Eat your Bible
Throughout the book of Colossians Paul has been pointing the Christians to the person of Christ, not a human philosophy or thought. Christ is not an abstract thought but in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9). Paul continually emphasizes that Christians need to look to Christ who is supreme and sufficient over all things and not look to other weak and worthless principles. Paul is addressing the application of this doctrine. I must point out, again, that to Paul doctrine and application go hand in hand. Correct doctrine will lead to correct practice. Paul has addressed the Christian’s relationship to God (Col 3:1-4), to sin (5-9), and to actions (10-14). This week Paul continues to explain the effects of Christ in the life of the believer. Paul points them to a person, Jesus Christ, and not a philosophy, principle, or process.
I. Peace of Christ (Vs 15)
After explaining what the Christian should ‘put on’ after removing the old sinful self. Paul now turns to the inside. First Paul commands the believers to ‘let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… (Col 3:15). When we think of peace in today’s world be normally think of a tranquil space which we can go that is free from noise and clutter. The word can have notions like this but more importantly it means more than a ‘safe space.’ We need to think of this word as great moments in history when the battle is over, and death has stopped. No longer do we live in fear of death, but the war is finished. Imagine living in London between 7 September 1940 – 11 May 1941, when Germany was attacking England. During this time over 18,291 tons of bombs were dropped in 71 raids. Many children were sent to live in the countryside. Separated from family. The sounds of air raid sirens, planes flying overhead, bombs falling and exploding, people screaming, houses burning, fire trucks and their sirens. For over eight months London did not have peace. To them peace wasn’t a safe place it was life and death, silence was not just a place to clear your head.
Although this word is only used twice in Colossians (cf. Col 1:2) compared to eight times in Ephesians. Paul uses a similar concept in Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Christians do not have hostility but peace. “And [Christ] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph 2:17). It is not abstract peace, but peace found in the person of Christ. Paul writes that the peace of Christ should rule in your hearts. The word rule is found in Colossians 2:18, speaking in the negative sense of being disqualified. (Note the Supremacy of Christ again). The word rule is used in other non-biblical sources. For example an umpire making a ‘ruling’ about an athletic or sporting event. Paul is explaining that the peace of Christ should be the umpire of your heart. This would bring a whole new meaning to the saying, “follow your heart.” Normally this would speak of emotions, however this speaks of Christ as the one who gives peace in our heart.
II. Word of Christ (16)
Secondly, Paul explains that the word of Christ should dwell in you richly (Col 3:16). Again, this is not an abstract thought but when we speak of the Word of Christ he is speaking of the Bible. The whole counsel of God not merely red letters. The author of Hebrews explains that the whole Bible is the word of Christ. Hebrews 1:1–2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” The command is that the word should dwell in you. To dwell speaks of living in a house. The word of Christ should take up residence in you. Charles Spurgeon writes this speaking about John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress, “Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Prior to this quote Spurgeon writes,
“Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.”
Christians normally are one verse wonders, rather than Bible dwellers. The word of Christ is not merely to be an unwanted guest in a house like a spider in a corner of a room, but it is to dwell in you richly and abundantly. The root word is used to describe material wealth such as Joseph of Arimathea (Matt 27:57). The word of Christ should dwell in us richly, not just like a child who thinks a penny is a prized possession but great wealth.
The word of Christ dwelling in us richly has great effects in the life of the believer. I will explain two of them now and one later. The first is that the word dwelling in us help us teach and admonish one another. Scripture is given to us for that purpose, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Our speech would teach and admonish which is what Paul’s ministry is centered around (Col 1:28).
Secondly, the dwelling of the word directs us in what we sing on Sunday’s for worship. The parallel verse in Ephesians says, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph 5:19). How do we select what we sing on Sunday? We sing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs. At the end of persons life their mind might begin to fade, they might not be able remember your name, but they can sing songs that they grew up singing in Church. Singing is a great way for the Christian to have the word of Christ to dwell in them richly. One of these ways that is commanded in scripture (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16) that is not done in modern times is singing the Psalms in worship.
Some scholars (denominations) believe these verses speak only of singing Psalms (all of these words are used to describe Psalms in their headings). The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA) only sing Psalms exclusively in their worship services. However, we at Seven Springs are not Exclusive Psalmists, but we should not exclude Psalm singing. Psalm singing is one of the consistent practices throughout church history. We have begun to sing Psalms more deliberately as a church but have sung many Psalm paraphrases in Hymn form; A Mighty Fortress is based on Psalm 46. Or Our God, Our Help in Ages Past is based on Psalm 90. I previously was a part of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), the RPCNA and ARP are very similar. The ARP used to be exclusive Psalmists (like the RPCNA) until the 1960’s, so Psalm singing is still a large part in the denomination. After every Synod and Presbytery meeting, they would close by signing Psalm 133, called the Psalm of unity. Although I have never sat down to memorize this Psalm, I can almost quote it verbatim because I sang it maybe four times a year. Psalm singing is somewhat of a dying practice, but I pray we might be able to be committed to the Scriptures and seek to live out this command to sing Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.
III. Name of Christ (17)
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Col 3:17). From the inward parts of our heart to everything we do we should consider Christ in all. The introductory statement, “whatever you do” explains that the Christian life is not one of an hour on Sunday. The Christian life is just that the whole of the Christian’s life. Every hour of every day, in every task in every moment everything should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul explains two aspects that cover everything, in word and deed. From the words that leave our mouth to the tasks which fill up our days. “Whatever” and “everything” are words with no shortcuts or leeway. Christ is Lord of your life the whole time, not merely when we would like him to or when others are watching. Whether eating or drinking everything should be done for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Martin Luther explains,
“The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
IV. Thanksgiving (15-17)
In all of these verse Paul adds a comment about being thankful or giving thanks. The Christian walk is one of thanksgiving from beginning to end because it is truly a work of God’s grace, in our life, from start to finish. We would have no peace if it was not for Christ. We would have no word if God did not carry men along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21). We would not be able to let our light shine before men that we might glorify God the Father in heaven (Matt 5:16). The Christian is unable to boast (Eph 2:8-9). Let us pray that we would have peace in our hearts, the word in our souls and our actions would be done for the Glory of Christ’s name. And let us do these things with grateful hearts, filled with Thanksgiving to God the Father through Christ.