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We must never have a sanctified superiority complex. We have a responsibility to witness to the lost around us and to look to bring them into God’s family. To begin with, we have the responsibility to walk wisely. Walk refers, of course, to our conduct in daily life. The unsaved outsiders watch us Christians and are overly critical of us. There must be nothing in our lives that would jeopardize our testimony.

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

ESV (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Colossians 4:5–6

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This story has often been told about Dr. Will H. Houghton, who pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City and later served as president of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute till his death in 1946. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result, that man became a Christian.

It is not enough simply to walk wisely and carefully before unbelievers. We must also talk with them and share the good news message with them. But we must take care that our speech is controlled by grace, so that it points to Jesus and glorifies the Master. This means we must have grace in our hearts, because it is from the heart that the mouth speaks. With grace in our hearts and on our lips, we will be faithful witnesses and not judges or prosecuting attorneys!

The Master Jesus spoke with grace on His lips. “And all … wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22). Among the many statements about Jesus in Psalm 45 (a messianic psalm) is this: “Grace is poured into Thy lips” (Ps. 45:2). Even when our Master was dealing with sin, He spoke words of grace.

  • 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) — 15 but in your hearts honor the Messiah the Master as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
  • Judges 8:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.
  • Proverbs 10:32 (ESV) — 32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
  • Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) — 1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • Proverbs 16:24 (ESV) — 24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
  • Ecclesiastes 10:12 (ESV) — 12 The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.
  • Daniel 2:14–16 (ESV) — 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Bonus Content: Check out this supplemental content about “Speech”. It adds context to this article. If you like it, please consider subscribing to the channel on YouTube.

Source: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 147–148.