“If you’re able, please stand...” Reading Colossians 4:2–6 “....Thanks be to God.”
As an 18-year old, I was really, really into guitar. I had declared music as my major, and guitar was my instrument.
What happened on that phone call? Christopher Parkening did what our passage is talking about. He seasoned his conversation with salt. He answered a particular person in a particular way.
Now, our answer to a person won’t involve cassette tapes or phones attached to cords. This morning we want to think about what’s involved in “answering each person” God brings into our lives.
We’re in Colossians 4:2–6. Four weeks on this passage. From a letter written by Paul to a church in the city of Colossae. A church planted by a man converted by Paul’s ministry. A man named Epaphras. Paul writes this letter years later from a Roman prison where he spent 2 years under house arrest. It’s the 2 years described in Acts 28.
In the first two sermons we hit the topic of prayer a lot. For these last two sermons we’ll shift toward the emphasis here on communicating the gospel.
Sermon: This morning we’re going to think about ANSWERING EACH PERSON.
We’ll start with a look at verse 6 in this passage. In Colossians 4:2–6 Paul opens with an emphasis on prayer (Col 4:2–4). But then he makes a turn in 4:5–6 and focuses on how we “walk” and how we speak. We are to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.” We are to speak “with grace.”
“Walk” means how we live, our lifestyle. He’s saying, let there be an overall “wisdom” in what we’re doing especially when it relates to those “outside” the church. He’s assuming we will obey God’s commands. But in all those big and small parts of life where God’s Word doesn’t speak to it with a command, we need “wisdom.”
And then he emphasizes our speech. In verse 6, “Let your speech always be gracious.” That sounds like we should be polite, which is true. But “with grace” seems the better way to translate the idea. Speak in such a way that “grace” is given to people. Let your words be a “means of grace” for others.”
Our words are to be “seasoned with salt,” flavored with the reality and truths of the gospel. That’s where the “grace” will come from, the saltiness of the gospel.
But I want to focus on where he ends the sentence: “so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Part of our “wisdom toward outsiders” is in knowing “how you ought to answer each person.”
This implies that how we answer one person might not be how we answer another person. One person needs a thoughtful explanation. Another person just needs us to listen. One person is rejecting Christ stubbornly. Another person is drawn to Christ but still has questions.
The idea of “each person” reminds us that God saves us as individuals. We come to Christ with individual problems and individual barriers to the gospel. What you needed to hear when you were saved is different from what others needed to hear.
James Anderson speaks to this idea in an article called, “Can We Prove the Existence of God?” Listen as he captures this idea of “answering each person”:
Here is my modest proposal: We should think of proofs in terms of proofs for a particular person. In much the same way that mathematical proofs are system-dependent, so proofs of the existence of God need to be seen as person-dependent.
The question “Can we prove the existence of God?” then becomes “Can we prove the existence of God to so-and-so?” My suggestion is that if we can show, without begging the question, that the existence of God logically follows from propositions that a person already accepts, or is willing on reflection to accept, then we have indeed proven the existence of God to that person.
If they fail to see that the existence of God follows from what they already believe or take for granted, or if they prefer to abandon other beliefs rather than to affirm the existence of God, the problem doesn’t lie in the proof.
James Anderson, “Can We Prove the Existence of God?”
I highly recommend the work of James Anderson on our topic, especially his Why Should I Believe Christianity? He did a seminar here with Nathan Sasser in 2019.
As we “answer each one,” one of the ways we can answer is with our story of coming to Christ. This can be a way to say a lot of things in a non-threatening, disarming way.
If I’m telling someone they’re wrong about something, they’re likely to get offended or defensive. But if I tell them what happened to me, I can say a lot of true and hard things in a way they’ll listen to.
Kind of the Mary Poppins approach, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
You can see this in Paul’s own life. If you study his personal testimonies in Acts, you learn a lot.
He shares his story at least four times. He shares it very differently each time depending on who he’s talking to and where he is:
Note that Paul reviews his own life as a Jew, his conversion to Christianity, which he calls “the Way,” but then there’s also an emphasis on the resurrection of Christ. Still, there’s the continued drumbeat that this hope of the resurrection is found in the Old Testament. It’s not new. And it’s “the promise made by God to our fathers” that he proclaims and holds to (26:6).
Note there’s an awareness of Paul seeking to “answer each person” (Col 4:6). There are themes. But there’s also a clear impression that he caters his message to the person he’s talking to.
Sharing your testimony:
One of the really powerful things about Christianity is its comprehensive ability to explain. It has great explanatory power. It is a complete worldview.
Sometimes the answer we need to give is the big-picture answer. The idea that Christianity is the Explanation for all that is.
We get a sense of Christianity as a worldview in Paul’s sermon in Athens in Acts 17. I’ll read an excerpt:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place....
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24–26, 30-31)
Do you see that? Paul is summarizing the truth of the Bible and presenting it as a worldview—a summary view of the Bible that explains...everything.
Christianity doesn’t just explain a few things (e.g., success in the workplace, happy marriages) or address a few problems (e.g., anxiety). It speaks to all things.
One thing Christianity explains is EVIL. Sometimes the reality of evil is presented as a reason to reject God. The logic usually goes, “If God were all-powerful and all-good, evil wouldn’t exist. Evil does exist, so God must not be all-powerful or he is not all-good.”
I think the biblical answer to that line of thinking is to say, God is all-powerful and all-good, but also that God is after something greater than everyone having comfortable lives. He’s after his own glory. And because he is the God of all glory, it’s appropriate for him to do all things for his own glory. It’s not appropriate for any other being to do that.
Now this answer isn’t going to satisfy many people.
But the explanatory power of Christianity goes further with the question of evil.
The fact is, the reality of evil is actually an argument FOR the existence of God, not an argument AGAINST it.
The Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga speaks of this. See his “Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments.”
His logic goes like this. Everyone acknowledges the reality of evil—evil as something objectively terrible. What he calls “genuine and horrifying evil.” Or “objective horrifyingness.” And there is something in us that revolts against it. We are repulsed by certain acts of this “genuine and horrifying evil.”
But if there is no God and matter is all we are and all that is, this kind of strong moral sense and strong revulsion has no real explanation. If we’re just evolved goo, this kind of strong moral reflex makes no sense.
If there is no God, evil behaviors—really evil behaviors—are just natural animal impulses and shouldn’t trouble us. But these acts do trouble us.
Our sense of “objective horrifyingness” doesn’t show us there is no God. It shows us there is a God and he has made us in his image.
But then you can go to the other end of the spectrum of experience. The love of a mother for a child. The beauty of a sunset exploding with color over the mountains or the ocean. A perfect piece of music. A painting the captures not just the physical features of a person but somehow the meaning of the person or flower. A perfecty cooked steak.
When these things happen, we feel a deep gratitude, we want to worship the Source and Creator of them. We’re not connected to a beautiful sunset in some animalistic, unaffected way. We’re compelled by it. We’re provoked to worship and give thanks.
Christianity has a comprehensive worldview. It can explain this creation and our place in it. It presents our Creator not as some tyrannical slavemaster, but as a Giver of Gifts (James 1:17). Creation was meant to be a blessing to us, not simply a place to live.
We’ll say more about the idea of “Intelligent Design” in a few weeks when we start our Genesis series.
Now we want to look at the historical evidence for the resurrection. This is because sometimes when we want to “answer each one” it’s clear that the person we’re talking to is blowing off Christianity as a myth.
Now Tolkien famously persuaded C.S Lewis that Christianity is the “myth-that’s-truth.” But even there Christianity is not just a myth.
Someone rejecting Christianity as just a myth can give the impression that believing in Christianity is like believing in fairies. Or believing that some medieval legend actually happened. The look on the person’s face gives the impression of, “I used to believe that, but then I grew up.”
But this misses something essential and powerful about Christianity. It is rooted in history and a very public and accessible history.
It is not built on the private dreams or visions that a particular prophet or man had on a mountain somewhere and then wrote down for his followers. It’s a history that involves Roman Emperors and local governors and specific villages and cities you can still find on Google Maps and written documents and verifiable facts and leaders whose names are in history books—even in secular history books.
Some have thought it was a hoax. Chuck Colson’s, “An Unholy Hoax?”, from Breakpoint March 29, 2002, gives a memorable response. See it at https://breakpoint.org/an-unholy-hoax/.
Michael Kruger, president of RTS Charlotte:
And that brings us to another fact that I think is harder to challenge. It is an often overlooked fact that provides the necessary context for the discussion. That fact is simply this: the earliest Christians came to believe, against all odds and against all expectations, that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead.
Dr. Michael J. Kruger
6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)
I close with this one kind of as a catch-all. One way you can “answer each one” in the very personal questions and concerns they have is through the Bible.
Kind of an indirect approach. Ask them to study the gospel of Mark or John with you. Read a chapter together and see where the conversation goes. Focus on what it reveals about Jesus.
Two reasons for this. One is that it lets the person’s questions come out in a gradual and relational way.
But a second is because it gets people into the Bible. And the Bible has power!
One of my favorite Martin Luther quotes speaks to its power:
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.
Martin Luther, Eight Sermons at Wittenberg
May God help us “answer each one” in a way that is loving and sensitive—but truthful and accurate.
Evangelizing your children and sending them out as missionaries.
 Found in various places, but this version is taken from the book Alvin Plantinga, ed. Deane-Peter Baker, from the series Contemporary Philosophy in Locus (Cambridge, 2007), 203–227.
 Accessed at https://michaeljkruger.com/one-of-the-most-overlooked-arguments-for-the-resurrection/. See also John Stott’s Basic Christianity, chapter 4, “The Resurrection of Christ” (57–72). Very powerful.
 Martin Luther, Eight Sermons at Wittenberg in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writigs, ed. Timothy Lull, 421.
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
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