Just struck by this phrase in Paul to the Colossians - "as I ought to speak." In a passage full of surprises (Col. 2:2-4) he asks for prayer, above all things, to be clear in his preaching. And then he adds that phrase "as I ought" or "as I must" or "as it behoves me". He's not being clear because it is the most effective form of communication (though it is) or because clarity is extremely powerful and compelling (though it is) or because he doesn't have lots of long words and rhetorical skill (he does). He must be clear. Why?
- Because this is not about Paul, this is about God. He has been entrusted with the gospel and his job is just to be a faithful minister of that gospel (Col. 1:23-25); to be a faithful messenger, handing on the message without distortion. He must give people the Word not himself. The pure Word.
- Because this is a message for hearts and minds. This is truth to understand and absorb and digest (Col. 1:5). There must be knowledge for there to be life change (Col. 1:9-10). That will require the Spirit’s work but it also demands clarity. It is not, as in some other religions, enough to hear and accept and recite words mindlessly – there must be understanding, learning.
- Because this is a message for all the world, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, men and women, children and elders. The aim is that all would understand for themselves the truth that sets them free, that all would learn Christ and the fullness in him. There must be no cultural obstacle, no long word to stumble a little one. There must be clarity.
- Because the gospel is clear. It is not a message of grey areas and blurred lines and playful ambiguity. There are sharp edges, hard truths, dividing lines. There is heaven and hell, truth and lies, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, alienation and reconciliation (Col. 1:5, 12-13, 21). We might instinctively seek to hide in vagueness but the gospel demands loving clarity.