Colossians 4:6
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Seasoned with salt.—It seems impossible not to trace here a reference to our Lord’s words in Mark 9:50, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves.” There the salt is spoken of as the preservative from corruption, and the warning against “corrupt” words in Ephesians 4:29 has been thought to point in the same direction. But the context appears certainly to suggest that the use of the salt is to teach “how to answer every man,” and that this answer (like the “reason,” or defence, of 1Peter 3:15) is to be given to “those without.” Probably, therefore, the “seasoning with salt” is to provide against insipidity (thus according to some extent with the classic usage of the word). Their speech is to be primarily “with grace,” kindled by the true life of Christian grace in it; secondarily, however, it is to have good sense and point, so as to be effective for the inquirer or against the scoffer.

4:2-6 No duties can be done aright, unless we persevere in fervent prayer, and watch therein with thanksgiving. The people are to pray particularly for their ministers. Believers are exhorted to right conduct towards unbelievers. Be careful in all converse with them, to do them good, and recommend religion by all fit means. Diligence in redeeming time, commends religion to the good opinion of others. Even what is only carelessness may cause a lasting prejudice against the truth. Let all discourse be discreet and seasonable, as becomes Christians. Though it be not always of grace, it must always be with grace. Though our discourse be of that which is common, yet it must be in a Christian manner. Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting. It is not enough to answer what is asked, unless we answer aright also.Let your speech - Your conversation. In the previous verse the apostle had given a general direction that our conduct toward those who are not professing Christians should be wise and prudent; he here gives a particular direction in regard to our conversation.

Be alway with grace - Imbued with the spirit of religion. It should be such as religion is fitted to produce; such as to show that the grace of God is in our hearts. Bloomfield supposes that this means "courteous and agreeable, not morose and melancholy." But though this may be included, and though the rule here laid down would lead to that, it cannot be all that is intended. It rather means that our conversation should be such as to show that we are governed by the principles of religion, and that there is unfeigned piety in the heart. This will indeed make us mild, courteous, agreeable, and urbane in our conversation; but it will do more than this. It will imbue our discourse with the spirit of religion, so as to show that the soul is under the influence of love to the Redeemer.

Seasoned with salt - Salt, among the Greeks, was the emblem of wit. Here the meaning seems to be, that our conversation should be seasoned with piety or grace in a way similar to that in which we employ salt in our food. It makes it wholesome and palatable. So with our conversation. If it be not imbued with the spirit of piety, it is flat, insipid, unprofitable, injurious. The spirit of piety will make it what it should be - useful, agreeable, beneficial to mankind. This does not mean that our conversation is to be always, strictly speaking, religious - wherever we may be - any more than our food should be mere salt; but it means that, whatever be the topic, the spirit of piety should be diffused through it - as the salt in our food should properly season it all - whatever the article of food may be.

That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man - Be imbued with the spirit of piety, that you may not utter any thing that would be rash and foolish, but be prepared to answer anyone who may question you about your religion in a way that will show that you understand its nature, and that will tend to edification. This remark may be extended further. It may be understood as meaning also, "be imbued with the spirit of religion, and you will be able to answer any man appropriately on any subject. If he asks you about the evidence or the nature of religion, you will be able to reply to him. If he converses with you on the common topics of the day, you will be able to answer him in a mild, kind, affable spirit. If he asks you of things of which you are ignorant; if he introduces some topic of science with which you are not acquainted, you will not be ashamed to confess your ignorance, and to seek instruction. If he addresses you in a haughty, insolent, and overbearing manner, you will be able to repress the risings of your temper, and to answer him with gentleness and kindness; compare Luke 2:46.

6. with grace—Greek, "IN grace" as its element (Col 3:16; Eph 4:29). Contrast the case of those "of the world" who "therefore speak of the world" (1Jo 4:5). Even the smallest leaf of the believer should be full of the sap of the Holy Spirit (Jer 17:7, 8). His conversation should be cheerful without levity, serious without gloom. Compare Lu 4:22; Joh 7:46, as to Jesus' speech.

seasoned with salt—that is, the savor of fresh and lively spiritual wisdom and earnestness, excluding all "corrupt communication," and also tasteless insipidity (Mt 5:13; Mr 9:50; Eph 4:29). Compare all the sacrifices seasoned with salt (Le 2:13). Not far from Colosse, in Phrygia, there was a salt lake, which gives to the image here the more appropriateness.

how ye ought to answer every man—(1Pe 3:15).

Let your speech be alway with grace: because discourse is the tenderest part of our converse with men, especially those without, and ought to be managed with the greatest circumspection, upon occasions in every fit season, in imitation of Christ, who entertained those that did converse with him with gracious words, Luke 4:22, you should endeavour so to speak when called, that the hearers may conceive your discourse doth proceed from a gracious spirit, or grace in the heart, Colossians 3:16, teaching your mouth, Proverbs 15:23,24, with meekness of wisdom, Jam 3:13, using knowledge aright, Proverbs 15:2, being in its tendency gracious, Ecclesiastes 10:12; not ungrateful, (as tinctured with gall or venom), but ministering grace to the hearers, Ephesians 4:29.

Seasoned with salt; even as meat duly powdered with salt {Matthew 5:13} becomes acceptable to the discerning palate, so to the ear that trieth speech, fitly spoken words {Proverbs 25:11} are of a grateful savour, cleansed from corruption, Job 33:3 Mark 9:50.

That ye may know how ye ought to answer every man; to this purpose chiefly in the main points of Christianity, that in a gospel becoming manner, you may be able to give a reason of the hope that is in you (to those that ask you) with meekness and fear, Matthew 7:6 1 Peter 3:15, courteousness and sincerity, Ephesians 4:25, free from those evils of speech he had before enjoined them in this Epistle to put away, Colossians 3:8.

Let your speech be always with grace,.... "In grace, or concerning grace": let grace be the subject matter of your speech and conversation. When saints meet together they should converse with each other about the work of grace upon their souls, how it was begun, and how it has been carried on, and in what case it now is; they should talk of the great things and wonders of grace, which God has done for them, which would be both comfortable and edifying to them, and make for the glory of the grace of God; and also, they should confer together about the doctrines of grace, and so instruct, establish, and build up one another in them; and at least their conversation should always turn on things graceful and acceptable, such as may minister grace unto the hearer, and be useful and edifying; wherefore all obscene words, unchaste expressions, filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, ought not to be used. Or this may regard the manner of the speech, and language of the saints; it should be in the exercise of grace; it should be in truth, faithfulness, and sincerity, without lying, dissimulation, and flattery; it should be in consistence with the grace of love, therefore evil should not be spoken one of another; nor should there be whisperings, backbitings, or anything said that is injurious to the character, credit, and reputation of another; for this is contrary to love, and so not with grace: and whatever is said should be spoken in the fear of God; the reason why so many evil things proceed out of the mouths of men is, because the fear of God is not before their eyes. Moreover, the speech of the saints ought to be in a graceful way, with a cheerful and pleasant countenance, in an affable and courteous manner, and not after a morose, churlish, and ill natured fashion: and this should be "alway" the case; not that they should be always talking, for there is a time to keep silence, as well as a time to speak; but the sense is, that when they do speak, it should be both graceful things, and in a graceful manner; so that there is never any room and place for vain discourse, unprofitable talk, and idle words, which must all be accounted for in the day of judgment.

Seasoned with salt. The Syriac version adds, "as" and reads it, "as if it was seasoned with salt": grace being that to speech, as salt is to meat; as salt makes meat savoury and agreeable to the palate, so grace, prudence, and holiness, which may be meant by salt, see Mark 9:50, make discourse savoury, pleasant, and acceptable to a spiritual man, who savours the things that be of God, as all such things are that relate to the grace of God, the work or doctrines of it; and as salt preserves flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so when grace goes along with speech, it makes it pure and incorrupt, sound speech which cannot be condemned: and the apostle's view is, in this exhortation, that nothing unsavoury and corrupt proceed out of the mouths of believers; see Ephesians 4:29,

that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "and know ye how", &c. and make it to be a fresh exhortation to the saints to be concerned for such a share of spiritual knowledge, that they may be able to give a proper and pertinent answer, with meekness and fear, to such as shall ask a reason of the hope that is in them; and to make suitable returns to persons according to their age, sex, capacities, and circumstances; for everyone is not to be answered alike, nor the same man under different circumstances; a fool is sometimes to be answered according to his folly, and sometimes not; and this seems to be a better reading than ours, which makes this to be the end of gracious, savoury, and incorrupt speech; whereas knowledge is not acquired by speaking, but ought to go before it; though indeed a person that uses himself to speaking with prudence, purity, and grace, is at all times ready to give an agreeable answer, in a graceful and acceptable manner, to everyone.

{5} Let your speech be alway with {d} grace, seasoned with {e} salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

(5) Our speech and talk must be applied to the profit of the hearers.

(d) Fit for the profit of your neighbour.

(e) Against this is set filthy communication, as in Eph 4:29.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 4:6. ἐν χάριτι: probably “gracious,” “pleasant” is the meaning; by the sweetness and courtesy of their conversation they are to impress favourably the heathen. Some (most recently Haupt) think Divine grace is meant, but this does not suit ἅλατι so well.—ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος. In classical writers “salt” expressed the wit with which conversation was flavoured. Here wisdom is probably meant on account of εἰδέναι. There may be the secondary meaning of wholesome, derived from the function of salt to preserve from corruption.—εἰδέναι: “so as to know”.—πῶς κ.τ.λ.: they must strive to cultivate the gift of pleasant and wise conversation, so that they may be able to speak appropriately to each individual (with his peculiar needs) with whom they come in contact.

6. your speech] Talking, discourse. The precept here may well be applied to the Christian’s whole use of the tongue (see Ephesians 4:29). But the context gives it a special reference, surely, to his discourse about the Gospel with those “without.”

alway] Observe the characteristic absoluteness of the Christian precept.

with grace] Lit., in grace. See above, on Colossians 3:16. Lightfoot explains, “with acceptance, pleasingness”; and quotes from the Greek of Psalms 44 :(Heb. and Eng. 45)2; Sir 21:16. But would not this be a unique, and so unlikely, use of the word in St Paul?

seasoned with salt] which they were (Mark 9:50) to “have in themselves.” The reference of the metaphor is fixed by the practical parallel, Ephesians 4:29; “corrupt, decayed, discourse.” The “salt” is the power of Christ’s grace, banishing all impurity of motive, and all uncleanness of allusion, and at the same time giving the pleasant “savour” of sound and nourishing “food for thought.”—The classics, Latin and (less commonly) Greek, use the “salt” of speech as a metaphor; but almost always in the sense of wit, pleasantry, often of the very kind censured Ephesians 5:4. Seneca speaks of “poisoned salt,” venenati sales, meaning malicious jests.—“Seasoned &c.” here is constructed in the Greek with “speech.”

that you may know] As those will who, in the grace of God, remember this sound rule of discourse.

to answer every man] “who asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), in whatever spirit. The thought is, surely, not so much of cleverly adjusted repartee, as of the clear, kindly candour and good sense which would so state the truth of Christ, in the “answer,” as to meet any and every questioner with conciliation.

Colossians 4:6. Πάντοτε, always) Supply ἤτω, let it be.—ἐν χάριτι) joined with spiritual grace, Ephesians 4:29.—ἅλατι) with the salt of wisdom.[Lest there should be anything corrupt and tainted under it.—V. g.]—εἰδέναι) [by your knowing how]. The infinitive used as an ablative case.

Verse 6. - (Let) your speech (literally, word) (be) always with grace, seasoned with salt (Ephesians 4:29, 31; Ephesians 5:3, 4; Titus 2:8; Matthew 12:34-37; Luke 4:22; Psalm 45:2). "Word" (λόγος) has its common acceptation, as in Colossians 3:17; Colossians 2:23; Titus 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:17; James 3:2. "With grace" (ἐν χάριτι) gives the pervading element of Christian speech; as "in wisdom," of Christian behaviour (ver. 5). "Grace," here without the article, is not, as in Colossians 3:16, where the article should probably be read, "the (Divine) grace," but a property of speech itself, "gracefulness" the kindly, winning pleasantness which makes the talk of a good and thoughtful man attractive: comp. Psalm 45:2 (44:3, LXX); Ecclesiastes 10:12 (LXX); Sir. 21:16. "Salt" is the "wholesome point and pertinency" (Ellicott) seasoning conversation, while grace sweetens it. The clause which follows indicates that "salt" denotes here, as commonly in Greek (instance the phrase, "Attic salt"), an intellectual rather than a moral quality of speech. In Ephesians 4:29 the connection is different, and the application more general (comp. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:49, 50). That you may know how you ought to answer each one (ver. 4; 1 Peter 3:15; Philippians 1:27, 28; 2 Thessalonians 2:17). The Colossians were to pray for the apostle that he might "speak the mystery of Christ... as he ought to speak;" and he bids them seek for themselves the same gift of παρρησία, liberty of speech and readiness to "every good word." For their faith was assailed by persuasive sophistry (Colossians 2:4, 8, 23) and by brew-beating dogmatism (Colossians 2:16, 18, 20, 21). They were, like St. Paul, "set for the defence of the gospel," placed in the van of the conflict against heresy. They needed, therefore, "to have all their wits about them," so as to be able, as occasion required, to make answer to each of their opponents and questioners, that they might "contend" wisely as well as "earnestly for the faith." 1 Peter 3:15 is a commentary on this verse: the parallelism is the closer because that Epistle was addressed to Churches in Asia Minor, where the debates out of which Gnosticism arose were beginning to be rife; and because, likewise, "the hope that was in them" was a chief object of the attack made on the Colossian believers (Colossians 1:5, 23, 27; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 3:15). With this exhortation the Christian teaching of the Epistle is concluded. In its third and practical part (Colossians 3:1-4:6) the apostle has built up, on the foundation of the doctrine laid down in the first chapter, and in place of the attractive but false and pernicious system denounced in the second, a lofty and complete ideal of the Christian life. He has led us from the contemplation of its "life of life" in the innermost mystery of union with Christ and of its glorious destiny in him (Colossians 3:1-4), through the soul's interior death-struggle with its old corruptions (vers. 5-11) and its investment with the graces of its new life (vers. 12-15), to the expression and outward acting of that life in the mutual edification of the Church (vers. 16, 17), in the obedience and devotion of the family circle (ver. 18 - Colossians 4:1), in constant prayerfulness and sympathy with the ministers and suffering witnesses of Christ (vers. 2-4), and, lastly, in such converse with men of the world, and in the midst of the distracting debate by which faith is assailed, as shall fittingly commend the Christian cause. Colossians 4:6Seasoned with salt (ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος)

Both words only here in Paul. The metaphor is from the office of salt in rendering palatable. Both in Greek and Latin authors, salt was used to express the pungency and wittiness of speech. Horace speaks of having praised a poet for rubbing the city with abundant salt, i.e., for having wittily satirized certain parties so as to make them smart as if rubbed with salt, and so as to excite the laughter of those who are not hit ("Satires," 1 x., 3). Lightfoot gives some interesting citations from Plutarch, in which, as here, grace and salt are combined. Thus: "The many call salt χάριτας graces, because, mingled with most things, it makes them agreeable and pleasant to the taste." Seasoned is, literally, prepared. It is not likely that the fact has any connection with this expression, but it is interesting to recall Herodotus' story of a salt lake in the neighborhood of Colossae, which has been identified, and which still supplies the whole surrounding country with salt (vii., 30). The exhortation to well-seasoned and becoming speech is expanded in Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:4, in a warning against corrupt communication.

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