Study Notes

Colossians 4:5-6


We are in the closing section of the book of Colossians, as Paul is making parting exhortations to the church. Last Sunday, we saw that he urged us to devote ourselves to prayer. This morning, we get some practical advice on using our speech and behavior as witnessing tools.

4:5 Outsiders

"Conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders." Paul used the term "outsiders" for people who were outside the church (1Cor 5:12-13). We might say "unbelievers," "non-Christians," or "the unsaved." We are supposed to conduct ourselves with wisdom towards those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ.


Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. It is taking what you know and using it rightly. Now a lot of us have knowledge. We know facts and information. We can answer some questions when we play Trivial Pursuit, and know enough to get us through school.

But to be wise is to properly apply that knowledge. This is where it gets tricky. We can be very intelligent and knowledgeable, but have no wisdom. Fortunately, we know where to get it!

The Bible says that wisdom comes from walking in the fear of God (Prov. 9:10) in accordance with the Word of God (Matt. 7:24).

Wisdom Toward Outsiders

And so, the Scripture is telling us to conduct ourselves with wisdom (NAS), to walk in wisdom (KJV), to be wise in the way we act (NIV) when we are being seen and heard by unbelievers.

Here are some real practical ways to do this:

1Ths. 4:11-12 ...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Lead a quiet life, do good work, and provide for your family. There are a lot of guys who like to stand out and be obnoxious in their Christianity. Some try to stand out with their appearance. Others provoke loud, argumentative debates in public places. They are so busy causing a commotion that they're not attending to their own business. Many of them are pointing the finger at the world's sinners while the world is pointing at them, saying, "Why don't you get a job? Why don't you fix your own life before you try to fix ours?"

Outsiders are constantly examining Christians, and we need to make sure that our lives are living up to the standards that we're imposing on others. That's why Paul told Timothy that in order for a man to become an elder in the church,

1Tim. 3:7 ...He must have a good reputation with those outside the church...

It is about being wise in our walk, about exercising good behavior. Even Christian teenagers are supposed to be considering this:

Titus 2:6-8 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, {with} purity in doctrine, dignified, sound {in} speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Peter told us to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles (1Pet. 2:12), to silence the ignorant talk of foolish men by doing right (1Pet. 2:15), and to keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1Pet. 3:16).

Making The Most Of The Opportunity

Every time we're seen or heard by non-Christians, it is an opportunity to exercise wisdom. A lot of people read this verse as saying, "We need to create opportunities to witness, and then have exactly the right thing to say when we do witness":

Man in airport: "Son, do you see the plane out there?"

Evangelist: "Excuse me, but do you know the plain truth of the gospel?"

Coworker: "I heard on the news last night that..."

Evangelist: "Yes, but have you heard the GOOD NEWS of Jesus?"

I don't know about you, but for me, that's so much pressure that I am guaranteed to miss every opportunity trying to think like that.

No, what this is saying is that we need to make the most of those opportunities to walk wisely in front of outsiders.

"Making the most of the opportunity" here literally means, "Redeeming the time," or, "Buying up the opportunity." In other words, when you are around non-believers, you should be focused on the fact that every moment is an opportunity to walk in God's way according to God's Word in front of them.

Paul told the Ephesians,

Eph. 5:15-16 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

The days are evil. The world is wicked. But if you simply behave like a Christian, you will stand out like a light on a hill. Jesus said,

Matt. 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Simply by living as a Christian - whether it be having joy in your trials, practicing honesty in your business, or forgiving when wronged - you will be shining a bright light in a dark world.

4:6 Seasoning Your Speech With Grace

A big part of walking in wisdom in front of outsiders is watching how we respond to things. We need to make sure that we're always being graceful, because it will open doors to witness.

When we don't season our speech with grace, those doors are often slammed shut. Once, when a famine had afflicted his land, Abraham felt that he needed to move down to Egypt. When he was almost there, he told his wife Sarah that because she was very beautiful, it was very possible that one of the Egyptians would kill him and take her to be his wife. He said, "Here's the deal: Just say that you're my sister. That way they won't kill me." His lie was told, and she ended up being taken into Pharaoh's house.

Gen. 12:17 But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues...

Gen. 12:18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go."

Abraham had ruined his witness. Instead of being in a position to share the love of God with Pharaoh, he was being rebuked for his sin by this unbeliever. He had no idea how to respond, because he was completely in the wrong.

I pray that each of us will begin to consider our witness in this community. That we will be walking in the fear of God according to the Word of God, that we might then have opportunity to be witnesses of the gospel of God.

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