Sometimes when we see a command in the Bible, we think to ourselves, “Well, that’s great and all, but how do I do that?” If we’re letting the Bible interpret the Bible rather than man, we look for the answers within God’s word. Frequently, the “how to” of a command is found in the same context if we look for the “-ing words.” This is one of my favorite Bible study tricks. As with all quality Bible study techniques, it’s not new, but when I first heard Denny Petrillo teach on it, I found it quite revelatory and helpful. Let’s look at two passages using this technique.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
This is a scripture we frequently use when we talk about instrumental music in worship. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we do it so often that we have a tendency to overlook the actual intent of the verse. It is not Paul’s aim to teach on the use or non-use of instruments in worship (the first century Christians didn’t need a lesson on it; in fact no one did until the sixth century when instruments first entered the worship assembly). So what is Paul’s aim? What are we meant to understand from this scripture?
We find this command to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” in a context of general Christian behavior. This is a command we are to fulfill because we “have died and” our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Again, we find ourselves asking, “how do we meet this command?” When I ask this question, the answer I get is usually not related to what is on the page whatsoever. Rarely do I find someone who pulls the answer directly from in front of them. I get “We study our Bibles frequently… love our neighbor… pray…” We make things harder than they are when we do this and run the risk of doing things and being people who are outside God’s will. If you get nothing else out of this post, get this: STICK TO THE SCRIPTURES. Let the Bible interpret the Bible. Let’s look at how this scripture says we are to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within.” Let’s look at those -ing words.
- teaching– this is to be with all wisdom. Wisdom comes from God (James 1:5, 3:17).
- admonishing– according to this verse, one way we do this is through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
- singing– to fulfill the command, we must be singing with thankfulness in our hearts.
The conclusion we can draw is that the word of Christ comes to dwell richly within us when we are teaching with all wisdom, admonishing one another and singing with thankfulness. If we are not doing one of these things, we are not fulfilling this command and we are not allowing the word of Christ to dwell within us. When we are not fulfilling a command, we are sinning.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Here’s another verse we know because we’ve read it a zillion times. Even so, let’s look with new eyes. In context, Jesus has been crucified, has risen from the grave, spent time walking the earth and is about to ascend into heaven. He’s having a conversation with his 11 disciples (Matthew 28:16). He tells them all authority has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), gives them the command we’re about to examine and comforts them with a promise to be with them always. The command He gives is to go and make disciples. Wonderful. We’re ready… but how do we do that? We have many examples throughout Acts of how the apostles fulfilled the command to “go” and there isn’t a discussion of it here, but there is a discussion of how to make disciples. We find two -ing words:
- baptizing them– must be in the name of (by the authority of) the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is, it must be as God has commanded in method and meaning.
- teaching them– they must be taught to observe all that Jesus commanded. Basically, they must be taught to make Jesus the true Lord (master, ruler) by observing (doing, obeying) all that Jesus commanded.
Just as we discussed with Colossians 3:16, if we leave out one of the given methods of fulfilling the command, we are not in obedience to the command and we are therefore going against God’s will. It’s the same thing here. If we leave out baptism, we have not fulfilled the command and we are not making disciples. If we are not teaching that all of Jesus’ commands must be observed, we are not making disciples. By extension, someone who has not been baptized according to the will of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not a disciple. Someone who is failing to make Christ Lord of their life is not a disciple.
Challenge: Study Hebrews 10:24, 25 using this technique. Be careful! There are some -ing words in there that aren’t the kind of -ing words we’re talking about, but don’t worry. Think it through, decide if the -ing word stands on its own or is connected to something else. Hint: in the New American Standard version, there are two -ing words that tell us how to fulfill the command and two that help describe.