Recently, I have become keenly aware of how rare it is to hear the word of God referenced during a conversation with believers. I can’t say I haven’t been aware of this before, but lately, I seem to be more keenly aware of it. While the latest movies or songs or websites are frequently cited, rarely, if ever, is Scripture. As a Bible teacher, I can count on one hand the number of times someone has come to me this year with a legitimate Bible question.
All of which led me to conclude that few today spend quality time reading and meditating on Scripture. If they were, it would be evident in their speech since, according to Jesus, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:24). If they were richly storing up the treasure of God’s Word in their hearts, it would enrich their speech. But because most believers today are feeding on the pasturelands of worldly entertainment rather than lying down in tender pastures of fresh green grass, they are ill-fitted to talk about it.
The fact is, we have not taken seriously this command of Paul that believers “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” We should remember that this instruction is given against the backdrop of an oral society. The word of Christ was the oral message first spoken by Jesus Himself, then given to the apostles who, in turn, shared it with others. It was only centuries later this message was written in such a way so everyone would have access to it in book form. In other words, it was heard before it was read. And that’s important because we retain much more what we hear rather than what we read.
Let’s breakdown each precious phrase of this statement the apostle gives to the Colossian church. First, we should take note of the opening word of this statement, the word “let” (‘let the word of Christ’). It is a grace word. It indicates that you want to go in a certain direction anyway, so you must let it happen. When I say it is a grace word, I mean that due to the grace of God changing my nature, it is now my bent to act a certain way. I merely must let it happen.
“Let the word of Christ…” Not merely the word about Christ, but the word that Christ has spoken and is speaking this moment. It is all that Scripture says about the Christ and the Gospel. Yes, it is contained in Holy Scripture. That is what the Holy Spirit still speaks today, and we turn away from it to our own peril. While I think God still speaks to people today apart from Scripture in directing people, the first place we should hear him speak is what he says in Scripture. Jesus is the best example of that. When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he refuted each lie by the truth of Scripture. God’s Word Written wasn’t a dead letter to him, but living oracles that had application to all of life.
But it is the word of Christ—all that God has to say about his Son. If we are to obey this injunction, we will ransack Holy Scripture from beginning to end for all that it says about the Son. We will want to learn all that it says regarding the lovely Son of God.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” There are two words in the Greek language translated by the one-word dwell. One means to dwell in a place temporarily, such as is one who is in a hotel. But there is another word translated dwell, which means to remain permanently as a resident, not as a temporary guest. That is the word the apostle uses here. He would have God’s people to allow the word of Christ to dwell permanently in them. This is an exhortation to connect deeply with God’s word in Christ. It is beyond Bible reading—it is learning to meditate day and night on the word of Christ. This is what the God of Israel instructed Israelite fathers to do so as to have the ability to instruct their children. First, they must obey the command, “and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:7). As the word was in their hearts, they would speak of them constantly to their children.
Finally, they were to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly as opposed to allowing it to dwell superficially. We have an example of allowing God’s word dwell richly in us in the New Testament concerning Mary, the mother of Jesus. When she heard the report of the shepherds who were directed by the angels to come to the Child in the stable, it says that she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). The word “treasured” means to preserve something carefully in mind, so it is not forgotten. Mary did so with what she had heard. And so must we with the word of Christ.