Teach & Admonish One Another

| Meg Barnes

“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 3:16-17

Moving from Virginia to Raleigh after I graduated college was one of the scariest and most overwhelming seasons of my life. It was a sudden decision brought about by unexpected circumstances. I arrived with no job, nowhere to live, no local community, and no idea what my future would look like. By God’s grace, my sister invited me to live with her and her family until I could get settled. In the time I lived with them, I didn’t feel like a guest or roommate—I felt like a member of their family. They shared their meals with me, involved me in family time, provided space for me to unpack my things, and opened their house to me. They truly allowed me to dwell with them.

Dwelling in someone’s home is more than simply staying for a night or even a week. As Brian Frost put it, when we invite someone to dwell with us we are saying, “Come and live here, be anywhere, fix anything, inform everything.” We must be willing to let them in, hand over the keys, and open our entire house to them. This is what God requires of us in Colossians 3:16 when He commands us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” If we are not faithful to study God’s Word and allow it to truly dwell in every area of our hearts and inform every aspect of our lives, then the instructions that follow to teach, admonish, and praise are impossible to do in a manner that honors the Lord.

I recently had a conversation with my small group about why it can be so difficult to teach and admonish one another as believers. Why are we so reluctant to speak truth into one another’s lives when the Word repeatedly commands us to do so (Luke 17:3; Colossians 1:28, 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) and provides many examples of believers doing so (Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14)? I’m sure there are many reasons, but two come to mind:

  1. We feel inadequate

  2. We don’t want to hurt feelings or damage a relationship

Honestly, these are pretty understandable and perhaps even wise responses to this command. Why? Because we are sinners, and therefore are inadequate to instruct or correct anyone about anything! Proverbs 15:4 says “a gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Our words are powerful, and we must take great care in how we use them—which is precisely why letting the Word of Christ dwell in our hearts is so essential. Wise teaching, effective admonishment, and genuine praise all flow from a heart so abundantly filled with the Word of God that it spills over and influences every conversation, deed, and action. Any effort to teach or admonish one another must begin with a heart and mind that are saturated by Scripture. Because the truth is, we, in and of ourselves, are inadequate for the task—but God’s Word is not.

So, how we do teach and admonish one another in a way that honors the Lord? Let’s let His Word inform us! Just before these verses in Colossians 3:1-15, Paul encourages us to “put to death” our old, sinful self, and instead to “put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” as we forebear with one another, forgive one another, and above all, love one another (vv. 12-15). Teaching and admonishment are two sides of the same coin. One seeks to impart knowledge and the other seeks to warn and correct—but the intent of both is to love one another by helping each other to grow in our knowledge of Christ and walk in a manner that glorifies His Name.

Before you seek to teach or admonish a fellow believer:

  • Check your heart.

    • Is your motivation to teach or admonish rooted in a desire for God’s glory or your glory? Their greatest good or your greatest good?

    • Have you spent time saturating your heart with God’s Word?

    • Have you spent time in prayer and asked the Lord to give you wisdom?

    • Is there any sin in your life that needs to be addressed first?

  • Check your words.

    • How is God’s Word informing and directing your words?

    • Does what you plan to say reflect the Christlike characteristics in Colossians 3:12-15?

  • Check your actions.

    • Does the way you plan to teach or admonish reflect the Christlike characteristics described in Colossians 3:12-15?

    • What is the best course of action according to 1 Thessalonians 5:14?

      • Admonish (warn or correct) the idle

      • Encourage the fainthearted

      • Help the weak

      • Be patient with them all

Instructing, warning, or correcting a fellow believer is one of the greatest expressions of love we can show. When grounded in God’s Word, it shows our genuine desire for them to know and experience the fullness of God’s gift to us through Christ. A woman who is filled to overflowing with God’s Word and sensitive to the Holy Spirit is fully equipped to teach and admonish those around her, because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Let’s love one another by teaching each other and admonishing each other in all compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. “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 3:17).