Do you really care about the unbelievers in your life? There is a problem with many Christians today in their dedication to the Great Commission. Let me ask you some questions. Do you spend time praying for those you know are not Christians? Do you share the Good News with those around you, telling them of your own sin and wonderful Savior. Do you live your life in such a way that confirms to the world that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’m not talking about a boycott of a secular business, but living a lifestyle that puts God’s people and the expansion of His church as the top priority of one’s life. We can say that we are Christians, but if we are not telling others about Jesus then we are not fulfilling the reason that God left us on this earth. It is not God’s purpose for us to merely live another day. He has commissioned us to live another day telling others about Him and His plan to save sinful men from their sins and the future judgment that awaits.
The issue is one of focus and priority. Do we actually care about the unbelievers around us? Even though in Colossians the Apostle Paul was primarily dealing with combating false teaching that had entered the church, he still took time to address the believer’s relationships with unbelievers.
He spends the majority of the 3rd and 4th chapters challenging these believers to live their lives proving that they are truly different than the world around them. He deals specifically with the conduct of the Christian in Colossians 3:18-4:6, with believers in 3:18-4:1 and with unbelievers in 4:2-6.
What is interesting in this passage when it comes time to address unbelievers is, he focuses attention primarily on evangelism. Here are three questions for you from Colossians 4:2-6.
1. Do You Pray for Unbelievers that You Know?
Before the Apostle Paul gave his final instructions to these believers in Colossae he added five verses that deal with the believer’s relationships with unbelievers (Colossians 4:2-6). Paul gives three commands in this section of the epistle. The first deals with the prayer life of the believer. Paul tells these believers that they are to “hold fast to prayer.”
In one of my favorite movies “Master and Commander” there is a scene in which the 18th century sailing ship was being battered by a storm. The camera shifts and zooms in on an older seaman who was holding tight to a rope. On his hands, with one letter tattooed across each finger were the words H-O-L-D F-A-S-T.
This is a perfect picture of what Paul is saying here about your prayer life. Paul is assuming first of all that as a believer you will in fact be praying. He does not tell these Christians that they are to pray. He assumes that it is taking place. Paul tells them to hold fast, or be diligent in their prayer life (Colossians 4:2).
Paul then gives specificity in regards to their prayers. He tells them to pray that God will open a door for the Gospel in Colossians 4:3. Paul understood an important truth. It is God that gives opportunities for sharing His word, and it is God who illuminates darkened minds so that they can understand the call to repent and believe (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
You must pray that God will open to you opportunities to share the gospel with those you know and those you meet. No amount of human plans and schemes will be successful in bringing men to salvation in Christ if God does not open the door (Acts 14:27). Christ is the one that builds His church and without His help we shall surely fail (Matthew 16:18).
An obvious point must be stated here. You must actually care about your neighbors and co-workers, being so concerned about their eternal destiny that you are pointedly and continuously praying for a door to be opened to you to speak with them about what Christ has done in your own life. If we truly understand and appreciate what Christ has done for us (Colossians 2:6-15), then our thankfulness to God will lead us to pray for those that are still captive to the vain philosophy and traditions of this world (Colossians 2:8) and to seek for their salvation. That is why the Apostle Paul mentions a thanksgiving attitude in his challenge to pray for unbelievers (Colossians 4:2).
I wonder if the reason we do not pray is that we are too busy caring about the things of this world that we do not really care about unbelievers around us.
Your prayer life should be taken very seriously. That is what Paul means when he says in Colossians 4:2, “keeping alert”. Jesus uses the same phrase in Revelation 16:15,”Blessed is he who stays awake …” He is talking about staying awake spiritually speaking.
Too often many believers are spiritually sleepwalking through their daily lives. Both our Lord and the Apostle Paul are talking about taking your personal walk very seriously. Paul tells these believers to pray for an open door for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Pray for an open door to speak to those around you. Pray that you would be able to speak as you should (Colossians 4:4). Pray for those neighbors and co-workers that you know are not believers. Take your prayer life seriously and pray for opportunities to share the Good News to others.
2. Do You Live As You Should When You Are Around Unbelievers?
After calling on these believers to pray for an open door for the Gospel, the Apostle Paul calls them to live properly around unbelievers (Colossians 4:4). It is not merely enough to pray for unbelievers. The world hates hypocrites. How often does the news media parade around a fallen pastor who was caught doing something contrary to what he had been preaching.
Does your life match up with your proclamation of Christ? Paul says here in Colossians 4:5 that believers are to live wisely among unbelievers. Wise living for a Christian is living in a way that shows your love for Christ by obedience to His word. Jesus said that “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). Paul uses the same command in Ephesians 5:15-16 that he uses here in Colossians 4:5.
Walk as wise men. He then elaborates on this in Ephesians 5:17-21. Living wisely means that we do not allow ourselves to be dominated and controlled by the things of this world (Ephesians 5:18). Instead we are to be controlled and dominated by the Spirit of God (5:19-21).
Simply put, our lives should be different from the pagan world around us. This whole section deals with Paul’s challenge to these believers to live like they were in fact Christians (Colossians 3:5-4:6).
IN other words, is the spiritual truth that you are united with Christ reflected in your behavior? Is there an outward change in your behavior that reflects the inward change brought about by God?
Paul continues speaking about behavior and tells these believers to “make the most of every opportunity.” Paul uses this same expression in Ephesians 5:16, “making the most of your time”. Literally it means “redeeming the time”. It carries almost a fanciful idea of men buying back time from whence it has gone. It carries the idea of urgency, since no man can actually buy back time that has gone. It is an apt translation that says making the most of every opportunity.
How we live our lives while God chooses to allow us to remain on this earth will give us opportunities to share our faith. Time is short. Every day brings us another day closer to the Lord’s return. We shall all stand before the Lord and He will evaluate how we lived our lives as believer (2 Corinthians 5:10). What are your motivations? What are your pursuits? God has not left us on this earth to accumulate possessions and live an easy life. Every day brings us closer to the Great White Throne Judgment seat in Revelation 20:15, in which anyone’s name not found written in the book of life is thrown into the lake of fire. This is what awaits those that do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Do You care about your neighbors?
Two questions you must ask yourself. “Am I living in such a way that I am different from the pagan world around me?” “Am I taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives me, redeeming the time?”
3. Do You Speak In a Way That Reflects Your Profession of Faith?
After addressing the believer’s prayer life and his conduct in this world, Paul turns his attention to the believer’s speech. Paul challenges these believers to speak to unbelievers always with grace, as seasoned with salt. Speaking to unbelievers using the truth as a battering ram against the gates of their heart was not what Paul had in mind.
The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to harden and soften the hearts of men. It is not your responsibility to save someone; you are merely to be faithful to share the Gospel and leave the results to God (1 Corinthians 3:7). You are to speak the truth in love to those with whom we have been given the opportunity to share.
That does not mean that you shrink from the truth because of an unexpected response. An unbeliever at one of my jobs once asked me what the word “bastard” meant. I asked her where she heard that. She told me that someone had called her son that name (she was a single mother).
Gently, I explained the term and spoke of how she could legitimize her son by marrying the guy with whom she was living, an explanation that required speaking of God’s view of marriage and His design for the family at creation. She already knew that my wife and I cared about her and told me she would think about it. I took advantage of the opportunity that God presented and I continued to pray for her.
This is speaking with grace (you care enough about them to be praying for them) and seasoned with salt (you act as a preserving agent in a world that is rapidly spoiling).
Paul says one last thing to these Christians. By speaking with grace seasoned with salt they will know how to respond to each person. This is implying a Spirit-filled Bible dominated life. You “know” how to respond because the word of God is being brought to bear in your own life by the Holy Spirit. You “know” what the Bible says about finances, grief, family life, and on and on. By Spirit filled I mean that you are speaking to others in a way that they do not deserve.
That is what grace is, undeserved favor. This is something that will not come naturally to you. It is something that the Holy Spirit produces in you as you submit to the word of God. Though pagans may treat you harshly and speak evil towards you, pray for them and let your speech always be full of grace, taking advantage of the opportunities that God provides. Remember, we were all unbelievers once. It was someone else’s open door and their graceful speech that the Holy Spirit used to bring us to Christ.
I knew a guy in seminary that moved out of his apartment because everyone around him was a believer. He said that he never got the chance to build relationships with unbelievers and share the gospel with them. So he moved into a place that had few if any professing believers. We all do not have to take this drastic step in order to reach the lost around us. Who are your neighbors? Who are your co-workers? Paul makes it simple: Three Steps in Evangelizing the Lost: Pray for them, Live a holy life, and Speak with grace.
The apostle Paul was imprisoned because of his sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Colossians 4:2). If Christianity became illegal where you live, would you be in trouble at all?