- Read Colossians 3:12-17 here.
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (21 November) you can listen to it here.
As a minister within the Acapella Churches of Christ, I still find it mind-boggling that such a large movement can take so much of their identity from what is NOT written in Colossians 3:16! There are several reasons this amazes me, but that’s not really what I want to discuss today. One of the frustrating side effects that comes with making Col. 3:16 the centre of the argument for a capella corporate worship, is that Paul’s reason for writing the verse and paragraph is often overlooked. It’s this message I want to explore in this post.
As always, we need to begin with the context. according to vs 5-9 God has rescued us from a life that can best be described as a soap opera. We no longer participate in a Days of Our Lives world. Instead, God has chosen us to be holy and loved by Him (v12). We now clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” We forgive each other and our lives are characterised by love, which results in unity and peace. (That’s my simple paraphrase of vs 5-15a.)
In the NIV v15 begins a new three verse paragraph. It seems to me that the theme of this paragraph is thankfulness. At the end of v15 is the simple sentence, “And be thankful.” In v16 we’re told to “sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Verse 17 tells us that “Whatever you do… [do it while] giving thanks to God the Father…”.
When we compare the before and after descriptions in v5-15 we immediately see why we should thank God. Life with God is vastly superior than living without Him. Christians’ lives and worship should be characterised by a spirit of thankfulness for all he has done for us.
As we turn to v16 specifically, Paul tells the church to use their musical worship to remind one another of the Gospel, the message of Christ. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in worship contains a horizontal element as we remind each other of God’s goodness toward us. We’re also singing to God to express our gratitude to Him.
Sadly, in our eagerness to use this verse to debate the method of worship, we often overlook Paul’s teaching on the content and motivation for our worship!
- I don’t believe that all of our worship services should be one-dimensional or that it’s wrong to sing songs with a message other than gratitude. But I wonder, in your experience of worship services, what percentage of the service would you say typically involves thankfulness?
- Have you experience a church characterised by thankfulness? What gave it that character?
- How would a church (or individual) with an emphasis on thankfulness differ from other congregations?