Colossians 4:5, 6
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.…
In these closing exhortations we are taught -
I. THE PRINCIPLES WHICH SHOULD GUIDE US IN OUR INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD. (Ver. 5.) In no Pharisaic spirit we have to speak of "them that are without" (needlessly, guiltily outside the family of God), but are in close contact with us "within;" who are not called to judge them or to "have no company" with them, but to live in such a way as to bless and save them (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22). The wisdom demanded includes:
1. Consistency, as its most essential element. Life for others is a law running through God's universe, and finding its highest illustration in the life and cross of Christ and of Christians "in him" (John 12:24, 25; Romans 14:7). To benefit others spiritually, the chief qualification is not gifts, but character. The lives of Christians are the world's Bible (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3). See that the text is not corrupted or illegible. Live so that the more you are known the more you will be esteemed (let not "distance lend enchantment to the view"), so that the anxious or the dying would naturally send to you for guidance, and your judgment or reproof would carry with it the weight of a holy character. Beware of the "dead flies" which mar this wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10:1; Ephesians 5:15-17; Philippians 2:14, 15; 1 Peter 2:11, 12). But while the whole of our "walk" must be consistent, the wisdom which is to mark it includes more than this (Matthew 10:16; Romans 16:19). Some may remember what were their chief hindrances caused by the characters of Christians while they were still "without;" let them guard against these.
2. Christian cheerfulness. So as to refute the libels of Satan and his satellites (Job 21:14, 15; Malachi 3:14, 15), and prove the sincerity of our avowed belief (Psalm 34:8; Psalm 84:11, 12).
3. Christian charitableness. Be very strict in judging yourselves, but do not set up your own consciences as an infallible test for others (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:31 with Matthew 7:2). Seek to purify and enlighten the heart, rather than to denounce acts that may not seem wrong to the half enlightened doer (Matthew 12:33). Illustrate from Elisha's treatment of Naaman (2 Kings 5:15-19).
4. Well-regulated zeal. Zeal is implied in "redeeming the time," letting no opportunity slip you of seeking to do good in these evil days (Ephesians 5:16), even though at times it might appear to some to be "out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2; Galatians 6:10). But wisdom is needed here, or our efforts may be like random shots in a battle, injuring friends more than foes (e.g. Mark 9:38; Luke 9:54). Silence may at times be more "golden" than speech. Matthew 7:6 must be combined with Mark 16:15.
II. THE SPECIAL WISDOM NEEDED FOR PROFITABLE CONVERSATION. (Ver. 6; Proverbs 18:21.) By "always with grace" is not meant always religious, but always consistent with "this grace wherein we stand," and calculated to win the favour and promote the highest good of those who hear us (Ephesians 4:29). Therefore we must seek that it be "seasoned with salt," which preserves from corruption and gives relish to our food. Both senses are probably included. Vital religion being distasteful to the natural heart, care is needed that in our conversation we neither degrade the religion we profess nor increase aversion to it by the insipidity of our talk (cf. Job 6:6; Job 26:3). Let our rule be Elihu's (Job 33:3; cf. Psalm 37:30, 31; Proverbs 15:4). One object of this care is "that ye may know," etc. We must be prepared to be questioned and cross questioned on our holy faith. Proverbs 20:4, 5 may both need to be observed (as by our Lord, Matthew 21:27; Matthew 22:21, 29). When questioned as to "the hope that is in us" (1 Peter 3:15) a weak answer may confirm doubts. Take as models the various answers and vindications of his faith given by St. Paul before the pagans of Athens, the Jews of Jerusalem and of Rome, Felix and Agrippa. But if our tongues are to speak aright, our hearts must be kept full of the fire of the love of God tempered by "the wisdom that is from above" (Matthew 12:34; James 3:17). - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.