God gave officers to His church, granting them specific responsibilities. The elders are to meet the spiritual needs of the flock, focusing on the ministry of the Word and on prayer. Deacons are to meet the physical needs of the flock, providing resources for those who lack basic necessities (Acts 6:1–6). Yet those who are not ordained church officers—the laity—also have duties. In the first place, they are to obey the elders and deacons with gladness (Heb. 13:17). Today’s passage gives us another set of duties: teaching, admonishment, and thanksgiving (Col. 3:16–17).
Because of the gifts and callings given to the church’s elders and deacons, it is easy for us to suppose that the responsibility of teaching lies exclusively with them, and particularly with the elders. Certainly, the ordained teaching ministry has a certain primacy within the church, for Christ “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11–12). However, the duty of teaching and admonishing the saints does not lie only with ordained officers. As Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, the church as a whole is to teach and admonish. We are to be about “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” How do we do that? One way is found in the same verse: “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” In corporate worship, our singing has a teaching function. Good hymns summarize God’s Word, and by singing them, we are speaking God’s truth to others.
Teaching and admonishment are not limited to corporate worship, however. We are called to go after those who wander from the truth, confronting them with love and calling in the help of the elders when a wanderer does not repent (Matt. 18:15–17; Gal. 6:1; James 5:19–20). Admonishment and teaching can also take place as we bear one another’s burdens and show each other how to look to Christ (Gal. 6:2). The important thing to note is that we all have a certain responsibility to teach and admonish one another. Therefore, we should be seeking to grow in our knowledge of God’s Word so that we can fulfill this duty of teaching and admonishing.
Laypeople also have the job of giving thanks in all things (Col. 3:17). Indeed, this applies to ordained church officers as well. This does not mean we should view all things as good in themselves; rather, we are to thank God for how He uses everything to conform us to Christ (Rom. 8:28).