Gospel Community in the Church
Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
What picture does the New Testament paint of life in the community of God’s people? I don’t think we can overstate the value of Colossians 3 for shaping the kind of community Christ has called us to in the church. The Gospel is a key source of the life this chapter describes.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Here is the picture: the people of God instructing and admonishing one another with all wisdom in the context of lives filled with worship and gratitude.
This is a glorious picture of Gospel community—a Gospel community that transforms lives. This is how the transformational living described in Colossians 3:5-14 becomes and remains an ongoing part of a church’s life. How do we arrive at it? How do we obtain such Gospel community? The word of Christ must dwell in us richly.
What is the word of Christ?
First, what is meant by the word of Christ? For years I just assumed the answer to that question without thinking about it. However, there are two possible meanings to that phrase: 1) the word of Christ as in Christ’s words (the teachings of Jesus); or 2) the word about Christ, which is the message that extols the person of Christ.
If we apply the first meaning Paul is saying, “Let the words which Jesus taught dwell in you richly.” That would be a rich meaning in itself as it is certainly true according to Matthew 28:20. This puts emphasis on texts like the Sermon on the Mount.
If we follow the second meaning, then Paul is saying, “Let the word about Jesus, the accounts of His person, the Story of His Life, including what He taught, and accomplishment dwell in you richly.” This one is centered on the person of Christ, not merely the instruction or information He brings. The first meaning is also included in the second meaning for to center on the message about Jesus one has to include the teachings of Jesus. The important question is, “Which one did Paul intend?”
Context is most helpful in answering that question. It is easy to find the intended meaning by looking at an earlier verse in Colossians that corresponds to this one.
27To them [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:27-29)
I emphasized the particular phrases which show correspondence to Colossians 3:16. Paul describes the hope of glory, the goal of the Gospel as Christ being formed in His people—Christ living in and through His people. That is Gospel community. How did Paul spend his time and energy laboring toward that goal? He proclaimed the person of Jesus Christ, and through that message he was admonishing and teaching with all wisdom.
How Does It Dwell In Us Richly?
When Paul tells the church, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,” Paul is instructing us to do the same. Let that proclamation about Christ, the Person, dwell in you richly. Contemplate Him, think about Him, dwell on Him. Read of His life, dwell on His miracles, talk among yourselves about the Person Jesus Christ and His humbling self-sacrifice in the Gospel, bearing our humanity, His perfect life lived vicariously for us, how He bore our sin, and with this, teach and instruct one another in how to live. Warn one another, counsel one another. Do this in the context of worship and thanksgiving.
Keep in mind that when the apostles preached the Gospel, they were often preaching what we have as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—the accounts of Christ. And through the Person of Christ they were proclaiming the work of redemption.
What is dwelling in you richly? Is it a consuming passion for the Person Jesus Christ? Let’s allow the message about Jesus to occupy our conversations. Let’s make it the first thing to occupy your free time. Let’s talk about Jesus Christ when we are with other believers. (If we don’t start there, we are not likely to talk about Jesus with unbelievers, nor will we be very practiced at it.) Let’s allow our conversations to be filled with Christ so that our instructions and encouragements to one another will be filled with wisdom.
As we grow together in our passion for the Savior, we will grow together in our experience of the community life which God intended for us.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,