaks of himself being a steward of the mystery that had been hidden. That mystery is that the gospel is for everyone, even Gentiles. To them, he was committed to making the word of God fully known, i.e. the gospel.
By “word of Christ,” Paul means both the gospel in its simplest form and its fullest expression. He crystalizes it in several places.
For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith (Romans 3:22-25).
…we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Christ has died; Christ has risen. He died to save us from our sins by offering his life as a sacrifice. We know that he achieved his mission because he rose from the dead, and so we too shall rise. That is the simple gospel.
But the gospel is not a mere formula that gets us into heaven. By using the term “word of Christ,” Paul is indicating that the Word – the full Scriptures – points to and centers around the person and work of Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Malachi, the revelation of God’s Word foreshadows, looks to, explains, builds up to the appearance of Jesus Christ and his work of redemption. The New Testament is a testament to how the Old Testament has been fulfilled in and by Christ. And so the word of Christ is the simple gospel, but it is also the full implication and the full explanation of the gospel as expressed in all the scriptures.
It is this word of Christ that is to dwell richly in the Colossians. The word of Christ is to make its home in their hearts and minds. The word is not kept in a library to visit. It is not meant to be a visitor in their homes, perhaps making a weekly or daily short visit. It moves in. And it is not even satisfied with an in-law suite. It wants free access to every room.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gives an idea of the place of Scripture:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Both passages express the same sentiment. Scripture is not to be regarded as an interesting and maybe helpful book to refer to every now and then. The Word of God is to be integrated into our lives. And Paul’s point is that the Word of God is about the word of Christ. The gospel is not one of several interesting topics in Scripture. All of Scripture is written to promote the gospel.