Colossians 3:1-17, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 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. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:1-17 gives a substantial array of straightforward commands. In this passage, we are told to set our minds on the things that are above and to seek them. We are encouraged to put to death what is earthly in us- sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry. We must give no place to anger, wrath, malice, slander, or obscene talk. We must never lie to one another. Rather, we should put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience- bearing with one another and forgiving each other. We are to put on love and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Be thankful. Teach and admonish one another. Sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Wives, submit to your husbands. Above all, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Submission can be difficult and hard but is impossible apart from enabling grace.
One of the essential things in the above list in Colossians 3:1-17 is critical to all the others. Though easily overlooked, this is the key to seeking things that are above, setting your mind there, putting to death what is earthly in you, not lying, putting on compassion, forgiving, loving, letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and being thankful. This is the crucial key to teaching and admonishing one another well. It’s the last item on the list: letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly. The Word is the key. The Scriptures play a fundamentally important role in strengthening a Christians to not go off the rails. Without the word dwelling in Christians, you and I will not sustain our pursuit of any of the things listed by Paul. Wise Christians permeate themselves with Scripture.
If anyone had any reason at all to advocate elitism, it was Paul. After all, Paul had several visions of Jesus Himself (Acts 9:1-19; 2 Cor. 12:1-4). Paul in his epistles is the strongest critic of those who think only an elite few can understand the Word of the Lord in the Scriptures. Paul strongly advocates clarity in Colossians 3:16-17 by encouraging Christians to let the “word of Christ” dwell in us richly and to teach one another “in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). This “word of Christ” is the gospel and his encouragement is for every single one of us to encourage one another which only makes sense when Christians understand what the Lord Jesus accomplished in His finished and sufficient work.
Not every male Christian will be ordained to the pastoral ministry. Even so, every Christian, whether male or female, can engage in the work of teaching in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (v.16). Christians should not sharply distinguish between these musical references for Paul is using these terms for emphasis. Furthermore, his point is that even non-ordained people must teach in the public assembly through singing the Word of God, whether the exact words of Scripture or words proclaiming the doctrines of Scripture are sung. As the Psalms show, music has always been central to the people of God, and we teach one another good theology through singing to one another. All of our songs in worship are a vehicle for teaching, so songs for public worship must always be chosen carefully for biblical-theological orthodoxy.
Paul closes out Colossians 3:17 reminding God’s people to do everything in the name of Jesus. To do something in the name of the Lord is to act in ways the apostle Paul described in Colossians 3:12-17. As we live thankful lives for the love that God has shown in Christ, we will, in turn, grow to be progressively more humble, kind, patient, meek, and forgiving, and seek to act in all we do to reflect Christ’s holy name.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Parler, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.