Paul’s closing exhortation to the believers at Colossae, the culmination of a series of staccato instructions, begins with a comprehensive introduction: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus . . .” (Col. 3:17). With this end in view, Paul speaks to wives, husbands, children, fathers, bondservants, and masters. He then urges believers to be steadfast in discerning, thankful prayer—particularly for him, that he would have a fruitful preaching ministry.
Paul concludes the whole in Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” To understand his instruction, we should first ask, Is there any significance to this final placement? Paul does, on occasion, make a summary statement of the important themes in a letter at the conclusion. Could that be the case here?
Yes, I think it is. Consider Colossians 1:9–10. Paul has in view the walk of believers, in wisdom, in a manner worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work. In the central portion of the letter, Paul returns to this theme, now referring to their former walk in unbelief. That way of life was characterized not by wisdom and gracious speech but by “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk” and lies (3:7). Now, by God’s grace, they have been renewed, putting off the old, and putting “on the new self, which is being renewed after the image of its creator” (vv. 8–10). A significant element in this renewal is the focus of the closing exhortation.