“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). In this clause, the believer finds the essential recipe for Christian living.
“The word of Christ.” This phrase sticks out to a student of the Word because it is found nowhere else in the Bible. Commentators debate whether the phrase refers solely or primarily to that which was spoken by the incarnate Christ or whether it refers to what is revealed about Him in the volume of the Book. Given the Pauline view both of Scripture and of the work of Christ, it seems almost inconceivable that Paul could have anything other than the entire volume of inspired writings in mind. If so, Paul through the Spirit is enjoining believers to give heed to the entire Word of God, with a particular focus and emphasis on its central subject and theme: the Lord Jesus Christ. Any study of the Word, any attempt to understand it, trust it, and obey it without focusing on Christ is misguided and doomed to failure. The essential “ingredient” of the Christian life is Christ. He must be believed on, be seen, be known, be trusted, be loved, and be obeyed. The phrase the word of Christ is intended to remind believers of their priorities. As essential as faith and faithfulness are, Christianity is never mere dogma and doing. Sound doctrine and scriptural obedience find their heartbeat to live in the Person of Christ.
“Let . . . dwell in you richly.” This phrase suggests three powerful truths. First, “the word of Christ” is to dwell in believers. It is not to be treated as a guest or a visitor—someone passing through who has neither ownership nor authority, but just a momentary occupancy at the discretion of the owner. It is to dwell as the owner with full rights of ownership to occupy and use the house in accord with the will of the one holding the deed to the property. Second, that the word of Christ is to dwell in believers “richly” suggests that it is to live in them, to fill and to occupy their lives just as they occupy a house. Just as a homeowner fills every room with His possessions, all that Christ is as revealed in “the word of Christ” is to fill them. Just as a homeowner uses every room and is master and controller of every amenity (heat, A/C, plumbing, laundry . . .), so “the word of Christ” is to be master and controller of all the life of the believer. The word richly is translated elsewhere as abundantly. The believer is to yield the word of Christ abundant access to his life. It should govern his thoughts and motives; it should rule his desires and choices; and it should control his words and his behavior. Every aspect of his life should be governed by the word of Christ. And third, the little word let makes clear that, though believers are to do this, the “dwelling” is not automatic. If the word of Christ is to dwell richly in the believer, it will be the result of a conscious and deliberate act of the will. God may chasten His own—even severely—for sin, but He will not force them to yield to His will. That must come as the fruit of a heart filled with thankful, loving obedience to the One who loved and saved a lost sinner and now wants to be glorified through that redeemed life.
Though the word richly surely speaks of the degree to which the Word is to fill and govern a believer’s life, it is difficult to avoid the thought that it also suggests the quality of the life of one so yielded: it is rich in ways unimagined and unfathomable by the undedicated will. But as with any recipe, the exacting care and attention given the instructions, though not necessarily enjoyable in themselves, yield an enjoyable result. A believer can live in rebellion against the Lord—even successfully, as the world counts success—but the eternal riches of Christ belong to the one who submits to being indwelt richly by the word of Christ.
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