Colossians 4:2-6 (ESV)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time [literally: buying up the time]. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Paul encourages us to think carefully about our interactions with “outsiders,” those who don’t know Jesus. He says, “Make the best use of the time.” According to scholars, this literally means we should “buy up the time” to have an opportunity to declare the mystery of Christ. [1]

Carson encourages us to look at another occasion in the Old Testament where a mystery occurred. In Daniel 2, the king of Babylon had a dream that was a mystery. Because the sorcerers and soothsayers in the king’s employ couldn’t confirm what the king had dreamt and interpret it immediately, he threatened to viciously “tear them limb from limb.”

The terrified soothsayers begged the king to tell them what he had dreamt. I am sure they hoped that if they heard the dream, perhaps they could craft a satisfactory explanation! Yet the king knew they were fakes and frauds; if they had genuine supernatural insight, they should be able to tell him what he had dreamt in the past.

The lives of the soothsayers were in peril. The mystery was unknown. The risk of failing to reveal this mystery and interpret it was death, and they had precious few hours of life remaining. When the soothsayers asked the king again to explain the dream, he used a curious expression:

“They answered a second time and said, ‘Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.’ The king answered and said, ‘I know with certainty that you are trying to gain [buy] time, because you see that the word from me is firm’.”  (Daniel 2:7-8)

By delaying a bit and asking more questions, the soothsayers were buying time to save their lives.

As all this was happening, Daniel was at home. His life was in danger too, but he didn’t yet have the chance to intervene. With God’s help, Daniel was given the opportunity to tell the king the content of the  dream, reveal the mystery, and save many lives including the lives of the soothsayers and their families.

Paul might have had this very story in mind when he taught the Colossians that we too hold a mystery. Daniel revealed the mystery of the dream; God revealed the mystery of sending His Son Jesus to live with us and teach us and to give His life for us.  In doing this, He paid the penalty for every wrong thing we’ve ever committed. Further, the great news of this mystery is that God did this in love so the whole world could see how glorious He is and so we could be with Him forever!

Explaining the mystery of God’s plan saves eternal lives too. When we reveal the mystery of Christ, God opens blind eyes as listeners understand, believe, and receive the promise of life forever with God. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25).

But will you get the opportunity to explain it? When will you have time and opportunities? Paul encourages us to buy up the time, working for more time and more opportunities to share the mystery and rescue lives.

What might this look like? Perhaps you can buy time with:

  • Genuine care for neighbors and coworkers around you who don’t yet know Jesus: Perhaps this will open opportunities to show real concern, meet real needs, or have meaningful conversations about Jesus. For example, one of our leaders lent a car to a person he had just met, and the interaction led to many more conversations!
  • More kindness in our online conversations: This gives us more opportunities to share. For example, another leader apologized and clarified in an online chat, leading to phone calls and an opportunity to lead another lady to Christ.
  • Careful use of time at group events our children attend: Leave your devices in the car at soccer or scouts, etc so you can converse with others.
  • Lunch with people outside your typical circle of friends:  This allows you to meet a new friend in a professional setting and explore restaurants you both enjoy together.
  • Serving on community volunteer boards: Serving in this way enables you to have conversations and work shoulder-to-shoulder with people you don’t know.

Lives were at stake for Daniel. They’re at stake for you and me as well. As God opens the doors, beg Him to allow you to buy up the time to have an opportunity to invest in the eternal lives of those you know.


[1] Beale, G.K., Carson, D.A.: Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic; Apollos, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nottingham, England, 2007; Colossians 4:5