I was listening to a friend who is a football coach explain a particular play from a game. He was speaking English. I understood the individual words he was using. But I could not, for the life of me, understand what he was saying. He said things like “Spider 2 Y Banana” as if that sequence of words was supposed to communicate something. He was speaking to me as if I were an insider, but I was clearly an outsider.
Paul gives a short paragraph of prayer requests and final instructions to the church of Colossae that revolve around how to interact with the outsider (Col. 4:2–6). In this context, the outsider is one who either doesn’t know of or doesn’t understand the mystery of Christ. Simply put, the outsider is spiritually lost. And Paul’s instruction to the church—that is, to the insiders—is to exercise prayer and wisdom so that the outsiders are brought in.
First, Paul instructs in prayer. He calls the Colossians to give thanks to God (v. 2). He does not specifically say why they are to give thanks, but we can reasonably assume that they are to give prayers of thanksgiving that the mystery of Christ has been revealed to them. They know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in Christ, and thus they are not outsiders.
Second, Paul instructs them to simultaneously pray for opportunities to declare this good news of Jesus (v. 3). An open door paints the perfect picture for Paul, as he longs to see those who are outside brought in. He called them to pray that doors would be opened so that he could make clear the mystery of Christ, so that outsiders would be brought in.
That prayer then needs to be put into faithful action. We pray with faith that God will enact His will “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). And then we need to step out with that same faith, knowing that God will use our actions as His means to execute His will.
Paul next writes, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5). Here, wisdom relates to knowing God’s will (1:9) and walking in a manner worthy of the Lord (1:10). Know how God is working and how you are to respond. Take every opportunity to declare the mystery of Christ, but use wisdom to discern if it is actually an opportunity. There is a time to respond and a time to hold your tongue. Know which time is which. The early church commentator Ambrosiaster said, “Discuss religion at the right time and place and in great humility, and keep quiet if one of these people is shouting at us in public.” This advice seem to be forever appropriate. Paul helpfully adds that your speech should “always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (v. 6). If you wonder if a door is open, respond with gracious words and all will be fine.
Pray earnestly for and look eagerly for open doors. Think of how to appropriately communicate to the outsider such that the mystery of Christ is made clear. And bring the outsider in.