Posted by: The Simple Guy | October 5, 2010

How to live Colossians

Sunday I preached on Colossians 4:2-6.  Here is the text:

Col 4:2-6 ESV
(2)  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
(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–
(4)  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
(5)  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
(6)  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

By way of introduction, I observed that at face value, these verses appear to be sort of random pieces of advice directed somewhat toward prayer and evangelism.  However, upon further review, the more I look at them, the more key these thoughts seem to be to actually living out the whole book.

So let me briefly summarize the book up to this point, so we can get a running start on these 5 verses.

Paul wrote Colossians to a church group he had not met.  This group was planted by Epaphras, probably a convert or Paul during his 2nd missionary journey, either in Philippi, or in Ephesus.  (Epaphras may be a shortened version of Epaphroditus mentioned in Philippians).  Either way, Paul has not met the recipients of this letter.

-Notice Paul’s devotion to prayer, his watchfulness in it, and his thankfulness.  These themes will come up later.-

However, He begins the letter by telling them how he prays for them.  In his prayers he thanks God for the work God is doing and will do in them. (Chapter 1:1-11)

He thanks God for this on the basis of the finished work Christ has done for them  (redemption, and sharing in Christ’s inheritance  Chapter 1:11-14) and  explains how this work Christ has done for them is rooted in Who Christ is. (Chapter 1:15-23)  Christ is the Creator, and the Redeemer of Creation, and is our Redeemer.  (Reminds me of Christ being just, and the justifier – he is Creator, and Creation’s Redeemer)

Then Paul rejoices in the part God has allowed him to play in this redemption. (Chapter 1:24-29) Keeping in mind that this redemption is necessary because of us.  We messed it up, and God is not only fixing it, but allowing us to help as He fixes it.  How often I have been in the process of fixing a problem one of my employees created when I have turned to them and commented (only half-joking) that if the situation doesn’t improve I may have to insist they stop helping – God is greater than I am, He can even fix it with my help!

Paul has been allowed to reveal the mystery to the Gentiles.  This mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (verse 27)

He closes this section saying that he struggles with all of his energy toward this goal, as God has allowed him to do.

He opens chapter 2 by saying he wants them to know how important this struggle is.  I get the picture of the coach in the locker room before the championship game reminding the team of the importance of this game.  But this is much more than a championship game.

He wants them to know that they have in them the fullness of Christ (our struggle isn’t alone, by our own means, or for our own ends)  He wants them to know this so no one will trick them (Chapter 2:4), capture them, (Chapter 2:8), pass judgment on them, (2:16), or disqualify them (Chapter 2:18).

He lists several ways these things can happen, but the common denominator in all of them is: “not holding fast to the Head”  which is Christ.  If our labor in the “great struggle” is rooted in who He is, and is all about Him in us, our only hope, we won’t be tricked, captured, judged, or disqualified.  This takes us through 2:19.

So, since we died with Him, and are raised with Him, we should not live to this world, but with our minds set on eternity. (Chapter 2:20-3:4)  Remember, we are partakers in the mystery, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory.  So we put to death the things in us that don’t look like Him, and we put on the things that reflect His character.  The things that don’t look like him look like selfishness.  The things that look like Him look like selflessness. (Chapter 3:5-17)

Christ likeness should be reflected in our relationships. Wives to husbands, husbands to wives.  Children to parents, and fathers to children.  Slaves to masters, masters to slaves.  He shows us in these three realms of relationship how Christ is to be the center of each relationship.  He does not cover every possible relationship, but does give us the template that we can apply to each relationship.   (Chapter 3:18 – 4:1)

So how do we live like this day by day?  What is the heart attitude that results in these activities?

Now we turn back to our text:

(2)  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Devoted to watchful, thankful prayer.  Where do we see this in scripture?  First let’s look at Christ.  How devoted was he to prayer?  How many times was he up early, or late, or all night in prayer.  For examples, look at Luke 6:12 where he chose the 12 disciples.  He prayed all night before selecting them.  Or how about Mark 1:35.  The previous day the whole city showed up at Peter’s house and was there late into the evening while Jesus healed many of them.  Then before the sun came up the next morning Jesus is out in a solitary place to pray.  Or after feeding the 5000 (after hearing of John the Baptist’s death) when He went up into the mountain and prayed until early morning, then walked out to the disciples just before dawn.

How about Mark 14 in Gethsemane where he prayed all night.  The disciples fell asleep 3 times while He prayed.  He warned them to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation.  Here we see His devotion, we hear Him say to watch and pray, we see 3 of the 4 elements in our text.  I think the fourth is there as well.  He warns against temptation.  I think the opposite of temptation is thankfulness.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life have no draw when I am thankful.

(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–
(4)  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

So in verses 3 and 4 Paul asks that they pray for an open door for the word, and that he can clearly speak the mystery (Christ in you, the hope of glory) for which he is in chains.

By the way, devotion to prayer and the word show up in Acts when the Apostles ask the church to select deacons.  The Apostles wanted to devote themselves to prayer and the word; now, Paul is telling us to do the same.

(5)  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

In verse 5 he encourages them to walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, making the best use of the time.  This isn’t the typical “beware of strangers” thing.  The word “outside” refers to the “door” mentioned earlier.  We act like we are outside knocking so we can make our sales pitch.  But in reality, we are inside and we are calling to those who are outside and unprotected.  We are calling them in while there is time.

(6)  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

There’ s “grace” again.  (I’ve blogged before about how I struggle with this wordMy current definition of God’s grace is “that part of Him which causes Him to be kind toward those of us who do not deserve it”

My speech is to always have that trajectory.  I do not deserve God’s grace, yet I have received it.  So I have no room for pride, I am only to reflect Christ in me, to you.

“Seasoned with salt” is a euphemism that means “with prudence”.  My speech is to be circumspect and to make the most of the opportunity.

I noticed in this instance the speech follows the walk.  A wise walk facilitates gracious prudent speech so I can answer every man.  Have you ever been left speechless in a prime opportunity because of your previous walk?  I have.  Keep short accounts.

Living out the mystery starts by being devoted to prayer, like Paul demonstrated in chapter 1 before he exhorts us to do the same in chapter 4.  If the prayer isn’t there, the rest becomes an unattainable “pie in the sky.”

Your thoughts?




  1. Brother,

    The emphasis on prayer really hits home with me! This area is one of my places of greatest struggle! Prayer is such a vital element in our walk and our service, and the Devil knows this. To me, it is many times something that can be “put off” till later, problem is, later, many times, never comes.
    I was certainly convicted of my own weakness by your treatment of this passage and I see again, God’s instruction for us to persevere in prayer!!

    • I was rather convicted myself as I studied this.
      Watchful thanksgiving is such a different attitude than my sparse prayer life. But as Heather pointed out lately, He knows our frames, that we are dust.
      I am thankful for you my friend, and will keep you in my prayers.

  2. Thanks so much Brother, I certainly need them and greatly appreciate them!!

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