Ever have one of those moments when you read something in the Bible, something you’ve read a thousand times, and it suddenly comes alive? That’s what’s supposed to happen! Check out these words from Paul, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”. (Colossians 3:16a, NASB95) It’s not even a full verse, or the “therefore” to an argument; it’s just a simple encouragement. Well, that’s not exactly right, it’s much more than a suggestion or a pithy reminder like, “be sure to brush your teeth”. Paul wasn’t suggesting that his readers open a door and passively let some fresh air in. His words are packed with meaning and ring with a call to action.
Theologians differ on what Paul meant by “the word of Christ”. No surprise there that’s what theologians do – they differ if they didn’t they wouldn’t have a job. Basically, there are two possibilities. The first meaning of “the word of Christ” is the Good News of forgiveness and salvation because of Christ’s finished work. Consider Hebrews 12:24 and how Christ’s blood speaks a better word than that of Abel. The blood of Abel cried out for vengeance (Genesis 4:10 and Revelation 6:10). But the blood of Christ speaks grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The second possibility for what Paul meant by “the word of Christ” is the teachings and example of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. That we should drink in Christ’s teachings, His parables, and how He interacted with people, how He prayed, how He healed, and how He gave his life for us. Instead of choosing one or the other how about we take a “radical” approach and say that Paul meant both. After all, you can’t have one without the other.
There are many times when scripture points to something of God that should be rich, abundant, abounding, or overflowing. Our new life in Jesus is to be an abundant life – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB95) We are to overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving – “having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:7, NASB95) Paul prayed that his readers would be filled with joy, peace and abounding with hope – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NASB95) And of course, Psalm 23 describes contentment with our Good Shepherd as being like an overflowing cup. So, Paul’s little encouragement to us is that the words of Christ would be rich, abundant, abounding, and overflowing in our heart.
Not only are the words of Christ to be abundant they are to dwell. Consider your home for a moment. There are some folks that are visitors, maybe for a few minutes, perhaps for longer. Some may be welcome and others not so much. But even if they are family or friends we expect them to leave. Sometimes you may invite someone to become a house guest, eating and sleeping under your roof maybe for a night or sometimes longer. Dwelling in a home has the mark of permanence rather than the temporariness of a visitor or a house guest. Not only are the words of Christ to be richly overflowing they are to be a permanent part of our lives.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”. Consider your walk with Jesus and this short verse for a moment. What are the words of Christ in your life? Are they knick-knacks or mementos that sit on a shelf? Part of your life but not an important part. Are the words of Christ like an expensive painting hung on the wall? Something impressive to show off when the time is right. Are the words of Christ hung around like those motivational posters? Little snippets to remind us how to act and to give us hope. Or is the word of Christ increasingly invading every room, every nook, every cranny, and every inch of space – even those hidden places – of your heart to the point where it is overflowing? Remember that the “let” in Paul’s encouragement is not passive but active, like a farmer gathering a harvest and filling his grain bin. In the same way, we are to gather the words of Christ into our hearts and lives until we are overflowing. Not as a possession but has a living, breathing, part of every moment.