SPEECH WITH GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT
Colossians is a sister book to Ephesians. The book of Ephesians deals with the Body, while Colossians deals with the Head. Since it deals with the Head, though, it has something to do with the Body, because the Head is always related to the Body and is for the Body. Therefore, it is hard to not see the Body in Colossians, a book on the Head. One verse in this book pertains both to the Head and the Body. It seems that it is only a small verse, but it is very practical concerning the church life. Many of us may not have paid attention to this small verse. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” This verse mentions grace. What is grace? What does it mean that our word, speech, talk, or conversation should be seasoned? And what kind of salt is this? Moreover, why did the apostle Paul put this verse in this book? Some may say that it is because Colossians reveals Christ as the Head, and a person’s speech comes from his head. However, the Lord Jesus told us that speech comes from the heart. Matthew 12:34 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Why, then, did the apostle put such a verse in a book that deals with the Head, including the Body?
More than thirty years ago, in 1933 or 1934, I spent much time to study this verse, because three words bothered me: grace, seasoned, and salt. At that time I did not get the answer, even though I looked into many books to get the definitions of these words. After a long time, I learned from experience to know the meaning of these words, and in these recent days I have been helped by the Lord to know why verse 6 is in Colossians 4. The reason is that what is mentioned in this verse has much to do with the church life. The building up of the church depends greatly on the matter of speech, conversation, or speaking.
By the Lord’s mercy, we are here constantly trying our best to build up the church. The enemy of God, however, hates this. He would do everything he can to frustrate, even to damage, the building. I must point out that we are all too careless in the matter of speech, or conversation. I may come to you, or you may come to me, and we may talk for two hours, but many times the enemy utilizes our talk not to build up the church but to tear it down. I have always noticed in my experience, and I am still noticing, that Satan very much uses the careless talk of the dear brothers and sisters to tear down the building. It seems that the builders spend much time and energy to lay one stone upon another, but the enemy uses the careless talk of certain ones to tear it down again. The builders spend much time to set a brother in the right place, but due alone to the fact that others are so careless in talking, this brother is torn down. This is why in the last chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul points out this one matter: that our conversation, talk, speech, and words must be always with grace, seasoned with salt.
According to the entire New Testament, grace is Christ gained by us and enjoyed by us. We enjoy Christ as our life, power, wisdom, and everything we need. Christ is the real grace to us. This means that to have our speech always with grace is to have our speech always with Christ. We must have Christ in our words, talk, speech, and conversation.
KNOWING A PERSON’S SPIRIT BY HIS SPEECH
This is a real check to prove where we are and what we are. Nothing can expose us so much as our speech. The most clever person is one who never speaks much. A wise man never speaks, but a foolish man is always talkative. The more we talk, the more we prove we are foolish, because we expose ourselves more and sell ourselves cheaply. On the night that the Lord Jesus was betrayed, Peter was put on the spot. A servant girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean,” but Peter denied it before all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!” A third time, some came to him and said, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech also makes it clear that you are” (Matt. 26:69-70, 73). Peter’s speech made it clear what he was. A Texan’s speech also makes it clear what he is, because he says “y’all” with a Texan accent and tone. In a similar way, if you do not speak one word, I do not know how much you have experienced and gained Christ and what the measure of the stature of Christ is within you, but if you speak for only five minutes, I will know.
One who learns not to talk much seems to be wise, because he stays hidden and does not expose himself. Watchman Nee once told me that the best way to know a person’s spirit is to ask him questions and give him the chance to say something. If we are unwise, we will do all the talking and keep the other person from talking. This just makes him “wise.” If we want to know him, however, we should give him a chance to speak. The more he speaks, the more he exposes himself, and the more we know where he is in the spirit. We may illustrate this with a diagram of a person with a head, heart, and spirit, each part being progressively deeper within him. The first two minutes he talks, he talks only from his head. After ten minutes, though, he gets down to his heart, but after half an hour, what he speaks is from his spirit. The more we talk, the more we expose what we are in our spirit.
All the talk from our head is just superficial and polite, not genuine. Someone may say, “How are you? Fine, thank you. Do you know this brother? He’s a good brother.” If we ask this person about the brother, though, such as when he met him and how he got to know him, he will gradually get down to his heart, and he will speak something more real about the brother he knows. Then after half an hour, he will pour out what is in his spirit about the brother. At that point we will know what is in his spirit. We may find out, for example, that there is a big problem between him and the brother. According to only the head and the mouth, there is no problem between them, but when we give him the chance to keep talking, he will utter something from his spirit. That is not polite speech; it is genuine speech.
(Practical Lessons on the Experience of Life, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)