In early New Testament times, most of society was lost. Just like believers today, the Christians of that time found themselves in a world that was hostile to the Gospel. Because they were a minority in their world and the rest of society didn’t understand them or their faith, they were constantly “watched” by the unsaved around them. The apostle Paul knew that if Christians lived uprightly, it would demonstrate their faith — truly their lives were the strongest message they could preach. In light of that, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write to the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5).

Notice that God urged the Colossian believers — and He is urging us today — to walk in wisdom “toward them that are without.” This phrase is based on the Greek word exo, a word that means without or outside, and it depicts those who are outside, like someone who is standing outside of a circle. In this verse, it describes people who are outside of Christ. Paul uses this word to depict people who are non-Christian. The Jews used this same identical Greek expression when they spoke of people who were outside the Jewish faith or who were non-Jews. Now the apostle Paul uses this phrase to portray people who are outside of Christ or who are non-Christian. Hence, this part of the verse could be interpreted, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are non-Christians.

The word “walk” in this verse is the Greek word peripateo — a compound of the words peri and pateo. The first part of the word is peri, which simply means around. The second part of the word is pateo. The Greek word pateo means to walk, but it can be translated in various ways, such as, to walk, to step, to stride, or to tread. However, when the word peri and pateo are compounded into one word, thus forming the word peripateo, it means to walk around, to walk in one general area as a habit — or it describes a person’s lifestyle. The word peripateo is used to depict a constant and consistent way of life.

So when Paul tells us to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” he is telling us that walking in wisdom in the presence of unbelievers should be a way of life for us. The word peripateo for “walk” clearly means we must constantly walk in wisdom when we are in the presence of people who are non-Christians.

The word “wisdom” in Colossians 4:5 is from the word sophia — a word that denotes wisdom, but which also expresses the idea of discernment. In other words, you and I must use judgment about the things we do and say in the presence of unbelievers. We must be sensitive to the fact that they are monitoring our words and actions. We must use discernment, discretion, prudence, caution, sound judgment, and good ol’ commonsense in the way we conduct ourselves before non-Christians. We should be distinguishably different from them and the lost world around us.

This section of Colossians 4:5 could be interpreted as:
Habitually walk in wisdom — live it, walk it out, and let it set you apart from the world around you. You have a responsibility to walk prudently and to use discernment and commonsense when you are in the presence of non-Christians who are observing how you walk, how you live, and what you do.

If you haven’t used discernment in the things you’ve said or done in the presence of non-Christians, you can ask the Lord to forgive you, and He will forgive you and cleanse you according to His promise in First John 1:9. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you to develop a new consciousness that unbelievers are watching you.

Every day when you go to work, when you buy groceries in the store, when you’re driving your car, or when you’re with your family in public, people are watching and seeing how you respond to the situations of life — whether you engage in gossip and slander or refrain from it; whether you control your temper or lose it; or whether you walk in love and are patient and kind, or you’re short-fused, unfriendly, and harsh.

All of life provides opportunities for you to influence others. Make sure they see Jesus in you!

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