Does anyone in here know what the study of Christian Apologetics is? Right, Christian Apologetics is the study of answering or making a defense to any and all critics who oppose or question the truth claims of Christianity. We get the word apologetics from 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter tells us to ‘always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you.’ In the study of Christian Apologetics you’ll study many things. You’ll learn, from Scripture, how to interact with varying presuppositions, philosophical issues, definitions of morality, proofs for this or that, the problem of evil, cults, faith and reason, objective and subjective truth claims, and world religions to name a few. These things are great to learn for sure, but there is one thing most people forget, one great apologetic that always seems to get left out – the apologetic of the Christian life. Meaning that, arguments, debates, and careful reasoning are good and have their place but to the unbelieving world when your lifestyle and speech are both in harmony with the gospel, you have a glorious apologetic for the gospel. God is going to challenge us with this reality today.
Paul’s main idea or main call in 4:5-6 is found in 4:5a, ‘Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,’ that is, toward unbelievers. Just as in 4:2-4 Paul assumed prayer was already a part of their Christian lives, so to here in 4:5-6 Paul assumes the Colossian Church was already involved in the local community and already had opportunities to interact with those outside the Church for the sake of the gospel. Right away this prompts a question to ask ourselves: do we interact with the unbelieving world? I don’t think that is a very hard question to answer. All of us interact to some degree with unbelievers everyday, whether it’s family or friends, or waiters in a diner, unbelievers are all around us. The harder is question is this: do we interact with the unbelieving world for the sake of the gospel? This gets deeper than the first question and searches out our motives and desires to reach the lost world with the gospel that saves sinners. So ask yourself and answer honestly: when is the last time you shared the gospel with an unbeliever? If your answer is that you’ve been active in sharing your faith, good, keep it up, keep sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Christ. If your answer is that you haven’t shared the gospel with an un believer in a while, years perhaps, or maybe even never, be challenged. You either don’t understand the gospel yourself or you have hardened your heart to the point that you don’t feel a burden for the lost any longer.
Both are bad spots to be in.
Wherever you are in regard to this question, we’re all called to walk wisely in the sight of the unbelieving world. In Colossae and in our current time today, it is a sad reality to face that the unbelieving world has seen, is seeing, and will see many distorted accounts of what Christianity is all about. They may turn on the TV and flip to channels like TBN and think Christianity is all about believing in God in order to gain wealth and health. They may see someone they know claiming to be a Christian while also knowing this person is indulging in an immoral lifestyle. They may see someone marching down the street with a ‘God Hates Hillary Clinton’ poster and think Christianity is all about condemning Democrats. They may turn on Christian radio and conclude Christianity isn’t about making God the center of our lives, but rather how God makes us the center of everything. Because rampant distortions of what Christianity is really about abound today, do you see why we’re called to walk wisely before the lost world? Do you see that God calls you and I to live a certain way in order to show the unbelieving world what life looks like when we follow Christ? You see, the unbelieving world doesn’t read the Bible or listen to the preaching of God’s Word, but they can see the lives of those who do and from seeing such living they get a lasting impression of what God and His Church is like, for better or for worse. 17th century Scottish theologian John Eadie said, ‘The life of the Church is the only Bible the unbelieving world will ever read.’ How can we fight the rampant Christian distortions that are currently plaguing our culture? By walking wisely in the eyes of the unbelieving world.
Colossians 1:9-10 show us this wisdom it’s a deep knowledge of God’s will which leads to walking in a manner pleasing to God. Ephesians 5:15 says it like this, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…” So Paul both in Colossians 4:5 and Ephesians 5:15 is saying that true wisdom will lead to us walking wisely before the eyes of the unbelieving world.
One could rightly ask a question at this point, asking what it looks like to walk wisely before the unbelieving world? How do we do it? Paul answers us in 4:5-6 by giving us two ways to do it saying, “…making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…” So the two answers we get from Paul on how to walk wisely before the unbelieving world are, 1) making the best use of our time, and 2) having a tongue flavored with the salt of grace. Do you see here that it’s both how we live and how we talk that makes a difference to the lost world? Some of us would be content never to open our mouths at all and just live by example before the lost world. Others of us would be content to talk all day long to the lost as long as the lost doesn’t look too closely at how we live our lives. Both of these miss the mark. Life and speech matter, and they both must be put to godly use. Let’s take these one at a time.
1) Making the best use of our time (4:5b). The word here in the original Greek is only one word and it could be translated as it is here ‘making the best use of’ or ‘to redeem’ or ‘to secure for oneself.’ The meaning is clear: we walk wisely in the eyes of unbelievers when we redeem our time, making the best use of it that we possibly can. What does it mean to redeem the time? To redeem our time is to not waste our time. To redeem our time means to seize every chance we’re given to share the gospel with a bold tactfulness. To redeem the time means to use all of our time to God’s glory. To redeem our time is to fill our lives and our interactions with unbelievers with things of the Kingdom, the gospel, the Scripture rather than things that are trivial. This means we’re not free to use the time we have to do anything we desire. We must ask ourselves before doing anything or committing to something, will this activity help me redeem my time, or will this activity make me waste my time?
Let me give you an example that’s timely: it’s football season (yay!) so we’re going to be rooting for the Atlanta Falcons a lot during these next few months, BUT if my neighbors/friends/family know me just as the guy who cheers for the Falcons and knows nothing of my faith in and love for Christ (the most important thing about me) I’ve done a poor job of redeeming my time with my neighbors/friends/family. If that’s all they know about me I’ve wasted my time with them, filling our interaction with trivial things, and haven’t made the best use of that time that I could’ve. If all my neighbors know about me is that I’m really into working out, really into fishing, boating, my career, my car, my lawn, etc. and don’t know about my salvation, I’ve wasted my time with them. I would even say, if all my neighbors know about me is that I’m a nice guy, I’ve wasted my time with them.
Did you know one of the qualifications for elders is that they have a good reputation to those outside the Church. Did you know that? 1 Timothy 3:7 says elders are called to live in such a way before those outside the Church that those outside the Church recognize that they’re men of faith, character, and quality. Men that are honest, faithful, upright, above reproach, and trustworthy.
This is what elders are called to – and don’t think for a second that you can be lax here because God calls you to live in the same manner in our passage today. The outside world is to know from watching your life that you are different. They should see by watching you that you value different things than they value. The lost around you should see the difference between married Christians and married unbelievers, between single Christians and single unbelievers, between Christian parents and unbelieving parents, between Christian kids and unbelieving kids. The hard lesson for us here is that how we spend our time tells a lot about what we really love. The harder lesson here is that how we spend our time shows the unbelieving world what we really love.
So has anyone ever asked you why you’re different? Why it seems like you don’t fit the mold of normal living? If no one has ever asked you that question perhaps it because your life looks just like theirs. Earlier we read Ephesians 5:15, but to get the full weight of that verse we must read 5:16 too. God says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” We live in evil days, people love evil and hate good everyday. In the midst of this fallen world, God calls His Church to be lights shining in the darkness. We shine in the darkness by redeeming our time.
2) The Second way Paul tells us to walk wisely before the eyes of the unbelieving world is to have a tongue flavored with the salt of grace. 4:6a says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…” In Paul’s 1st century context, salt was used primarily as a preservative for various kinds of foods and meats, which, if applied rightly would help slow down mold and rot. In this verse Paul uses salt, the common culinary item, in relation to the Christian life to make the point that just as salt was used to prevent mold and rot, so too the Christian’s tongue is to be graciously salty being a witness and both a purifying influence to the unbelieving world. The same clarity and boldness that Paul asks this church to pray for in 4:3-4 he now asks them to have in 4:5-6.
You see Church, we never know when we may be called on to give an answer for what we believe, so we must always be prepared, we must always be ready. Think about it – shouldn’t we expect those who are called the ‘salt of the earth’ to have a kind of gracious salt to their language? In 1st century Greek philosophy if someone had a tongue seasoned with salt it meant this person had ‘wit.’ This meant they were quick and had ready tongues to answer any who may call upon them. How much should the salty seasoning of grace be on the tongues of all Christians throughout all time? We’ve talked of this already when we dug into 4:5, that part of making the best use of our time means we’re eagerly watching over our speech with and around unbelievers.
Why? Our speech, for better or for worse, gives a lasting impression about who God is and what His Church is like. Our words can bring glory and honor to God, or our words can defame and distress God. Just as how we spend our time reveals what we really love, our speech and the things that are frequently on our lips reveals what we treasure. I think this not only condemns conversations that are openly wicked and immoral, I think it condemns conversations that are worthless and idle. John Calvin says here, ‘Paul reckons as tasteless every communication that does not edify.’ One Puritan commentator says, “Let all your discourse be as becomes Christians, suitable to your profession—savory, discreet, seasonable.” Ephesians 4:29 agrees and says, “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.”
So ask yourselves: in your conversing with the unbelieving world, what is on your lips the most? The weather, current news, normal conversational etiquette, or the good news that though they now stand under the wrath of God due to their sin, if they repent and trust in Christ they can be forgiven fully and finally? For all of you who spend a lot of time on facebook and twitter, hear Matt Chandler, “A person who comes off as a beast on Twitter and acts as a coward in the neighborhood is a liar.” Your speech reveals, not only what you love, your speech reveals who you are. Be challenged if you know you’re a beast online and a coward in public – God is big enough to handle the consequences of your obedience, and when you step out in faith to share the gospel with the lost, God will give you words. Be encouraged, all of you, it’s because we have received the grace of God in the gospel, that we must cause our speech carry the grace of God’s gospel at all times.
Paul continues in 4:6b with the reason our speech must be salted with the grace of the gospel, saying, “so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” We don’t use speech for no reason, we talk with the unbelieving world in order that we may give an answer to each person who asks. That we’re to give attention to each and every person we talk with implies that in order to share our faith with those people we must first and foremost have a concrete, deep, and affectionate knowledge of our faith. It is a sad case when a Christian can’t share the gospel with the lost because they can’t articulate the gospel to themselves. To share it, we must know it. That we’re to give attention to each and every person we talk with also implies that a living and real evangelism does not come from a stock set of answers. We’re to answer people by meeting people where they are, that means we must be ready and able to get to the gospel from all sorts of various angles. Don’t get me wrong – everyone needs the same gospel, but every conversation we have about the gospel won’t be same. One answer is fitting for one man, and another answer is fitting for a different man. We therefore need wisdom and grace from God to give proper answers to every man, particularly in answering the questions and objections against the gospel, giving the reasons of our faith, and showing the unreasonableness of their own lost thinking.
So Paul’s thought has come full circle here. Starting with a report of his thankful prayer for the Colossians and of his work for the gospel, he has ended his letter pleading that we pray as he prays, and work as he works. Our devotion to prayer and our devotion to a life lived for the Supremacy of Christ, like his, are to be expressions and reflections of how the Supreme, Kingly, and Regal Christ reached out to save us.
To end I want to ask you take a moment and think about the unbelievers in your life. Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors; what do they know of your life? What do they know of your speech? Have you shared the gospel with them?
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee.