Colossians 4:2-6 (Week 11)
“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. Walk in wisdom 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.“
We are coming close to the end of the letter, and Paul is winding down. He spent some time giving us specific instructions for those six groups of people, and now he is transitioning to some general instructions.
As we look at this little section, we need to remember that Paul is writing from prison to this group of people that he has never met in person and that his primary focus has been on what it means to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (or simply to walk in Him). These general instructions help inform us as to what it looks like for us to be faithful to the Lord in the way we are devoted to God, other believers, and the lost.
In this section, we have two explicit commands and one implied command. The explicit commands are to persist in prayer and walk in wisdom. The implied command (which remember has the same force, but just isn’t technically in the original language) is to have our words seasoned with salt.
WHAT IS THE TEXT SAYING?
BUSY YOURSELF IN PRAYER
This word has the idea of persisting, being busy with, or being devoted to. Paul is telling the Colossians to keep on praying. We see this same language several times in the New Testament regarding prayer. Here are a few examples:
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. This is, unfortunately, one of the easiest areas of Christian discipleship to neglect. We need to be in prayer constantly. We have been given access to address the Creator, Sustainer of the universe, and we aren’t. Why? All too often, we are lazy, unfocused, and selfish. The truth of the matter is if we want to see God work in this world, we should take part in it through prayer.
If you are like me, when you see “watch and pray” together, you automatically think about the words of Jesus to His disciples in the Garden (Matthew 26:41; Mark 13:35). However, there is some ambiguity as to how we need to understand it in this context. Grammatically it looks like describing how they should be praying. Kind of like: “be watchful, while you’re praying.” But what are we being challenged to be watchful of? It could be that we need to be on our guard not to give in to temptation (1 Corinthians 16:13). Or maybe because there are dangers out there trying to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). Or it could be that we need to be looking for Jesus to return. Most likely, we need to have all of these in mind. The point is we need to be awake and pay attention to what is happening around while being thankful.
Paul intentionally repeats the word prayer here. This time it’s to show us the content of the prayer that he wants the Colossians to pray. Where “being watchful” is concerned with their own well being, this second participle is concerned with Paul’s. He asks them to (at the same time) be praying for him and his team.
He is basically asking them to have two requests before God (or actually one request and one hopeful result). The first is that he wants them to be praying that God will open up a door for them to preach the Gospel. This is really interesting to think about because it has two possible interpretations. Remember, he is in jail behind a literal locked door. He is either asking for a release from prison or an increased opportunity to preach while in prison. Philemon (the book) was written around the same time, and in verse 22, he mentions that he is hoping to get out soon to visit. Either way, he is asking for them to pray that God gives him more opportunities to preach.
Next, we come across the fourth mention of the word “mystery” in Colossians. If you recall when Paul is preaching about the mystery of Christ, he isn’t talking about something that is still secret and hidden. It is a mystery hidden for ages of time and generations of people yet has now been revealed in the Gospel. Paul made it his life’s ambition to preach the revelation of this mystery and is now in prison because of that.
This leads to the second request; that they pray that he would be faithful to preach. So he’s asking them to pray both for an opportunity to preach, and that he would have the strength and boldness to take hold of that opportunity. It’s cool because this word that he uses for this has to do with revealing or making known. Paul wants to feel the weight of compulsion to preach this Gospel. Not only Paul, but we also have been given stewardship of this mystery, and it is necessary for us to reveal it to the world as their one hope for salvation.
WALK IN WISDOM
The second command here should be no surprise to us. Walk in wisdom. Paul is constantly interested in how the Colossians are to walk (his shortcut for “live”), and this is the last time he mentions it in the letter. This time they need to walk in wisdom, specifically among those who are not Christians (the “outside ones”). This follows easily after his prayer request. It looks like he is using his request that he be bold to challenge them to be bold as well.
MAKING THE MOST OF THE TIME
This is a really cool word. If you know a little bit about the Greek culture, you might remember that they called their outdoor markets the Agora. This word comes from that and has to do with buying back from the Agora. This is why you see it also translated as “redeem.” It is only used four times in the New Testament. It’s used twice in Galatians (3:13; 4:5) to talk about how Christ redeemed us. And it’s used in a parallel passage in Ephesians (5:16) regarding time.
There are several ways that we can look at this. The first is in the realm of evangelism. Paul has been talking about opportunities to preach the Gospel, and now he says that we need to make the most of our time around non-believers. The obvious interpretation is that the best way to use our time around non-Christians is to share the Gospel with them.
Second, we need to realize that we only have a certain amount of time on this planet, and we must intentionally think about how we are using it. In the parallel passage in Ephesians, he mentions that the days are evil. Sure, we are holy people living in a fallen world, how can we make the most of it for our eternity?
LET YOUR WORDS BE GRACIOUS
This is where we get that implied command we mentioned earlier. Paul is telling the Colossians that they need to have their words be words of grace, seasoned with salt. What exactly does this mean? This is a situation where we need to make sure that we are seeing everything in context. Christians need to make the most of their time with unbelievers. As we walk in wisdom, it is important that our conversations be filled with grace in each interaction we have. Our words should be seasoned in just the right way for each conversation. See how he says this will result in “knowing how it is that we answer each”? We need to exercise wisdom with the way that we approach Gospel conversations with non- Christians, and there isn’t a universal blanket way to do this. It is going to be different with each person. Sure, it’s good to have evangelism strategies, but just like each individual is different, each Gospel interaction will be different.
What Does This Mean for Me?
- What is your prayer life like? Are you devoted to prayer? Why not? What is keeping you from it? Is it something you just haven’t ever cultivated? Do you understand prayer for what it is, namely, communication with your Creator and Savior? Do you actually think you can do this on your own? Now, more than ever, we need a commitment to prayer. Get a plan and accountability.
- Are you watchful? Are you on your guard against the temptation to sin? Are you actively looking for the attack of the enemy, or are you constantly walking into ambushes? And are you looking for opportunities to be thankful?
- Are you looking for ways to share the Gospel? Do you have the boldness to do so when the opportunities arise?
- How are you using your time? You have an ever decreasing amount of time left, how are you using it? Spend a minute each morning and commit to using your time wisely today, then spend a minute each night reviewing the day. If you need to, then actually write out how you are using your time. If you have a smartphone, check out how much time you are spending on that, and on what, and ask yourself if this reflects a genuine desire to use your time wisely?
- What about your words? Are you using your words well? Would you (or others) say that they are filled with grace?
- Learning how to answer each one individually might mean you need to study more. You may need to study apologetics some (read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel). You definitely need to study people more. And by that, I mean, we need to practice loving people well and to use our words in a way that seasons our conversations with grace.
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