What if changing your life for the better was as simple as God makes it sound? Would you take the first step?
Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 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.
2 Corinthians 9:8: (GEMS theme verse) And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Both “teaching and admonishing” and “singing” should be considered as means though which one can allow the word of Christ to dwell in our hearts and in our midst. As in 1:28, Christ is again the focus of “teaching and admonishing,” as highlighted by instrumental datives, “with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” In the OT, songs were means through which God’s people remembered his mighty deeds, and through such deeds God made himself known. For Paul, believers also need to be educated through such confessions of God’s mighty acts through his Son. It is uncertain if clear distinctions should be made among “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” although they should not be considered as synonyms. “Psalms” (???????) often refer to OT psalms (Luke 20:42, 44; Acts 1:20), but Paul also uses it for hymns sung in a Christian worship setting (1 Cor 14:26). “Hymns” (??????), a word that appears only here and in Eph 5:19 in the NT, often refers to praises offered to deities or heroes. In the early church, it could refer specifically to hymns sung to Christ as God (Pliny, Ep. Tra. 10.96), a category for which the christological hymn of 1:15–20 comfortably qualifies. “Spiritual songs” (????? ????????????) can refer to “Spirit-inspired, and therefore often spontaneous, songs” sung in Christian worship settings (cf. 1 Cor 14:15–16), although the word “spiritual” can be taken as modifying “psalms” and “hymns” as well. Regardless of how the terms are to be understood, they all aim at confessing God’s acts that climax in the life and ministry of Christ.
– David W. Pao
Does Paul’s rhetoric soar a bit here in an effort to speak of comprehensiveness (whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything), or does he have something more specific in mind? The question arises because of the location of the verse. The preceding verse spoke of worship and admonition, and the verses prior to that of the proper conduct in the one body. So does name of the Lord Jesus conclude a series with “peace of Christ” (Col. 3:15) and “word of Christ” (3:16), indicating that all conduct and speech as set forth in 3:12–16 is to be done in the one body in the one name of the Lord Jesus? Word and deed would therefore encapsulate all that Paul has mentioned in the foregoing, in the territory of compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, thankfulness, teaching, and worship. But equally, the verse can point ahead to 3:18–4:1, where the duties of the new Adam are set out, the first one being predicated “as is fitting in the Lord” (3:18). “Fitting” gives way to “pleasing the Lord” (3:20), which passes on to “fearing the Lord” and “serving the Lord” (3:22–23) and concludes by returning to service of “the Lord Christ” (t? kyri? christ?). Modern commentary has focused on the illuminating parallels between Paul’s admonitions in 3:18–4:1 and what are called “household codes” from the Greco-Roman milieu. Both Aristotle and Plato discuss the household unit and its critical place within a stable society. The Roman household was the cornerstone of society and the means by which peace and stability were to be effectively maintained. The paterfamilias had specific responsibilities for upholding the “chain of command” in the family (wife, children, slaves) and rights and privileges accrued to them in the light of that. What is immediately clear, in view of 3:18–4:1, is how thoroughly distinctive is Paul’s own understanding. The sixfold reference to kyrios in the space of nine verses can hardly be accidental. Moreover, Paul concludes by telling the master of the slave, and presumptive head of the Christian household, that a master in heaven is over him. The point is clear enough, but the Greek is even clearer given the repetition noted. The kyrioi (“masters”) have a kyrios in heaven. As we leave the present section with its emphasis on doing everything in the name of kyrios i?sous (3:17) and enter the space Paul sets aside to describe the new Adam household—with its sevenfold reference to kyrios (including the finale in 4:1)—the difference between the contemporaneous household and the one familiar to the Colossians in the old Adam could not be more striking. Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus includes what is fitting, pleasing, and reverent to the Lord, within the family of his new designing. Proper service and proper justice are within the single domain of the Lord Christ (3:24). The final verse at 3:17 serves to link the “word” of 3:12–16 with the “deeds” to follow in 3:18–4:1. – Christopher R. Seitz