Pastor David B. Curtis

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Prayer and Evangelism

Colossians 4:3-6

09/19/2004

We began looking last week at verses 2 thru 6 of chapter 4. These verses deal with prayer and the proclamation of the gospel.

Colossians 4:2 (NASB) Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;

"Devote yourselves to prayer"- Are you obeying this command? Would you say that you are devoted to prayer? How did we define prayer last week? I said, "The bottom line is: prayer is asking God for things." And it is not just God's will that we ask Him for things, it is His delight. What's behind this delight in our asking him for things? What attribute of God causes Him to delight in our asking Him for things? Love! What does love do? It gives! It is God's nature to be a giver.

God delights to give, so devote yourself to asking. The word "devote" calls attention to something that is regular, loved, and prioritized. The word is used of a ruler's devotion to his task, that is, his busying himself with the priorities of his office. Devotion implies that you are busily engaged in something, persisting in it with regularity. With simplicity, Paul tells Christians everywhere to be devoted to prayer.

Prayer is a declaration of our dependence upon God. Every time I pray, I am saying, "God I need you!" We ask God's forgiveness, because we know we are dependant upon Him to forgive. We thank Him in prayer, because we know that what ever we are or have has come from Him. We petition Him, because only He can give us what we need. We know that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, and prayer is humility in action. It is saying, "God I can't do this, so I come to you acknowledging my need." Does your prayer life declare that you are dependant upon God for everything?

Having instructed the Colossians that they're to be devoted to prayer, the apostle turns his attention to his own particular need and brings it before his readers that they might pray for him:

Colossians 4:3 (NASB) praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;

"Praying at the same time for us as well" - This isn't the only place in Paul's letters where he brings to his readers' attention the need to support either himself or the other apostles in prayer:

1 Thessalonians 5:25 (NASB) Brethren, pray for us.
Hebrews 13:18 (NASB) Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.

Paul requests prayer specifically for the advancement of the gospel in 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18-20; and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

Romans 15:30-32 (NASB) Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.

Paul requests prayer for a deliverance from men who were seeking his harm because in his deliverance he saw a greater freedom for the proclamation of the Kingdom.

In 4:3 the verb for "praying" is intensive, calling for the Colossians to be involved in this work themselves. Paul desired that his labors would be part of their prayer lives.

Please notice what Paul requests prayer for: open doors for the Word and clarity in speaking the Word.

Pray, "that God may open up to us a door for the word" - The plural pronoun "us" probably includes the list of Paul's friends and co-workers that begins in 4:7. It is important to see what Paul didn't request prayer for at this time. He was a prisoner of Rome, having no liberty to come and go as he pleased. Yet, he did not ask them to pray for his release. Instead, he wanted prayer for the Word to go forth. Paul saw God's providence at work no matter where he was located. He wanted the Lord to open the hearts of those he encountered during his imprisonment. The gospel would be reaching some in that way that would otherwise never hear the truth of Christ. So he asks the Colossians to pray specifically about the ministry of the Word.

Paul requested prayer for open doors; not prison doors, but doors of opportunity to preach the Word. Believers are to pray for open doors, because it is only God who opens them. At the end of Paul's first missionary journey, he and Barnabas reported to the church:

Acts 14:27 (NASB) And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Jesus is described as the one who opens doors:

Revelation 3:7-8 (NASB) "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: 8 'I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

What is this open door? The most common interpretation is that it denotes a great opportunity for missionary activity and service. Paul uses the metaphor of an open door this way several times:

1 Corinthians 16:8-9 (NASB) But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
2 Corinthians 2:12 (NASB) Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord,

God opens closed doors for you to share the message of salvation with other people. Do you have friends whose hearts are closed? You might have relatives whose hearts are closed. Pray for them! Because either God will open the closed door of their hearts or their heart will remain closed. You see salvation is not of human work. Salvation is of God. Only Jesus saves. We don't. We can only share the good news of the Gospel of Christ. And so, we need to pray, "Lord, would you open their heart? Would you open that mind to receive your word?"

Paul desired an open door, "so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ."

The word translated "mystery" is the Greek word musterion. In Ephesians 3, Paul unfolds in detail this mystery:

Ephesians 3:5-6 (NASB) which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

The mystery very simply is that Jew and Gentile are brought together now in one body called "the church." The Old Testament spoke about Gentile salvation. The Old Testament spoke about Jewish salvation. The Old Testament never fully revealed that these two would be brought together in one body, the body of Christ, the church. Gentiles are seen experiencing salvation in the Old Testament but it is always in the context of Israel. Now here we find God is going to bring Gentiles and Jews together in a relationship of oneness in the body.

So, to put is simply, mystery here refers to the content of the gospel. Paul asks the Colossians to pray that he would have an open door to speak the full truth of the gospel.

Paul closes verse 3 by saying it was the preaching of this gospel "for which I have also been imprisoned." The Greek perfect tense indicates that Paul was bound (imprisoned) at some point in the past and remained so.

It was for the sake of the gospel that Paul was imprisoned. In Jerusalem, at the end of his third missionary journey, he was falsely accused of bringing a Gentile into the area of the Temple forbidden to them. He was rescued from the angry crowd by the Romans and eventually sent by them to Felix, the governor of Judea. After being in custody for two years, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 25:11). During his voyage to Rome, he was shipwrecked following a violent storm. The book of Acts closes with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16, 30).

Paul's imprisonment didn't hinder his ministry, therefore he didn't pray for his release. It was during this period that he wrote Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. He also evangelized those he came into contact with, whether the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 22:1ff.), Felix (Acts 24:10ff.), Herod Agrippa (Acts 26:1ff.), Roman soldiers (Phil. 1:13), members of Caesar's household (Phil. 4:22), or members of Rome's Jewish community (Acts 28:17ff.). Paul's activity during his imprisonment in Rome is summed up in:

Acts 28:30-31 (NASB) And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

Paul sits in chains and is asking the Colossians to pray that God would give him an opportunity to preach the gospel. Paul saw a potential convert in every human being. We just see people, antagonistic people, weak people, negative people. All Paul saw was souls that needed Christ.

Please, don't miss the utter necessity of prayer in the spread of the gospel. Paul pleads for prayer from all Christians. Do you pray for the advancement of the gospel? Are there lost people who you pray for on a regular basis?

Paul further asked the Colossians to pray that when God opened a door for the gospel, he would be able to clearly explain it:

Colossians 4:4 (NASB) in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.

This is an interesting verse because of one specific word, "clear," which is the Greek word phaneroo. Vines speaks of the true meaning as being: "...to uncover, lay bare, reveal..." Kittel says it means: "to make visible or...to become visible."

Paul wanted to expose the gospel in such a way that people can see it clearly. He wanted to make it plain. He wanted the Praetorian Guard chained to him to see the gospel so clearly that there would be no mistake about the gospel message. He wanted the ability to communicate the gospel in simple terms.

Paul's concern was that he would not share his faith clearly. Paul knew as well as any man how to speak; and yet he begged their prayers for him, that he might clearly proclaim the truths of the gospel. It is not enough to just have an open door. There must also be a clear message. Paul certainly knew the gospel, but only the Holy Spirit can make it known to the blinded human heart. So Paul requests prayer for an open door for the gospel and clarity in sharing it.

These next two verses are specifically directed towards the believers evangelism:

Colossians 4:5 (NASB) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

Paul turns to the Colossians to exhort them in their own opportunities of evangelism. If he could be looking for evangelistic opportunities in prison, then they were to be sensitive to Christian witness in the day-to-day occurrences of their lives.

The common term, "conduct," is the Greek word peripateo, which refers to the way you live your life. It is elsewhere translated as "walk" or "behavior." It points to the Christian giving attention to his spiritual walk, that is, the whole of his daily lifestyle. Why is this so important? Aside from the fact that it pleases the Lord who is sanctifying you as a Christian, there are "outsiders," unbelievers, who are watching your every move.

Whether you realize it or not, you are under scrutiny as a Christian. Someone is always watching your attitude, the way you treat your family, your reaction to pressure situations, whether or not you speak negatively about others. They watch you on the job or at school to see how diligent you are in your responsibilities and how kindly you treat those about you. They observe your conversation to see if you speak anything that might give them light for their own struggles through the darkness of life without Christ.

Paul uses the word "wisdom" to convey the whole content of the believer's walk. This is Paul's fourth use of the word in the epistle. If you want to know how to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, and win people to Christ, then you need to know where to turn for the wisdom. Paul gives one essential answer earlier in this letter:

Colossians 3:16 (NASB) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Wisdom comes from letting the word of Christ dwell richly within you. None of us is spiritually wise by nature. We are foolish until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. And Paul says that happens by the word of Christ richly dwelling in us.

We see here that the way to live the Christian life boils down again and again to prayer and meditation on the Word of God. In verses 3 and 4, Paul pleads for prayer and shows us that external doors open and internal resources rise in answer to prayer. Then in verse 4 he says that we are to walk in wisdom toward outsiders. The goal is to win their souls; one of the means is to live exemplary lives before them, and the origin of this wisdom is from letting the word of Christ dwell richly in us. In other words, prayer for the power of God and meditation on the Word of God are the key.

So, to "conduct yourselves with wisdom" means that you are consciously applying the truth of the gospel to every portion of life. As we live out exhortations to the family, our walk will raise all kinds of questions. As wives are submitting, Husbands loving, Children obeying, parents not provoking, employees obeying, and masters treating their employees fairly, we are preaching a sermon without a word; yet in so preaching, it opens the door for words.

The Apostle instructs the Colossians: "making the most of the opportunity."

What does Paul have in mind by the use of "opportunity?" The word is often translated as "time" but has nothing to do with chronological time (that's chronos, while this is kairos). It means: a "decisive or crucial point" or a "critical situation in your life that requires decisive action; a decisive moment" [TDNT, vol. III, 455]. It refers to a period of possibilities upon which you must take action. Jesus used the word in Mark 1:15, pointing to the decisive period of His proclamation of the gospel: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Those who heard the proclamation of the gospel had the responsibility to "seize the moment" by trusting in Christ. He also looked over Jerusalem weeping, because she "did not recognize the time of [her] visitation" (Luke 19:44). Again, time is used of a decisive moment that requires action.

The Greeks had a statue to the god Kairos standing at the entrance of the stadium at Olympia. It was described as a young man who had just become a citizen of Greece, with winged feet and a strange feature: he had a lock of hair at the front of his head while the rest of his head was bald. Beneath the statue was the inscription: "Who made thee? Lysippus made me. What is thy name? My name is OPPORTUNITY. Why hast thou wings on thy feet? That I may fly away swiftly. Why hast thou a great forelock? That men may seize me when I come. Why art thou bald in back? That when I am gone by, none can lay hold of me."

Kefa Sempangi (whose story is told in the book, A Distant Grief, Regal Books) was a national pastor in Africa and barely escaped with his family from brutal oppression and terror in his home country of Uganda. They made their way to Philadelphia, where a group of Christians began caring for them. One day his wife said, "Tomorrow I am going to go and buy some clothes for the children," and immediately she and her husband broke into tears. Because of the constant threat of death under which they had so long lived, that was the first time in many years they had dared even speak the word tomorrow. Their terrifying experiences forced them to realize what is true of every person: there is no assurance of tomorrow. The only opportunity we can be sure of having is what we have at the moment.

Paul says, "making the most of the opportunity." This translation seems a little weak to me. "Making the most" is from the Greek word exagorazo, which means: "seize the opportunity, buy up an opportunity." It is used four times in the New Testament; the NASV translates two of them "redeem" and two of them "making the most." It comes from two words: "out" and "to buy," and in this passage means: "to buy up for oneself." It implies a sacrifice or loss of something to gain something else.

Galatians 3:13 (NASB) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"

So here the price was Christ's becoming a curse for us, and the gain was our rescue from the curse of God. So to "redeem the time" means to take whatever painful steps are necessary to get the gain we are after.

Exagorazo, is used in the active voice in (Ga 3:13,4:5) of the deliverance out from the Law and its curse. In Col 4:5, the middle voice is used, which conveys a "reflexive" sense to the verb - the idea then is of buying up for oneself. A Christian operating in wisdom seizes opportunities to share his faith. He takes the best advantage of the situation.

What is the opportunity? It is the decisive point of the believer's godly life stirring up a time of Christian witness. Paul said to seize the moment; not to let it pass by. Paul is talking about evangelism.

Christians have the opportunity of evangelism in all kinds of settings. I think we have probably done a great injustice to evangelistic work by placing so much emphasis on techniques and strategies, while neglecting the necessity of Christians living out their sanctification as a means of opening doors for evangelism. Paul's concept of evangelism is simple: the Christian's walk with Christ sets the stage for explaining the gospel to unbelievers. How is this to take place in our lives?

The Christian's conduct becomes the stage that opens the door for evangelism. Rather than thinking of evangelism always in terms of a planned, direct, or confrontational approach, we must also see it taking place in the setting of daily life. This won't happen if the Christian fails to live a godly life. All men are reading your life. What is it saying about the gospel?

Titus 2:1-5 (NASB) But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

This is why we are to live in obedience to the instructions of verses one through five - "that the word of God may not be dishonored." When you live contrary to these things, you dishonored the word of God.

The Southern Baptist have come under fire from the secular media in the past, because they were calling for women to live in submission to their husbands. I want to tell you all that that isn't something the Southern Baptist made up. That is what God expects of Christian women. The word "subject" in verse 5 is the Greek word hupotasso. It is a military term and means: "to line up under authority." Ladies, when you don't submit to your husband's authority, you are dishonoring the Word of God. This principle applies to men and women - when we live contrary to the teaching of the word of God, we dishonor God's Word.

Titus 2:6-8 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Do you see what he is saying? Your enemies should not be able to find anything evil to say about you. Your life should be lived in a manner that gives your enemies nothing to condemn you for. This is a Christ like life.

Titus 2:9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

The word "adorn" here mans: "to decorate, or make attractive." The way you live can do one of two things: you can dishonor the Word of God by your life, or you can adorn the doctrine of God. We can actually add to the beauty of the gospel by our lives, by our daily conduct. The NIV Bible translates verse 10 this way:

Titus 2:10 (NIV)..... so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Do you understand the importance of that? Your life either makes the gospel attractive or repulsive. That is a sobering thought.

You affect and impact people in one way or another for good or for bad. The quality of your life is the platform of your personal testimony. By the kind of life you live, you build a platform on which what you say is made believable. Paul has stressed first their character, then he talks about their message.

Colossians 4:6 (NASB) Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.

"Let your speech always be with grace" - Have you evaluated the way you talk lately? The word for "grace" can certainly, at very minimum, imply that our speech must be gracious, pleasant, charming, or winsome. Paul wrote in:

Ephesians 4:29 (NASB) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Does your speech give grace to those who hear? Speech with grace does not imply that a Christian is always to be agreeable or pleasing. The word "grace" in secular Greek meant: "charming" or "gracious." The meaning here is beyond that. Whatever we say, it much be characterized by the grace of Christ:

Luke 4:22 (NASB) And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?"

Our words have a lot of power. Our words have the power to build up or to tear down, to hurt or to heal. And our words have the power to communicate the message of Jesus Christ effectively when we are speaking with grace.

What is grace? How does it get in your speech? It means simply reflecting Christ in how you talk. It means being like him, because He IS your life!

Our speech is also to be "Seasoned with salt," In its ancient Greek usage, salt would often refer to a person's wittiness. It is not only to be gracious, but also to have an effect. Salt can sting when rubbed into a wound (cf. Prov. 27:6). It also prevents corruption. Believers' speech should act as a purifying influence, rescuing conversation from the filth that so often engulfs it. Salt also adds flavor, and the speech of the new man should add charm and wit to conversation.

Paul explains that you are to watch your behavior, seize opportunities for responding with truth, and guard your conversation so that it resembles the gracious talk of Christ and not the world. In so doing, you will have individualized opportunities for witness: "so that you will know how you should respond to each person." The word "respond," is normally translated as "answer." Here the Greek brings out in an emphatic sense that the Christian is the one who is to be ready to respond properly. Guy Appere has rightly stated:

An answer presupposes a question. Now, what is more likely to make 'outsiders' want to ask questions than a 'different' life, a way of living that cannot be explained by usual worldly motives, aims and standards? A genuine, radiant Christian life is sure to make the many people who find no satisfaction in their own lives think and perhaps ask questions [The Mystery of Christ, 132-133].

The unbelieving friend might not walk up and say, "How about telling me what I must know to be a Christian?" Instead, he may comment on some issue in your life or actions, or devotion; offering a puzzled look or thought as to why you are the way you are. Or he may ask for your advice to a problem situation in his family or work. Or he may question you about what you believe. Any of these are certain opportunities for pointing to Jesus Christ. The Christian must be ready to respond.

How do you best prepare for such occasions? Study the Scripture, fill your mind with the truth of the gospel; see it from every angle and every hue. Systematically going through books of the Bible can help to solidify your grasp of the Word so that in the time of "opportunity" you will know precisely how to respond. You are not dependent upon a programmed approach.

If someone came to you and asked you how they may have eternal life, would you be able to share the gospel with them? What is the Gospel? There is much confusion about this. We must make sure that our answer is biblical. Let me share with you briefly the Gospel. 1. All men are sinners (Romans 3:10). 2. The wages (payment) for our sin is death (separation from the Father), eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). 3. Christ died for our sins, his death was substitutional (Romans 5:8). 4. You must personally trust what Christ did for a payment for your sins. You must trust His work alone to get you to heaven (John 3:16).

The gospel is not: "Ask Jesus into your heart." Nowhere in Scripture is anyone told to "ask Jesus into their hearts." Nor does it say that Jesus comes into our hearts. What we are told is to "believe" in Christ with our hearts - to the Hebrew mind, the heart refers to the thinking process.

Nor are you saved by praying the "sinner's prayer." We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. In order to believe in Him, you must know who he is and what he has done. Before you can believe, you must have knowledge. You can't believe what you don't know. We cannot explain the gospel clearly if it is muddy in our mind

Believers, we must remember that Christianity is a converting religion. It is evangelistic; it is persuasive and expansive and missionary. It is not coercive. It does not use the sword, manipulation, or brainwashing. But it does proclaim, persuade, and plead, and pray. We need to be reminded of this, because it is almost incredible how listless we can become. Little by little our whole orientation can become inward.

Are you asking the Lord to open doors? heart doors? Are you asking him for courage and clarity? Are you letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly? meditating on it? feeding your soul, until you are filled with the wisdom of Jesus? You should start to think the way He thinks; catch on to how He would respond in a situation, because you have pondered His reactions so often and so richly. You will then find words for outsiders, because you have listened to Jesus' words so much.

Paul wanted people to pray that he would speak as he ought to speak, as God wanted him to speak. That should be our prayer. We should begin our day with the prayer, "Lord, open doors for me to share the gospel. Bring people who need you across my path. Give me courage, help me not to be a coward. Help me to make it clear. Put a divine imperative upon me."

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