Opening thought: Lottie Moon was one of the most famous of all Southern Baptist missionaries, and her mission carried her to China. She often wrote letters home to her churches asking for prayer and encouraging the people of God to be more involved in missions and evangelism. From Tungchow, China in 1887, Lottie wrote to the Southern Baptists in America, encouraging them to give to Baptist mission efforts, “How many there are ... who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God."
Today’s passage is Paul’s request for prayer from the church at Colossae for his mission and his encouragement for the Colossian believers to live their lives as deliverers of the Good News, both in action and in word.
Pray and Read: Colossians 4:2-6
We come now to the end of the second main section of the letter (2:6-4:6). Here Paul, as is typical for him, asks for prayer. It matches the prayer at the opening (1:3, 9-10/4:2-4). We see a similar thing in Rom. 1:9-10/15:30-32; Eph. 1:15-23/6:18-20; Phil. 1:9-11/4:6; 1 Thess. 1:2-3/5:17, 25; 2 Thess. 1:3/3:1-2; Phm. 4-6/22. Eph. 6:18-20 is very close to Col. 4:2-4. Both are prison epistles written about at the same time period.
Now Paul and Timothy are closing the letter and reiterating and emphasizing what they consider important for this Colossian church. And in it we see what is most urgent for us in this day as we await his coming.
Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 4:2-6 to teach the Colossian Christians to persist in prayer for missions and make a priority of outreach to non-believers.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Christ’s mission in our community.
- Pray for Christ’s mission (Col 4:2-4)
- Live Christ’s mission (Col 4:5)
- Speak Christ’s mission (Col 4:6)
Exposition: Note well,
a. 4:2In prayer be continually persistent, being on the alert in it in thanksgiving, 3praying together also for us, in order that God may open for us a door of the word to speak the mystery of Christ, for which also I am enchained, 4in order that I may make it known as I ought to speak.
b. προσκαρτερεῖτε : “persist at, remain with, be loyal to, occupy yourself diligently with, pay persistent attention to.” Prayer is the most common single object of this verb in the NT (eg., Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Rom 12:12).
c. γρηγοροῦντες : “keep awake, be on the alert.” Imagery drawn from guard duty (Neh 7:3; 1 Macc 2:27; Mark 14:34, 37). It points to the imminent expectation of Christ’s coming (Mark 13:35, 37; 14:38; Matt 24:42; 25:13; 26:41; 1 Thess 5:6; Rev 3:3; 16:15).\
d. ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ : “with thanks” Colossians is one of the most thankful documents in the NT (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2). It balances our watchfulness. We watch for our Lord’s return not with fear or anxiety, but with confidence and assurance that Christ is coming to rescue them.
e. ILLUSTRATION: Jesus is coming back! We have great joy and anticipation in His Return.
f. APPLICATION: That joy and anticipation should inform our prayer as we stand on guard duty watching for him. And we pray for our for missionaries, not in general ways but in concrete, real ways
a. 5Walk with wisdom toward those outside, making the most of the appointed times.
b. At the end of the letter, we would expect Paul and Timothy to repeat any very important points made in the letter, and they do it now. Here Paul ties up his letter in reiterating this focus on walking in wisdom (1:9-10; 2:6-7) among unbelievers.
c. τοὺς ἔξω : toward outsiders. There is here a sense of separateness from the world around us, but not in an arrogant sense that we are better than they are, or in a revulsive sense, that we should have nothing at all to do with them. The sense here is that they are outsiders because they have not yet had the privilege of knowing the person and work of Christ, therefore, make the most of every opportunity to share with them that good news!
d. τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι : “intensive buying,” “buying which exhausts the possibilities available” This is the end of time, and His Coming is imminent, any moment. Therefore buy up every opportunity to share your faith with outsiders.
e. ILLUSTRATION: Jesus’ method of evangelism was not what we often expect. He never gave the whole ball of dough when he shared the good news that he was the Messiah. He attracted people to the gospel. Take for instance the woman at the well in John 4. He told her that if she knew who she was talking with, she would want to ask him for a drink of water.
f. APPLICATION: Are you walking in wisdom toward your friends and family without Christ? How do you talk with them? Do you talk down to them as if they are beneath you because you are a Christian? Is some kind of Christian arrogance coming their way from you? Do you lecture them on their sin and what they should not be doing when they don’t have the Lord to give them power over their sin? Or are you loving them into the Kingdom? Are you winning them toward the Cross and not turning them away? I’m not asking you to participate in your sin. Your Christian standards should remain uncompromised. But are you attracting them to Christ through the stability and wisdom of your life?
3. SPEAK CHRIST’S MISSION (Col 4:6)
a. 6Let your word be always in grace, with salt that seasons, to know how you ought to answer everyone.
b. This is a church in communication with those around it, not cut off in a “holy huddle”, speaking only the language of Zion to insiders, but having regular conversations with unbelievers in such a gracious way as to give plenty of opportunity to bear testimony of your faith.
c. And make it salt that seasons, make it conversation that is interesting, not bland to the taste.
d. ILLUSTRATION: This past Friday I visited a grandmother of one of our members in the hospital who is suffering greatly with pancreatitis, but her focus was not on herself. She told me of her great desire to see many come to Christ. She said, “They will come, if they will just taste and see that the Lord is good, then they will come back for more, and they will come to know him.” That’s what happened to me. Christ graciously placed me into a Christian home, and there was ample fare of the sweetness of Christ. That’s how you came to Christ. You tasted of his wonderful word. Don’t you think that giving someone a gracious taste of the Lord, seasoned with some real interest, will create an appetite in that someone for more of the eternal manna of Christ?
e. This picture is as far as we can imagine from those kinds of Christians who have no interest in the affairs of those outside of faith in Christ or church and no desire for small talk with unbelievers, no ability to maintain an interesting conversation with anyone. This is a lively interchange with unbelievers, positive and reflecting the attractiveness of the character of Christ
f. APPLICATION: Are you living and speaking as a Christian at work? Do your kids see a different person on Sunday morning that they don’t recognize from the one they know during the week? Do you talk to people you don’t know? Are you friendly? Are you kind to outsiders? Here at church – do you just sit and stare at people you don’t know or do you get up and speak to them? Do you welcome them?