"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:15-17
That is how we do church. Above is Paul's basic instructions for how we operate as the local church when we are together. I want to look at a few of the instructions given above.
First, we are to operate together in peace. For more on that you can read my post from yesterday on the subject of peace in the church.
Secondly, we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. The Bible must be a cornerstone for what we do when we assemble together, whether in a church sanctuary or a home Bible study. The word of Christ is to dwell in us. We are to be soaked in it until it soaked in us. We should reflect what we see in King David in Psalm 119; we should be in love with the Christ's words.
How do we do this? How do we "Let the word of Christ dwell in you (us) richly"?
Paul first recommends teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom. This is something we often do well. I hope you attend a local church where the Word of God is central to the teaching in the pulpit. I pray that your pastor has you open the Scripture with him every time he preaches. I hope that your Bible studies, Sunday school classes, youth group lessons, discipleship classes, confirmation classes, etc are built on the foundation of the Bible. I think we often do this well or at least understand that this is something essential to what the local church is to do.
Paul's second recommendation for letting the word of Christ dwell richly in us involves singing. Paul encouraged the church at Colosse and would encourage your church to sing songs. We are to sing songs that spring up gratitude in our hearts and that help the word of Christ dwell in us.
When I visit Lutheran services I notice that they do a great job of singing the Psalms. Every Sunday a Psalm is sung verbatim by the congregation. Now, these songs are not the most musically satisfying, but they are the Psalms and the words are unbeatable. In many other churches I hear the congregation singing the Psalms but they might not know that they are (example from Chris Tomlin). These songs help us memorize and meditate on the words of God. I still sing "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I will enter His courts with praise..." whenever I read Psalm 100:4.
We are also to sing hymns. Hymns are something, as a Baptist, that I'm very familiar with. Hymns are often those songs that are jam-packed with theological truths. These songs, most of the time, do not have words taken straight from the Bible but they capture the themes and doctrinal truths of the Bible so well. And hymns, by the way, are not necessarily something that was written long before you were born. I'm noticing more and more contemporary hymns being written, but the old hymns are so great because their words have given them great staying power. These songs are important to sing at church because when we have times of great trial we can remember and pray the words of something like "It is Well with My Soul" or when we see the mountains of Colorado we can belt out the praise of "How Great Thou Art".
Paul says to sing spiritual songs. These are songs that are written with words of truth and that stir our heart's affections for God. There's a lot of overlap between hymns and spiritual songs. Some songs will stir our hearts toward the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus or the Father or they might focus on an attribute of God perhaps. These are songs that are important to the life of the church.
We must structure our church gatherings in a way that helps those who gather have the word of Christ dwell in them. This must be done through teaching, preaching and singing. If you've ever wondered why we sing at church, this is why. Music bonds words to our hearts so powerfully and we must wisely pick lyrics that we want engraved on our hearts.
Finally, "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Whatever it is that we do when we gather must be done in the name of Jesus. So, teach, learn, serve and sing in your church so that the Word dwells in you and do it all for the sake of Jesus' name today.