Colossians 3:16 tells Christians to:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. (NET Bible)
This passage does not instruct us in the how of letting Christ’s word dwell in us richly. Bit it does instructs us to let His word dwell in us richly.
By whatever means then — daily scripture readings, MP3s, podcasts, devotionals, sharing with others, listening to a sermon, meditations, general revelation from science and nature — the key to the first part of this passage is to let the word of Christ dwell in you, and to let it do so richly.
This means, we should let His word seep through us into our inner-most being — into our hearts. Once there, it will purify us and clean us and change us further into His likeness.
But this is not a one-off exercise. To have the word of Christ dwell in us is to have it stay in our hearts — today, tomorrow, and forever.
The following is from Warren W. Wiersbe’s “The Bible Exposition Commentary”
The Word of Christ (Col. 3:16)
This means, of course, the Word of God. The false teachers came to Colossae with man-made traditions, religious rules, and human philosophies. They tried to harmonize God’s Word with their teachings, but they could not succeed. God’s Word always magnifies Jesus Christ.
It was not the word of false teachers that brought salvation to the Colossians; it was the Word of the truth of the Gospel (Col. 1:5). This same Word gives us life and sustains and strengthens us (1 Peter 1:22–2:3).
The Word will transform our lives if we will but permit it to “dwell” in us richly. The word dwell means “to feel at home.” If we have experienced the grace and the peace of Christ, then the Word of Christ will feel at home in our hearts. We will discover how rich the Word is with spiritual treasures that give value to our lives.
However, we must not think that Paul wrote this only to individual Christians; for he directed it to the entire church body. “Let the Word of Christ dwell among you” is a possible translation. As it dwells richly in each member of the church, it will dwell richly in the church fellowship.
There is a danger today, as there was in Paul’s day, that local churches minimize the Word of God. There seems to be a lack of simple Bible teaching in Sunday School classes and pulpits. Far more interest is shown in movies, musical performances, and various entertainments than in God’s Word. Many saved people cannot honestly say that God’s Word dwells in their hearts richly because they do not take time to read, study, and memorize it.
There is (according to Paul) a definite relationship between our knowledge of the Bible and our expression of worship in song. One way we teach and encourage ourselves and others is through the singing of the Word of God. But if we do not know the Bible and understand it, we cannot honestly sing it from our hearts.
Perhaps this “poverty of Scripture” in our churches is one cause of the abundance of unbiblical songs that we have today. A singer has no more right to sing a lie than a preacher has to preach a lie. The great songs of the faith were, for the most part, written by believers who knew the doctrines of the Word of God. Many so-called “Christian songs” today are written by people with little or no knowledge of the Word of God. It is a dangerous thing to separate the praise of God from the Word of God.
Psalms were, of course, the songs taken from the Old Testament. For centuries, the churches in the English-speaking world sang only metrical versions of the Psalms. I am glad to see today a return to the singing of Scripture, especially the Psalms. Hymns were songs of praise to God written by believers but not taken from the Psalms. The church today has a rich heritage of hymnody which, I fear, is being neglected. Spiritual songs were expressions of Bible truth other than in psalms and hymns. When we sing a hymn, we address the Lord; when we sing a spiritual song, we address each other.
Paul described a local church worship service (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16). Note that the believer sings to himself as well as to the other believers and to the Lord. Our singing must be from our hearts and not just our lips. But if the Word of God is not in our hearts, we cannot sing from our hearts.
This shows how important it is to know the Word of God, for it enriches our public and private worship of God.
Our singing must be with grace. This does not mean “singing in a gracious way,” but singing because we have God’s grace in our hearts. It takes grace to sing when we are in pain, or when circumstances seem to be against us. It certainly took grace for Paul and Silas to sing in that Philippian prison (Acts 16:22–25). Our singing must not be a display of fleshly talent; it must be a demonstration of the grace of God in our hearts.
Someone has said that a successful Christian life involves attention to three books: God’s Book, the Bible; the pocketbook; and the hymn book. I agree.
I often use a hymnal in my devotional time, to help express my praise to God. As a believer grows in his knowledge of the Word, he will want to grow in his expression of praise. He will learn to appreciate the great hymns of the church, the Gospel songs, and the spiritual songs that teach spiritual truths. To sing only the elementary songs of the faith is to rob himself of spiritual enrichment.
Before we leave this section, we should notice an important parallel with Ephesians 5:18–6:9. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasized being filled with the Spirit; in his Letter to the Colossians, he emphasized being filled with the Word. But the evidences of this spiritual fullness are the same! How can we tell if a believer is filled with the Spirit? He is joyful, thankful, and submissive (Eph. 5:19–21); all of this shows up in his relationships in the home and on the job (Eph. 5:22–6:9). How can we tell if a believer is filled with the Word of God? He is joyful, thankful, and submissive (Col. 3:16–4:1).
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Col 3:16). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.