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We conclude this letter by noting the emphasis that this section places on both words and names. Paul is concerned with the prayers of the Colossians, and their speech toward others outside, and for those who minister there in that region. He always wants them to pray for him, that his speech would be unfettered and plain. In addition to this, Paul concludes with a number of greetings to individuals, each of whom had a life, face, and story.
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man . . .” (Col. 4:2-18).
Summary of the Text
As Paul wraps up this short letter to the Colossians, he does so in characteristic fashion. He tells them to continue in prayer, and tells them to be watchful in that prayer with thanksgiving (v. 2). He asks to be included in their prayers, that God would open opportunities to preach about the mystery of Christ (v. 3). He wants to make this mystery manifest, as he ought to do (v. 4). He then tells the Colossians to walk in wisdom with regard to outsiders, making the most of the time (v. 5). And he tells them to have their speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that they can make adjustments as they answer all kinds of men (v. 6).
The beloved and faithful Tychicus, who is delivering the letter, will bring them up to date (v. 7). He was sent to encourage the Colossians, and find out for Paul how they were doing (v. 8). Onesimus is with Tychicus, and he will fill in the gaps (v. 9). Aristarchus is in prison with Paul, and he sends his regards. Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, should be received by them if he comes (v. 10). This indicates that the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas has been repaired, and it perhaps shows us why Barnabas wanted to stick with Mark after the Jerusalem council (v. 10). Jesus (called Justus) belonged to the circumcision party, but despite this was in fellowship with Paul and was a fellow worker with him (v. 11). This indicates that the circumcision party had a liberal wing. Epaphras, remember, was the likely founder of the church at Colossae, and Paul commends him highly (v. 12). In addition, we see that he was also ministering with great zeal in the nearby towns of Hierapolos and Laodicea (v. 13). Luke, beloved physician, sent his greetings, as did Demas, before his falling away (v. 14). The church in Colossae was in close communication with the church in Laodicea, and their church was of a size that it was able to meet in the house of Nymphas (v. 15). They were instructed to swap letters with the church in Laodicea (v. 16). Paul wants Archippus to be encouraged by them—he was perhaps laboring in Laodicea also (v. 17). And with that, Paul signs off (v. 18).
Continue in Prayer
When the gospel is preached efficaciously in the world, the entire body of Christ is involved in it. Note that Paul does not say that he is “an apostle,” and that he therefore has it well in hand. He wants believers to lift him up so that he might be able to lift up Christ in the message he preaches. This involves propositional content, certainly, but Paul didn’t need prayer in order to learn that propositional content. He knew that already, but still required the prayers of the saints. There was a time when Spurgeon was asked about the secret of his power, and his answer was “my people pray for me.”
Think of it this way. When the gospel is preached, the church should be swinging for the fence. The preacher might be the hands holding the bat, but the reason the ball goes over the fence has to do with the placement of the feet, and how the hips rotate.
Seasoned With Salt
We can determine in part what Paul intends by “seasoned with salt” by looking at the result he believes it will obtain. There are three parts to the exhortation. The first is “let your speech be always with grace.” That is the baseline. That is what you are communicating. Your words are to be rooted and grounded in grace, and the fruit that your words bear are to be equally gracious. And what is grace but undeserved favor? Our message is grace, proceeding from grace and heading toward more grace. All of it is grace upon grace. The second part to the exhortation is “seasoned with salt.” Whatever your gracious words are, put some salt on it. Grace needs salt. Like eggs, which are wonderful, grace still needs salt. You would have to be a raccoon to eat eggs without salt. And salt is the kind of thing that seasons different things differently—what does salt do to corn, and to watermelon, and to prime rib? These are all types of variegated grace, and salt is an additional grace. What kind of grace do you offer to outsiders, and how much salt do you put on it? That depends, and we see the third part—“that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” In the verse prior, Paul told them to walk in wisdom, and wisdom understands the mystery of timing.
The Mystery of Christ
The mystery of Christ is something that was hidden for long ages past, but the responsibility now is for the emissaries of the church to make this mystery plain. The word rendered in verse 4 as manifes tmeans to reveal, or make clear. It comes from a root word which means shine.
All through the Old Testament, the Christ was the promised one. When He came, He lived a perfect sinless life, so that it could be imputed to us. He died on the cross, so that the penalty for our iniquity might be fully paid. He went into the grave so that we might come out of the grave. He was raised to life for our justification, and when He ascended into the heavens, it was so that we might not know Him after the flesh any longer. We worship the Christ of the cosmos, the one in whom all things are transfigured.
And as we worship Him, here today, as we worship, we are declaring to the world His manifest Deity, and the glories of His mediatorial reign. Nothing will ever be the same.