Daily Devotion : Body Building (Colossians 3:15b-16)

“And be thankful. 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.” ~ Colossians 3:15b-16

Explanation of the Text: Of this section, we now approach the final part of this particular section. The recurrence of unity in the body cannot be missed and the character of that unity is found in love, peace and thankfulness as Paul has been describing. These function together so that Paul’s exhortations in verse 16 can be obeyed.[1] Realizing the context of what Paul is writing here and how each point builds off of the previous, we can rightly look at the exhortations found here.

Paul begins by telling believers to be thankful. That thankfulness to God is expressed through verse 16, which is to teach and admonish one another and to praise God. Thankfulness sets the foundation for Paul’s exhortations to believers in this particular section. In fact, thankfulness sets a foundation to the Christian life. Therefore, Paul issues a command for the Colossians to be thankful.

He then moves on to encourage the believers to teach and admonish one another. Interestingly, in Colossians 1:28, Paul has described the core of his ministry as one that is teaching and admonishing others. He now extends that to the local body of believers, calling on them to do the same with each other. Note that teaching and admonishing are participles (ending in –ing) indicating that they are ongoing actions. These are one-time events that have been completed or will be completed, but rather these are continuous parts of the function of the body that must not be forsaken. But it must be done in wisdom. Wisdom is a skilled and sensible approach to life, by God’s definition and standards, beginning with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10) and always demonstrated in/by one’s behavior.[2] Wisdom must always center on the Lord and it must be demonstrated by a person’s behavior. Thus, wisdom is a call to apply knowledge and make it an active part of a person’s life. This is the case here. Teaching and admonishing must be done in wisdom, meaning that it must be done according to God’s standards, centered on God himself, and be implemented in one’s own life as an example

There is some debate regarding the implication of Paul’s encouragement to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Some suggest that the word ‘and’ should be added so that the verse indicates believers should not only teach and admonish one another, but also be singing and praising to God. This is no doubt true, worship should be at the very center of our relationship to God. However, I tend to agree with Douglas Moo who suggests a wording that indicates “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” is actually subordinate to the teaching and admonishing.[3] What this means then, is that not only are these mere acts of worship, but the praising of God through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs actually becomes a form of teaching and admonishing. Not only are we praising God but it serves a function in the life of a believer by encouraging them to a deeper relationship with God through a guiding and correcting.

Finally, there is one last very important aspect to be considered here. The role of the Word of God. Everything that is done must be predicated on the Word of God first and foremost. For that reason, Paul writes that the Word of Christ must dwell in a believer richly. This is important for several reason. First, if the Word is dwelling richly it spurns one towards a relationship with God. Second, the word dictates relationships with people and thus provides directions for the ways in which one is to teach, admonish, and worship. Finally, in order to correctly teach and admonish one must know the word. If one does not know the word, how can they expect they are teaching it correctly? Thus, the importance of the word cannot be overemphasized.

Examination & Application of the Text: Thankfulness is foundational to both are relationship with God and our service to Him. “Believers who are full of gratitude to God for his gracious calling (verse 15a) will find it easier to extend to fellow believers the grace of love and forgiveness and to put aside petty issues that might inhibit the expression of peace in the community.”[4] A thankfulness to God leads to a solid devotion to God. This devotion rightly places God first in our lives over anything else and as such, obedience to Him will follow. This is key because only when God is first can we function rightly in the body of Christ. When God is first we seek unity for both His sake and our sake. When God is first we seek to teach and admonish fellow believers, even when the situation is difficult. When God is first we worship God and not self. This begins with a thankfulness both for what God has done and who God is. It is easy to say that we should be thankful. However, without understanding what to be thankful for, one cannot be thankful. We should always be thankful for salvation. Seeing what we once were and who we now are, there can be no other response to God except to fall on our knees in a constant state of worship and devotion to the almighty God. Likewise, each of us has different life situations, therefore what we are thankful for will be different for each of us. Therefore, we must spend time first in God’s word. It is the Word of God that reveals much about God, Christ, Us, and His plan, and thus gives us much to be thankful for. I would also say that we must spend time simply reflecting on our lives while being in prayer to Him. As we commune with Him and He reveals those areas of thankfulness, we should spend more time in prayer simply thanking Him for that.

Furthermore, we must teach and correct one another. Sometimes this can be difficult as we approach situations we are uncomfortable with. However, this does not change the fact that we are commanded to take part in this (as others are also commanded to correct us when we are outside of God’s commanded will). However, we must remember to do this in a way that promotes unity within the body (to see more on this, please see yesterday’s devotion on Colossians 3:15).

[1] N.T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 148.

[2] This definition was given to me by Dr. Greg Harris, a former teacher of mine. I have come to appreciate this definition because it centers on God’s standards and not man’s and is a call to action on each person’s life. Dr. Harris’ ministry can be found at glorybooks.org.

[3] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 288.

[4] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 285.

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