top of page
  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Buy Up for King Jesus


"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

Last time we saw Paul asking the Colossians to pray for him and his associates on the front line of gospel proclamation. Paul was constantly pushing on the doors of new frontiers, but he knew that unless God opened the doors, and unless God drove the message effectively through them, and unless he be given clarity to speak the message, then the effectiveness of his efforts would be futile. According to Paul, it’s God who makes the difference. People are the means God uses, but it’s God who works the miracle of salvation, through regeneration by his Holy Spirit.

But now in verse 5 Paul’s gaze shifts, away from himself and his associates on the frontiers, to the little church of Colossae themselves. And it shifts from prayer to action.

But, whilst his gaze has redirected itself to them and to action, his focuson the gospel hasn’t changed.

He’s out there in Rome with a gospel focus, and the Colossians are in Colossae, also with a gospel focus – that’s what Paul expects their focus to be, the gospel.

He takes it for granted, in these verses, that the Colossians have a sense of purpose - a Godly goal. And that’s because, in his letter he’s already clearly reminded them of their sense of purpose.

It seems to me that many Christians get saved but have no new sense of purpose. They have a new master, but no new mission. They no longer serve sin and Satan, but their purpose in life is no different than it was before they came to follow Jesus.

Think of the disciples for a minute. Jesus comes along and calls an Andrew or a Peter, and wonder of wonders, they respond - their hearts are drawn to Jesus. Now, what will their focus be?

Will their goal continue to be: grow the fishing business? No, their aims changed, they dropped their nets, we’re told, and followed Jesus on his mission.

Or take a Paul, who said, ‘we make it our goal to please Christ’.

Paul knows that the Colossians have a Godly sense of purpose when he writes verse 5. Do we have one? I mean, have you ever wondered whyGod saved you and didn’t take you to be with him straight away. Saved unto eternal life and translated into it right away – why didn’t he do that?

One reason is that he is going to accomplish his plan to bring all his chosen people to faith in Christ through the faithful, purpose-driven lives of his people who are here below.

Their lives are hidden with Christ on high and that frees them to devote their lives below to the reaching of all peoples – both near and far.

Some are like Paul - frontier types. And some are like the Colossians – local types. But both have this in common – a sense of God-purpose. Let’s see how Paul describes it as he sees it in the Colossian’s lives - and we want to be asking ourselves ‘have we got it?’.

Flip over to chapter 1. Verse 9: ‘For this reason since the day we heard about you we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work’.

Verses 9-10, then, seem to be a prayer that the Colossians may aboundin what they are already showing signs of doing. In verse 4 Paul says that they give thanks for the love the Colossians have for all God’s people. And verse 5, their ‘faith and love spring from hope stored up for them in heaven and which they heard of through the gospel’. And verse 6, ‘that gospel has been growing throughout the whole world and amongst them in Colossae too’.

Why does Paul want God to ‘fill’ them with the knowledge of his will? It is so that they would have a clear sense of what they have been left here to do – namely, this main thing: live the gospel.

And notice there is a power behind it. It’s not merely a case of, summon all your will and grit your teeth and live the gospel. No, Paul says, their faith and love were springing from their hope. Hope is the power. The hope of heaven specifically – that is the power of hope in their lives.

A sense of purpose coupled with a sense of hope can be a very powerful combination in any walk of life. But know this, the gospel is no ordinarypurpose and the hope of heaven is no ordinary hope. So how much more powerful are these drivers then in the life of a believer?

With the gospel in-hand, you are the very ambassadors of King Jesus. And he is advancing his kingdom through the earth. That kingdom willhave its day when it will triumph over the whole world, and you are its spokespeople right here and now.

And with heaven as your hope, you are looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). You are looking forward to a heavenly country where your reward will shine like the sun (Matt 13:43). These are second-to-none powerful drivers. They transcend this world and this mortal coil, and they have everlastingpromise.

These, then, are the bookends of this message, purpose is the leading bookend and hope is the following bookend. And we need to see what’s on the shelf in between.

Now to the text itself then. I think that verses 5 & 6 have a structureabout them that, if we spot it, will help us get the thrust of Paul’s message here more clearly.

I think each verse has a part A and a part B. I think that the part A’s correspond to each other, and I think the part B’s correspond to each other.

I think the part A’s are telling us, at a principled level, how to live, as missional people, in a local setting amongst lost people who need the gospel.

And, I think the part B’s are telling us, at a principled level, how to reactas missional people when the kind of living spelt out in part A result in peaked interest amongst the unbelievers we interact with.

In short, this is practical stuff for the purpose-driven believer. If you want to be an effective ambassador for King Jesus, and you should, then you pay attention to verses like these.

Let’s look at the part A’s first – these are the parts that tell us how to live out our lives in a way that commends the gospel to the lost.

They’re not about telling the gospel necessarily, they’re talking about living life – doing work, bringing up kids, going food shopping, fixing the roof, etc.

So, I’m just going to state them back to back and then we’ll unpack them a bit in a minute. Here’s how they read together: ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders – that is unbelievers - let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt’.

And now the part B’s. They go like this: ‘Make the most of every opportunity knowing how to answer everyone’.

And I’m asserting that to a certain degree, part B comes up out of part A.

We’ll come back to part B, but let’s focus on part A first. ‘Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt’.

Paul says that good ambassadors for Jesus who want to be effective in their purpose, are those who can exercise wisdom in their interactions with unbelievers. They can act and speak in such a way that the gracecontained in the gospel is evident for unbelievers to see and to taste.

So, I want to say a word about the 3 main things: about wisdom, grace and salt from these part A’s.

Wisdom first – what does that mean in this gospel-living context? Well, it means a balanced approach that is careful not to place an obstacle in the way of the gospel by the nature of one’s behaviour or speech.

It means you don’t resort to extremes in the way you behave that would fail to commend Jesus to people.

This kind of wisdom would be both bold and cautious at the same time - knowing just the right way to speak or act for the given occasion. It’s the kind of approach that is so wise it can bring the aroma of Christ into each and every situation without directly speaking a word to those who are watching. The commentator William Hendriksen says, it even knows how spread the aroma of Jesus in discussing the weather!

But it’s not just in all circumstances, but with all kinds of people too. The wisdom Paul has in mind is the kind that takes care to understand its audience. Jesus followers should be the best at being ‘all things to all men’ as Paul says elsewhere.

Grace – The gospel is by definition grace. It is good news from God to mankind which, they don’t deserve. It proclaims the death of Jesus on behalf of sinners which, they don’t deserve. It speaks of reconciliation with God which, we don’t deserve. It tells of redemption from sin and hell which, we don’t deserve.

So, to live a life that commends the gospel, means to live a life that is constantly gracious.

If we are wronged we deal graciously with our enemy. If we are overlooked at work for a promotion we speak graciously of our employers. If we are queue jumped in Tesco’s we joyfully accept being marginalised. If our neighbor complains about the noise the kids were making at 2am because they were sick with a stomach bug we don’t get uppity about it. Grace oozes from our pores because we know what grace looks like – oh yes, we know what it looks like!

There is no grace like the grace of the cross. And it is ours to show.

Salt – Salt has several effects. It has a preserving function, but it also has a taste-enhancing function and it has a side-effect which is to make the eater thirsty. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘you are the salt of the world’.

And, I’m convinced Paul is picking up on Jesus’ word to his disciples here: ‘Disciples, Colossians, Christians, you must be salty to the world around you’.

When you behave with grace - the likes of which we were just talking about - it looks so different to the world that it creates taste, and in some people it creates thirst for God. And in some who believe, it creates preservation of souls unto eternal life.

In Paul’s letter to Titus he tells him to ‘teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’.

That’s not a normal way for slaves to behave, but it’s the way a Christian slave acts like salt and creates taste for Jesus and produces thirst for God and maybe even brings about the preservation of their master’s soul!

So, this is part A – how to live a life that has the aroma of Christ about it. So that believing wives might win their unbelieving husbands without even speaking a word (1 Peter 3:1); so that there might be a soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed that they have nothing bad to say about you (Titus 2:8); and so that we’re not like those who claim to know God, but by their actions deny him (Titus 1:16).

Now, I think, out of this kind of living, Paul is saying that people get inquisitive and opportunities arise for you to explain directly what the gospel that you are living, is.

Here are the part B’s again: ‘Make the most of every opportunity knowing how to answer everyone’.

The temptation here would be to say, ‘okay Paul is telling us our gospel-lives will throw up opportunities and so we never need to be on the front-foot with explaining the gospel to people, we just have to wait for those opportunities to naturally arise. I don’t think that’s right.

I think he is saying they will come up by virtue of gospel-lives. People do enquire when they see the difference between their own attitudes and yours and wonder what makes us so different.

But the meaning of the Greek word we have translated here as ‘make the most of’ means more than wait passively. A lot more.

Literally it means, ‘buy up’. Buy up every opportunity. And really ‘opportunity’ is better rendered ‘occasion’. So, put them together and we have an exhortation to buy up every occasion that presents itself to explain the gospel. That certainly means more than just those moments when a person says, ‘can I ask you what you exactly believe’.

It means, more like, the times when someone directly says or does something that presents you with a special moment to say something about the gospel. Paul is saying ‘buy those up – don’t let them pass you by’.

Like this week, for example, when someone said to me, ‘if there is a God how could he let that happen to your brother and those kids’. That’s a special moment.

It’s a venture by that person into the domain of the gospel. It’s a special moment to be bought up. It’s not a direct enquiry about the gospel, but it’s not talking about the weather either. It’s a special moment to be purchased and not passed up.

Now, when you buy something, you both lose something and gain something. You part ways with your money and benefit by gaining a commodity – bread, or clothing, or a football ticket, or whatever.

It’s the same here. When you are presented with that ‘buy-it-up’ moment, a very strange thing happens. Your brain works perhaps fasterthan at any other time, because you are calculating the cost.

Is it worth buying up this moment?

Now, this is not a good calculation to make, but it is one that most of us are familiar with. It’s not good for two reasons. First, the gospel is what this person needs more than anything else in the world. They don’t know it, but it’s true. And second, because the gospel glorifies and honours Jesus, and that’s who you serve as ambassador.

So, there are two really good reasons not to count the cost, but to simply buy – buy up this moment. But the reality is counting the cost oftenhappens.

The cost we instinctively understand to be this: our own reputation. People think that people who believe in Jesus are crazy, or stupid – so if you share the gospel here, they’ll think that of you too. No one wants to be thought of in that way. So, we count the cost.

But, don’t forget, there’s a receivership at the other end of this transaction and that’s what we need to keep in view. Like any normal transaction, it is this that causes us to pay the cost.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3 that at the last day, fire will test the quality of each person’s work and whatever is precious metal and precious stone will survive and will result in reward for the worker.

So, you buy up the moment and you receive a reward for that when you come into Christ’s kingdom.

There’s only one way to get good at buying up the moment and that is to think a lot about heaven and simultaneously develop a healthy skepticism about the value of your reputation in this world.

When you are persuaded to part with your money for a commodity it is because you have thought a lot about the value of what you are going to receive.

If you meditate on your reward with Jesus and not your reputationbefore people, you will be much better equipped to buy-up the moment.

Clearly, I am not well equipped, and have not been meditating on that beautiful truth because I blew my ‘buy-it-up’ moment this week. In trying to protect my reputation I ended up talking in general terms about a general faith in a general God with no specifics about the gospel and with no ground for a follow up.

Oh, how I wish I had said, ‘I would love to talk with you further about God and how he relates to all this as I see it from the perspective of being a born-again Christian.

Would you like to talk about that some time with me?’

How hard would that have been? Not very. And it’s particularlydistressing because of what Paul says at the end of verse 6: ‘know how to answer everyone’.

It’s a very similar word to Peter’s word in his first letter, chapter 3: ‘Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’.

I wasn’t ready, but Paul and Peter think I should have been. That answer needs to be a gentle and a wise one. One that doesn’t shut doors but opens them. One that doesn’t force the gospel down someone’s throat but fosters further opportunity for explaining the reason for the hope that lives within you.

And it’s not the ability to be able to win an argument or defend a doctrine, it’s the reason for your confidence in Jesus. It takes Christian courage first and foremost, not apologetic prowess.

And that hope is the hope that makes you salty; it’s the hope that makes you gracious; and it’s the hope that frees you to buy-up the moment. It is the hope stored up for you in heaven according to chapter 1.

So, lets sum up. We are ambassadors for Jesus with a holy sense of purpose and a holy sense of hope.

That very hope of heaven frees us to live our lives in a gospel way – wisely before unbelievers – full of grace and in a way that creates taste for the gospel, thirst for Jesus and potentially preservation of the souls of unbelievers.

That kind of living may directly produce opportunities which we need to be ready to buy up. But even if it doesn’t, those special momentswill present themselves by God’s all-wise purposes, and we must beready to buy them up.

And when we do, we will be ready to give an answer to the question: ‘why are you so confident in Jesus?’


bottom of page