“SPEECH BE ALWAY WITH GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Can you shed some light here?
Indeed! Friend, this is an example of where we use the Bible with common sense. Surely, sodium chloride (NaCl)—table salt (what we flavor physical food with)—is not under discussion here. It is a spiritual issue and thus must be interpreted with spiritual eyes.
Read the context: “ Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;  Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:  That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” The Apostle Paul has been preaching God’s Word rightly divided for some 30 to 35 years at this point. He is now in a Roman prison (or technically house arrest), as per Acts 28:30-31, and asks the saints at Philippi to pray that he not be intimidated to silence. Lost people are all around him, and they need to hear the Gospel so they can believe it and be saved unto eternal life. They may be religious, but they are still Hell-bound. They are most likely pagan idolaters, worshipping the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman cultures; therefore, he needs to make wise use of his time and speak up!
Verses 2-5 set the tenor and govern how we should understand verse 6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Firstly, in the context, the “speech” of verse 6 is not everyday conversation or light chitchat. Rather, it is speaking God’s Word (first and foremost is the Gospel, but secondary Bible information is in view too). The word “alway” also demands a word of explanation. It is not “always” but “alway” (a common confusion and unnecessary correction). “Always” is “at every time, on every occasion;” “alway” (as here) is “all the way, all the time, forever.” Our speech should all the time, throughout, be grace-oriented. It should effectually communicate the truths of God’s grace without fail. God’s grace is God’s Word as in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.
The issue of “seasoned with salt” will be considered now. We season bland food by adding condiments, spices, herbs, and so on. Similarly, we can heighten or improve the “flavor” of our preaching. Such polishing will make it stand out, or give it a distinctive character. To “season with salt” refers to preserving something, a message that prevents decay, decomposition, or corruption. (Think of the process of curing or preserving meat with salt before refrigeration was invented in the mid-20th century.) Sin degenerates the soul and weakens society around us; God’s Word rightly divided, in stark contrast, nourishes and strengthens. It gives light, life, and health to its hearers and readers.
Whether in the physical world or the spiritual world, the challenge of seasoning is to strike a balance. Seasoning can potentially enhance—but it can also be overdone and become ruinous. We should give people enough information to make it appealing but not overwhelm them and make it appear burdensome. We should not seem overbearing or dictatorial. We do not “lord” over them or bully them (1 Peter 5:3). We do not have dominion over their faith but we are rather helpers of their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24).
To give our speech the unique appeal of grace, of course, requires spiritual maturity, grounding in God’s Word rightly divided. We can destroy others with our words or we can edify them. There is destructive criticism and there is constructive criticism. It is better to have the latter—for that is the purpose of the Bible. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21). “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Does what we preach and teach conform to Pauline doctrine? Is it grace teaching or legalism? Must people perform before we accept them? That is not grace but law. It harms not helps. Do they have to do or give us something before we will do something for or give to them? That is law not grace. It injures not benefits. Do we love them after they love us? That is law not grace. It wounds not enhances.
Having the exceptional characteristic of preservation and wholesomeness (health), our speech perpetually with grace is designed to give us the ability to address whatever somebody would require or demand of us. If they ask a Bible question, we should be able to answer it according to the rightly divided Word. If they need guidance concerning a particular aspect of life (sickness, financial difficulty, family troubles, death of loved ones, and so on), then that is our opportunity to share God’s Word with them. Our goal is not to impair them with religious silliness but aid them with the eternal words of the eternal God!!! We do not aim to confuse and corrupt them with worldly wisdom but educate and edify them with Divine wisdom!!!
If they are lost, without the righteousness of God, then we preach the Gospel of Grace to them: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4—also see Romans chapters 1-5). If they are saved, Christians, members of the Church the Body of Christ, then we direct them to Pauline passages that apply to their situation. Again, this requires grounding in grace doctrine, and, sadly, very precious few believers are able to do it because they are so weak in grace doctrine themselves. Three important chapters are Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. Every preacher and teacher should be familiar with them in preparation for counseling!
Colossians and Ephesians are sister epistles; therefore, they expand on each other. In closing, the best way to interpret Colossians 4:6 is to consider it in light of Ephesians chapter 4: “ Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:  Neither give place to the devil.  Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
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