Colossians 4:5
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Walk in wisdom . . . redeeming the time.—In the parallel passage (Ephesians 5:15) we have “walk strictly, not as fools, but as wise,” and the limitation “towards them that are without” is omitted, although it is added that “the days are evil.” The context, as will be seen by reference, is different, and the idea also somewhat different. There the “strictness” and “wisdom” are to guard against excess or recklessness within; here the “wisdom” is to watch against external dangers and make full use of external opportunities.

Colossians

WITHOUT AND WITHIN

Colossians 4:5.

That is, of course, an expression for the non-Christian world; the outsiders who are beyond the pale of the Church. There was a very broad line of distinction between it and the surrounding world in the early Christian days, and the handful of Christians in a heathen country felt a great gulf between them and the society in which they lived. That distinction varies in form, and varies somewhat in apparent magnitude according as Christianity has been rooted in a country for a longer or a shorter time, but it remains, and is as real to-day as it ever was, and there is neither wisdom nor kindness in ignoring the distinction.

The phrase of our text may sound harsh, and might be used, as it was by the Jews, from whom it was borrowed, in a very narrow and bitter spirit. Close corporations of any sort are apt to generate, not only a wholesome esprit de corps , but a hostile contempt for outsiders, and Christianity has too often been misrepresented by its professors, who have looked down upon those that are without with supercilious and unchristian self-complacency.

There is nothing of that sort in the words themselves; the very opposite is in them. They sound to me like the expression of a man conscious of the security and comfort and blessedness of the home where he sat, and with his heart yearning for all the houseless wanderers that were abiding the pelting of the pitiless storm out in the darkness there. The spirit and attitude of Christianity to such is one of yearning pity and urgent entreaty to come in and share in the blessings. There is deep pathos in the words, as well as solemn earnestness, and in such a spirit I wish to dwell upon them now for a short time.

I. I begin with the question: Who are they that are outside? And what is it of which they are outside?

As I have already remarked, the phrase was apparently borrowed from Judaism, where it meant, ‘outside the Jewish congregation,’ and its primary application, as used here, is no doubt to those who are outside the Christian Church. But do not let us suppose that that explanation gets to the bottom of the meaning of the words. It may stand as a partial answer, but only as partial. The evil tendency which attends all externalising of truth in the concrete form of institutions works in full force on the Church, and ever tempts us to substitute outward connection with the institution for real possession of the truth of which the institution is the outgrowth. Therefore I urge upon you very emphatically--and all the more earnestly because of the superstitious overestimate of outward connection with the outward institution of the Church which is eagerly proclaimed all around us to-day--that connection with any organised body of believing men is not ‘being within,’ and that isolation from all these is not necessarily ‘being without.’ Many a man who is within the organisation is not ‘in the truth,’ and, blessed be God, a man may be outside all churches, and yet be one of God’s hidden ones, and may dwell safe and instructed in the very innermost shrine of the secret place of the Most High. We hear from priestly lips, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, that there is ‘no safety outside the Church.’ The saying is true when rightly understood. If by the Church be meant the whole company of those who are trusting to Jesus Christ, of course there is no safety outside, because to trust in Jesus is the one condition of safety, and unless we belong to those who so trust we shall not possess the blessing. So understood, the phrase may pass, and is only objectionable as a round-about and easily misunderstood way of saying what is much better expressed by ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

But that is not the meaning of the phrase in the mouths of those who use it most frequently. To them the Church is a visible corporation, and not only so, but as one of the many organisations into which believers are moulded, it is distinguished from the others by certain offices and rites, bishops, priests, and sacraments, through whom and which certain grace is supposed to flow, no drop of which can reach a community otherwise shaped and officered!

Nor is it only Roman Catholics and Anglicans who are in danger of externalising personal Christianity into a connection with a church. The tendency has its roots deep in human nature, and may be found flourishing quite as rankly in the least sacerdotal of the ‘sects’ as in the Vatican itself. There is very special need at present for those who understand that Christianity is an immensely deeper thing than connection with any organised body of Christians, to speak out the truth that is in them, and to protest against the vulgar and fleshly notion which is forcing itself into prominence in this day when societies of all sorts are gaining such undue power, and religion, like much else, is being smothered under forms, as was the maiden in the old story, under the weight of her ornaments. External relationships and rites cannot determine spiritual conditions. It does not follow because you have passed through certain forms, and stand in visible connection with any visible community, that you are therefore within the pale and safe. Churches are appointed by Christ. Men who believe and love naturally draw together. The life of Christ is in them. Many spiritual blessings are received through believing association with His people. Illumination and stimulus, succour and sympathy pass from one to another, each in turn experiencing the blessedness of receiving, and the greater blessedness of giving. No wise man who has learned of Christ will undervalue the blessings which come through union with the outward body which is a consequence of union with the unseen Head. But men may be in the Church and out of Christ. Not connection with it, but connection with Him, brings us ‘within.’ ‘Those that are without’ may be either in or out of the pale of any church.

We may put the answer to this question in another form, and going deeper than the idea of being within a visible church, we may say, ‘those that are without’ are they who are outside the Kingdom of Christ.

The Kingdom of Christ is not a visible external community. The Kingdom of Christ, or of God, or of Heaven, is found wherever human wills obey the Law of Christ, which is the will of God, the decrees of Heaven; as Christ himself put it, in profound words--profound in all their simplicity--when He said, ‘Not every man that saith unto Me Lord! Lord! shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father, which is in Heaven.’ ‘Them that are without’ are they whose wills are not bent in loving obedience to the Lord of their spirit.

But we must go deeper than that. In the Church? Yes! In the Kingdom? Yes! But I venture to take another Scripture phrase as being the one satisfactory fundamental answer to the question: What is it that these people are outside of? and I say Christ, Christ. If you will take your New Testament as your guide, you will find that the one question upon which all is suspended is the, Am I, or Am I not, in Jesus Christ? Am I in Him, or Am I outside of Him? And the answer to that question is the answer to this other: Who are they that are without?

They that are outside are not the ‘non-Christian world’ who are not church members; they that are inside are not the ‘Christian world’ who make an outward profession of being in the Kingdom. It is not going down to the foundation to explain the antithesis so; but ‘those that are within’ are those who have simple trust upon Jesus Christ as the sole and all-sufficient Saviour of their sinful spirits and the life of their life, and having entered into that great love, have plunged themselves, as it were, into the very heart of Jesus; have found in Him righteousness and peace, forgiveness and love, joy and salvation. Are you in Christ because you love Him and trust your soul to Him? If not, if not, you are amongst those ‘that are without,’ though you be ever so much joined to the visible Church of the living God.

And then there is one more remark that I must drop in here before I go on, namely, that whilst I thankfully admit, and joyfully preach, that the most imperfect, rudimentary faith knits a man to Jesus Christ, even if in this life it may be found covered over with a great deal that is contradictory and inconsistent; on the other hand there are some people who stand like the angel in the Apocalypse, with one foot on the solid land and one upon the restless sea, half in and half out, undecided, halting--that is, ‘limping’--between two opinions. Some people of that sort are listening to me now, who have been like that for years. Now I want them to remember this plain piece of common-sense--half in is altogether out! So that is my answer to the first question: Who are they that are outside, and what is it that they are outside of?

I cannot carry round these principles and lay them upon the conscience of each hearer, but I pray you to listen to your own inmost voice speaking, and I am mistaken if many will not hear it saying: ‘Thou art the man!’ Do not stop your ears to that voice!

II. Notice next the force of this phrase as implying the woeful condition of those without.

I have said that it is full of pathos. It is the language of a man whose heart yearns as, in the midst of his own security, he thinks of the houseless wanderers in the dark and the storm. He thinks pityingly of what they lose, and of that to which they are exposed.

There are two or three ways in which I may illustrate that condition, but perhaps the most graphic and impressive may be just to recall for a moment three or four of the Scripture metaphors that fit into this representation: ‘Those that are without’; and thus to gain some different pictures of what the inside and the outside means in these varying figures.

First, then, there is a figure drawn from the Old Testament which is often applied, and correctly applied, to this subject--Noah’s Ark.

Think of that safe abode floating across the waters, whilst all without it was a dreary waste. Without were death and despair, but those that were within sat warm and dry and safe and fed and living. The men that were without, high as they might climb upon rocks and hills, strong as they might be--when the dreary rainstorm wept itself dry, ‘they were all dead corpses.’ To be in was life, to be out was death.

That is the first metaphor. Take another. That singular institution of the old Mosaic system, in which the man who inadvertently, and therefore without any guilt or crime of his own, had been the cause of death to his brother, had provided for him, half on one side Jordan and half on the other, and dotted over the land, so that it should not be too far to run to one of them, Cities of Refuge. And when the wild vendetta of those days stirred up the next of kin to pursue at his heels, if he could get inside the nearest of these he was secure. They that were within could stand at the city gates and look out upon the plain, and see the pursuer with his hate glaring from his eyes, and almost feel his hot breath on their cheeks, and know that though but a yard from him, his arm durst not touch them. To be inside was to be safe, to be outside was certain bloody death.

That is the second figure; take a third; one which our Lord Himself has given us. Here is the picture--a palace, a table abundantly spread, lights and music, delight and banqueting, gladness and fulness, society and sustenance. The guests sit close and all partake. To be within means food, shelter, warmth, festivity, society; to be without, like Lear on the moor, is to stand the pelting of the storm, weary, stumbling in the dark, starving, solitary, and sad. Within is brightness and good cheer; without is darkness, hunger, death.

That is the third figure. Take a fourth, another of our Master’s. Picture a little rude, stone-built enclosure with the rough walls piled high, and a narrow aperture at one point, big enough for one creature to pass through at a time. Within, huddled together, are the innocent sheep; without, the lion and the bear. Above, the vault of night with all its stars, and watching all, the shepherd, with unslumbering eye. In the fold is rest for the weary limbs that have been plodding through valleys of the shadow of death, and dusty ways; peace for the panting hearts that are trembling at every danger, real and imaginary. Inside the fold is tranquillity, repose for the wearied frame, safety, and the companionship of the Shepherd; and without, ravening foes and a dreary wilderness, and flinty paths and sparse herbage and muddy pools. Inside is life; without is death. That is the fourth figure.

In the Ark no Deluge can touch; in the City of Refuge no avenger can smite; in the banqueting-hall no thirst nor hunger but can be satisfied; in the fold no enemy can come and no terror can live.

Brethren! are you amongst ‘them that are without,’ or are you within?



III. Lastly--why is anybody outside? Why?


It is no one’s fault but their own. It is not God’s. He can appeal with clean hands and ask us to judge what more could have been done for His vineyard that He has not done for it. The great parable which represents Him as sending out His summons to the feast in His palace puts the wonderful words in the mouth of the master of the house, after his call by his servants had been refused. ‘Go out into the highways and hedges,’ beneath which the beggars squat, ‘and compel them to come in, that my house may be full.’ ‘Nature abhors a vacuum,’ the old natural philosophers used to say. So does grace; so does God’s love. It hates to have His house empty and His provisions unconsumed. And so He has done all that He could do to bring you and me inside. He has sent His Son, He beckons us, He draws us by countless mercies day by day. He appeals to our hearts, and would have us gathered into the fold. And if we are outside it is not because He has neglected to do anything which He can do in order to bring us in.

But why is it that any of us resist such drawing, and make the wretched choice of perishing without, rather than find safety within? The deepest reason is an alienated heart, a rebellious will. But the reason for alienation and rebellion lie among the inscrutable mysteries of our awful being. All sin is irrational. The fact is plain, the temptations are obvious; excuses there are in plenty, but reasons there are none. Still we may touch for a moment on some of the causes which operate with many hearers of God’s merciful call to enter in, and keep them without.

Many remain outside because they do not really believe in the danger. No doubt there was a great deal of brilliant sarcasm launched at Noah for his folly in thinking that there was anything coming that needed an ark. It seemed, no doubt, food for much laughter, and altogether impossible to think of gravely, that this flood which he talked about should ever come. So they had their laughter out as they saw him working away at his ludicrous task ‘until the day when the flood came and swept them all away,’ and the laughter ended in gurgling sobs of despair.

If a manslayer does not believe that the next of kin is on his track, he will not flee to the City of Refuge. If the sheep has no fear of wolves, it will choose to be outside the fold among the succulent herbage. Did you ever see how, in a Welsh slate-quarry, before a blast, a horn is blown, and at its sound all along the face of the quarry the miners run to their shelters, where they stay until the explosion is over? What do you suppose would become of one of them who stood there after the horn had blown, and said: ‘Nonsense! There is nothing coming! I will take my chance where I am!’ Very likely a bit of slate would end him before he had finished his speech. At any rate, do not you, dear friend, trifle with the warning that says: ‘Flee for refuge to Christ and shelter yourself in Him.’

There are some people, too, who stop outside because they do not much care for the entertainment that they will get within. It does not strike them as being very desirable. They have no appetite for it. We preachers seek to draw hearts to Jesus by many motives--and among others by setting forth the blessings which he bestows. But if a man does not care about pardon, does not fear judgment, does not want to be good, has no taste for righteousness, is not attracted by the pure and calm pleasures which Christ offers, the invitation falls flat upon his ear. Wisdom cries aloud and invites the sons of men to her feast, but the fare she provides is not coarse and high spiced enough, and her table is left unfilled, while the crowd runs to the strong-flavoured meats and foaming drinks which her rival, Folly, offers. Many of us say, like the Israelites ‘Our souls loathe this light bread,’ this manna, white and sweet, and Heaven-descended, and angels’ food though it be, and we hanker after the reeking garlic and leeks and onions of Egypt.

Some of us again, would like well enough to be inside, if that would keep us from dangers which we believe to be real, but we do not like the doorway. You may see in some remote parts of the country strange, half-subterranean structures which are supposed to have been the houses of a vanished race. They have a long, narrow, low passage, through which a man has to creep with his face very near the ground. He has to go low and take to his knees to get through; and at the end the passage opens out into ampler, loftier space, where the dwellers could sit safe from wild weather and wilder beasts and wildest men. That is like the way into the fortress home which we have in Jesus Christ. We must stoop very low to enter there. And some of us do not like that. We do not like to fall on our knees and say, I am a sinful man, O Lord. We do not like to bow ourselves in penitence. And the passage is narrow as well as low. It is broad enough for you, but not for what some of you would fain carry in on your back. The pack which you bear, of earthly vanities and loves, and sinful habits, will be brushed off your shoulders in that narrow entrance, like the hay off a cart in a country lane bordered by high hedges. And some of us do not like that. So, because the way is narrow, and we have to stoop, our pride kicks at the idea of having to confess ourselves sinners, and of having to owe all our hope and salvation to God’s undeserved mercy, therefore we stay outside. And because the way is narrow, and we have to put off some of our treasures, our earthward-looking desires shrink from laying these aside, and therefore we stop outside. There was room in the boat for the last man who stood on the deck, but he could not make up his mind to leave a bag of gold. There was no room for that. Therefore he would not leap, and went down with the ship.

The door is open. The Master calls. The feast is spread. Dangers threaten. The flood comes. The avenger of blood makes haste. ‘Why standest thou without?’ Enter in, before the door is shut. And if you ask, How shall I pass within?--the answer is plain: ‘They could not enter in because of unbelief. We which have believed do enter into rest.’ Colossians 4:5-6. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without — Your heathen neighbours; doing nothing to disgrace religion in their eyes, or unnecessarily to exasperate them against you; redeeming the time — Embracing and improving every opportunity of doing good, and particularly of gaining souls to Christ. Let your speech be alway with grace — Such as may manifest that the grace of God is in you, and may be calculated to win upon, instruct, and edify others; seasoned with salt — With wisdom and grace, as flesh is with salt, so that it may be savoury and useful to the hearers, tending to prevent or cure their corrupt principles or practices; that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man — May be able to speak pertinently and wisely upon all occasions, and especially when questioned about the grounds of your religion.4:2-6 No duties can be done aright, unless we persevere in fervent prayer, and watch therein with thanksgiving. The people are to pray particularly for their ministers. Believers are exhorted to right conduct towards unbelievers. Be careful in all converse with them, to do them good, and recommend religion by all fit means. Diligence in redeeming time, commends religion to the good opinion of others. Even what is only carelessness may cause a lasting prejudice against the truth. Let all discourse be discreet and seasonable, as becomes Christians. Though it be not always of grace, it must always be with grace. Though our discourse be of that which is common, yet it must be in a Christian manner. Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting. It is not enough to answer what is asked, unless we answer aright also.Walk in wisdom - That is, conduct uprightly and honestly. Deal with them on the strictest principles of integrity, so that they may not have occasion to reproach the religion which you profess.

Toward them that are without - Without the pale of the church, or who are not professing Christians; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 5:12. They were surrounded by pagans, as Christians now are by men of the world. The injunction is one that requires us to act with prudence and propriety (ἐν σοφίᾳ en sophia toward them; and there is perhaps not a more important direction in the New Testament than this. Among the reasons for this are the following:

(1) People of the world judge of religion, not from the profession, but from the life of its friends.

(2) they judge of religion, not from preaching, or from books, or from the conduct of its Founder and his apostles, but from what they see in the daily walk and conversation of the members of the church.

(3) they understand the nature of religion so well as to know when its friends are or are not consistent with their profession.

(4) they set a much higher value on honesty and integrity than they do on the doctrines and duties of religion; and if the professed friends of religion are destitute of the principles of truth and honesty, they think they have nothing of any value. They may be very devout on the Sabbath; very regular at prayer-meetings; very strict in the observance of rites and ceremonies - but all these are of little worth in the estimation of the world, unless attended with an upright life.

(5) no professing Christian can possibly do good to others who does not live an upright life. If you have cheated a man out of never so small a sum, it is vain that you talk to him about the salvation of his soul; if you have failed to pay him a debt when it was due, or to finish a piece of work when you promised it, or to tell him the exact truth in conversation, it is vain for you to endeavor to induce him to be a Christian. He will feel, if he does not say - and he might very properly say - that he wants no religion which will not make a man honest.

(6) no person will attempt to do much good to others whose own life is not upright. He will be sensible of the inconsistency, and will feel that he cannot do it with any sense of propriety; and the honor of religion, therefore, and the salvation of our fellow-men, demand that in all our intercourse with others, we should lead lives of the strictest integrity.

Redeeming the time - Notes, Ephesians 5:6.

5. (See on [2431]Eph 5:15, 16.)

in wisdom—practical Christian prudence.

them … without—Those not in the Christian brotherhood (1Co 5:12; 1Th 4:12). The brethren, through love, will make allowances for an indiscreet act or word of a brother; the world will make none. Therefore be the more on your guard in your intercourse with the latter, lest you be a stumbling-block to their conversion.

redeeming the time—The Greek expresses, buying up for yourselves, and buying off from worldly vanities the opportunity, whenever it is afforded you, of good to yourselves and others. "Forestall the opportunity, that is, to buy up an article out of the market, so as to make the largest profit from it" [Conybeare and Howson].

Walk in wisdom; let your course of life be managed with all Christian prudence, that you may not any way disparage the Christian institution, 2 Samuel 12:14 Romans 2:23,24, with 1 Timothy 6:4; with your innocency be wise as serpents, Matthew 10:16; see Ephesians 5:15: yet, while you become all things to all to gain some, 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, you must take heed of such a compliance, whereby you may wound your consciences, Exodus 34:15 Ephesians 5:11; and, on the other side, of such a contempt of them without just cause as may provoke them to persecute you. Paul was wary in his reasoning with those who were not Christians, and would have others to be so, Acts 17:24,25, &c., with 1 Corinthians 5:12,13; not denying any of them what is due to them by Divine and human rights, Matthew 22:21 Romans 13:7 1 Peter 2:13.

Toward them that are without; considering they are not of the household of faith, Galatians 6:10, as you profess to be, you should be more circumspect, that you do not give occasion of offence to them, 1 Timothy 5:14, as well as take care you be not infected with their practices, 1 Corinthians 5:6, but endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, Titus 2:10.

Redeeming the time; showing your prudence, say some learned men, in gaining time by honest craft, to secure you from spiritual dangers to your souls, or divert those who have power from persecutions: taking the expression proverbially. And for that purpose cite a passage in the prophet from the Septuagint, Daniel 2:8. Others, and the most, import of the original words, take time for opportunity, or the fitness it hath for some good; and the participle we render redeeming, to import either morally, (not physically, which is impossible), a recalling or recovery of time past that is lost, by a double diligence in employing what remains; or a buying up the present time, i.e. parting with any thing for the improvement of it to our spiritual advantage; or a buying it out, i.e. a rescuing it, as it were, out of the hands of Satan and the world, which by distracting cares and tempting pleasures do occasion often the misspending of it: see Ephesians 6:16. Walk in wisdom,.... Or wisely, circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise men; See Gill on Ephesians 5:15.

Towards them that are without; so the Jews used to call the Gentiles, all that were out of their own land, that were not of their nation or religion, who were aliens from them, and strangers to their privileges; and sometimes the unbelieving. Jews bear the same character, see Mark 4:11. Here it may design such who were not members of this church; so the distinction of those that are without, and such as are within, is used by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 5:12. A church is an house or family, and such as belong to it are called the household of faith, and those that do not are they that are, without; it is as a city, and, those that are of it are fellow citizens with the saints, but others are strangers and foreigners; it is a garden enclosed, they that are planted in it are those that are within, and such as lie in the wide open field of the world are those that are without: but inasmuch as there are some who are not members of churches, and yet have the grace of God, this phrase may chiefly regard all unregenerate men, profane sinners, such as have not faith in Christ, nor hope in God, who are entirely destitute of the grace of God. Now it becomes saints to walk wisely towards them; all communication with them is not cut off, or correspondence and conversation with them forbidden; the saints indeed are not to have their conversation among them as in times past; they are to have no fellowship with them in immoral actions, and superstitious practices; but they may be concerned with them in things civil, with respect to trade and commerce, and the common business of life; on these accounts they may keep company with them; otherwise, as the apostle elsewhere says, they must needs go out of the world. But then it is incumbent upon them to behave wisely towards them, with the simplicity of the dove to join the wisdom of the serpent; they should walk inoffensively towards them, and do nothing to provoke them, to injure and persecute them, but take all prudent methods to gain their affections, escape their resentment and wrath, and obtain their liberty of worshipping God without disturbance; they should give to all their due, tribute, custom, fear, and honour, to whom they are due, and owe no man anything but love; they should submit to every ordinance of men and be subject to the higher powers, not only to escape wrath, but for conscience sake, and should give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; they should pray for kings, and all in authority; for the prosperity of the nation, city, and place where they are, for their carnal relations and neighbours, and even their very entities, and do them all the good, both for soul and body, that lies in their power, and as they have opportunity; and by so doing, they will heap up coals of fire on their heads. Such a prudent walk, and wise conduct, is necessary on account of the Gospel, that the public ministration of it may be continued, that it may spread and get ground, and that it may not be reproached and blasphemed; and on the account of them that are without, that they may not have any stumblingblocks laid in their way, and they be hardened in their impiety and irreligion, and be more set against the truths of the Gospel; and also on account of believers themselves, who ought so to converse with the men of the world, that they are not partakers with them in their sins, and have their manners corrupted by them, or the vital heat of religion damped, and they become dead, lifeless, lukewarm, and indifferent to divine things, which is often the case through an indiscreet and imprudent walk with such men: the apostle adds,

redeeming the time; as an instance of prudent walking towards them that are without; See Gill on Ephesians 5:16.

{4} Walk {b} in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the {c} time.

(4) In all parts of our life, we ought to have good consideration even of those who are outside of the Church.

(b) Advisedly and cautiously.

(c) Seek occasion to win them, even though you lose something of your own by it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 4:5 f. Another exhortation, for which Paul must still have had occasion, although we need not seek its link of connection with the preceding one. Comp. Ephesians 5:15 f., where the injunction here given in reference to the non-Christians is couched in a general form.

ἐν σοφίᾳ] Practical Christian wisdom (not mere prudence; Chrysostom aptly quotes Matthew 10:16) is to be the element, in which their walk amidst their intercourse with the non-Christians moves, πρός of the social direction, Bernhardy, p. 205. As to οἱ ἔξω, see on 1 Corinthians 5:12. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγορ.] definition of the mode in which that injunction is to be carried out: so that ye make the right point of time your own (see on Ephesians 5:16), allow it not to pass unemployed. For what? is to be inferred solely from the context; namely, for all the activities in which that same wise demeanour in intercourse with the non-Christians finds expression—which, consequently, may be according to the circumstances very diversified. Individual limitations of the reference are gratuitously introduced, such as “ad ejusmodi homines meliora docendos,” Heinrichs, comp. Erasmus, Beza, Calovius, and others, including Flatt and Böhmer; or: “in reference to the furtherance of the kingdom of God,” Huther, Hofmann. There is likewise gratuitously imported the idea of the shortness of time, on account of which it is to be well applied (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Castalio, and others, including Bähr), as also the view that the καιρός, which signifies the αἰὼν οὗτος, is not the property of the Christian, but belongs τοῖς ἔξω, and is to be made by Christians their own through good deeds (Theodoret, comp. Oecumenius), or by peaceful demeanour towards the non-Christians (Theophylact). Lastly, there is also imported the idea of an evil time from Ephesians 5:16, in connection with which expositors have in turn lighted on very different definitions of the meaning; e.g. Calvin: “in tanta saeculi corruptela eripiendam esse benefaciendi occasionem et cum obstaculis luctandum;” Grotius: “effugientes pericula.”

Colossians 4:6. ὁ λόγ. ὑμ.] what ye speak, namely, πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω; the more groundless, therefore, is the position of Holtzmann, that Colossians 4:6 is a supplement inserted at a later place, when it should have properly come in at chap. 3 between Colossians 4:8-9. ἔστω is to be supplied, as is evident from the preceding imperative περιπατεῖτε.

ἐν χάριτι] denotes that with which their speech is to be furnished, with grace, pleasantness. Comp. on Luke 4:22; Sir 26:16; Sir 37:21; Hom. Od. viii. 175; Dem. 51. 9. This χαριέντως εἶναι of speaking (comp. Plato, Prot. p. 344 B, Rep. p. 331 A) is very different from the χαριτογλωσσεῖν of Aesch. Prom. 294.

ἅλατι ἠρτυμ.] seasoned with salt, a figurative representation of speech as an article of food, which is communicated. The salt is emblem of wisdom, as is placed beyond doubt by the context in Colossians 4:5, and is in keeping with the sense of the following εἰδέναι κ. τ. λ. (comp. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:49-50). As an article of food seasoned with salt[170] is thereby rendered palatable, so what is spoken receives through wisdom (in contents and form) its morally attracting, exciting, and stimulating quality. Its opposite is the stale, ethically insipid (not the morally rotten and corrupt, as Beza, Böhmer, and others hold) quality of speech, the μῶρον, μωρολογεῖν, in which the moral stimulus is wanting. The designation of wit by ἅλς (ἍΛΕς) among the later Greeks (Plut. Moral. p. 685 A; Athen. ix. p. 366 C) is derived from the pungent power of salt, and is not relevant here. Moreover, the relation between the two requirements, ἐν χάριτι and ἍΛΑΤΙ ἨΡΤΥΜΈΝΟς, is not to be distinguished in such a way that the former shall mean the good and the latter the correct impression (so, arbitrarily, Hofmann); but the former depicts the character of the speech more generally, and the latter more specially. The good and correct impression is yielded by both.

εἰδέναι κ.τ.λ.] taken groundlessly by Hofmann in an imperative sense (see on Romans 12:15; Php 3:16), is, as if ὥστε stood alongside of it, the epexegetical infinitive for more precise definition: so that ye know; see Matthiae, § 532 f, p. 1235 f.; Winer, p. 296 [E. T. 398]. This εἰδέναι (to understand how, see on Php 4:12) is, in fact, just an ability, which would not be found in the absence of the previously-described quality of speech, but is actually existent through the same.

πῶς] which may be in very different ways, according to the varieties of individuality in the questioners. Hence: ἙΝῚ ἙΚΆΣΤῼ, “nam haec pars est non ultima prudentiae, singulorum habere respectum,” Calvin.

ἀποκρίνεσθαι] We may conceive reference to be made to questions as to points of faith and doctrine, as to moral principles, topics of constitution and organization, historical matters, and so forth, which, in the intercourse of Christians with non-Christians, might be put, sometimes innocently, sometimes maliciously (comp. 1 Peter 3:1), to the former, and required answer. Paul does not use the word elsewhere. Comp. as to the thing itself, his own example at Athens, Acts 17; before Felix and Festus; before the Jews in Rome, Acts 28:20, and so forth; and also his testimony to his own procedure, 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calovius, and others, inappropriately mix up believers as included in ἐνὶ ἑκάστῳ, in opposition to Colossians 4:5.

[170] The poets use ἀρτύειν often of articles of food or wines, which are prepared in such a way as to provoke the palate. Soph. Fragm. 601, Dind.; Athen. ii. p. 68 A; Theoph. de odor. 51; Symm. Cant. viii. 2. Hence ἄρτυμα, spice.Colossians 4:5. Cf. Ephesians 5:15. An exhortation to wise conduct in relation to non-Christians.—τοὺς ἔξω: those outside the Church; the reference is suggested by the mention of θύραν τ. λόγου. They must be wise in their relations with them so as not to give them an unfavourable impression of the Gospel.—τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι: “making your market fully from the occasion” (Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, p. 149). They are to seize the fitting opportunity when it occurs to do good to “those without,” and thus promote the spread of the Gospel.5. Walk] See above, on Colossians 1:10.

in wisdom] In the “sanctified good sense” of those who would avoid all needless repulsion of word or manner, and seize all good occasion. Such practical wisdom was quite another thing than the would-be philosophy which he repudiates in e.g. 1 Corinthians 1, 2. It was “the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13; James 3:17) which would commend the disciple’s witness in a life as practical in its goodness as it was divine in its secret. Cp. Ephesians 5:15.

toward] With regard to; not (as some explain) in the sense of conciliation, as if “advancing to meet them”; though such action is of course implied in its place.

them that are without] Outside the Christian circle, “the household of faith.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12 (a close parallel); 1 Timothy 3:7.—They are “the Gentiles” of e.g. 1 Peter 2:12. The parallel phrase occurs in the Rabbis—hachîtsônîm; see Lightfoot’s note.

redeeming the time] Buying out (from other ownership) the opportunity; securing each successive occasion of witness and persuasive example at the expense of steady watchfulness. Cp. Ephesians 5:16 (and our notes) for the same phrase with a more general reference. The disciple, while ready to confess his Lord anywhere and at any time, is yet to use Christian “wisdom,” and not to despise laws of opportunity. The “out of season” of 2 Timothy 4:2 means, “irrespective of your own convenience.” St Paul himself, in the Acts, is a perfect instance of the union of holy courage with the truest tact and good sense.Colossians 4:5. Ἐν σοφίᾳ, in wisdom) Ephesians 5:15, note.Verse 5. - Walk in wisdom towards those without (Ephesians 5:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 2 Corinthians 4:2; Titus 2:8; 1 Peter 2:12, 15; 1 Peter 3:16; Matthew 10:16). (On "wisdom," see Colossians 1:9, note; Colossians 1:28; 2:3; 3:16; this was a chief need of the Colossian Church.) "Those without," as opposed to Christians - "those within the pale;" a Jewish mode of expression (Lightfoot): comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13; 1 Timothy 3:7. From a different point of view, they are designated" the rest" in Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6. This injunction appears in a different form and position in Ephesians. Standing at the close of the writer's exhortations, and followed up by the direction of the next verse, it is more pointed and emphatic here. Buying up each (literally, the) opportunity (Ephesians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Galatians 6:10; John 11:9, 10; Luke 13:32; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). In Ephesians 5:16 the reason is added, "because the days are evil." In Daniel 2:8 (LXX) the verb ἐξαγοράζω ("to buy out" or "up," a word of the market) has precisely this sense and connection, and the idiom occurs in classical writers. The verb is middle in voice: "buying up for yourselves," "for your own advantage." In Galatians 3:13 the compound verb is somewhat differently used. The opportunity is the fit time for each step of a well-conducted walk, the precise juncture of circumstances which must be seized at once or it is gone. This wary promptitude is always needful in dealing with men of the world, both to avoid harm from them and in seeking to do them good. The latter thought, it may be, connects this verse and the next. In wisdom (ἐν σοφίᾳ)

Compare Ephesians 5:15, as wise.

Those that are without (τοὺς ἔξω)

As 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12. Compare τοὺς ἔσω those within, 1 Corinthians 5:12.

Redeeming the time (τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι)

Compare Ephesians 5:16, and Daniel 2:8, Sept. The word is used in the New Testament only by Paul, Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16. The compounded preposition ἐξ has the meaning out of; as Galatians 3:13, "Christ redeemed us out of the curse," etc., and out and out, fully. So here and Ephesians 5:16, buy up. Rev., in margin, buying up the opportunity. The favorable opportunity becomes ours at the price of duty.

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