The apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Colossians with the call to walk in wisdom. True disciples have their lives hidden in Christ. Paul is going to describe the life and speech of the spiritual.
Persistence In Prayer
Paul commands us to continue steadfastly in prayer. Paul pictures the Christians being watchful and alert in prayer. Our eyes are open to life’s events ready to pray at a moments notice. I believe that Paul commanding us to continue steadfastly in prayer and to be watchful in prayer shows that prayer does not come naturally. Don’t fall asleep or grow lax in your prayer life. Be alert in prayer. In Colossians 4:12 we notice that Epaphras was “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.” This is a picture of a prayer warrior, going to battle in prayer on behalf of God’s people.
One reason we are not persistent in prayer and struggling for others in our prayers is because we believe we are in control. We think we have things under control. It is when this illusion of control is shattered then we consider praying to God. All the hindrances that we think we have that prevent us from praying evaporate when something severe happens to us or our family. Suddenly we are able to find time to pray. Suddenly prayer becomes really important. Otherwise we think we have life in our hands and we are in control and we completely neglect prayer. There are three points that Paul asks the Colossians to pray for that we need to approach God in prayer also.
Pray for evangelism.
Paul says in verse 3 that he wants the Christians to pray for God to open a door for the word. Paul wants people praying for the opportunity teach. Pray for open doors to reach different people and different communities. Why is evangelism not in our prayers? We need to be praying for more opportunities to teach. We need to be praying for more people to come through our doors. We need to be praying for Bible studies so that we can teach people about God’s love. Will we pray that we can save souls? Will we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about the people that are lost?
Pray to make the message clear.
Paul also asks for the Colossians to pray for him that he make the message clear as he proclaims the mystery of Christ. We need to pray that we are not obstacles hindering people from understanding God’s message. We cannot obscure God’s saving message. There is certainly a temptation on our part to hide the clear message of God’s judgment on sin. Ezra was a priest who came back with the remnant from the exile to teach the people God’s word. Ezra along with a long list of other men unrolled the scroll and read the law to the people.
The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:7–8 NIV 2011)
The reading and teaching of God’s word brought about fasting and confession of sins. We have the task of making the message clear. I take this responsibility very seriously and it is my goal to keep this charge of reading God’s word, making sure it is clear, and giving the meaning so that all can learn God’s will. Pray that we are successful in our effort.
Pray for maturity.
In Colossians 4:12 we notice that Epaphras is praying so that the Colossians may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. We need to pray for our maturity in Christ. We need to pray that we will be rooted and grounded in God’s truth leads to fruit bearing godliness and holiness. Pray for the people you see that are weak in the faith. Pray for those who are not strong in the Lord. Pray for the spiritual condition of those who are spiritual sick. Too often our focus is only on the physical sick and we are afraid to offend those who are spiritually sick. It is far more important that we pray for these people by name because their souls are in jeopardy. Pray for the spiritual maturity of one another.
Teach In Wisdom
Paul continues his theme of evangelism as he concludes his letter to the Colossians. Paul continues to encourage these Christians in practical ways to show a life hidden in Christ.
Fulfill your ministry.
In verse 16 Paul instructs Archippus to fulfill the ministry he had received from the Lord. This exhortation is similar to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “Do the work of an evangelist.” This is a repeated theme in Colossians 4. Tychicus is a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord (4:7). Onesimus is a faithful and beloved brother (4:9). Justus is among fellow workers for the kingdom of God (4:11). Epaphras has worked hard for the Colossians and for the Christians in Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13). Do the work. Fulfill your ministry. What work are you doing in the kingdom? Pew sitting and church attending is not working hard in the kingdom of God. Ask yourself how you are contributing to the kingdom of God? As Paul taught in Romans 12 we are all one body, but the members do not have the same function. Paul lists a number of functions for the members of the Lord’s body. Serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and acts of mercy. One of the functions was not church attending. Invite people to worship. Ask people if they want to read the Bible with you. Ask them if they want to know what the Bible is about. Bring them to our community groups. What work are you doing in the kingdom?
Walk in wisdom.
Notice that Paul says to not only walk in wisdom but to especially do so toward outsiders. We need to live wise lives toward those who are unbelievers. This means that we must not discredit Christ by how we live. We must remember that our life is hidden in Christ. People should see Christ and not see us. Moreover, we need to be wise toward outsiders by being thoughtful about how we reach people. We need to care about people, not because we are trying to bring them to Christ, but because God cares about people. Get to know people and be friends with them to try to save them. If they reject, we do not reject them but continue to try to influence them by how we conduct our lives. Stand apart from the world and do not make foolish decisions.
Use your time well.
We need to make the most of the opportunities that God gives us. We need to be praying for opportunities and then we will maximize those opportunities. When God does send guests through our doors, what do we do? Do we ignore them? Do we talk to the same people that we always talk to? Do we serve our guests? We also need to make the most of the opportunities that we have with our friends and acquaintances. Successful evangelism has a sense of urgency. Too often we have lost that urgency. We no longer live as if today was the only opportunity that we have. We want to assume that there is time for people to come to the Lord, a thought that is simply not promised to us. We must reignite our sense of urgency to reach and save souls. This will compel us to make the most of our time. We need to stop “beating around the bush” and just start telling people about Jesus and inviting them to study the Bible.
Paul continues that we must have gracious speech, seasoned with salt. We need to not be harsh with our words. We need to have a softer answer. We need to speak warmly with people and graciously with people. Our words need to be appropriate for a person who loves Jesus. We need to watch our demeanor. We need to watch how we come off and the impression we make with others.
Ready to answer.
Paul concludes by instructing followers of Jesus to be ready to give an answer. We need to know the scriptures and know what we believe so we can share that knowledge with unbelievers. We need to be wise in our interactions with unbelievers. We want to make sure we do not discredit the gospel. We must be sure to know what we believe and why we believe so that we can tell others why we live our lives for Jesus. Remember that people are going to see Christ in our lives. We must be ready to explain why they see Christ in us.
Ready and Willing to Suffer
Finally, Paul makes us aware that we need to be ready to make deep sacrifices for the Lord. We must be ready and willing to suffer. Evangelism and walking in wisdom is not something we do when it is convenient but at all times. Paul explains that he is in prison for declaring with clarity the mystery of Christ to unbelievers (4:3). Why are we not teaching? Why are we not sharing the gospel? Why are we not approaching people about Jesus? Often it is because we have lost our sense of urgency and have forgotten our call to reach the world regardless of suffering and shame. In verse 10 we learn that Aristarchus was also a fellow prisoner for teaching the gospel. Paul drives the point home strongly has he concludes the letter with the simple words, “Remember my chains.” What will we give for the sake of the cross? Are we willing to carry the cross and follow Jesus or are we in this for our convenience and comfort? The natural fall out from evangelism is rejection and suffering. People are going to say no and people are going to say yes to the gospel. Neither response is a reflection on us, but the rejection or acceptance of our Lord Jesus. Let us pray for the lost and pray for more opportunities. Continue steadfastly in prayer. Then take advantage of the opportunities God provides as we walk and teach with all wisdom.