Living the life of the new age expresses itself in our daily interactions, as well as when we meet together as God’s people in our weekly church gatherings. Paul now mentions three features of our life as Christian communities.
Firstly, he exhorts us to be people of peace (v. 15). Our war with God is over because Jesus has “[made] peace through his blood” (Colossians 1:20). This peace then floods our hearts and heals our relationships. We no longer live in fear and guilt before God, because we know that we are forgiven and we are His children. Therefore, our relationships must be marked by forgiveness and the absence of hostility.
Paul then exhorts us to be thankful (v. 15). Hearts full of God’s peace should be hearts full of thanks.
Finally, “the message of Christ”, the gospel and all the teachings and doctrines of and about Jesus, should lavishly fill our communal lives (v. 16). We teach and admonish. We bring to God’s people new insights or fresh reminders of what God has done for us in Christ, and we correct wrong ideas, wrong attitudes, and wrong behaviours.
But then the passage takes a surprising twist. How does Christ’s Word dwell in His people? I would have said something like this: “Teaching and admonishing one another with regular Bible studies, daily quiet times, and hearing lots of great sermons.” Of course, these are all very important, but Paul exhorts us to sing (v. 16)! We are to sing the Psalms of the Psalter, “hymns” (probably the other songs of the Bible), and “spiritual songs”—all those songs, old and new, inspired by the Spirit. Singing has always been a major vehicle for conveying God’s truth. That’s why Paul exhorts us to sing to one another. It remains a very important dimension of the teaching ministry of the church today. There is a horizontal dimension to our singing: we sing to one another; and there is also a vertical dimension to our singing: we sing to the Lord.
I was in a church recently where we sang for twenty minutes, and none of the songs spoke of the gospel. They neither edified the body nor glorified God our Saviour. Let us sing instead as the Scriptures exhort us to sing.
Reflect upon your church experience. Is peace a feature of your life as a Christian community? In the light of what Paul says in Colossians 3:15-17, how can we bring healing and reconciliation when relationships are damaged or broken in our midst?
Think about the singing in your church. How are the songs deepening your understanding of the gospel? Does your church sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”?