Witness in Christ
May 29, 2022 | In Christ Alone | Witness in Christ| Colossians 4:5-6
(Click here for the sermon audio)
This is who you are in Christ. (wk 1- Identity in Christ)
This is who you should be becoming in Christ (wk 2- Maturity in Christ)
This is how you came to be in Christ in the first place. (wk 3- Reconciliation in Christ)
This is what your leaders and assembly ought to look like. (wk 4- Together in Christ)
This is what happened to you when Christ reconciled you. (wk 5- Alive in Christ)
This is how you live out your new identity. (wk 6- Life in Christ )
These are the things that do not fit with your new self (wk 7- New Self in Christ)
These are the things that do fit with your new self (wk 8- New Self in Christ II)
This is how your closest relationships are affected (wk 9- Relationships in Christ)
This is how you communicate with God in Christ (wk 10- Prayer Life in Christ)
This morning in our study of the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Colossae we come to Paul’s final instructions before he begins what we would call the goodbye portion of his letter.
As we saw last week, this section is connected with the exhortation he began in Chapter 3, that if we have been raised with Christ, our lives ought to be different. I think it also could be seen as a continuation of specifically how being in Christ affects our relationships. Paul has previously dealt with how it affects our home lives and our vocations, and now he concludes with our relationship to those outside of the faith, non-believers, and our witness to them.
Our witness is composed of two things mentioned by Paul here, the way we live and the way we speak. When we talk about our witness, we are talking about what we communicate through our actions and talk about who Christ is.
We must acknowledge upfront that our conduct can either draw people in or push them away from God. You may have heard it said before, "Your life may be the only Bible someone reads".
I was listening to a podcast this week that was talking about impacting the next generation. The Pastor they were interviewing said the thing we have to be most concerned with is not that they won’t believe the gospel, but that they will conclude by our lives that we never really believed it the way we said we did.
What we do, and how we live, communicate much more than we would like to admit concerning what we believe. We may say we believe in the tenets of the Christian faith, that we believe Jesus is the son of God, and that we have been born again, but what does our life say we believe? What does it say about our priorities and the way we order our lives?
If gathering together here is only important when we don’t have something else, we may say that we belong to Christ and that we worship him, but when we neglect the easiest expression of that belief in favor of pursuing other things, the evidence is simply not there.
If the generation behind us doesn’t grab hold of the gospel and walk in it, it will be because we gave lip service to it while we lived like everyone else does in the world. Look it’s either amen or oh me. Right?
This is so important.
Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, said it this way. Matthew 5:14-16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
What will they see? Your good works that are done in Christ. What will they do? Give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The implication here is of course that when they see your good works, they will want to know why you do them and your answer will be because you belong to God in Christ and they will therefore give the glory to Your Father. Your witness is your walk and your talk.
Paul, in this passage, is going to show us how our lives should be lived in light of our witness to those outside the faith.
We are going to look at what he says under two things that are necessary for our lives if we are going to impact those around us with the gospel. Wisdom in our walk and Grace in our talk.
Wisdom in Our Walk (Colossians 4:5)
Colossians 4:5 (ESV) 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
The term outsiders is not a derogatory term, but rather a factual one. The word means literally one on the other side of the door. I believe it is the single best descriptor for the two types of people in the world.
Paul has already reminded us that in Christ the distinctions of the world no longer apply. Colossians 3:11 (ESV) Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
That is not to say, when we are born again in Christ, we no longer bear our ethnicities, our religious and cultural backgrounds, or our social standings. As a matter of fact, Jesus gives us a glimpse into what heaven will be like.
(ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
However, what it does mean is that when it comes to our standing in Christ, we are all on the same ground.
Jesus came to establish for himself a people, and that people is made up of people from every walk of life and from every corner of the earth, and from ever. One body, one church, one people.
The term outsider signifies that there is an insider, and that's where I find the idea of a door, most helpful.
No one is born an insider, no one inherits being an insider because his family was or his parents were, and no one becomes an insider by knowing insiders. By nature, every man or woman born are outsiders. To come inside, we must come through the door. What is the door?
Jesus tells us how we come to be insiders in John 10.
John 10:7-9 (ESV) 7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
If you are an insider, it is because you encountered Jesus and by putting your faith and hope in him and surrendering to his way, you have entered into new life. If you have not done that, you are an outsider, no matter what else describes you.
So how are those who are in Christ supposed to conduct themselves in regards to those who are not?
Wisely and Opportunely.
Paul makes two statements here, walk in wisdom towards outsiders, and making the best use of time.
Let's deal with each one respectively.
First, Paul says we must choose wisdom over withdrawal.
Too often our tendency is to withdraw from outsiders, isn’t it? It is much more natural to gather with those who are like us. Paul talks about this very thing in 1st Corinthians, when he references a previous letter he had sent them.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV) 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Paul says, "you misunderstood", I did not tell you to withdraw from those who are outside, but rather to withdraw from those who are inside the church but acting like outsiders. Those that profess one thing but act differently.
We have to admit we often get this backward in the church today. We will not associate or interact with sinners outside the church, but tolerate sin inside the church because that person says they believe the same thing as us!
Not so says Paul, we shouldn't withdraw from outsiders but rather conduct ourselves wisely around them. What does that mean? To walk wisely?
There are two scriptures I want to share with you that help us understand what Paul is saying.
One is in Ephesians, where Paul says,
Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV) 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (ESV) 9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Walking with wisdom is conducting our lives in obedience to the will and instruction of the Lord. It is showing the people around us what it looks like to live out a new life in Christ wherever we find ourselves.
To boil it down to its simplest application it is ‘live in a way that is consistent with your identity in Christ.’
First, Paul says we shouldn’t withdraw from outsiders but rather live out our faith in their clear view. He is simply repeating what the Lord taught when he said let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.
Wisdom over withdrawal.
Second, when we do engage them with the gospel it should be opportunely not offensively.
Paul says, redeeming the time. Literally to buy up. The idea is to seize the deal, to buy when the buying is good.
The idea is that when we engage people with the gospel, we are to have wisdom in our approach.
Paul says, as we live our lives around outsiders there will be opportunities; doors God opens, and when he does that we must be ready to make the most of the time. To literally buy it up, no matter the cost.
This speaks to the priority and importance of engaging outsiders.
For some of you, I hope this is encouraging. Because some of you are petrified to speak to someone about Christ. The thought of asking someone where they are spiritually, or what they believe happens when we die, is just about the scariest thing you can imagine.
But, here is the encouragement, the first thing Paul addresses here is not what we say, but rather how we live.
First wisely, and second opportunely.
It is true that God uses people, even in spite of themselves. So I’m not saying God doesn’t use the person standing on the street corner yelling turn or burn, or the people who go door to door knocking. I’m positive that he does, but neither of those is the approach Paul tells us to use.
Here is the tension we must manage. Some of us will use this as an excuse to not engage people because it’s not the 'right' time when it clearly is. We will justify and rationalize our silence, as inopportune. Others of us will engage everyone we meet, regardless of whether it is an appropriate time or not. Both lack wisdom.
The key is sensitivity to the Spirit and praying that God would open doors, otherwise, our best intentions can come off as offensive, which is something we should avoid whenever possible. Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. I have heard it said this way, ‘the Bible says the message of the cross is offensive, but it certainly doesn’t mean we should be.’
When our approach is irritating, annoying, or angering, we are not being faithful to our responsibility to engage the outsider with wisdom, making the best use of the time.
On the other hand when our approach is absent, when we never engage outsiders, we are neglecting our responsibility to engage the outsider with wisdom, making the best use of time.
The next thing Paul addresses is the way we talk with outsiders. If we are walking in wisdom by living out our faith in full view of outsiders, and if we are praying for and looking for opportunities to engage; when they present themselves, how should we respond? With grace in our talk.
Grace in Our Talk (Colossians 4:6)
Colossians 4:6 (ESV) 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
The parallelism between Paul’s model and exhortation here is great to see. In verse 3 and 4 Paul asks for prayers that God would open a door (an opportunity) for him to declare the mystery of Christ, since he was in chains due to the way he was living for Christ, and that he would be able to make Christ known, like he should in this situation.
He then exhorts the Colossian believers to follow his example. Live for Christ, seize the opportunity before you, and speak the way you ought to in your own situation.
No doubt, you were also reminded when you read this passage as I was of another instruction in scripture from the Apostle Peter. In 1st Peter, he says- 1 Peter 3:13-15a (ESV) 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy (actions), always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
I want to make some observations about this topic of our speech.
One, in both places the idea is response not initiation, which is interesting. I think we often feel like we have to initiate the conversation.
In Colossians he says that you may know how you ought to answer each person-
Answer- to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded
Make a defense to anyone who asks you- make a reasoned argument
Both of these have to do with the way we respond to an unbeliever. Does that mean we never start conversations or ask questions? Of course not, but we have wisdom in when to speak and how to navigate the conversation towards Christ.
Two, in both places we are exhorted to be gracious in our speech. Peter says with gentleness and respect. The word respect here is reverence.
This further emphasizes Paul’s point that we should be wise both in our actions and our speech.
Every person is different, with different backgrounds, different presuppositions, and different situations. To think that there is one way to approach our conversation with outsiders is to miss the wonderfully diverse nature of God’s created people. So how do we know what we should say?
Here is the third thing I want us to see concerning our speech.
Paul says our speech should be seasoned with salt, which admittedly is a strange thing for him to say to our ears.
The term is actually, having been seasoned with salt, as in something that has already happened.
I think the idea is that in the same way salt changes what it comes into contact with, we should remember that as new creatures in Christ, our language should be affected. It should reflect the reality that we are in Christ and more importantly, Christ is in us. Everything we say ought to be flavored by our new life in Christ.
So, let’s sum up what Paul and Peter have said so far concerning our speech.
We are to respond to outsiders with grace in our speech, and what we say ought to be flavored by the gospel that has changed our lives. We ought to take every opportunity to recommend, commend, and testify of Jesus to those who are outside of the church. Prepared with reasoned arguments, gracious speech, reverently addressing the most important topic we could ever discuss with them. More important than the game, the weather, the news, or politics.
Making the best use of the time, seizing the opportunities before us to engage the lost with the good news of Christ Jesus.
There are outsiders who have never placed their faith in Christ Jesus who desperately need to hear the good news in a way that draws them to consider the claims of Christ. We work with them, we live by them, we grocery shop next to them, our kids play ball together, go to school together, etc…
What will our witness say to them? What will they see in our lives and hear from our mouths?
Will it move them to ask why we act differently, respond differently, why we have hope? In short, will it draw their attention to the Father and his wonderful grace or away from him?