What does Colossians 4:6 mean?
ESV: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
NIV: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
NASB: Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
CSB: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
NLT: Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
KJV: Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
So far, Paul has presented evangelism as a work of prayer (Colossians 4:2–3), a work of clear communication (Colossians 4:4), and a matter of wisdom and making the most of each opportunity (Colossians 4:5). A fifth principle for effective outreach is given here, the idea of gracious or kind speech.
In Paul's time, salt served primarily as a preservative, keeping meat from spoiling. It was valuable enough to be used as a form of currency. And, of course, it changes the flavor of whatever it is added to. In that regard, Paul's use of this metaphor has more than one meaning. The believer's words are to preserve the message of Christ, helping it effectively reach as many people as possible. What a Christian says ought to add value to the conversation; our words should be uplifting or helpful. Finally, the truth of our renewed Christian lives ought to be clear in the different "flavor" of how we speak and act.
Another aspect of gracious speech is the ability to answer the questions of unbelievers. Peter also noted the importance of this area of ministry, saying, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Communicating Christ includes both a positive presentation of the gospel and the ability to defend it (Titus 1:9). Mere knowledge is not all that is required. In order to give an answer in a truly "Christian" way, a person must present truth using proper words and a proper attitude.
Colossians 4:2–6 completes the main substance of Paul's letter. This passage starts with a request for personal prayer, then transitions into a command regarding how Christians speak. Paul uses the metaphor of salt. Salt, in Paul's day, was valuable enough to be used as money, and was treasured for its ability to preserve and flavor foods. In the same way, a Christian's speech should be helpful and valuable, ''flavored'' differently from the speech of non-believers, and preserving the message of Christ.
The first verse of chapter 4 is actually the last thought from Paul's prior comments about bondservants and masters. After this, Paul gives the Christian perspective on conversation. The way believers speak has a large impact on the effectiveness of our message. Paul then ends his letter with news and messages between various Christian ministers. Among these are names which Paul mentions again in other letters, such as Tychicus, Epaphras, Archippus, and Onesimus.
Prior chapters in this letter established the supremacy of Christ, provided counters to false teaching, and gave instructions for Christian living. Chapter 4 completes these instructions with a general command regarding Christian conversation. Paul then ends the letter with news and comments related to various fellow Christian believers. This follows the general pattern for Paul's letters: introduction, theory, application, personal news and farewell.
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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