I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Paul's Instructions for Living
An article in the Magazine 'Our Daily Bread' sited a Gallup poll from a few years ago. However, my guess is that things haven't changed much. The poll showed that 78 percent of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die. However, many of them hardly ever pray, read the Bible, or attend church. They admit that they live to please themselves instead of God. The the author of the article asks this question: "I wonder why these people would want to go to heaven?"
He then continues by saying:
In an article titled, "Are We Ready for Heaven?" Maurice R. Irwin points out that only 34 percent of the American people who call themselves Christians attend church at least once a week. He also says that, "We sing the old hymn that tells us: 'When all my labors and trials are o'er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore, just to be near the dear Lord I adore will through the ages be glory for me.' However, unless our attitudes toward the Lord and our appreciation of Him change greatly, heaven may be more of a shock than a glory."
In Colossians 4:2-6 Paul is bringing to a close his short epistle whose theme is the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ. He has spent time countering heretics who denied the deity as well as the true humanity of our Lord. And now he is finishing by talking about some practical matters regarding living out our lives in ways that are consistent with what we say that we truly believe about the Lordship of Jesus.
In the previous section of this book, (3:18-4:1), the Apostle just got finished showing how being under the lordship of Christ changes the way we live in the various relationships of life, whether it be husbands and wives, parents and children or masters and slaves (i.e. employers and employees). They are to be relationships of mutual submission to one another out of love and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now in the next five verses Paul tells the Christians a few other things that they should be doing as those who are living out Christ's sovereignty over them. They include being devoted to prayer, walking with wisdom toward outsiders and speaking graciously in response to people whom we meet.
Let us delve into this a bit more in order to see how it gives us all some insights for our lives today.
I. Devoting Ourselves to Prayer (2-4)
Paul begins in verse 2 of chapter 4 by telling the Colossians to:
"Devote yourselves to prayer."
It was the late author, attorney, writer and clergyman E. M. bounds who wrote:
"What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better machines, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use--men of prayer, men mighty in prayer."
Whether it be in Paul's day, or in E.M. Bounds day, who died in 1913, or even in the 21st century, things haven't changed much with the need for men and women of prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ is desperate for people who believe in and practice praying on a daily basis. Nothing of any spiritual and lasting significance will ever be achieved without it.
While there are still those who give significant time to talking with God, they are in the minority. Is it any wonder that the Church in America has lost much of its influence in the world today? We give lip service to the Christian's need for prayer while most of us don't spend more than a quick sentence or two each day praying. And for some Christians they pray only if they find themselves in some kind of major need.
Paul's use of the Greek word translated as "devote yourselves" here, or as the King James translates it "Continue in prayer", is the idea of being "courageously persistent" or to "hold fast and not let go."
This reminds us of another admonition of the Apostle found in I Thessalonians 5:17 which simply states:
"Pray without ceasing."
This doesn't mean to pray repetitiously or continuously without a break. That would be impossible for someone and still be able to live a normal life. Once again it simply is a commandment for us to pray persistently and regularly.
Someone has said that one should "pray with the persistence of a hacking cough."
Somehow that doesn't seem as pleasant as just remembering that the Lord is with us and wants us to make Him part of every aspect of our life. He is Lord and so we should always be asking for His will during the major decisions of the day. At the same time, God is like a close friend in whom we confide and tell everything. But He is also like a loving Father who wants to provide for His children all of their needs.
God is all of these things and so prayer should be as natural as breathing is for the Christian man or woman. If our prayer life isn't going well then that is an indication that we might not be growing as we should spiritually. Relationships of all kinds are built by communication. And if that is lacking, the relationship always suffers.
Paul goes on to qualify that command to pray by telling the believer:
"Keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving."
The idea of keeping alert, in a general sense, means to stay awake while praying. However, Paul is alluding to more than merely not falling asleep here. Rather, he has in mind the idea of always staying alert for specific needs about which one can pray. We should not be vague and unfocused in our prayer life but should be able to see what or who has a need for prayer and to concentrate on those needs, bringing them before the Lord.
And our attitude in prayer should always be that of thanksgiving for what the Lord has done and will do. It is interesting that when Paul talks about the pagan world that doesn't acknowledge God in Romans 1:21, here is how he describes them. He says:
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
Man's chief end is to glorify God. To glorify the Lord is to honor Him, to acknowledge His attributes and to praise Him for who He is and for what He has done. We do this by our thoughts, words and deeds.
The chief sin of Satan was pride and a failure to acknowledge God for these things. Instead He put Himself above the Lord and was totally unthankful for all that the Creator did for Him in giving Satan life and making Him who He was.
That same sin is what all of mankind is guilty of who don't come to Christ by faith. Therefore, one of the attributes of a person who is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the fact that they are thankful because they owe everything to God, including the life that they live. Further, they acknowledge this in their prayer life. A growing Christian is always thankful and shows it by telling God about his or her thankfulness in prayer.
Another thing we see in verse 3 is a personal aspect of prayer. Paul is asking that when the Colossians are praying that they would remember to pray for him and for all those who are part of his ministry.
Of course he might have asked that they pray for his release, or that he might have better conditions while in prison. However, that is not central on the Apostle's mind. See what he says:
"Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned." (3-4).
His chief concern was the fulfillment of his mission and the ministry that God had sent him to do. That is to proclaim salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. And the mystery includes the fact that both Jew and Gentile alike, by faith, are placed into the Body of Christ, thus bringing mankind back to a relationship with God the Father and also uniting men, women and children of all nations under one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. This was something that the great Apostle was willing to die for. And indeed he ultimately did.
He wanted the Colossians to ask God that he might be able to make it clear in the way he ought to speak so that everyone who hears will be given the choice to accept the Lord and His salvation for all who believe.
We, as believers today, should have similar convictions and it should be a centerpiece of our prayer lives. We who understand the gospel in all of its glory should have a desire to have the good news spread throughout the whole world. And we need to pray for the opportunity to speak the name of Jesus Christ to a lost world and to pray daily for our fellow believers that they are able to do the same.
II. Walking with Wisdom Toward Outsiders (5)
The next section gets out of the prayer closet and into the world. If we are to be the vessels through which the world comes to know the gospel of Christ, then we have to walk in a different manner than the world. Paul had earlier in the epistle told the believers to take off the old nature with its sinful lifestyle and to put on the new that in which we display the fruit of the Spirit who lives in us (3:1-17).
The term outsiders here refers to unbelievers. God has called believers to so live in such a way that they might show the credibility of the Christian faith. That is why it is so devastating when a Christian publicly falls. It causes outsiders to look at the gospel and think that we are no better than they are when it comes to sin.
If the truth be told, we aren't any better in our own strength. But the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. However, when we choose not to rely on that power, we not only hurt ourselves, we hurt all those who are looking at us in the world. It would be a horrible thing to find out that it was something I did to cause a person to want to turn away from Christ forever.
Further, we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that they aren't looking. Whether they check us out in order to see if what we are proclaiming is real and something they should look into, or they are looking to catch us slipping up to condemn us, they are still looking. And we need to act wisely, according to God's Word.
Therefore, we have to redeem the time, or make the most of every opportunity, to preach the gospel by our character, by what we do, and also by what we say.
As a matter of fact, what we say is so important that Paul devotes the next verse to it. That is verse 6.
III. Speaking with Grace (6)
Paul tells the believer that our speech should always be done with grace, or in a gracious manner. John MacArthur has this to say about this verse which may help us. MacArthur informs us that to speak with grace is:
"To speak that which is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complimentary, gentle, truthful, loving and thoughtful."
In other words, things which build people up and do not tear them down. Paul uses the phrase: "as though seasoned with salt" regarding speech here as well. Why?
Because Salt, gives flavor to food but also acts as a preservative to keep it from spoiling. The Christian's speech should both act as a blessing to those who receive it in the world but also as a purifying influence within the decaying society that is being destroyed by sin.
If we pay attention to our speech and are careful with what we say and how we say it then we will know how to respond to all those who come down our path and with whom we interact every day. And just maybe the Lord will see fit to use us as His vessels through which a lost soul comes to know the Savior.
To summarize these verses that we just went though, it might be helpful to hear what theologian Richard Mouw has to say. In his a book entitled 'Uncommon Decency'. In it he discusses Abraham Kuyper, who was the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and a theologian. He said this:
My favorite Abraham Kuyper quotation comes from a speech that he once gave before a university audience in Amsterdam. He was arguing that scholarship is an important form of Christian discipleship. Since scholarship deals with God's world, it has to be done in such a way that it honors Christ. Kuyper concluded with this ringing proclamation: "There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!"
If that is true, and His resurrection from the dead proves that it is, then we all must lead a life of total devotion to Him. And part of that devotion is to follow these 3 admonitions of Paul in Colossians 4. We should devote ourselves to prayer, walk with wisdom toward outsiders and speak to those with whom we come in contact with grace.
If all Christians were to do just these three things, then we could bring a major revival to this lost world in which the Lord has placed us.
One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
When are we all going to realize that this really isn't an option for us, if we claim the name of Christ, to obey Him and bring Him glory with the lives that we lead? it is indeed our responsibility to do this. But if we love Him and are grateful for what Jesus has done in our lives, then that responsibility should also be our pleasure.
Living out the Lordship of Christ is the greatest thing on this earth that one could ever do with their time. May we never forget what an awesome privilege which that is.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley