The Wardrobe of Easter: Dwelling Together in God’s Word
To grow and mature in our faith, we must learn, as Paul advises, to let God’s Word “dwell richly” in us. Prayerfully, humbly, and communally we must steep ourselves in it. Together we must read, study, and meditate it carefully. Together we must gladly open our minds and hearts to its message. Together we must courageously obey it.
Having announced to the believers at Colosse the Good News that they are a community of people who have been resurrected with Jesus their Lord (Col. 3.1) , Paul then urged them: “Let God’s Word dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another….” (3.16) Respecting God’s Word—reading it, meditating upon it, and responding obediently to its promises and commands—follows naturally and necessarily from believers’ respect for and trust in the risen Jesus as their Teacher and Lord. (cf John 13.13)
In his little book, Life in Christ, John Stott claims: “…. ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ were no mere courtesy titles; they bore witness to a reality. Jesus Christ is our Teacher to instruct us and our Lord to command us. All Christian people are under the instruction and discipline of Jesus Christ. It should be inconceivable for a Christian ever to disagree with, or to disobey, him. Whenever we do, the credibility of our claim to be converted Christians is in doubt. For we are not truly converted if we are not intellectually and morally converted, and we are not intellectually and morally converted if we have not subjected our minds and our wills to the yoke of Jesus Christ.” (p. 63)
Instruction, command through God’s Word
How, then, to know what our Teacher aims to teach us and what our Lord desires us to do? He instructs and commands through God’s Word. Its authority is unequivocal and final.
About the authority of God’s Word over Jesus’ disciples, Stott says: “Our view of Scripture is derived from Christ’s view of Scripture, just as our view of discipleship…of the Christian life, and of everything else is derived from Jesus Christ. Any question about the inspiration of Scripture and its authority, therefore, resolves itself to: ‘What did Jesus Christ teach about these points?’”
Jesus is unmistakably clear about what is his—and thus our—final authority: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10.35) He himself obeyed it, and he calls us to do so, too. Thus, for a Christian—and for the Christian Church, too—the Bible, God’s Word written in the Old and New Testaments, takes precedence over everything. What it promises the church (must) believe; what it commands the church (must) do. God’s people ignore Holy Scripture to their peril; they obey it to their welfare.
How important, therefore, for all who acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord also to know God’s Word well—to do what the Bible calls “hearing the Word.”
Christian community and Scripture
Together we must read, study, and meditate it carefully. Together we must gladly open our minds and hearts to its message. Together we must courageously obey it.
Says Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “[A Christian community] must learn to know the Scriptures again, as the Reformers and our [foreparents] knew them. We must not grudge the time and the work that it takes. We must know the Scriptures first and foremost….How shall we ever attain certainty and confidence…if we do not stand on solid Biblical ground?”
Nor may we ever allow another authority to trump and take precedence over what God states in his Word. Not human tradition—even time-honored religious tradition. Not human reason or human experience. Not some ill-defined “spirit of the age.” Not some casual attitude of “Everyone’s thinking that way nowadays.”
Again Bonhoeffer: “It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word….How often we hear innumerable arguments ‘from life’ and ‘from experience’ put forward as the basis for most crucial decisions, but the argument of Scripture is missing….[O]ne who will not learn to handle the Bible for himself is not an evangelical Christian.”
The church’s spiritual welfare
To “hear” God’s Word—to understand its message and then to obey it—is vital for the church’s spiritual welfare. That’s why we Christians gather in groups to study the Bible, and congregate on Sunday to hear it proclaimed. We want to shake the rich fruit hanging heavy from the branches of the tree of God’s Word, as Luther says; to eat and digest that fruit; and then, through the nourishment it provides, to perform deeds of worship and service.
To hear the Word accurately and well, however, is anything but easy. It takes greater—far greater—diligence and attention than a mere quick and dutiful reading of a couple of verses while our minds and hearts are already set toward other matters. Text-messaged- and Facebook-saturated people that we are, and so eager to give ready attention to even the most trivial of the trivia that others send our way, how inept have we also become to let our God get a word—his Word—in edgewise.
To grow and mature in our faith , we must learn, as Paul advises, to let God’s Word “dwell richly” in us. Prayerfully, humbly, and communally we must steep ourselves in it. Failing to do so, we run the great risk of misunderstanding and misapplying it. Worse still, we bring grave dishonor upon and heavy sadness to our Heavenly Father Who sent his Son to bring us life.
Father, we thank You for the firm foundation laid for our faith and life in your all-excelling Word, and which your Son and our Savior, Jesus, followed carefully... Prompt our minds, Holy Spirit, to understand that Word, and give strength to our wills to obey it. Amen.
Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.
Bless your own word of truth, dear Lord, to me,
as when you blessed the bread by Galilee.
then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my All in all!
You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
your holy Word the truth that rescues me.
Give me to eat and live with you above;
teach me to love your truth, for you are love.
O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me,
that he may touch my eyes and make me see.
Show me the truth made plain within your Word,
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord.
Words: st. 1-2 Mary A. Lathbury, 1877, alt., P.D.; st. 3-4 Alexander Groves (1842-1909), P.D.
This series was written to be read in the following order: