Colossians 4:5-6 ESV
“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.”
Our walk is how we live day in and day out. It is our thoughts, our attitudes, our behaviors, and our words that we speak. And this word translated as “wisdom” also means “clarity” and “the art of using wisdom.” And “clarity” means “clearness, directness, plainness, precision, and transparency.” And “wisdom” means “insight, knowledge, understanding, good sense, good judgment and caution.”
So, we are to walk in wisdom toward “outsiders.” And who are they? We might naturally assume they are only all those who do not profess faith in Jesus Christ, but is that true? Or they are all those who do not attend the institutional gatherings of what is called “church.” Is that true? I was curious, so I did read some old commentaries on the subject of “outsiders,” and it was interesting what some of them said.
For one, we can’t assume that everyone who attends weekly gatherings of the institutional “church” are those who are “within” or “inside.” The same applies to all who profess faith in Jesus Christ. They aren’t all “inside,” either.
MacLaren’s Expositions said, “Many a man who is within the organization 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.”
Now, this applies to women, too, but I say a hearty Amen to what he said. What he is saying is that you can profess faith in Jesus Christ and you can attend weekly gatherings of the institutions (businesses) which are called “church,” but which are not the true church (the body of Christ), and still be “outside.” And you can be a true follower of Jesus Christ, whose life is given over to the Lord wholeheartedly and yet not be a participant in these human institutions which they call “church” and yet truly be “inside.”
They Went Out
And let me then apply this to 1 John 2:19 where it says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
Many people today are applying this to people who have left the institutional church (not the body of Christ). But some of us left because God called us to come out of Babylon lest we share in her sins and in her punishment, for her sins are piled high to heaven (Rev 18:1-6). But this passage has nothing to do with “church attendance” in the institutional (man-made businesses) church, which is not the church, for the church is the body of Christ.
And the body of Christ is not all who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, either. They are all who were crucified with Christ in death to sin and who were raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, who have forsaken their sinful practices to now follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his commands, and who are now walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
When this passage in 1 John says, “they went out from us,” this is not talking about leaving the institutional church. In fact, leaving the institutional church may actually make you one of the “us” from whom others went out. For the going out is spiritual before it is physical, and the physical aspect of it has to do with abandoning the body of Christ, and it has nothing to do with leaving the institutional church. Does this make sense?
So, going back to who these “outsiders” are, they are not those outside the walls of the institutional church. They are those outside of genuine walks of faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ who are going their own way and who are not listening to the Holy Spirit, and who are not following the counsel of the Most High, but who are making their own plans, and who are following their own wisdom or the wisdom of other humans, but not God’s.
Walking in Wisdom
So, if we walk in wisdom toward outsiders, this is about our everyday lives and how we act towards others and the words that we speak. So we should speak with clearness, directness, plainness, precision, and transparency. There should be no playing games or trying to be smooth in what we say, but we should speak plainly, but in love. And we should speak with spiritual insight, sharing the wisdom and judgment and discernment of God.
We have far too many smooth talking charlatans who are telling people what their itching ears want to hear and few who are truly speaking plainly and clearly what the word of God teaches, and who are doing so in all honesty and transparency and with love and concern for the people to whom they are speaking. For we are to speak sensible, practical and reasonable words to those who are not adhering to the teachings of the Scriptures.
And our speech is to be gracious or “in grace.” And grace means kindness, but kindness is not being charming and wishy-washy so as not to offend people with the truth. It is never kind to lie to anyone. Speaking the truth in love to others is one of the kindest things you can ever do, because it puts what is best for them above self, knowing full well that you are likely to be rejected for speaking the truth. But it is the truth that sets people free.
Grace is also God’s grace to us in sending Jesus Christ to die on that cross for us so that we might be able, by his grace, to die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. And his grace instructs us to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s soon return. So, if we speak with grace, we are going to speak the truth of the gospel, not the lies.
Salt is a preservative from corruption. So, our speech should be free from corruption. There should be no impurity of motive or words in what we say. And this goes back to the wisdom that we are to walk in which means “clearness, directness, plainness, precision, and transparency.” This is how are to speak, which involves speaking the truth, but with kindness (in love). And kindness leads us to tell people the truth and to not lie to them.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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