It’s widely believed that Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians in 62 A.D., during his imprisonment in Rome (around the same time he wrote his epistles to the Ephesians and Philippians). The letter itself is very “evangelistic” in tone, calling the believers in Colosse back to Jesus and Jesus alone.
Andy Rau, Senior manager of content for Bible Gateway, describes it this way:
In the decades following Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection, Christianity wasn’t the only religion competing for people’s hearts and minds. Pagan cults and philosophies were firmly entrenched throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.
It’s understandable that early Christians—many of whom had followed such religions and philosophies before giving their lives to Christ—faced a continual struggle to keep their newfound faith separate from the spiritual currents of the world around them. The Christian community in the city of Colosse was caught up in that struggle . . . and they needed help. . . .
This letter challenges the believers in Colosse to look solely to the divinity of Jesus Christ, through whom we are all saved. In it, Paul refutes the gnostic heresy spreading throughout the Colossian church and presents Jesus as God, creator of the universe. He emphasizes the importance of the cross: Jesus is Savior, and only by his blood we are saved.
Every believer an evangelist
Paul’s goals in calling the church at Colosse back to Christ weren’t just for its own correction, good, and benefit, but also so that every individual believer could become the evangelist they were meant to be. Take a look at the beginning of Colossians 4 (NLT):
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Even as Paul asks the house church in Colosse to pray for him, continuing to share the gospel in the midst of his circumstances, he quickly turns his focus back to the believers he is writing to, encouraging them to be evangelists themselves.
And Paul doesn’t leave them hanging as to how they can evangelize. Do you see the “instructions” within his words?:
- be devoted to prayer
- keep an alert mind
- have a thankful heart
- live wisely
- make the most of every opportunity
- let your conversation be gracious and attractive (full of grace and seasoned with salt in the NIV)
- have the right response for everyone
The Message puts these simple “instructions” this way:
Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.
A compelling life
It’s been said that the best witness to the gospel is a compelling life. In this small part of his letter Paul seems to be saying that a life lived wisely, in prayer, alert to circumstances, with conversation that is filled with grace and focused on the other person will be a compelling alternative to what the world has to offer, making Christ as “plain as day” to any seeker.