New Testament Colossians Savor of Heaven

Savor of Heaven

Colossians 4:2-6

Paul has continued his instruction to the Christians in Colossae. He comes now to the final set of instructions before turning to his final greetings. In chapter four, his instructions are not new or separated instructions but rather an echo of previous verses found in Colossians 1:24-2:5. The Colossians’ letter has had many references to thanksgiving (Col 1:3, 12, 2:7, 3:15-17, 4:2). We are to be thankful because Christ is supreme over all rulers and authorities (Col 1:16). We should be grateful because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient (Col 1:13-14). Paul has addressed the false teaching in the church and pointed them to Christ. He exhorted them to do three things as he comes to a close in his letter.

I. Pray steadfastly (vs. 2-4)

Paul begins his final instructions by saying, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” Many verses can cut to the heart of a Christian but commands like this show an area of weakness in all of his saints. We have seen that Paul is a praying man (Col 1:3, 9). He has prayed for the saints at the church in Colossae and encourages them to do the same. He writes to them and says, continue steadfastly in prayer. The NIV translates this verse, “devote yourselves in prayer.” The same word is used of the early church before Pentecost (Acts 1:14) and after Pentecost as well, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Prayer is one of the marks of the true church that does not belong to any other institution. This is the same word used to describe the work of the church leaders in Acts 6:4, that they would “devote themselves to prayer and the word.” Paul reminds the church that the people of God are praying people who should prioritize prayer in the church’s life. He does not only command them to pray but to devote themselves to prayer. Many Christians would say prayer is their weakness and we just hope that we would get better with time. However, we should devote ourselves to prayer. The great saints, who I love to hear pray utter great prayers because they are devoted to praying. So, devote yourself to prayer, set apart time for prayer, grow in prayer.

Paul gives more instruction on prayer; he says we should be watchful and thankful. Often the word watch is used to speak of the end times (Matt 25:13, 1 Thess 5:6) and speaks of being alert to carry out a task, such as the disciples in the garden to stay awake and pray (Matt 26:41). The context tends to point focus and devotion to prayer. He also says we should pray with thanksgiving. Throughout the letter, we have discussed this many times that the life of a Christian is one of thankfulness towards God for his many blessings.  Paul then continues to give more specific prayer requests. His prayer requests are different from our prayers requests we make today. Often our prayer requests are “please pray for [blank] they have [particular sickness].” These prayer requests are not bad. We are commanded in the bible to pray for the sick (Jam 5:14-16). However, this should not be our only prayer request. Paul gives us a few things to broaden our prayer in Colossians chapter 4.

Pray for mission work.

Paul asks for the door to be opened (Col 4:3). Interestingly Paul is in prison, and his request is not that his trial would go well or that he would be released. His prayer is that the gospel might be proclaimed. His request for the door to open is also different from what we would pray. The prayer is that the door would be opened so that the word of Christ would be proclaimed clearly. The mystery which has been revealed, Christ in you [Gentiles] (Col 1:26-27). These verses teach us that we should pray for missionaries and other churches. Union with Christ has implications for the church, we are not all autonomous, but we are united through Christ and should support each other in prayer and even financially (1 Cor 16:1-4). The second thing we can learn from this verse is that missions have a very specific purpose, the proclamation of the word. There needs to be a distinction made from medical ‘missions’ and biblical missions. This was one of the main reasons that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was established. J. Gresham Machen saw that many ‘missionaries’ being sent on to the field were not really Minsters of the gospel. This led to the establishment of the “Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions” in 1933, and later the OPC in 1936. Speaking of the Christian missionary’s principal importance, Machen wrote, the saving of souls and souls are not saved by the mere ethical principles of Jesus but by His redemptive work.” Medical help is helpful and beneficial, but it is unhelpful to call that missions unless the primary focus is the wellbeing of their souls, not their body. The primary work of missions is the declaration of the mystery of Christ.

Pray for minsters

Paul asks that the church might pray for his ministry of the proclamation of the gospel. He asks that they might pray that he would make it clear (Col 4:4). The Westminster Larger Catechism asks the question to whom are we to pray? (WLC 183), Ministers are listed as one of the people we should pray for. Pray that minsters would make the gospel clear to those who hear. Consider praying for other churches, and also their pastors that they might be faithful to the text but also clear in their proclamation.

II. Walk Wisely (vs. 5)

Paul continues to tell believers to walk wisely towards outsiders. We see the connection between Paul’s prayer request and then this command to walk wisely towards outsiders. Paul is not the only missionary, because all Christians carry the title missionary. All believers are to walk in wisdom towards outsiders. Wisdom is not purely knowledge but the right knowledge and practice. Paul’s ministry was to present members in maturity in all wisdom (Col 1:28). Wisdom in Colossians frequently speaks of Christ not merely good thinking, but growth in the life of the believer (Col 1:28, 2:3, 2:23, 3:16). We cannot be like Solomon, who asks for wisdom and gets it, but wisdom is the slow-growing seed that turns into a large fruit bearing tree. How do you walk in wisdom? Paul tells us that we are to “make the best use of our time.” His advice is to look at your calendar. How do you spend your hours and days? Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” Why should we make the best use of our time? Paul explains the days are evil. We need to realize we are often pulled into the vacuum of the world rather than a leaf blower that pushes us away from the world. The term translated ‘make the best’ is actually translated redeem in Galatians 3:13 and 4:5. We are to redeem our time because the days are evil. It is not merely a command to be productive but to sanctify what we do. We would be surprised how much time we give to mundane pointless things in our lives, yet we never find time for reading the bible or praying. How can you walk wisely towards others? Redeem your time.

III. Speak Graciously (vs. 6)

Lastly, Paul commands the Colossians to speak graciously, seasoned with salt. Maybe you could say, make the best use of your words. Interesting that Paul mentions speech. Throughout the letter, he had addressed the false teaching, which was prevalent throughout the church in Colossae.  The issues of diets and days, and false humility, false worship, and other errors. However, Paul mentions the speech of a Christian. The central theme of this portion of scripture has been focused on outsiders. The doctrine of Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency affects our evangelism and mission work. When we do everything, word and deed, we should do it in the name of Christ (Col 3:17). The tongue of a Christian is even under the Lordship of Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” The tongue is a small part of the body but ‘boasts of great things’ (Jam 3:5). James later explains that the tongue is the small ember that can ignite a forest fire. As Smoky, the bear says, “only you can prevent wildfires.” Paul mentions that ‘your speech be gracious.” Emphasizing the individuals need to speak graciously. The Christian needs to learn how to tame their tongue. The Christian speech should ALWAYS be gracious. Christ’s supremacy has to affect your tongue. The Christian needs to speak the truth, but often we put false juxtapositions that only speak the truth OR do so graciously. However, we are reminded in the bible that the way we say the words speaks just as loudly as the words themselves. You cannot scream grace at people, you are not speaking graciously. Matthew Henry says, “Though it be not always of grace, it must be always with grace.”

Yuletide Pondering

As we consider the incarnation of Christ, we are reminded that Christ came full of grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 16-17).” Christ came and often the people he spoke boldly to were those who claimed to be right and religious. He was always full of grace and truth. Luke explains that Christ spoke gracious words (Luke 4:22). We have received grace upon grace, and our tongues should be a testimony to God’s grace.

Let the heirs of the kingdom behave themselves suitably to their character and dignity. Live as having the faith and hope of this glorious kingdom: Let your conversation be in heaven. Let your souls delight in communion with God while you are on earth, since you look for your happiness in communion with him in heaven. Let your speech and actions savor of heaven; and in your manner of life, look like the country to which you are going.

Thomas Boston

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