Col 3:16 Who teaches who?

I heard someone pray recently in a gathering of Christians, “Lord, may your name be brought up in our conversations tonight.”

Now that isn’t a bad thing to desire, or even to pray. I’m not trying to pick on anyone.

But it struck me as a sad illustration of how things often go when believers get together to ‘fellowship’.

Is God that far from our minds that we need the Holy Spirit to remind us to think and speak of him? I don’t think I would be blessed or flattered if my husband was going out with friends for a few hours, but before he left, he turned to me and said, “Honey, could you call me every hour or so and remind me to think of you. That would probably help me to mention to my friends how important you are to me and how much I love you. Thanks.”

Besides, when bringing God into conversation is something we feel like we ought to do instead of something that happens because of where our heart is, things just get awkward. Have you ever had someone spontaneously quote you their favorite memory verse with no context whatsoever? Or have you ever been greeted in such a spiritual way that you have no idea how to respond?

“Blessings in the name of the Lord! He is so faithful, isn’t he! What deep things has God been speaking to you this week?”

Even if you are well aware of deep things God has been speaking to you, it feels forced and weird to be prompted that way. It’s sort of like someone walking up, shaking your hand, and asking if your spouse has been good to you lately. If the answer is an enthusiastic ‘YES’, the question still feels intrusive—but if the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I hadn’t really noticed,’ you feel embarrassed and cornered.

I just don’t know that forced, awkward ‘honorable mentions’ are actually all that honoring to God—or edifying to us.

What then, do we do with passages like Colossians 3:16?

“…teach and admonish one another in all wisdom…”

What does that look like? Let’s read the whole verse.

Colossians 3:16 (NRSV) 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Does that first part sound familiar?

John 15:7 (NRSV) 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Dwell. Abide. Richly. I think this is the key.

Commentators disagree on what exactly Paul means by the word of Christ. Many say that because Paul is writing to Gentiles—and the New Testament was not yet completed or collected, he must be referring to Christ’s teachings alone. I am no expert on this sort of thing, but given Paul’s view of the authority of scripture (2 Tim 3:16), his frequent appeals to the Old Testament (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:8; 1 Cor 6:16), and his personal experiences with Christ (Acts 22:6-21; 2 Cor 12:2-4), it seems more likely that the word of Christ Paul has in mind is any true and accepted body of teaching from or concerning Christ and his gospel.

For us…this is the Bible.

So, how do we know when the word of Christ dwells richly in us? When we read, consider, ponder, test, and experience the word of God. When we meditate on it and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us. When we learn to apply and trust it.  When we obey it.  When it is changing us. When it is so integrated into every area of our lives that to consult it, appeal to it, consider it, or speak of it becomes as natural as talking about our children, spouses, jobs, or hobbies. When Christ really is our passion. That is when the word of Christ dwells richly in us.

And that is when teaching and admonishing each other in wisdom happens—without superficial or insulting weirdness. In the course of our Christian friendships and activities, it should be the norm for us to offer spiritual encouragement and counsel to each other. As we share about our lives, experiences, interests, questions, struggles, fears, and joys with each other, the word of Christ will come out—if it dwells richly in us.

Colossians 3:2 (NASB) 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

Matthew 12:34 (NASB) …For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

Our ‘lives’ and our ‘spiritual lives’ are not separate. Why are they so separate in our conversations—especially conversations with those who share our faith? I’m not saying we should constantly be having intense, theological conversations. And I’m not saying we should be know-it-alls or have all the answers—just that we might consider whether or not we regularly have interaction with fellow Christians that could be considered teaching and admonishing in wisdom. And if not—why?

I’m curious. Why do you think this is lacking in our gatherings?


3 thoughts on “Col 3:16 Who teaches who?”

  1. I think that if we filter everything through the awareness of whatever group we are in—whether it be a gang, church, work, school, political correctness, etc.—we deny ourselves much knowledge by filtering out everything said by groups other than our own. We leave valuable knowledge needed for our spiritual and intellectual growth hanging uselessly in the filter, never allowing this bit of knowledge to help us grow. I believe this filter is also present in our Christian groups, making it harder to feel free to “teach and admonish.”

    The “teacher” is always speaking, and you will hear his or her wisdom if you are listening. In other words, let him who has an ear listen and him who has an eye see. The teacher may be a garbage man, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a bus driver… never know who God chooses to speak his wisdom to you. I believe we should judge less and listen more. Maybe 90% of what is said is wrong, but you need to be hearing the 10% that is truth and is for you. You will never gain this 10% of truth because of your judgments about who you perceive someone to be.

    When it comes to someone that we don’t see as a fellow believer offering us a substantial amount of money, we find it easy to rationalize that God caused that person to give us the money. Well if that is true, why wouldn’t God use such a person to give us a gift of knowledge or some spiritual wisdom? With money we seem to have no problem seeing God using this person and accepting it readily. I think we filter that concept out because we decide that person is not worthy because they are not of our group and don’t believe everything the same as us. How sad that the world is in the condition it is now—totally divided and on its way to destruction. We need to wake up. An extreme but interesting example of God using a conduit to speak the truth is Numbers 22:21-34 (Balaam’s donkey).

    You talked about “what deep things has God been speaking to you this week.” An agony in my heart and confusion over unspoken conflict with someone I hold very dear has been causing me much pain. I prayed to God to help me understand a way to make things better. I believe always when we pray sincerely to God that He will answer, and He did for me. I picked up a book that was not the Bible, something that I read for the first time in many years. I came to a passage where someone had done something that had hurt someone they loved and had apologized to the person for causing turmoil in their life. He thought the person would be very angry with him. But instead his friend said, “Wrath springs only from thwarted desires. I do not expect anything from others, so their actions cannot be in opposition to wishes of mine. I would not use you for my own ends. I am happy only in your own true happiness.” This I believe was God’s answer to me, telling me that the wounds and pain that I felt were self-inflicted by my own needs and desires, and instantly I was relieved of the pain. The Lord is wonderful!

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree that God speaks to us in many ways and the Bible is not the only place where any wisdom is to be found. (Though, I do believe it is the rod by which all else is to be measured.)

    My question, however, is if Christ really is our passion and motive (as believers), why do the things that are important to him barely come up in our casual conversations.

    If he is the reason we live the way we do and make the choices we make (which we would all claim…or at least think we should claim), why is it not obvious from our conversation that Jesus permeates our thinking in every area of our lives. Shouldn’t that come out when we talk of our families, our jobs, our hobbies, and the things we pursue?

    Shouldn’t God’s word be what comes to mind (in a very natural way) when we talk with other Christians about life? Should ‘spiritual talk’ be so separate from every day life that we do it only when we are redirected to do so or when that is our specific agenda?

    My theory and challenge is that if we are all more intentional about the ‘word of Christ’ abiding in us, casual Christian gatherings will look different.

  3. I think you are absolutely right about that. Also, in my humble opinion, judgment is the absence of humility, and humility is necessary to receive from one another the love and knowledge of God that gives us peace, joy and love. When we gather together as believers, these attributes will be obvious if they are present, and it will also be obvious if they are not present. What I mean to say is, if our walk with Christ is a personal relationship and we submit ourselves to the word and absorb it, we become it. We know that just memorizing scripture means nothing, and unless we let the word take us over, what have we got to offer one another? Nothing but words.

    And so I do think that casual Christian gatherings can more naturally include “spiritual talk” when the people present know that they are speaking from an authority that comes from their personal relationship with Christ, and therefore don’t feel afraid to express and explore with each other deep spiritual thoughts that may or may not agree perfectly with a particular church’s doctrines.

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