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One of the wonderful things we do in life is learning to walk. It is also one of the most awkward. Most of us have pictures or videos from when we took our first “baby steps” and made the bold leap from crawling to walking. Though awkward, learning to walk is an essential part of growing up—of moving from childish behavior into mature adulthood.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the Bible has so much to say about walking. In many ways, the language of walking is a preferred metaphor in the Bible for describing our relationship with God. In Genesis 17:1, God told Abraham to “walk before me, and be blameless.” This “walking” was not to be a one-time event but rather a lifelong process. Abraham’s life was to be characterized as walking with and before God. Other faithful saints are described the same way. Both Enoch and Noah “walked with God,” according to Genesis 5:22 and 6:9. They lived their lives coram Deo (before the face of God) in ways that pleased God and received His blessing. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently encourages Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you” (1 Thess. 2:12). Christians are to “look carefully” how they walk (Eph. 5:15) because we walk (live our lives) before a watching world (Phil. 3:17).

In Colossians 4, the idea of walking is very important and relates to the subject of evangelism and how, practically speaking, we are to conduct ourselves in this world.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 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—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (vv. 2–6)

Paul first encourages the church to pray. Christians are to pray steadfastly, with watchfulness and thankfulness (v. 2). They are to pray that God would open “door[s] for the word,” that the Apostles (church leaders) would have fruitful opportunities to preach the gospel (v. 3). Prayer, in many ways, is the biblical foundation of all true evangelism—and the first step. It is also a wonderful means of supporting those who labor regularly in the work of evangelism. Inasmuch as church leaders ought to be doing the work of evangelism, church members ought to be praying that God would open bountiful doors of opportunity for them. As the Apostles needed and benefited from the prayers of the saints, so also do those who stand on the front lines of the evangelistic battlefield today. But what about the church members themselves? Should they also be engaged in the work of evangelism?

Wisdom cares enough to listen so that when we speak, our words are the best words possible.

While there may be different opinions on this subject, it seems fairly clear from Colossians 4:5–6 that Paul is encouraging members of the church to take a proactive approach of walking toward people who are outside the church with an evangelistic message. We do not simply walk among them; we are to also walk toward them. This is to be done with wisdom and graciousness. Wisdom is the practical application of God’s Word to the varying contexts of life in which we find ourselves. It is knowing when to speak and when to listen; it is knowing when to confront and when to comfort; it is knowing what is best to say and the best way to say it. Note that Paul helpfully nuances this with the idea that not each person is to be approached in exactly the same way. Wisdom knows how we “ought to answer each person” in ways that are pastorally sensitive to the person with whom we are speaking. All people have certain things in common, but each person is an individual, and thus, different evangelistic approaches may be warranted to help embody the wisdom that Paul suggests. Wisdom cares enough to listen so that when we speak, our words are the best words possible. Wisdom does not come easily to most of us, and therefore it is something for which we ought to pray.

Paul adds to the idea of walking wisely toward outsiders with gracious speech the additional idea of our words’ being “seasoned with salt.” Salt was used with sacrifices in the Old Testament to give them an even more pleasing aroma (see Ex. 30:35; Lev. 2:13). This seems to suggest that our words should be wise, gracious, and pleasing in the sight of God. To evangelize is to bear the cross; it is always sacrificial and should be done foremost with an eye to saying and doing those things that are pleasing to God. We should strive to do so in the same manner that our Savior did—wisely, graciously, and sacrificially.

While it is certainly true that those who are ordained to preach the gospel bear a particular burden to do so, it is also true to say that the whole church is called to walk wisely and graciously toward those who are outside the church. God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. And each time we try to evangelize someone, we will learn something new about others that will make us even better the next time; and yes, we will learn from our mistakes. But we will also grow in thankfulness for the grace that God has shown to us personally, for not only did He send someone toward us with the gospel, He also gave grace to us that we might hear the good news that first taught us what it looks like to walk with God.

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From the December 2022 Issue
Dec 2022 Issue