February 11, 1996 PM
Bethlehem Baptist Church
John Piper, Pastor




Colossians 4:2-6

(Continued on Sunday Evening)


Colossians 4:5-6:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.

This morning I suggested that these five things needed comment. The first one we took up this morning. The other four are really an expansion and explanation of the first. So we continue.

1. What does it mean (literally) to "walk in wisdom toward those outside"? What is this wisdom? What is it's aim and origin?

2. What does it mean to "make the most of (literally: purchase) the opportunity"? What is the opportunity and how do you purchase it?

3. How do you "let your speech always be with (or in) grace"?

4. What does it mean to be seasoned with salt?

5. How do you know how to respond to each person? Why does he assume that people will say things that need to be responded to?

2. Colossians 4:5b: "Make the most of the opportunity."

Literally it is "purchase the time or season or opportunity."

These are valuable and more worth buying up. It might mean and unusual time alone. It might mean an unusual openness. It might mean and unusual comment made over lunch about Christ or Christianity. But beware of the error of waiting for the so-called perfect moment. Paul went from city to city and entered the synagogue and preached. Sometimes they were eager to hear and sometime they were hostile. The opportunity may simply be the Sabbath when the crowd is gathered in the synagogue, not when they are "prepared to hear."

2.2 The word "purchase" implies a sacrifice or loss of something to gain something else.

It's used four times in the NT (Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 5:16). In Galatians 3:13 Paul says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us." So here the price was Christ's becoming a curse for us, and the gain was our rescue from the curse of God. So to "redeem the time" means to take whatever painful steps are necessary to get the gain we are after.

2.3 The parallel in Ephesians 4:15-16 shows that the need for aggressive purchasing of the opportunity is that the days are evil.

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil."

This shows that Paul's concern is that coasting in the Christian life, waiting for fruit to fall in our lap is not going to work. Why? Because the prevailing powers in this fallen age are evil. That is, there are powers every day working to keep people from being interested in the gospel and to keep them a way from witnesses and to keep you away from them. It's this prevailing evil ("god of this age" and "prince of the power of the air") that makes it urgent that we sacrificial purchase any opportunity that comes along. No coasting. No mere waiting. The current of the stream of culture is away from heaven. If we don't row, we will drift with it toward destruction.

2.4. Examples:

2.41 -- Decision magazine this month. A wrong address given to a visitation team in a trailer park. The wrong address proves to be a man that is in need of getting right with God and a 95 year old mother who needs Christ and finds him as the team deals with her son.

2.42 -- Paul and Silas in the prison. Acts 16:24-25, "They threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

2.43 -- Jesus at the well with the woman with five husbands. John 4:7-9,

"There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.' 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)"

2.44 -- Paul about to be taken to prison in Jerusalem. Acts 21:37-22:1,

And as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I say something to you?" And he said, "Do you know Greek? . . . But Paul said, "I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people." 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying, 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you."

2.45 -- Any time of crisis that looks aimless. Luke 21:12-13,

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony."

3. Colossians 4:6a: "Let your speech always be with grace."

3.1 Matthew 10:8, "Freely you have received, freely give." The gospel is an offer of forgiveness and reconciliation and eternal life, for free!!

3.2 Speak by faith, i.e., relying not on yourself but on grace.

Compare 2 Corinthians 1:12 "For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you." Fleshly wisdom is wisdom without faith and without looking to God's word and Spirit. The human counterpart to grace is faith.

3.3. Does this mean that there is not place for tough words or warning and even judgment? Probably there is, since Jesus told the apostles to wipe the dust off their feet as a testimony against them (Mark 6:11) and this is what Paul did (Acts 18:6). Romans 2:4-5 says that mercy spurned becomes judgment.

4. Colossians 4:6b, "Seasoned with Salt."

I suggest that our lives and our speech are seasoned with salt when they are "radically" devoted to the cause of Christ, in the sacrifices we make and the countercultural life-style that we lead. Salty is the opposite of blah, ordinary, tasteless. I get this from the uses of salt in the following texts.

Luke 14:33-35

"So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. 34 "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 "It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Matthew 5:11-16

11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

5. Colossians 4:6c, ". . . so that you may know how you should respond to each person."

Why are the people asking questions that need a response? See 1 Peter 3:14-15,

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

The thing they are asking about is HOPE. How is hope in God made visible -- with a salty lifestyle. Sacrificing ease implies benefits expected in the future. So people ask about hope! The salt creates the thirst!!!

Is the clause, "to know how to answer . . ." dependent on the immediately preceding "words with grace" and "seasoned with salt"? Or is it dependent back on "walk in wisdom toward outsiders?

If the latter then we are pointed back to the challenge to become wise people by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).

If it is the former, then what Paul is saying is that the give and take of daily life among unbelievers with the efforts to speak with grace and the efforts to live a salty life -- this is a real school for learning "how to answer each one." We learn not only from the words of Christ in scripture, but also from the real experience with Christ in the market place.

6. Conclusion.

Pray for open doors and for courageous clarity.

Meditate on the words of Christ richly so as to become wise.

Throw yourself into the opportunities you have, and learn by doing.

Copyright 1996 John Piper