October 23 – Colossians 3:16-17

Main focus: Jesus’s word dwelling in our heart actively engages our horizontal and vertical relationships.

For the past few weeks we’ve looked at chapter 3, and here’s a quick outline of what we’ve seen thus far:

  • 3:1-4 – Seek the things of Jesus because he is your life
  • 3:5-11 – Put sin to death because Jesus is your life
  • 3:12-17 – Put on the life of Jesus

Our passage for this week, 3:16-17, wraps up Paul’s section on how we as citizens of Jesus’s kingdom put on the life of our King. In particular, he focuses on how we relate towards one another in the church and relate to God in all things. 

Warning: grammar talk is coming, but stay with me because these two things are super important. First, the verbs “teaching,” “admonishing,” and “singing” in verse 16 are supporting verbs (participles) hanging on the primary verb “let…dwell.” That means these three actions are elaborations, not results. In other words, we don’t first let Jesus’ word dwell in us before we teach, admonish and sing; instead, the way his word indwells us is through these (and other) means. 

Second, it’s easy to miss in our English translations but the “you” of verse 16 is plural; it’s a shame the translators won’t use “y’all.” That’s to say, the commands aren’t strictly individual but both individual and corporate, calling individuals to know and speak the word with one another. In our individualistic culture we are hyper inclined to view our faith as a personal affair, but here we see that the practice of the Christian faith is intimately tied up with others. 

Clearly there’s loads of application we can draw from that verse regarding how citizens of the kingdom share their lives together, particularly when it comes to community groups. Oftentimes we read passages like this and think something like, “teaching and admonishing one another, singing together—what a nice idea,” and leave it at that. Our last question in discussion will hit how you, in your CG, can legitimately live in light of God’s commands here. What could it mean for us to use the knowledge God has given us to teach one another? Where is God calling us to admonish, i.e. correct or warn, those who have strayed from God’s desires for their life? Where do we need admonishment ourselves? When do we need to sing together? In discussion we’ll also pause and ask how God can use these commands to bless us, which will give us a moment to remember that these aren’t boring old commands, meant only to restrict and control, but sources of life that God uses to manifest the abundant life that Jesus promised his followers (John 10:10). 

Lastly, note the particular emphasis on worship in this passage. One aspect of this is Christ’s word dwelling within us through singing together. Again, we tend to think of worshiping through singing as a private experience between me and God, but this passage would argue that your brothers and sisters need your singing just as much as you do, to teach and admonish and encourage. 

But, of course, worship isn’t limited only to song.  Paul closes the section out with a universal command to do all things—heavy emphasis on all—in the name of King Jesus, giving thanks to God through him. Back to the outline above, this is the way Paul wraps up his whole section on how we put on the life of Jesus, and you can imagine how living according to verse 17 would shape our lives over days, months, and years to be further aligned with Jesus and grateful for God’s overwhelming kindness towards us in him. Arguably worship is the main thread for the Christian life, particularly when it comes to how we’re supposed to live, and worshiping God is the point for which we exist in the first place.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Colossians 3:16-17 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• ​​How do you think verses 16 and 17 connect back to verse 1?

• How does this passage tell us to behave towards one another?

• What do you think “the word of Christ dwelling in you richly” looks like?

• What gaps exist between this passage and how you typically live your day to day life?

• How do you think God could bless you through the things he calls you to in this passage?

• What could it mean for this passage to shape our life as a community group going forward?