Tuesday, May 06, 2008

νουθετέω (Colossians 3:16)

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. (Col 3:16-17)

As I was preparing for a Bible study on "How to respond to believers in sin" I was struck with something in these verses. Something that perhaps I knew but really hadn't understood clearly the implications of. In these verses, Paul is commanding, not suggesting, that the word of Christ (the Bible) permeates every aspect of the believers life in the Body of Christ. Some examples of this church life are then listed: teaching, admonishing, singing, hearts of thankfulness. Paul then sums it up by saying that "whatever you do" should be Christ centered.

What hit me is that in Paul's list of activities and attitudes that he assumes are a natural part of church life, admonishing is sandwiched right between teaching and singing. That seemed weird to me. I have been in the church my whole life. I have heard a lot of teaching. I have sung a lot of songs. But admonishing? Apart from the occasional pulpit pounding sermon, admonishing has not been a regular experience for me in the Body of Christ, either giving or receiving.
The word admonishment in Greek literally means "to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct" (BDAG), in other words, confronting people in their sin and lovingly calling them to repent. I know that we most often see that kind of thing as the responsibility of the pastor to cover in his sermons (where, by the way he probably won't use names and confront any individuals directly) but if we really want to be faithful to Scripture we will realize that the command to admonish each other is binding on every believer. We must be confronting each other about our sin! Its not an option. Get your hands dirty at church. Some of us don't even know anybody well enough to know what they need admonishing about!
Perhaps that greatest realization that I had about this passage is that admonishing each other is and should be as natural a part of the Christian experience as teaching, preaching, and singing worship songs. In fact, in our Western church services where everything has to be compartmentalized and scheduled to the exact minute, we should have a "admonishment" time right between worship and the sermon. We tend to think that when confrontation of sin has to take place that it is a bad thing. Of course sin is bad. But that is why we need sanctification and it is clear from scripture that sanctification does not happen in a vacuum, it happens in the Body of Christ. What better place to be confronted about and confess and repent of our deepest, darkest, demons then in the midst of a community who has felt the same conviction of sin and tasted of the loving mercy of our Savior? What better way to love your brother or sister in Christ than to be willing to have a hard conversation about them and warn them of their wandering from God? God is calling you and me to be about confronting sin in the lives of His children. Let's be obedient to give and humble to receive admonishment.

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