Friday, July 22, 2011

Teaching and Admonishing One Another in All Wisdom

In Paul's letter to the Colossians, the apostle spends quite a bit of time discussing the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Paul is concerned that false teachers might be leading the Christians astray. He writes this letter primarily to counteract this significant problem.

As is typical with Paul, toward the end of his letter he exhorts the readers to live out holy lives together. After instructing the Colossians to put to death various forms of sinful attitudes and behaviors, Paul writes the following amazing paragraph:

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:12-17 (emphasis mine)

That's quite a standard for us to live by. The entire paragraph carries the force of one large imperative. We are clearly expected to live far differently than the world lives.

As we read these words, we generally accept that fact that we are commanded to live according to them. However, I wonder if we think very much about the phrase, "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom."

How are we to understand this? It is clearly an outworking of an active priesthood of all believers. In order for us to be teaching and admonishing one another, we must all accept the fact that we are priests and therefore have worthwhile things to teach. Ultimately, all we teach should be based on the word of Christ which dwells in us.

At this point we must be careful. When Paul uses the word "teaching," he is not simply talking about one person standing up in front of a group of people relaying facts. That is one form of teaching, but only one. Paul seems to have in mind all of life with various forms of teaching and admonishing taking place. Interestingly, Paul does not write this in the context of church gatherings (like I Cor. 14). Instead, the apostle simply appears to be telling us that as we go about our lives we have the duty of teaching and admonishing one another.

This implies spending time together and doing things together. While the teaching and admonishing can take place in a larger gathering, it can also happen whenever and wherever two or more Christians come together. Can it happen in a coffee shop? Certainly. Can it happen at a gas station? Why not? In fact, Paul places no restrictions on where, when, or how this is to occur.

Let's also be careful to understand that Paul is discussing much more than one person passing along facts to another. The word "admonishing" suggests that we are to encourage and exhort one another to changed lives. We can do this via discussion only, but it is often best achieved through doing something active together. For example, serving others is a great way to teach.

We can see, then, that teaching and admonishing is closely related to disciple making. I'd say it's an important part of that process. In fact, in the Great Commission we read that Jesus expects us to teach new believers to obey Christ.

My encouragement to all of us is that we embrace Paul's call to teach and be taught, to admonish and be admonished. The church most effectively matures when we all become actively involved in this process, embracing this role in the priesthood of all believers.

Be a teacher. Be an admonisher. More than that, be a server. Help others grow to become more like Jesus. When we do this, we'll see that the same is happening to us.


jrpv said...

Dear Eric,

The rendering of the following passage in the New American Standard translation seems to imply different offices within the body, either permanent or transitory, either then or now. Taken together with Paul's (God's) words in the Colossians passage, perhaps at least some roles in the church are (were) "available" to all believers (then or now). However, proper exegesis of the excerpt from Ephesians may require much more than I can bring to bear on it (I can only review other renderings and commentaries by those who know Biblical Greek). The introduction of "as" or "to be" in different versions were intended to aid understanding, not to slant it.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 NAS [I almost omitted verse 14 - yours is an honoring blog, mine is an honest inquiry.]

What thinkest thou?

I appreciate that your clarification of admonishment is a positive one, a usage that is edifying.

Additionally, as a Christian parent, I'm painfully aware that in teaching others, the forms of teaching include our words and our actions - we also teach by example, and even by our manner of speaking.

May God Bless You and Alice and Your Family,

Bob ><>

Eric said...


Thanks for writing.

My understanding of the Ephesians 4 passage is that Paul is talking of giftings within the church. I believe they all still exist today.

As for those who are gifted in teaching, that is a wonderful thing. It is certainly important to the edification of the body.

However, scripture never limits teaching to those who are gifted in it. The Colossians passage, I believe, instructs us all to teach one another.

In the church we will all be gifted in certain ways. Despite this, the bible never limits certain activities to only those gifted in those areas.

I suppose a balance is in order. We should by all means carefully listen to and pay attention to those who are gifted in specific areas of church life. At the same time, let's all serve and encourage all others to do so.

Mac said...

Thanks for the thought. We are all, not just clergy (that is another topic) are called to teach and admonish one another. Paul was talking with all believers in the body, not just aselect few. The great commision of Christ has become the Great Omission to those who have advocated their biblical responsibility as a brother or sister in the Lord. We all are members of one body and as Corinthians says, no part is more important. We each have our own calling and gifts, but we have one calling in Christ and that is to teach and admonish the Gospel. P.S
In the Wisdom of God, not man. Thanks again brother, for the edification!

Eric said...


I agree completely. We have a wonderful responsibility to one another. Now we must recognize this and act on it.