JohnSWilson3 Blog


“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…”
July 10, 2010, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In this last section of Chapter 3 from Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse he describes how living by the life of Christ is manifested practically within the body of Christ, in her gatherings. This continues his thought about love and unity, fruit of the Spirit, but now gets specific. I think these offer some key thoughts that summarize discipleship but at the same time offer a different paradigm to the typical form of discipleship we see in the church, whether we realize it or not.

In my own walk with the Lord, during my time in institutional Christianity I found I loved to be involved in discipleship, in discipling others, spending time with others and sharing Christ with each other. I found though that it was of a programmed and non-relational approach. As a Christian we are told that we grow when we read the Bible, spend time in prayer, help those around you, and share Jesus with others and help others do the same. But this was so individualistic, and I found that in institutional churches most Christians didn’t like the approach anyway as so few even participated in “discipleship training,” because it is a program, it wasn’t relational, however good our intentions were. It was like kicking against the goads.

Paul desired “that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When the believers got together he hoped “to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” This is all possible because we “died with Christ” and are now “alive with Christ” and have become “members of one body” in whom Christ “is the head”! Discipleship is meant to be organic, with Christ, from Christ, and to Christ within the body of Christ. It cannot be programmed if we are to see true spiritual growth. We learn to live by Christ’s life, that’s discipleship! But we learn to live by Christ’s life in community, in face-to-face relationships with Jesus Christ as head. And this gathering together isn’t just on one day, it is by living a shared life together, meeting together daily and from house to house. This is living in the way of Jesus!

We do not come together to have a “worship service” on one day, then a “Bible study” on another day, “Visitation program” one evening, then a “prayer meeting” the next evening. We do not come together just to sit and watch someone else do all of the “ministry.” Those make meetings an event, replacing Jesus Christ as Head! “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.” The people of God came together to learn Christ, to live by Christ, and to express Christ!

Jesus Christ is the Head of the church and He directs the church through all of His “members of one body” to show forth Christ! We learn Christ by knowing more about Christ from one another! We learn Christ by learning to put off the old man, that we have “died with Christ,” and put on Christ, the New Man, by faith seeing Him as our life. When we live by faith in the Son of God, by the Holy Spirit, we will see His fruit displayed towards one another, fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” We learn to put off the old man, by accepting that we are dead to ourselves in Christ and to think of others more than ourselves. We learn to put off the old man, by learning to “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. (Forgiving) as the Lord forgave you.” This is sacrificial love, God’s love. This is Christ’s life! When we start meeting with other believers, day by day in a shared life we will begin to learn our differences. This will make for conflict, disagreement. But this is meant to help us to move forward in the Lord as we learn to accept those “whose faith is weak,” those of different backgrounds and doctrinal opinions. We “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Letting Christ rule and be the decision maker in our gathering brings peace to the body of Christ, and in the process we learn our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we gather together, day by day, we will learn Christ as we share Christ with each other. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” doesn’t mean reading the Bible and memorizing verses! While I am not against those things, they are just things. It must become living and active, that’s what Christ’s life is all about. It means “Christ is the speaker” (1) in our gatherings! He is in us in an inward way, we listen to Him in our Spirits as we share Him together. He is the director of our time together! “Christ..is our life,” our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God”. We too often make a program out of the Bible, praying, ministry, singing, and evangelizing, oh how we make Christ into a program, an it, usurping Jesus Christ’s headship over our gatherings! We learn Christ through one another! He wants to display His fullness, but all of the members of the church need to function in the life of Christ if we are to see Him fully displayed, for us to know Christ, to learn Christ.

To the Corinthian church Paul gave a general description of a meeting: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together ‘each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.’ (2) All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged, The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

To the Roman Church Paul mentioned: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is (caring, with zest)(3); if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

As we learn to live by His life together, listening to and following His Spirit in us, He will dwell richly within us! He does this as we learn Him, as He teaches and admonishes us through one another with His wisdom by His Spirit. “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” Someone could share something of Christ that they learned from the Old Testament or read a letter copied from one of the apostles, etc. The church’s time together often included singing songs together from the Psalms or Christian songs composed as hymns, or songs that were spiritual in nature. This was done together or letting a member sing it to or read it to the members. (4) If someone had a musical instrument, then they could use it, but no one member overshadowed or controlled the singing of the church. Everyone could function freely in the body of Christ to display Jesus Christ! We let each other function! How much “gratitude in your hearts to God” there must have been shown in their meetings, as they saw Jesus Christ on display! There was no formula. It was all under the direction of Jesus Christ, the Head, by His Spirit! “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him.”

This is for the strengthening of our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord, this is what builds us up “in him,” this is what gives us a solid “faith in Christ”! This is discipleship: knowing Jesus Christ and living and displaying Him together! This is all about Jesus Christ and what He wants at our gatherings. They will not all look the same, they will not include every kind of gift, not everyone will be lead by the Spirit to do the same thing, His Spirit “gives them (different kinds of gifts) to each one, just as he determines.” God is so creative, why would He give us a tradition to follow, except to know Him and to live by His life! That’s what the apostles teaching was all about: knowing Jesus Christ, living and displaying Him together! This life once learned cannot be kept contained, it will affect everything in our lives, because Jesus Christ becomes our everything! This is following Jesus! We have so much to learn about Jesus, let it be just Jesus!

(1) Lightfoot, J.B., “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon: J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, Third Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 224.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 515.
(3) I take James D.G. Dunn’s view that the word often translated as “leadership” in Romans 12 should be “caring” because of the context of the word, “caring, with zest.” Dunn, James D.G., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol 38B, Romans 9-16.
(4) Lightfoot, 225.

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