Last week we looked at how we were to act as believers towards one another. This (verses 3:1-4:1) is our application that flows out of chapters 1-2 in Colossians. As we know more of Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency in all, we begin to see our own humbleness and insufficiency in all. In other words as Tom Lane taught us on Wednesday night, “Less of me and more of Christ”, which is what John the Baptist preached.
As we grow in this way towards Christ, we become more aware of those around us and it makes us want to act in an unselfish way towards them. Paul points this out in verses 3:18-4:1 as he teaches us to have right relationships within the family as well as outside of the family. There is a Godly submission towards one another that we are drawn towards as we live out, “Less of me and more of Christ.” As Ephesians 5:21 states:
21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Last week’s verses looked at what we are to do internally to live out Christ in us and to glorify Jesus as supreme and sufficient. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and sacrificed everything for it. Wives be willfully subject to your husbands as is proper in Christ. Children obey your parents and you will be blessed. Parents do not provoke your children; rather, raise them up in Godliness. Those who are over others (masters) be fair and gentle to those you are over as Christ is to you and who is also over you. Those who work for others must work as if they are working for God Himself as God will give you a reward that no earthly master can give.
This week we are looking more at the outward actions that allow us to live out Christ in us and to glorify Jesus as supreme and sufficient. We will see two main commands in these verses: pray and walk (conduct yourselves).
But before we jump in, some of you may have seen the prayer chain on the GroupMe app. Last week after Trev’s very powerful sermon on the relationships between family and those outside of the family we, as a church, did what all good churches do…pray. Prayer was given up in humility for Trev and the body of believers to hear, obey, and for protection. It is a heartwarming thing to see a church pray, humbling ourselves to our King in heaven. (If you’re interested in being a part of the church prayer chain see Bridget Marchetti.)
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 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; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
It is not mere coincidence that Paul abruptly switches to prayer. For how would we accomplish those things in verses 3:18-4:1 if we didn’t pray? Prayer is the essential component to living out Godly lives. Without prayer we just have ourselves to rely on and as we know we are humbly insufficient to do the job on our own.
There are three things that Paul instructs us to do here:
Pray with devotion
Pray with alertness
Pray with thanksgiving
We must both persevere and be persistent in our prayers. What better way to pray than to pray continuously that our relationships will be right and pleasing to our Lord. Husbands, wives, children, masters, and servants pray that you will be subject to one another as we should as Christians who are a holy temple to the Lord.
As The Spirit of God shows us our shortcomings in our relationships, we need to be filled with thanksgiving to Him who is even now sanctifying us. Just think of all the blessings that we will enter into as we build stronger relationships within our families as well as with those outside of our families. This alone should lift us up to praise Him even more! Not only that, but just think of how much stronger and more unified our church will be as we build up our relationships. For the church is not only a people but a unified people.
But do not forget that we also pray with alertness. We are to be watchful and on alert as a soldier would be. We shouldn’t always be letting our mind or our words wander when we pray. Rather, we need to pray with a sense of awareness of our own state as well as those around us. This alertness allows us to pray with a strength and focus with which we lift our voices to our Lord.
You may have noticed that I said there were 3 things Paul instructs us to do. Well, there’s actually a fourth that, in the historical context, was for Paul and those with him. But this can also be applied to us now. We need to be praying that God will open a door for the word; that is, for evangelism. Paul’s choice of words here may seem a little humorous in that he asks that “a door be opened” in the same breath that he also mentions the fact that he is imprisoned behind closed doors. But I think that Paul is subtly expressing his overriding desire to evangelize over and above being released from prison. Paul didn’t see his imprisonment as a roadblock. Rather, he saw opportunity through prayer in his imprisonment. Paul didn’t just set off to evangelize on his own, but he was devoted in prayer for evangelism. He waited for God to begin the work of evangelism and then kept alert in prayer for opportunities to speak the mystery of Christ to unbelievers.
Paul also wanted intercessory prayer so that he could clearly explain the mystery of Christ. This is always important, especially nowadays where everything is so complex and difficult to explain. The message of the Gospel is deep, so deep that we can study it for the rest of our lives and never be in want of more. Something this deep can be difficult to explain. To be sure, there are passages throughout the Bible that are difficult to understand but even these passages can be clearly explained with a bit of effort. We (myself included) need to make sure we know our audience and are explaining things clearly. Please pray for me also that I may clearly explain scripture. And by all means, if I don’t explain clearly let me know!
Finally, before we move on to Paul’s command for us to walk in wisdom, let’s look back at a couple of Paul’s prayers in Colossians and Ephesians. We should look to these as models for how we pray as well:
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17s o that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
For more of Paul’s prayers read: Phil. 1:9–11 and Eph. 1:15–23.
In Colossians 4:3-4 Paul begins to talk about evangelistic prayer. Why not continue to discuss prayer as it relates to the interpersonal relationships in verses 3:18-4:1? Actually, he is discussing just this. You see, as we continue our sanctification our family and work relationships will grow stronger and we will, in turn, have a stronger witness to others.
Paul speaking of evangelistic prayer is not off topic but on topic. The logic progresses as follows. We realize the supremacy and sufficiency of all in Christ. From this, we begin to act in a way becoming a new person in Christ (not under our own power, but under the Spirit’s power, lest we would have a reason to boast). All of this is bathed in prayer, which is our lifeline to Christ. As we are sanctified in this manner, our witness grows stronger and the Gospel is presented and God is glorified.
5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
The words here “Conduct yourself with” is sometimes translated as “Walk in”. We’ve studied this term “walk” before. It means to live or behave in a specific manner. In this case, Paul is commanding us to walk in wisdom towards outsiders, those that do not believe in Christ.
A person who has a wise walk will not only search out opportunities but make the most of them. Any opportunity to witness about Christ should not be squandered or ignored. Rather, we should be methodical and gracious about how we present Christ as well as ourselves to unbelievers. We are, after all, His ambassadors.
Finally, our wise walk should include speech that abounds in grace. How do you win hearts for Christ? Well, that’s a bit of a trick question. Christ ultimately does the “winning of hearts” (to be clear, I am associating “winning a heart” with “a change of heart” that only Christ performs). We are simply there to act as His spokesperson. A spokesperson whose speech is liberally salted with the words of grace is much more likely to be heard than one whose speech does not abound in grace. I looked up what the opposite of grace is in the English language. Here are some antonyms for grace:
Let us deny ourselves of these things and pick up our cross replacing our sinful ways with Christ’s love and grace as we speak to others of our Lord and Savior.
Here I leave you with some verses on our walk to meditate on:
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17T herefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
1 Peter 3:15:
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,