By Thomas C. Mickey
We are living in an age when, it seems, that but few even of the members of the Lord’s church are cognizant of the importance of our “redeeming the time.” I would to God that something could be said or done that would cause Christians to awake to this need. The burden of current problems within the church has heaped discouragement upon the work in many places, thus contributing to indifference. The problems which we are facing serve to emphasize the need for more (as well as more effective) teaching both within and without the church. Let preachers accept this challenge to de-emphasize eloquence and re-emphasize the message. If because of extra-curricular interests less study is to be done in the home, then we must combat this by doing more teaching from the pulpits.
I call your attention in this study to Paul’s words to the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Col. 4:5.) Exposition of this passage depends primarily upon consideration of four key words; “wisdom,” “without,” “redeeming,” and “time.”
The word “wisdom” is from sophia (Gr.) and means “wisdom, skill” according to Robert Young. Thayer defines the word as “wisdom, broad and full intelligence.” (page 581, Lexicon.) The term is the same one which is so widely used in I Corinthians 1 and 2. Thayer’s comment on the usage of the word in Col. 4:5 is “a devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ.” (ibid, 581.)
Our text, then, teaches that we ought to conduct ourselves wisely toward those who are not Christians. The wisdom that we are to possess is a wisdom that comes from God. James taught that those who lacked wisdom should pray for it. (James 1:5.) He further taught that the wisdom which is from God will manifest itself in an individual through his good behavior (James 3:13) and that a wise man will be pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17.)
We learn that the apostles preached wisdom among those who were perfect. (I Cor. 2:6.) Thus, we are constrained to believe that wisdom may be obtained through study of the word of God. Further, “walking in wisdom” involves the exercise of discretion in addition to humble obedience.
“Without” is from “exo” (Gr.), which literally means “without; outside.” “Without” signifies those who are without the body of Christ, i.e. those who are not Christians. In Colossians 1:13 Paul speaks of being translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Those without are they who have never been translated into this kingdom and they are the ones with whom the apostle is concerned in Col. 4:5.
“Walking in wisdom toward them that are without” involves teaching them the truth. It involves the fulfillment of our Lord’s command in the great commission. “Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Many will be disappointed to learn that this precept was not spoken for the benefit of preachers alone. This fact is more clearly seen from Matthew’s account of the commission. In Matt. 28:19 the order is (1) teach, (2) baptize, (3) teach to observe. Note the following syllogism:(1) All baptized believers were to be taught to observe “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19.)
(2) The disciples were commanded to teach. (Mt. 28:19 – Mk. 16:15.)
(3) Therefore, baptized believers are commanded to teach!
While members of the church emphasize the Lord’s Supper and baptism, they are prone to neglect the duties of personal evangelism. It has been said that there are only about twenty-two verses dealing with the responsibility to eat the Lord’s Supper, and only about one hundred and twenty dealing with baptism, but there are over one thousand verses which show the Christians’ responsibilities in teaching the gospel. As we note the word redeeming,” we find it to be composed of two words; “ex” and “agorazo,” thus, “ex-agorazo.” Young defines the term as, “to acquire out of the forum.” Thayer defines it as “to redeem; to buy up.” He says the meaning in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 seems to be “to make a wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.” (Lexicon, p. 220.)
Christians should regard as holy every opportunity to accomplish good. The textual application, of course, deals with opportunities to teach those who are without the body of Christ.
Once Jesus told some men to learn the meaning of an expression: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13 et al.) Among other things, it appears to me that this expression reveals that God is not pleased with legalism alone, but that one’s heart and attitudes must also be pleasing. God requires men to love the souls of the lost. If we love the souls of the lost we will work to teach them the truth. Being letter-perfect will not save us unless our hearts are also right. We must be merciful toward the unbelievers and teach them God’s will. To lift an expression from its context, James said, “He shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy.”
The last key word in the passage is “time” from “kairos” (Gr.) and meaning “A fixed time or season” (Young’s Ana Con.). Time always signifies limitations. Time is a difference between mortality and immortality.
In II Corinthians 6:2 we read … “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” These words are often cited in pleading with aliens to obey the gospel. But, brethren, if now is the accepted time to obey the gospel, then now is also the accepted time to be teaching the gospel. If we have no guarantee of tomorrow, how hard we must work, for the task is not done; we cannot say, “It is finished.” “…I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” (John 4:35-36.)
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:15-17.)
Truth Magazine VI: 12, pp. 10-13