Three Imperatives for the New Man (Colossians 3:15-17)
If You’re Not Interested in This, You’re Already Disobeying This
The new man puts on new clothes with his new belt, but he’s not quite ready to walk out the door without these three commands that every new person needs to keep to act like the new man that he is.
First, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (v. 15). Whatever decision we happen to have come up in our life, we don’t break the pact of peace that we have with God. “Rule” is in essence ‘to make a decision for you.’ A president has to think about his relations with other countries when he makes decisions. We have to think about our relations with God when we make our decisions. The peace we have with God needs to be what makes our decisions for us. The treaty we signed when we got saved has to rule our decision making process. We chose not to be at war with God any more, so we continue to honor that compact.
This peace with God is the basis for our union with the church. We all get along based on the same peace pact. The body life of a church is a oneness with each other that we get from our oneness from God. We don’t come together based on doing our own thing, but based on what will keep us aligned with God.
How does that command relate to being thankful? When God’s way comes down the pike, we just keep thanking God for it. We’re thankful for this new life that God has given us and we keep thanking God for it. A lack of contentment, unthankfulness, will lead you to go searching for satisfaction outside of God and His people. We keep thanking Him and that’s akin to letting peace with Him rule in our hearts. We didn’t join His church to do our own thing, but to fit together with others who as well want to do what He wants, and are thankful for it.
Second, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (v. 16). That’s to say that God’s Word should control our lives. We look at life through chapter and verse eyes. Scripture has its home in a settled, complete way in us. The parallel of this is in Ephesians 5:18 with “be filled with the Spirit.” Being controlled by the Spirit and by the Word of God are the same thing. The “sword of the Spirit is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17). When God’s Word controls us, we will have the discernment to make right applications to all the various areas of our life, that is, “in all wisdom.”
When you are filled up with God’s Word, you can teach and admonish others one another in the body and then sing to the Lord in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. You can truly help others and truly worship the Lord in song. What people need to hear is the Word of God and what God wants to hear in praise is the Word of God. Psalms are the Word of God. Hymns and spiritual songs should also be Scriptural.
Since the direction of singing in the Bible is “to the Lord,” then what matters is whether God likes the singing. The Words and the music both need to be scriptural, that is, in fitting with the taste of God, His nature and His standard. We sing among each other as a church, but we sing to the Lord.
Third, “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Everything that we do, both verbal and non-verbal, spoken and action, should be consistent with the Lord Jesus Christ. What did Jesus do? What would He have you to do? Don’t have anything you do be something that Jesus wouldn’t do. Honor Him in everything.
Since we’ve put on Christ, we want to make decisions that are at peace with Him, have His Words control us, and only do things that would be consistent with Who He is.
Thoughts about a Few Fine Points in These Verses
Verse 15 — “to the which also ye are called in one body”
I’m mainly wanting to think about what the “one body” is. “Body” is not soteriological, but ecclesiological terminology. “One” is not “one” as in “numeric one,” but “one in unity.” A physical body is one. A church is one. The “one” is about “unity” very much like the “one mind” and the “one mouth” are about unity in Romans 15:6. Colossians 3:15 is not telling us that there is one numeric body. A body, a church, is one through aligning itself with God. The church is where the believers at Corinth realized or experienced the true belief and practice that was peace with God.
We obey God in a church. The church is where we find the oneness that God wants, expects, and requires for believers. God’s peace is not ruling where false doctrine exists and wrong practice occurs.
The “ye” are the church members of the Colossian church to whom Paul was writing. Notice that Paul excludes himself from that group here by saying “ye.” If this was thinking about some mystical body that one enters by faith alone, Paul would need to say “we” in order to include himself in that group. He doesn’t say that. He says “ye.” Each believer allows peace to rule His life through a church. A church is one because the church members submit to the will of God.
Verse 16 — “psalms . . . , singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”
If a church is not singing the psalms (Psalm 1 through 150), could it be obeying this verse? So a first fine point here is the singing of psalms. That has been the norm in the history of the church. Spurgeon’s hymnbook had a full psalter in the text. His church sang all 150 psalms to various tunes according to the meter of the versification of that psalm. I commend you to return to the singing of the psalms. “You” is plural in v. 16, when Paul writes “in you richly.” The Word of Christ is to dwell in the church, and it in part does so through the psalms. I contend that a church disobeys Colossians 3:16 without implementing a psalter in worship. Some do it out of ignorance, but having read this, that would no longer be the case.
I also want to emphasize that singing in Scripture is “to the Lord.” God is the audience of worship. We sing to Him. That is the only direction of singing in the Bible. For that reason, the music is not a matter of our taste, but God’s taste. “What kind of music does God want to hear?” should be our question. Instead, as influenced by the mainstreaming of Charismaticism into evangelicalism, by the labeling of and acceptance of the Jesus movement as a legitimate revival, and by the reception of the principles of the modern church growth movement, churches now use music that God does not tolerate. The scriptural content of songs, like the versification of the text of the psalms, does not correspond with or harmonize with worldly, fleshly, ungodly tunes. Most forms of music in the world are unacceptable to God. By singing them to God, the people doing so manifest either a blatant self-gratification contradictory to scriptural worship or a woeful lack of discernment.