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From Shelf To Heart


Colossians 3:16 reads. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…"    


So what's Paul saying here?  To start, this statement is directed to both the individual believer, as well as the group of believers in Colosse.  If the individual believer can follow Paul's instruction, both the individual and the group will benefit.  I've always said that the spiritual health of any group of believers depends on the spiritual health of the individuals in the group.  


Another thing to note is that this particular instruction is just one in a larger list.  The rest of this list needs to be considered as well, but I'll leave that for another day. 


Paul's instruction begins with, "let the word of Christ…"   The word of Christ is all the words that Jesus spoke, much of which are recorded in the gospel accounts.  Yet since Jesus is the exact representation of His Father, all words spoken by God the Father are the words of Christ as well.  This would include all of the Old Testament and the rest of the inspired New Testament.  So for us, the word of Christ is the Bible.


The next words Paul writes are, "dwell in you richly."   There are three things to consider in these four words.  The first is the word dwell.  The word of Christ must dwell or live someplace other than on the pages of the Bible that sits on our shelves.  The next two words tell us where the word of Christ is to dwell, and that's within you and I.  The words of the Bible should move from the pages of the Bible that sits on our shelves to deep within our being.  In order for the word of Christ to find its way into that most sacred part of us, we need to digest the Bible, as if it's our spiritual food, and allow it to become part of the very fabric of who we are.  That means reading, studying, and understanding the Bible the best we can, with the intent to live out what we understand.


The next word Paul uses is the word "richly."  The Greek word that "richly" is translated from means "in abundance".  This Greek word is used in other New Testament passages in connection with the abundance of material things.  So just as you and I want to be rich with an abundance of material wealth, so we should want to be rich with an abundance of spiritual wealth.  Actually, being rich spiritually should be a higher priority that being rich materially.  That's not often the case in western Christian culture.  This spiritual wealth only comes through understanding the words of Christ that are found in the Bible.  Many Christians today are attempting to find spirituality without a good hermeneutical understanding of the Bible.  That just doesn't work and the spirituality found is not godly.  


Beyond the individual aspect to Paul's instruction is the corporate aspect.  One reason why he tells us to have the word of Christ live in us richly as individuals is so we can "teach and admonish one another in all wisdom."  What we understand from God's word should eventually benefit those to whom Jesus has joined us to.


Note that this teaching and admonishing is in wisdom that comes from Biblical understanding.  We shouldn't be beating each other up with Bible passages because we have a disagreement with our brother as is often the case. 


Being rich with an abundance of Biblical understanding should be near the top of our list of priorities in life.  It will benefit us as well as those to whom Jesus has joined us to. There's not much more important than this in life.  May we all have a greater desire for Biblical understanding without the inclusion of post-modern humanistic philosophy with its false spirituality.  The words of the Bible are better placed in our hearts instead of on our shelves.     



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