Saturday, December 25, 2004

Speech, "Seasoned with Salt"

Col 4:3-6 ESV 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-- (4) that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (5) Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (6) Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Starting chapter 3 verse 18, Paul begins to close out his letter to the Colossians by giving instruction to various groups: wives, then husbands, children, fathers, slaves, then masters. In 4:2 he tells them to pray, in general, and in verse 3 for him in particular, for two things:
1. opportunity to witness (v.3 "open...a door")
2. plainness of speech in witnessing (v.4 "that I may make it clear" KJV-"manifest")

On this note about witnessing, he tells them in v.5 to "conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders," "making best use of the time." The thought continues in v.6:
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Paul is primarily referring to "outsiders" without the gospel here, and just as he asks for prayer so that he can speak properly to be understood, he tells the Colossians to be careful to do the same in their witnessing.
Paul has already concluded his specific instructions to different people in the church with his instruction to masters in 4:1, so then these verses are evidently to apply to all the members.

In verse 6, we are told that we should know how to speak to each person we come across, and this is accomplished by making sure our speech has these qualities:
1. Grace
2. Seasoned with salt

The first quality could be interpreted to mean that we should be graceful in the sense of polished and smooth. It could also be interpreted to mean that we should have mercy and longsuffering with those who believe wrongly. The word used for grace is used in both contexts in Scripture. However, not all can be graceful in the sense of polished in their speech, so I would say that the second idea of grace is really in view.
This grace allows us to speak with someone in error without being harsh and condemnatory. As a matter of fact, this grace will cause us to learn about them more so we can more clearly cause them to understand the gospel.

The second quality, that of being seasoned with salt, brings to mind the words of Jesus:
Mat 5:13 ESV "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "
Mar 9:50 ESV Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

We are to have the salt in ourselves, and be salt to the world. See also:
Mat 5:14 ESV "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Joh 1:9 ESV The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Joh 1:14-17 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") (16) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Joh 14:16-17 ESV And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (17) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Col 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

As Christians, we have the Spirit in us which bears witness, who is the fulness of Christ in us, the living word, by which we recieve grace and truth through which we may minister and instruct others.
Christ is our saltiness, which is manifested outward through our ministry and teaching. So when Paul says to let our speech be seasoned with salt, he is telling us to include the teaching of Christ in our conversations. We should try to work Christ into our daily discussions with all due grace and appropriateness. By this we can let our light shine.

Although this verse is written mostly concerning talk with unbelievers, certainly there is an application between Christians. The same grace and truth by which we minister to unbelievers is the same grace and truth by which we minister to each other. The church comes together for edification. As Christ forgave, we should forgive. So our speech should be full of grace and mercy to other Christians, as well as edifying to the building up of each other.

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