I had the opportunity to preach on Colossians 3:16 this past weekend. In studying and preparing, I was struck by this idea. We need corporate worship in order to help us love the gospel and fight sin. Let me show you how I think the text shows us this.
Loving the Gospel in Corporate Worship
Colossians 3:16 begins by aiming at our deep love for the gospel. It says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly inside you.” This phrase, “word of Christ,” is a shorthand way of referring to the message about Christ, which is the message of the gospel. So Paul is saying, I want the gospel message, the news about Jesus’ birth. This includes all his righteous acts on earth, his death as a payment for sin, his victorious resurrection, and his ascension into heaven to have no small place in your gathering.
That message should have a rich quality as it dwells in our hearts. But notice something interesting about who this is addressed to. This is not a command to an individual; this is a command to people, to a church. The “you” in Colossians 3:16 is plural. Had Paul been from the South, he might have said, Let the word of Christ dwell richly in y’all. (I just moved to Alabama, so that’s my best effort at cultural contextualization!)
Corporate Worship as the Church
Notice how Paul sees this message going deeply into the hearts of these believers—through singing. They are supposed to sing different types of songs, all of which are aimed at instructing and encouraging people around them to have a dynamic gospel depth in their hearts. As one of my friends often says, “They were supposed to sing themselves more deeply into the gospel.” What a rich way of reminding us that we can’t fully be the Christians we should be without the church, specifically without corporate worship.
Fighting Sin with Thankfulness
Corporate worship not only helps us love the gospel more deeply, but according to Colossians 3:16 it also helps us fight sin. Paul’s vision for fighting sin comes in an interesting way, namely, with thankfulness. Colossians 3:15-17 mentions thankfulness three different times, which probably means that thanksgiving is supposed to be a big part of our corporate worship gatherings. To see the connection between thanksgiving and fighting sin, look at Ephesians 5:3-4:
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”
Did you notice what comes at the end of this horrible list of sins? Thanksgiving. You might wonder, Is that all I get for fighting these monster-sized sins in my life? One of the pastors I used to work with said that it can seem like we get a little water gun to help us quench the raging inferno of our lusts.
An Effective Tool
Thanksgiving might not seem all that powerful, but it is an effective tool that God has given us to do battle with all of these lusts in our hearts. Think about what the presence of thankfulness means. It means that in every direction you look in your life you see the overflowing mercy and goodness of God, and you’re able to say, I have enough. It means that you believe that God has given you every good thing that you need in order to follow him. So what does the absence of thanksgiving look like?
The absence of thankfulness results in constant, evil searching for more. It’s an obsession with something else. We look to sexual sin or we covet a new car, a new house, or a new job. We ferociously look for something else. But the power of thanksgiving is the remedy a Christian needs to fight victoriously. In thanksgiving, God gives us no mere water gun for our housefire, but rather the Pacific Ocean to consume every smolder of sin.
Now certainly God wants us to fight sin and love the gospel even when we’re not in corporate worship. But don’t miss the wonderful, sanctifying help that God has given us as we gather on Sunday. We should prize this time as one of God’s greatest means of grace for us. Why, then, would we not sacrifice in order to attend and heartily engage in corporate worship?