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.