Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Burk Parsons said; “God calls us out of darkness and into his marvelous light and then calls us to walk right back into the darkness and shine.”We are God’s agents in the world!
Scripture describes us as God’s fragrance, ‘the aroma of Christ’(2 Corinthians 2:15) amongst unbelievers and Jesus called us ‘the salt of the earth’(Matthew 5:13) and Scripture also describes us as ‘ambassadors for Christ’(2 Corinthians 5:20). More than all of these you and I are also the sonsand daughtersof our heavenly Father (1 John 3:1)!
In all three of these passages we are not likened to these things but rather described as being them. These things are not something that’s merely metaphorical or just aspirational but is in fact a statement of what is true of us, it is in fact who we are.
And for that reason Colossians 4:5-6 instructs us to walk with wisdom, to really think about how we live out our lives and interact with those who are not yet Christ followers. It is assumed here that the church will not be some holy huddle excluding itself from the world, we are to engage with live amongst, reach out to people who are not Christ followers. We are those to whom God has entrusted the message and ministry of reconciliation – the good news that God wants to reconcile all people to Himself through faith in His Son, Jesus!
We have a high calling, we represent God in the world. In politics or business, an ambassador for a country or a brand has a real responsibility to represent his/her nation/brand well in all they say and do. Such a person is not just a free agent, they have responsibility, how they live and talk really matters.
Similarly, for us as Christ followers we are urged here to deeply consider our lives and our speech and to consider whether we are living and speaking as we ought to – with wisdom and with grace. Our ‘salty’ speech should preserve peace and should point people to Christ. God wants us to be able to answer people’s questions about life or faith or God – to give dignity to them by really considering their question and giving answers that serve them and illuminate the path to faith in Jesus.
These are easy things to write, easy things to read about yet difficult to do! I am freshly convicted of my need to wake up each day and to mentally put on this role God’s given – ambassador, representative! What an honour we have. May I, may we serve those who don’t yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour by the way we live and speak – may we truly be the aroma of Christ and salt and light in the world for His sake and the sake of those who don’t yet know Him.
What can change today if you go into your day with this fresh realisation?
The Gospel explained in three verses. Verses 16, 18 & 36 of chapter 3 of John’s gospel present a full and clear picture of the Gospel hope that we have in Jesus and the desperate situation of those who reject Jesus.
‘For God so loved the world’ (vs16)
The good news Jesus introduces here is news that would have been radical to the Jewish hearer – that God so loved, not just Israel but the whole world. God had foretold of this widening of His blessing to encompass the whole world when He covenanted to bless Abraham and that Abraham in turn would bless all the familes of the earth. The prophets had prophesied about this too like when Zechariah prophesied about the future incarnation of Christ and the impact this would have on the nations not just Israel;
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 2:10-11)
‘that whoever believes in Him’ (vs16)
The offer is as wide as can be, it is to anyone, to whosoever. But the offer is not without condition. The condition for all people, whoever they are, is that they must believe. They must have faith in or put their trust in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
‘should not perish but have eternal life’ (vs16)
The result of believing in Jesus is that the believer can be assured that they will not be die/perish or be destroyed in the judgement to come but will enter into perpetual/eternal/everlasting/forever life!
‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned’ (vs18)
All those who believe in Jesus are not and will not be condemned. They will not be judged or damned by God the righteous judge.
‘but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’ (vs18)
In sharp contrast is the current and future position anyone is in who does not believe in Jesus. There is no nuetral ground here. Our post-modern pluralistic world likes to make space for and validate every perspective but that is not the teaching of Scripture. As inclusive as the ‘whoever’ is positively in vs16, that same ‘whoever’ is now inclusive of all who do not believe.
All who do not believe are at this very moment condemned by God! They are in the most dangerous position imaginable right now and will be into eternity if there is no change. They will be damned by God because they rejected God’s only Son whom God lovingly sent to save them from their sinful condition and consequences.
‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’ (vs36)
Re-iterating what He has already said, Jesus repeats the wide offer that anyone may believe in Him and that those who believe already have in this life entered into the eternal life only He can give us. The Christ follower is not waiting for something that is only future but enters into real life now in this present age already.
However, again in sharp contrast whoever disbelieves/not believes/is disobedient/obeys not/is unbelieving will not experience this life that’s possible now or into eternity because their position is that the justifiable righeous indignation of the Holy One remains on them now and forever.
All are invited to believe, all who believe will be forgiven and be given life eternal now and forevermore all because of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, because of the love of Father God. And yet not all will believe, and those who reject Jesus are right now in this present moment condemned already and have the wrath of God focussed on them.
May we who have already believed, tirelessly take this kind offer God’s made to ALL so that whoever believes will be forgiven, saved & will receive everlasting life now and forever.
Having died forsaken by all, and then having risen remarkably, showing Himself to a few and then to the whole group of His disciples Jesus then tells them what’s next. We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus told them about His imminent ascension.
But what next?
What were these followers of Jesus supposed to do now?
Go home? Go back to their old lives?
Is this the finish line or is it in fact the start line?
Jesus clearly commissions these ones who had given their lives to follow Him. Jesus tells them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.
There is no going back home, no retreat, this is not the finish-line or the end of the road! This is the start of the rest of the great adventure, the beginning of the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming what Jesus HAD DONE for anyone who believes in Him.
And whoever believes that message about Jesus will be saved, and those who are saved should be baptised. These believers (and all believers that were to follow) get equipped with authority over sickness and any demonic influence – to set people free so that they can believe in Jesus. They are promised the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues, they will do miraculous things in Jesus name… Jesus will empower them to do remarkable even miraculous things to confirm the message they carry about Him.
These last words are not just their mandate alone, but our mandate too. It is what the church of Jesus Christ is commissioned to do, what our individual lives ought to be taken up with (Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the good news about Him) and should be characterised by (demonstrations of kingdom power that authenticate the message).
Let’s live out this great adventure!
Believing in Jesus is just the start-line for us all, it’s not the end of the road, it’s the beginning of living the rest of our lives for Jesus and for His mission to reach the whole world.
Are you on-board?
[Theological Sidebar: Does this passage (vs16) teach that you must believe and be baptised to be saved? No. Note how although Jesus says whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, it goes on to only say that those who do not believe are condemned. Jesus does not say that those who do not believe and are not baptised are condemned. Baptism in water as a believer is a visible sign of the ]
I want to be more and more like Jesus. Don’t you?
One of the things about Jesus that has always amazed me is that as the Holy, spotless, sinless One in whom there was not even a fibre of sinful compromise, was a total sinner magnet!
Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts were drawn to Jesus, they wanted proximity with Him. You’d have thought that they would have felt estranged by him, uncomfortable around Jesus because of His spotlessness. But they weren’t…
Now we know that Jesus didn’t lower His standards or dabble a little with compromise to fit in with them. He was sinless and spotless and yet somehow, paradoxically, messed up people who’s lives didn’t match up to God’s holy standard – were drawn to Him.
John’s gospel records vividly that Jesus came ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). I love that description of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come either with grace or truth. Jesus didn’t come sometimes with grace and sometimes with truth to varying degrees oscillating between them. No, Jesus came full of both grace and truth.
And yet I think, there is an order there that matters. I believe if we encounter people with truth first, then sometimes we will never get the grace as they will have run away already as they weren’t ready for what we showed them or told them. If people encounter gracious acceptance, humility and gentleness then they are way more likely to listen to the truth.
Is this how ‘sinners’ were drawn to Jesus? He was so gracious with everyone and yet never compromised on the truth about what needed to change in their lives?
May we as Christ Followers and as His church be like Jesus! May sinners find our churches safe places, places where they are included because of their infinite value as image bearers of the most High God, may they feel drawn into close proximity quickly, and yet may that be loved enough to have truth shared lovingly with them too.
May we as Christ Followers and as His church grasp this paradox that to be holy is not to be removed from sinful people, but to be more and more like Jesus, to have His heartbeat in us. May we grasp that God’s will for us is that we be in close proximity with lost people so that we can be used by God to share the good news about Jesus with them. May we grow more and more in our love for those whom Jesus came to call (vs17) to repentance, knowing always that they are like us and we are like them, but for the grace of God.
Prayer: Who are you praying for, who does not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour? Pray for them now to come to know and love Jesus and do anything the Holy Spirit leads you to do to reach out to them.