By: Adam C. Pelser
This article first appeared in the Effective Evangelism column of the Christian Research Journal, volume31, number1 (2008). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:
Writing from prison, the apostle Paul instructed the Colossian Christians, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 2:5-6).
In first-century Asia Minor, Paul’s saline metaphor would have conjured up images, not of unhealthy fast food, but rather of a highly sought-after commodity that was of great value for human existence and civilization. Salt is so uniquely suited for enhancing flavor that Plato described the mineral as “pleasing to the gods.”
As journalist Mark Kurlansky explains, “[Its] ability to preserve, to protect against decay, as well as to sustain life, has given salt a broad metaphorical importance.”
In fact, for the ancient Israelites salt served as an essential, purifying ingredient in their sacrifices (see Exod. 30:35; Lev. 2:13) and its immutable and preservative essence made it an apt symbol of God’s everlasting covenant with King David—“a covenant of salt” (2 Chron. 13:5; cf. Num. 18:19).
In calling for wise behavior and “seasoned” apologetic conversation, Paul thus emphasizes that the manner of one’s presentation and defense of the gospel is often as crucial as its content and that the character of the evangelist-apologist is of first importance. It is not enough to be equipped with apologetic reasons in defense of the faith; we must also live attractive apologetic lives. Not only must we become equipped to know what to say to unbelievers, we must also learn how to say it. In order to make the most of every evangelistic opportunity we must season our conversations with the pleasing flavor of salt. As a pneumonic device for the key ingredients of such winning apologetic evangelism we can use the acronym S-A-L-T.