What are the qualifications for being able to speak to another person about the Christian faith? Perhaps we initially think of Bible knowledge, which is essential. But we can have a great deal of Bible knowledge and not be a good witness. Paul wanted the Colossians to witness in a good way and in Colossians 4:6 he tells them how they should speak. He mentions two elements. The first is ‘let your speech always be gracious’ and the second is that it ‘should be seasoned with salt’.
It may be that both ideas cover the same thing, so that grace is the salt that seasons our speech. Yet I suspect that the first clause is more general and the second one is more specific. I would say that it is inconceivable for Paul to imagine that a Christian would have any other kind of speech apart from gracious speech. This is the kind of speech a Christian should have at all times. Paul describes such speech in Ephesians 4:29: ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’ Our speech in general should reflect the fact that we belong to heaven, that we have been delivered from the old way of life.
Sometimes we have to add something to our speech on a given occasion, and I think that is what Paul means by seasoning it with salt. There are many ways by which the illustration of salt can be applied. Salt prevents a piece of food from putrefying, so a Christian’s speech should prevent unwholesome talk. Salt can create aspects of taste in a particular item of food that we did not anticipate. So a Christian by his speech can introduce into a conversation aspects that the other person may not have realised existed. Salt was used to confirm covenants or agreements between individuals, so a Christian should insert into conversations suitable elements of the covenant that exists between him and God.
When we speak in such a way with other Christians, then we will know how to speak with outsiders. Today it is generally the case that believers have a problem with speaking about their faith to outsiders. Yet it may be the case that the real problem is that we no longer know how to speak to one another about Christian experience, about the Bible, and about a whole list of items connected to Christian living. Shortly after I was converted, I noticed that the individuals who had spoken best to me (as a non-Christian) were the ones that spoke generally about Christian things to other believers. And the ones who had greatest difficulty in witnessing were often those who did not speak about the things of the faith.
Every non-Christian that we meet needs Jesus. In one way or another, we should look for ways to bring the conversation round to knowing him. If we have been doing it generally, it should flow naturally, without seeming strange. There is no guarantee that we will be successful, but our way of speaking should cause others to note the difference and make them curious about us. And that is a door for introducing them to Jesus.