Our Scripture of the Day for Friday May 18, 2007 is Colossians 3:16:
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.
In choosing this Scripture I am continuing the theme from yesterday where we saw the apostle Paul encouraging and asking the folks in Thessalonica to encourage one another “with these words,” that is, with the teaching he had just given to them.
The word of Christ is such a key part of our encouragement of one another, biblically speaking. I love this passage in Colossians. Notice the themes – the word of Christ richly dwelling in us, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms hymns and spiritual songs, and thankfulness in our hearts to God. What a great verse to memorize.
So, here it is in black and white – we have a responsibility to teach and admonish one another. Certainly that is related to the word which we are called to let dwell in us richly. I cannot really teach and admonish you apart from the word dwelling in me. You cannot really teach and admonish me apart form the word dwelling in me. But then, we don’t let the word dwell in us richly just so we can enjoy it and get fat and happy. We use it. We share it. It forms and frames our lives and gives us the means to encourage others. We are not to let the light of the indwelling word hide as it were under a bushel. By it we are able to teach and admonish one another. And if we don’t teach and admonish each other we are sunk.
Notice that the teaching and admonishing is one to another. All are involved. It is true that the elders, and the teaching pastor, have special responsibilities in the flock to teach and admonish. And it is also true that certain people are particularly gifted at teaching. But we are all called to exercise this calling or mutual teaching and admonition one to another. All of us. Nobody is off the hook.
We are to do this in wisdom. This means we are to do it appropriate to the situation, with tact, with timeliness. As we grow in Christ we grow in our innate ability to give the right word at the right time – the word “in season.” W don’t just throw bible verses at each other, hammer each other without regard to the situation the other person is in, or admonish in the wrong direction. As we grow we learn to do this better and better, with more and more wisdom attached.
We can do this in personal face to face conversations, in e-mails, and in phone conversations. We can do this in Bible studies. We can do this at work and at home. We can do this as we see each other at church. We can do this by teaching SS. At our church we have a unique opportunity to exercise this calling almost every Sunday in our Open Time. I wish more would.
But there is another interesting way we can fulfill this calling. To point this out I have to draw you attention to an interesting translation problem with this passage.
You will note that my ESV separates the teaching from the singing pretty decisively:
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 (ESV).
It tends to put the word dwelling and the teaching together, but make the singing into a separate thing altogether.
The NIV makes a little more of a connection between the wisdom and the singing. Here is how it puts it:
16 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 (NIV).
As you can see the NIV says that we are to teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, but then, instead of a hard comma pause, it says “and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” I think the NIV translators meant us to take it that two things flow out of the word dwelling in us richly – first that we teach and admonish each other, and second that we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. I like that.
But then the NASV (the translation upon which I cut my Christian teeth) has a whole different take on Colossians 3:16. It says:
16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (NASV).
According to the NASV the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs is the means by which we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.
The confusion comes about due to ambiguities in the grammar in the passage. There is no final way to know what is right for sure.
But I think it highly probable that “letting the word dwell in us richly” results in both teaching and admonishing one another and singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. I don’t think the singing is the sole means of teaching so much as that it too is an outgrowth of the word dwelling in us. Either way, there is a “one anotherness” to our singing. We sing to God, yes. But we also sing to each other – that through the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs we are sharing around the word of Christ, and indirectly if not directly “teaching and admonishing each other.” Remember that when you feel like mumbling through songs or rebelling against a song because you don’t prefer it. It’s not really just about you and your musical preferences.
Anyway, that aside, we have a responsibility to teach and admonish one another. Without doing that we cannot together grow into the people God has called us to be. It’s that simple.