A great deal can happen in a second. A hummingbird’s wings flap two hundred times, light travels 186,282 miles, 10.4 million liters of water flow from Victoria Falls, we send 3.4 million emails, and Facebook users create forty-one thousand posts. But, if we increase that time slightly to 1.8 seconds, something exponentially more significant takes place.
Every 1.8 seconds someone dies and enters their eternal destination. By the time you're done reading this article, over four hundred people will have died. And most will spend an eternity separated from God's glory and instead experience eternal suffering (Matt 7:13-14).
This gives even a short amount of time, like 1.8 seconds, great significance in our daily lives and decisions. May we all, as Paul says, make the "best use of the time" by walking wisely in the world as lights in the midst of darkness. Let's see how the apostle describes the life of wisdom in Colossians 4:5-6:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Wisdom in the World
"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders..."
Scripture is very clear concerning our relationship to the world. We are not to be like it, love it, or find satisfaction with its offerings. We must prepare for the world to hate us while living in such a way that our lives give testimony to our faith. This spiritual balance calls us to avoid and even hate the world system while at the same time loving the lost souls who are bound by their sinful nature and the evil influence in society. Paul calls believers to walk in wisdom toward outsiders because f
The context of our passage directs us to this purpose. Colossians 3:1-17 acts as the motivating instruction to fulfill the relationships in 3:18 and following. Christ is the supreme example and motivation (vv. 1-4), the past habits are to be put to death (vv. 5-11), the virtues of the new life must be prominent (vv. 12-17), the family codes offer practical direction (3:18-4:1), and the prayers for grace and focus are needed for Paul’s final statement in 4:5-6 (4:2-4). His statement is the ultimate expression of a life motivated by Christ’s example, work, and our transforming salvation.
The New Testament definition of wisdom is consistent with the Old Testament. It is to live or walk through life with skill. The word carries the idea of having a particular skill and wisdom for life (Ex 28:3; 31:3; 35:31; Dan 5:11). So, to walk in wisdom means to walk skillfully for the glory of God and our benefit. The theme of wisdom is consistent in Colossians (1:9; 2:3, 8; 3:16), and the New Testament provides a comprehensive view of walking with God (Newness Rom 6:4; Faith 2 Cor 5:7; Governed Gal 6:16; Ro 8:4; Eph 5:8; 2 John 6; Predetermined Eph 2:10; Forsaking Eph 4:17; Loving Eph 5:2; Honoring Col 1:10; Col 2:6; Growing 1 Thess 4:1; Emulating Phil 3:17; 1 John 2:6). These nine features are descriptive of our spiritual journey which lead us to an ultimate objective—to glorify God by living with wisdom toward outsiders.
After instructing the Colossians in family life, he helps them understand their relationship to those in the world. It is essential that you appreciate the order. The qualifications of an elder illustrate this. He must be qualified spiritually, and a testing ground is his home; so, the church must be spiritually qualified, and its body and family life must be in order before it is truly prepared to reach those on the outside. When you look in the mirror of your life, what wisdom do you speak to your heart? Do you have a sincere and affectionate vision of Christ that motivates you to walk with wisdom in this world?
There is an obvious implication in this call to walk in wisdom—the need for the command because, we, like the Colossians, may choose to live in a manner opposite of wisdom. Or worse yet, we may choose to embrace a pseudo-wisdom. The false teachers were communicating that adherence to their doctrine and regulations was wisdom (skill) for living a religious life (Col 2:4, 8, 16, 18-23). However, Paul makes it evident that this wisdom has no spiritual value whatsoever.
As all religious instruction apart from biblical truth and God’s grace is condemning, so was the error presented at Colossae two thousand years ago, and sadly, many are presented with some form of this delusion today. It is important to understand that Paul’s call to wisdom is not disconnected from the purpose of the letter—to present Christ as the sufficient means of hope and warn against the false teachers’ claims of spirituality and wisdom. If Paul doesn’t distinguish between the wisdom of the world and that of Christ, then the Colossians’ influence in the world would have its basis in a system as verse twenty-three states, that is of no value.
Genuine wisdom desires to seize evangelistic opportunities
"Making the best use of the time..."
There is a redemptive nature in a wise walk. The basis is in a pregnant word which is not the easiest to grasp in this context. Making the most of the opportunity means to live in such a way that occasions to witness for Christ don't escape our grasp. It is a focus not on time, but on opportunities that arise in life moments. We are to redeem them for Kingdom progress.
It has been said, “Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is the only cash you have—spend it wisely.” We must understand and prepare for evangelistic opportunities (καιρὸν) in life. Be active and ready to respond. Look for doors of evangelism opening before you, and walk through. Avoid always waiting for someone to open those doors for you.
The Gracious Nature of a Wise Walk
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt..."
How does one have gracious speech? This expressive appositional clause helps us understand that gracious speech is needed to take advantage of opportunities presented us. This “salted” speech is engaging and wise and reflects an ability to speak
Consider what the Scripture says concerning our relationship to the world with an emphasis on our spiritual influence:
- Do all things without grumbling or disputing...you appear as lights in the world. (Phil 2:14-15)
- Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands…so that you will behave properly toward outsiders. (1 Thess 4:11, 12 11)
- Have a good reputation with those outside the church so that you will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:7)
- Be sound in speech which is beyond reproach so that an opponent may have nothing bad to say about us. (Tit 2:8)
- By doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Pet 2:15)
- Give no offense, seek to please everyone, not for your advantage, but that many might be saved. (1 Cor 10:28-33)
Right before our verses, there is a flow of thought that is also relevant to our speech. Colossians 4:3-4 says, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." Success in our speech with those outside the faith begins with our speech to God in prayer.
Our Ultimate Objective
"So that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Our ultimate objective is to witness for the cause of the gospel as a fulfillment of the Great Commission—to go and make disciples of the nations. And this must be done corporately and personally.
Walking with this purpose must be done with personal awareness. Paul tells us that we are to have what I will call a consummating purpose. Every truth written to the Colossians culminates in this purpose. The message of the gospel is sufficient because it originates from God, is a message about God, and will only be successful through the grace of God. Yet, it must be directed to individuals. We must learn how to take the unwavering, unadulterated, and sufficient truth of the gospel and address it to the needs and objections of people from diverse backgrounds (religiously lost, agnostic, homosexual, liberal, moralist, etc.). Learn to respond to “each person” with the hope of the gospel.
Time Waits for No Man
Moses challenged us to live with purpose in Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom." When your life is over, what you present to God will be determined by how you chose to walk in wisdom before a dying and needy world. One would think that applying this would be easy because it is straight forward and we are a people who love God and His truth. But it won't always be easy. There is a pull from the world that can be resisted if you look above (Col 3:1-4) for the motivation to live a wise and purposeful walk.
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated.]