I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:
The beginning of the study
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 2
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 3
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 4
Exhortation to put off an earthly way of life
Exhortation to put on Christ as a new way of life
Exhortations about family relationships
In this post, I’m going to look at the last part of the long teaching / paraenesis section that runs from Colossians 2:6-4:6. The passage I’m examining this time is Colossians 4:2-6:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6 ESV)
This passage can be divided into two parts: 1) exhortations concerning prayer, and exhortations concerning outsiders. Remember with that these instructions, Paul continues to describe what it means to walk in Christ (or to live in him).
In the first part, Paul begins his exhortations concerning prayer by instructing the Colossians to be steadfast (persist in or be busily engaged in). (Colossians 4:2) His encouragements to “be watchful” is reminiscent of Jesus’ teachings concerning the destruction of the temple. But, Paul adds that the Colossians should be thankful while they are alert in prayer. He also asks that the Colossians include himself and his team while they are praying. (Colossians 4:3) Specifically, Paul wants them to pray that God would give them opportunities to present Christ clearly. (Colossians 4:4) (As an aside, it is always comforting to me when I see Paul asking for prayer for opportunities or boldness to present Christ, and that he would do so clearly. Paul was more human than we often make him out to be.)
Next, Paul tells the Colossians to “walk in wisdom” (live wisely) among those who are “outside.” (Colossians 4:5) “Outsiders” certainly refer to those who are not followers of Jesus Christ. The Colossians are to make the most of the time that they have when with nonbelievers. Paul tells them that when they are speaking with “outsiders,” the Colossians should always speak with grace and, and their words should be “seasoned with salt.” While most scholars would probably disagree with me, I think “seasoned with salt” is a reference back to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:13)
The reason for the grace and “salt” is so that they will be able to answer each person. The assumption is the when the Colossians “walk with Christ,” the “outsiders” will notice and will ask about it.
While we read Paul instructions and exhortations for the Colossians (beginning in Colossians 2:6), we should never forget that Paul beings by reminding them they have already received Christ; they are holy. Now, he tells them what it should look like when they actually live in the new life they have in Christ. These instructions are not to teach them how to become holy or how to receive Christ or how to be a Christian. Instead, the instructions are to help them compare their own lives with what a new life in Christ would look like.
Furthermore, all of these exhortations are given as commands. Just as Paul recognized that he had to work hard in his service of the gospel, the Colossians also must work hard in living in their new life in Christ. But, also, just as Paul recognized that his service was only possible by the the power that God supplied, he wanted the Colossians to understand that God would provide the power they needed to live in Christ. (See Colossians 1:29.)
What would you add to this study of Colossians 4:2-6?