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Written by Tim Black   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 11:14

Colossians 4:2-6
Christian Witness”
Sermon
Tim Black



  1. Introduction

    1. We have now come nearly to the end of the book of Colossians. What remains in the book is today’s passage, then a long section of greetings from Paul’s fellow workers, then Paul’s farewell in 4:18. What unites these final parts of the book is that they are addressed to the Christian community as a whole. They are not addressed to individuals in their respective roles as wives and husbands, children and fathers, or slaves and masters. And these final passages do not share the particular focus on putting off the old man and putting on the Christian character of the new man. Rather, now that you have been taught to put on Christian character, and how to live in Christian relationships, Paul teaches you how to live as a Christian community. The life of a local congregation is bigger than the local congregation. It reaches out to the unbelieving world, and participates in fellowship with Christians in other congregations. So Paul teaches us in 4:2-6 about maintaining our Christian witness, and in 4:7-18 Paul shows us how we ought to send Christian greetings. As a Christian community, we witness to the world, and we send greetings to Christians.

    2. In today’s passage, Paul teaches us to maintain our Christian witness to the world. He has already taught us much of what it means to be a Christian. In the immediately preceding verses he taught us how to live as Christians in our households, and so now is a perfect time to teach us to present Christianity to the world. Now that you have your house in order, it’s time to have an open house. Invite the neighbors in, and let them see what Christ is doing in your life. Take Christ, your Christian character, your Christian relationships in the Christian community, and pour these blessings out in your neighborhood.

    3. Paul gives you two ways to do this. First, pray for our witness, vv. 2-4. Second, witness! (vv. 5-6)

    4. Outline

      1. Pray for our witness vv. 2-4

      2. Witness! vv. 5-6

  1. Body

    1. Pray for our witness vv. 2-4. Where would you say we should start when we seek to witness to the world about Christ? The Christian community’s witness to the world begins with prayer. And so in vv. 2-4 Paul tells you to pray for our witness. But you will not pray for our witness unless you already have an active prayer life. Specifically, our prayer must be continual, watchful, and thankful. So in v. 2, Paul tells you to strengthen the foundations of your prayer life.

      1. Strengthen the foundations of your prayer life v. 2

        1. Continue in prayer 2a

          • Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer

          • This word “continue” indicates both continuity and earnestness. The same word is used of Simon Magus when “after being baptized he continued with Philip” in Acts 8:13. Do you keep regular company with God, by keeping regular company with prayer? Make it your companion when you wake and when you sleep, when you sit down to a meal and before you rise, in all your joys and all your sorrows.

          • It’s easy to let prayer fall by the wayside. But we must continue in prayer. The result will be that we will be closer to God. And when your neighbor comes close to you, he will be that much closer to seeing the grace, the power, and the majesty of God.

          • Illustration: Mount Rainier.

            • In Seattle it is often overcast and rainy, and that dreariness added to the cares of life drive many there to depression. But when the weather clears and the sun’s brilliance reveals the snow-covered slopes and incredible bulk of Mount Rainier on the horizon, the view is majestic! People flock from the whole Puget Sound, and even the whole world, to stand at the foot of Mount Rainier in a place called Paradise, in awe of its glory.

            • How often do you stand at the foot of the great white throne in heaven? How often do you lift your gaze from the dreariness of this life to see once again the majesty of your God? When you do, you will remember that even the stones would cry out in praise to our God, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord. The more you seek out your God in prayer, the more you will pray for the church’s witness of the true and living God to shine brightly, and the more you will proclaim that witness to the world.

        2. Be watchful in it 2b

          • Colossians 4:2 being watchful in it

          • This word “watchful” literally means to “stay awake.” To stay awake in prayer. Who would have thought we need to stay awake in prayer?! But isn’t that one of the most basic problems we have in maintaining our prayer life? It’s so easy to lose concentration, especially when you’re tired. But if you’re not awake, you’re not praying.

          • Some could wrongly interpret this word to mean that we are commanded to keep all-night prayer vigils like the Catholics and Charismatics do, taking the word to mean we should “stay up late” in prayer. But this interpretation would overlook the more important point that is being made. It is more important to be alert in prayer than merely to be awake in prayer. And this word “watchful” means not only to be “awake,” but also to be “alert.” And frankly, staying up all night in prayer is not the best means to be alert in prayer.

          • Here are some better ways to remain alert in prayer. Watch during the day for reasons to praise God, remember them, and praise God for them. Watch during the day for requests you should make of God, and then request them! Watch during the day for temptations you need strength to face, and pray for that strength. Make a list of things to pray for, and pray for them regularly. Make a point to pray with others in your household or in your church so you can encourage each other to continue and be united in watching for the right things to pray about.

        3. Remember to give thanks 2c

          • Colossians 4:2 with thanksgiving.

          • And as you pray, remember to give thanks. It’s easy to forget to give thanks.

          • ...a grateful heart...weaves memory into hope, and asks much because it has received much. A true recognition of the lovingkindness of the past has much to do with making our communion sweet, our desires believing, our submission cheerful.”1

      2. Pray for witness vv. 3-4 As you continue in prayer, pray also for our Christian witness. Paul asks you to pray for “us,” including not only himself, but also his coworkers in evangelism, missions, church planting, and ministry. You should remember to pray for the leaders of the church as they lead the church in proclaiming the gospel. In doing so you are also praying for the church’s witness as a whole, which includes your own involvement in presenting the gospel to the world. Paul tells us to pray for two things in particular: First, that God will open a door for the gospel, in v. 3, and second, that the gospel will be presented clearly, in v. 4.

        1. That God will open a door for the gospel v. 3

          • Colossians 4:3 3 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-

          • Door: The “door” is an opportunity to speak the gospel

            • Paul is in chains, in prison. So, he can’t move freely, or preach freely.

            • But the word of God is not chained! Only the messenger. Yet his desire while in prison was not that Paul would come out, but the gospel.

            • Pray that pastors, evangelists, missionaries around the world will be freed from prison and be freely allowed to proclaim the gospel. We have seen our own missionaries and brothers in Christ imprisoned in recent months, and even now hear the terrible news from Afghanistan of the Korean missionaries held captive and put to death for proclaiming the gospel. Pray that they would be given the freedom to speak of the way of salvation through Christ.

            • But the issue is more general. Ask God to remove any and every barrier to the gospel’s progress in the world. Pray that the doors of governments, communities, schools, households, and of people’s hearts will be open to the gospel.

          • Mystery: The “mystery” Paul mentions here is the gospel of Christ, and especially the promise of salvation for the Gentiles – not only for Jews, but for all who believe on Christ. There are no national, cultural, economic, or social barriers that ought to keep anyone from receiving salvation through Christ. It is “by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) We are saved wholly by God’s sovereign initiative, by God’s sovereign work. Yet God uses means of open doors for His word to be preached, to be heard, to be understood, to be believed. Consider how Paul explains this in Romans 10:12-14:

            • Romans 10:12-14 12 there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

          • And so we must pray that God will open the doors for this great mystery to be revealed to those who need to hear.

        2. That the gospel will be presented clearly v. 4

          • Colossians 4:4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

          • Pray also that the gospel will be presented clearly. Pray that it will be understood by those who hear it, and that they will be convicted of its truth.

          • It is the preacher’s obligation to present the gospel clearly, and every member’s obligation to not hide their lamp under a bushel. You are a city set on a hill, and people are watching you to confirm their suspicions that Christians are helplessly ignorant or proudly self-righteous, hedonistically immoral or the oppressors of the third world. But the gospel and true Christianity are none of these. Pray that we would present it truthfully, and clearly, as we ought.

    1. Witness! vv. 5-6. Upon our foundational dependence upon God in prayer, Paul tells us to build the two pillars of Christian witness: a wise walk and gracious speech. We should witness in our walk and our talk; in our deeds and in our words.

      1. Witness in your deeds v. 5 First, in v. 5, witness in your deeds.

          • Colossians 4:5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

        1. Walk in wisdom toward those outside the church

          • Walk: Actions. This phrase “Conduct yourselves wisely” (ESV) is more literally “Walk in wisdom.” Here the word “walk” means “conduct.” Your “walk” is the actions you do from day to day, in full view of those who are “outside.” Those who are “outside” are those outside the church as a whole, with whom you come into contact. They are your coworkers, the clerk in the grocery store, your neighbor next door. They could even be your family members, if for example you have an unbelieving husband, in which case Peter says “they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” (1 Pet. 3:1)

          • Wisdom:

            • The way we should walk before unbelievers is to walk “in wisdom.” Biblical wisdom is doing what is right, with righteous motives, with righteous means and righteous effects. It is practical in nature. It’s knowing when to answer a fool according to his folly and when not to answer a fool according to his folly. It’s having insight into the way things work and using them the best you can for the Lord. Consistent Christian living will do much to commend the gospel.

            • Common sense and practical sagacity are important accompaniments of Christian zeal.”2 It is a rare thing to find a man who is full to the brim with both enthusiasm and diplomatic adaptation, fire and ice together, fervor and tact, both Peter’s “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33) and Paul’s “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22)

            • Christ told us to “Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” The more you walk in wisdom before those outside the church the more the world will see Christ’s wisdom, and the more you prove yourselves innocent the more they will testify that He is righteous.

        2. Redeem the time: Make the most of every opportunity

          • And so Paul tells us to make the most of every opportunity we are given.

          • Redeem: evxagora,zw (exagorazo); “purchase out of the agora, the marketplace.” So you are in the market, but you take the time available to you and use it for God’s ends.

            • Here there is no mention of the reason given in Ephesians, “for the days are evil.”

          • Time: The word used for “time” is the Greek word that carries the positive connotation that it is the “right time.” It is always the right time to do what is right, and it’s always a good time to do what is good. The word is not about “time” in general, but it is about a “season,” an “opportunity.”

            • Think about how you respond to unbelievers. Do you respond in ways characteristic of the old man, or of the new man? Put off the old man, and put on the new man, when you are interacting with unbelievers.

      1. Witness in your words v. 6 Second, in v. 6, witness in your words.

          • Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

        1. Let them be “with grace”

          • Human or divine?

            • This word can mean human “graciousness” or divine “grace.” Most likely it means both here, but we must make our first priority to let our words be seasoned by God’s grace, and true human graciousness will follow.

            • We are not to always be agreeable in the eyes of others, because while the gospel is the aroma of life to those who are being saved, it is also the stench of death to those who are perishing, and we cannot avoid the offense it creates. Yet at the same time the gospel is the aroma of life, and should be presented as such! Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through Him. Is that your attitude when speaking with an unbeliever? Whether he thinks your speech is pleasant should depend on his attitude, not yours. You speak the truth in love, and it’s his responsibility to recognize it as such.

          • The need for practice.

            • We must practice speaking with grace when it is easy to do so, so that when it is of utmost importance to do so our skills will be well-honed and ready at hand. It is a terrible thing when a Christian goes to the deathbed of his friend and says “I am sorry you are suffering” but speaks nothing of the comfort of the grace of God, because he doesn’t know how to do so, because he never tried.

            • Do you ever say words like the following?

              • I thank God for that!”

              • Praise the Lord!”

              • The Lord bless you!”

              • I forgive you.”

            • Start with those, and more will follow. Speaking about God’s grace and meaning it will train you to mean gracious things even when God is not mentioned. And eventually even your human graciousness will testify to the grace of God. Your accent will betray your country.

        2. Let them be “seasoned with salt”

          • Paul illustrates and extends what it means to speak graciously by saying that our words should be “seasoned with salt.”

          • Sacrifice. In the OT, salt was sprinkled on sacrifices and mixed into incense, as a symbolic flavoring. We should present our words today as a pleasing offering to God. Hebrews 13:15 says

            • Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

          • Preservative.

            • Salt also works as a preservative. When salty language of an ungodly sort are bantered about, the truth is crucified and God is mocked, preserve the truth from error and make it palatable to those who hear.

            • Eph. 4:29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.” The word “corrupting” connotes rottenness. But words seasoned with salt are not able to decay, because they have the ring, the zest, and the appeal of the truth.

            • Christ charges you to transform the conversations around you, to transform the culture you live in, to banish the darkness of this world with the light of His truth. Because “13 You are the salt of the earth,” and “14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

        1. Result: You’ll know how to answer each one

          • The great result of speaking with grace, words seasoned with salt, is that you will know how to answer each person. The larger your repertoire of gracious and true words, the more effectively you can speak a word in season, the better you’ll be able to nail the point that an individual needs to hear. And when you’ve paid attention to the unique hunger for grace each one of your neighbors has, and what parts of the gospel are truly delicious to a hungering soul, your practice in gracious speech will pay off in a gracious, delicious, winsome and appropriate exaltation of the glory of God in the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.

          • Matthew 10:16-20 16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

          • When, as part of the Christian community amidst the world, you pray for our Christian witness and engage in it, you will see how true it is that God’s grace in the gospel is from Him, through Him, and unto Him. To Him be the glory forever!

1Maclaren, 359-360.

2Maclaren, 363.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 August 2007 11:25
 

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