Grace For The Journey
In our previous post we began a study of Colossians 4:1-6, a passage where the Apostle Paul provides some of the basics of Christian living. Let’s read there verses again to remind us of the focus of the passage, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
Yesterday we looked at the first fruit of giving our all to Christ – Grateful Praying. In today’s blog we come to the apostle Paul’s final instruction about the Christian life in this letter. In this passage he gives the believers at Colossae direction on how to prays properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an important lesson for us as well because the lack of evangelism is directly tied to the lack of proper prayer, and proper prayer is directly related to living in a manner in keeping with being someone who has been raised up with Christ. I want to stress this point from the beginning not only because it is the proper context for what Paul says here, but it is the only way in which Paul’s instructions can be carried out with faithfulness.
Praying properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ is dependent on having the motivations and following the instructions Paul has given in Chapter 3. As Paul began that chapter, he pointed out that every true Christian has been raised up with Christ and therefore there should be certain changes in that person’s life. This includes . . .
- Having a mind set on the things above to seek them instead of the things of this earth. The importance of what is eternal replaces what is temporal.
- The manner of life is changed as sinful habits and attitudes are set aside and put to death and replaced by new habits and attitudes that are righteous and holy.
- Love for God and others replaces the sinful selfishness that resulted in all manners of hatred toward and exploitation of others.
- At the heart of this change in the manner of life is the change in the purpose of life. Life is no longer about you, your comforts, desires and glory. It is now about God and His glory.
That is why Paul summarizes in Colossians 3:17 that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to the Father.”
This change in the purpose and manner of life should have a positive effect on every relationship. We spent quite a bit of time examining the roles God has given within the family and the work environment (Colossians 3:18-4:1). These are our closest relationships. They are the people we will spend the greatest amount of time with and with whom we will have the greatest influence – and they on us as well. But there is another group of people that we as Christians must be concerned about and those are the unsaved.
If our general habits and attitudes are in keeping with those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12) and our purpose in life is to glorify the Lord, then we will be concerned about those who are not believers and how we interact with them. We will desire to be good witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ that we might be used of God in their lives. Our ability to be good witnesses begins with prayer. It incudes three other key elements . . .
In verse 3, Paul next gives specific direction about what he wants the Colossians to be praying about – “praying at the same time for us, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I am imprisoned.”
This is the connection between prayer and evangelism. Paul understood this clearly and it was common for him to make a request like this one to those to whom he was writing (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
His desire was to be able to preach the gospel
Wherever he might be and he was concerned
That he would be clear in what he said
And bold in its proclamation.
If Paul understood his need for prayer for opportunity, boldness and clarity, then how much more do we need others praying for us! If you want to tell others about the Lord Jesus, then begin by praying yourself and then getting others to join you in praying for such opportunities. Ask them also to pray that you will be clear in presenting the message of salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to get side-tracked or tongue tied when talking to someone about their sin and need for the Lord. It is also easy to be intimidated so that even obvious opportunities are lost. Certainly you must look for opportunities and engaging people in conversation will create them, but if you are praying and having others pray for you, I can guarantee you will have more than enough opportunity.
Consider where Paul was at when he wrote this letter. Paul was in Rome sitting in prison, or more likely a house arrest situation in which people could come see him, but he could not go see them. That was the situation Paul was in at the close of the book of Acts and what is described in his letter to the Philippians. Paul could not go out, yet the Lord brought him all sorts of people to whom he proclaimed the gospel. This included Jews and Gentiles. Philippians 1 records that Paul had even had an impact upon the Praetorian guard, Caesar’s elite personal guard, and Caesar’s household. Yet . . .
Paul wanted the doors opened
So that he could preach
To even more people.
Paul did not like
Being in prison,
But he rejoiced over
What God was doing
Through him while
He was in prison
Such is and should be the heart of the one raised up with Christ, for the things that are eternal in nature, the souls of men and women, are more important than current living needs and comforts.
But consider this as well. Paul himself was devoted to prayer and he had many people who were also devoted to prayer that were praying for him, and Paul was in prison because he did boldly proclaim the mystery of Christ, which is the fact that God has made available to Jew and Gentile alike salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus. Paul was in prison precisely because the Jews were upset and could not accept the message that Gentiles did not have to become proselytes of Judaism and keep the Mosaic Law in order to be accepted by God. The Roman guard had first arrested Paul in order to protect him from the efforts of the Jews to kill him in the Temple (Acts 21). He remained in prison because they continued to intimidate the Roman Governors (Acts 22-26).
There is this tendency in American Christianity to think that if you do well at keeping God’s moral commands and have a good prayer and devotional life, then God is only going to allow good things to come into your life. That is why professing Christians here so quickly become discouraged or even mad at God if things do not happen the way they would like. That includes even small things such as your car or appliances breaking down, getting a cold at an inopportune time or not having enough money to buy the things your friends or neighbors are purchasing. The truth is the opposite.
Jesus said in John 15:20 that if they persecuted Him, then they will also persecute you. Paul told Timothy that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus added in John 16:33 that in this world we would have tribulation, but we could be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that you would be blessed if men cast insults, persecute and say all manner of evil against you falsely on account of Him. He added that you should rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If you are devoted to prayer and have others diligently praying on your behalf, then don’t be surprised if God gives you opportunities beyond your expectations and uses you in ways beyond what you thought was possible. But also don’t be surprised if our adversary and those of this world that are under his control will hate you for it and do all they can to make your life miserable. If you want a quite life far removed from any possibility of trouble and turmoil, then you do not want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. His peace is always present and does surpass all comprehension, but it exists in the midst of the turmoil of this world.
God-directed Speech – Verse 4.
Paul was already suffering because of His witness for Christ, and though He mentions this is the reason he was in prison, his concern was to speak, act, and respond properly. Notice what he says in verse 4 – “in order that I may make it clear in the way in ought to speak.” Paul wanted them to pray that he would speak properly – the way he ought to speak – and might proclaim the gospel clearly making it evident to others.
The good news of Jesus Christ is a precious message and one that we need to treat properly. We should never be flippant with it, for it is a serious message of eternal life and death. It is not a product that is being marketed so its truths cannot be compromised in order to make it acceptable to the masses. It is not a club to be wielded by the self-righteous in the futile effort of trying to prove their superiority, for that dishonors the message and results in self-condemnation. The gospel is a message of light and darkness; righteousness and sin; life and death; hope and condemnation. It is a message of light, life, and hope for those that will believe and be made righteous by faith in Christ. It is a message of sin, death, and condemnation to those who remain blinded to walk in the darkness of unbelief. We want to be sure that we present the gospel clearly without distortion lest we proclaim a false gospel.
The prayer request here covers
Both the message delivered
And the manner in
Which it is delivered.
Evangelism is not an effort to prove your intellectual superiority, gain spiritual scalps for your belt, or get more converts than someone else.
It is a heart-felt matter of humbly
Caring for the lost and pleading
With them as ambassadors of Christ
To be reconciled with God
(2 Corinthians 5:20).
What is the gospel message?
That man by his own sin
In breaking God’s commandments
Has separated himself
From his holy and just
Creator and therefore abides
Under God’s condemnation.
However, God out of His great
Love, mercy, and grace provided
A means by which man
Could be forgiven his sins
And reconciled to Him
By sending His son
To become a man.
Jesus was born
Of the virgin Mary,
Then lived a sinless life,
Then willingly died
On the cross of Calvary
As the payment for man’s sin.
Jesus was buried, but
Then rose from the dead
On the third day,
After which He ascended
To heaven to prepare a place
For His followers and
Sit at the Father’s right hand.
He will return one day
For His disciples and
To set up His millennial reign
Upon the earth in
Fulfillment of God’s promises.
All those that turn from their sin
And place their faith in the
Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ
Are regenerated by the Holy Spirit,
Cleansed from their sins,
And granted eternal life
Being adopted into God’s family.
While Jesus’ disciples may have tribulation in this world, they have a sure promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the present and of being in heaven with Jesus for eternity. Our plea is for all men everywhere to turn from their sin and self-righteousness and cast themselves by faith on the mercy of the Lord as demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Godly Living – Verse 5.
In verse 5 Paul changes his focus from his prayer request to final instructions to them on their conduct in keeping with those who are raised up with Christ. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
The word translated as “conduct” here, (peripatevw / peripateô), is a compound word meaning “around to walk” or “walk about” and hence “conduct and manner of life.”
The believer must be careful
To live in a manner
In keeping with godly wisdom
If they are going to have
A positive impact on those
Who are not yet believers.
Remember that wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge. It is not enough to know a lot about the Bible and theology, in fact, that can be detrimental if it is not accompanied by wisdom, for knowledge puffs up and such pride would harm the message of the gospel. Knowledge of the truth must be applied in the actions of life. Christians are to conduct themselves among non-Christians in similar manner to how they behave among believers except lacking the openness and intimacy that can only come with the common fellowship we have in Christ.
The believer has one
Standard of conduct – holiness.
That means the compassion,
Kindness, humility, gentleness,
Patience, forbearing, forgiveness
And love Paul spoke about
In Colossians 3:12-14 is also
Extended to non-believers.
It is by wisdom in living in this manner that you will be able to “make the most of the opportunity” or “redeem the time.”
Time is precious for
It is the measure of life
And every man has a
Very limited amount of it
On this earth, so wisdom demands
That what we have it and
It is used to its fullest extent.
Time presents us opportunity, the question is how will we use it? Every one of us has 1,440 minutes per day, 10,080 per week, 3,679,200 per year, yet at the end of each day, each week, and with the passing of each year, can we say we have used them wisely?
Only if our priorities match those
That God has given to us,
For it is not a matter of
How much you get done,
For that criteria would only
Lead to frenzied activity.
It is a matter of accomplishing
What God wants you to accomplish,
And only He is the final judge of that.
We can only strive to use godly wisdom
To make the best use of our time
As it unfolds before us.
If you are living as one raised up with Christ with your mind set on the things above rather than the things here, then you will do this.
Gracious Speaking – Verse 6.
The effort to be wise and have proper conduct will also result in having a proper response, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, [as it were,] with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each other.” Salt was a precious commodity in the ancient world. It is so inexpensive for us that we spread it on winter roads just to keep things from being icy, but back then great effort was made to get it and it was even used as a method of payment. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is described as being required as part of the grain offering in reflection of the covenant God had made with them (Leviticus 2:13).
Salt has several properties but the most important ones were being a food preservative and a seasoning to make food taste better. The reference in this passage is specifically as a metaphor of its seasoning properties. Gracious speech is always more palatable than speech which lacks it. As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:18 adds, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention,” and Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.”
Grace is extending a benefit that is not deserved.
We live in a contentious society that seems to have lost its manners. It seems that people now prize pointed quips, sarcasm, and put downs.
While those things may be effective
In making a point and gaining
Acclaim from friends, they do nothing
To help turn an enemy into a friend,
And that is what Christians are striving
To do with non-Christians.
They may be acting as our enemy because they are being controlled by Satan, but the truth is that they are the mission field and our striving is to get them to defect and change sides. That is done with gracious speech that reflects godliness even when they may be indifferent, harsh, or even cruel to us. To go back to 1 Peter 3:15, we respond to each person that asks with a defense and account of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and fear.
As you live as someone raised up with Christ, your purpose of life changes and so with it your manner of life. These changes in living for God’s glory and walking in holiness enable you to be devoted to prayer even when the circumstances turn bad, and to keep a focus on seeking open doors to reach the lost with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with proper speech, conduct and response.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!