The next several articles will focus on these two verses written by the Apostle Paul to the Colossians applied to the various venues of communication that take place in our current culture. This first installment will provide the overview of the contextual meaning of the verses.
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
The immediate context of this Scripture is a plea from the apostle to the saints in Colossi that they would live and speak in such a way that the Gospel would enjoy further faith in their circle of influence. Of course this is the heart of what we desire to do as ambassadors of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, even today. The big idea here is that what we do and say, and how we do it and say it has a profound impact on the work of the ministry, namely evangelism/discipleship, which we are all called to do. Once again, Paul emphasizes both the walk and the talk of the Christian in gospel work which is reminiscent of 1 Timothy 4:12-13 recently preached at Grace Baptist Church.
He begins this idea by pointing out that our walk (Biblical synonym for normal living) is to be with wisdom specifically directed with wise behavior concerning those who are yet on the outside of Biblical Christianity. The Bible author assumes with his language that we are interacting in our normal lives with those outside of Christianity. This of course then is speaking of normal living with our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. He describes the urgency we must have to be wise in our lives by writing, “redeeming the time.” This phrase means to use the time we have in this life in an urgent manner. We only have so much time in this life, are we walking foolishly toward those without Christianity or can they see wisdom in our choices, decisions, pursuits, and desires? Then he moves on to the second aspect of life. In our wise walk toward outsiders, no doubt some will seek to understand why our lifestyle is different than what they are used to seeing and experiencing. Some will certainly mock our living. Some may even persecute us with words or weapons, but as we walk with wisdom and urgency toward those without the family of God, we must respond with boldness in our speech. We must be unashamed to clearly and articulately proclaim the gospel of God in fullness with truth. Yet he continues to qualify this response we must realize is coming. The Spirit says that our responses to any man regardless of whether they are for us or against us must be consistent with how Christ answered those both for him and against him. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.”
What does it mean to have always gracious speech and salty speech? The word “grace” could be defined as undeserved favor and love. Grace is what the Scripture says is the gift from God every man needs abundantly because every man’s sin is abundantly destructive. In other words, if God dealt with sinners as they deserved, that is granting no grace, sinners would have no hope of anything but a fiery eternity without God. But God in his grace gives us repentance and faith and a divine willingness to know and love God and others. Thank God for his grace which we need or else we would be done. Now in applying this then to our responses toward any man (those within and without Christianity) regardless of how they have offended us, we are to be people of grace. We are to not give them what they deserve, but to give them love when they least deserve it. We must look upon those who hate us and respond with giving them not what they deserve, but what they need. This is seen in the second part of the inspired sentence. Let the gracious speech you utter be seasoned with salt. Salt, in the early centuries was needed primarily for preservation. It was used to flavor, but mostly used to cure, or to make that which has the chance of spoiling last. It made something good better and last longer. When we speak, even when we are speaking the gospel, we are to speak it in such a way that shows our love for our neighbor (with grace), but also clearly and accurately, something that will actually benefit them for eternity (seasoned with salt). This twofold approach (grace and salt) applies to the content of what we speak and also to the manner in which we speak it. We have the love of God contained in the Scripture, let us speak it boldly with grace and salt.