Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 6:18 Bible Study - Final word: Prayer & the Gospel
by I Gordon
You've made it! You've made it all the way through and have now got to the last message in the Ephesians series. Well done! Or just maybe, like some great whodunnit, you cheated and turned to the end of the book to see who did it?!? So who did do it? Well, Jesus did, at Golgotha, with the cross! In this, the 20th and final message1 in this book series, we will be closing with Ephesians 6:19-24 - the final word... Prayer and the gospel. Here is what we will look at:
- Paul's request for prayer - what was on Paul's heart in this trying time while in prison?
- Does Paul's request impact what we should pray for in this difficult day?
- The simplicity of our message and the gospel in humpty dumpty (you read that right!)
- The importance of being a good ambassador for God and the gospel
What was on Paul's heart...
So lets begin with the opening two verses that we'll break down into parts and be our main focus.
Eph 6:19-20 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, (20) for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Pray also for me
We see first of all that Paul gets to the very end of his letter before asking anything for himself. His entire message so far has all been about the great gospel of God's grace through Jesus Christ and how we are in live in and through that grace. But he does ask for prayer. Sometimes, as believers, we don't like asking for prayer for ourselves. Maybe that is more a 'man-thing'. We can be bad like that! We think that we'll tough it out and make it through. Well the Apostle Paul asked for prayer here as he did in other letters. One example is in his letter to the Romans where he asked for protection, effective services to the saints that he may be able to join them in joy and encouragement:
Rom 15:30-32 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (31) Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, (32) so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.
The beauty of the Christian walk is that we are a body. We are not in this fight alone. Like a wartime battle, when one is down another can and will carry them through and out. That is God-designed. It is how its meant to work. We need each other. As we saw in an earlier study, when Peter was in prison we read that 'the church was earnestly praying to God for him.' (Acts 12:5) And those prayers were miraculously answered!
Now I know this is Christianity 101 but it is important to remember in the trying times that we find ourselves in. There is a heaviness around many in these days. We see the world changing and not for the better, It is easy to come under the weight of that. But we have the body and the body is meant to pray for each another. So ask for prayer and when struggling don't try to carry the load all alone. And in this way more people can rejoice and be encouraged when God intervenes!
2Co 1:9-11 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (10) He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, (11) as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
That whenever I open my mouth words may be given me
Now in this particular case with Paul, he has something very specific on his prayer list. His situation, though in prison, is almost irrelevant to Paul in this letter. And when he does finally ask for prayer, strangely enough it is not for good food, a fair judge, a soft bed, blueprint plans of the prison, chain cutters or even the latest Roman tunneling device. He is actually concerned about something else. He asks for prayer that words may be given him. He is concerned with sharing the Gospel well. Amazing!
"Paul was writing from prison. Yet he did not ask prayer for his early release. Rather he asked for utterance in opening his mouth boldly to declare the mystery of the gospel. This is Paul's final mention of the mystery in Ephesians. Here it is presented as the reason for his bonds. Yet he has no regrets. Quite the contrary! He wants to broadcast it more and more."
William MacDonald - The Believer's Bible Commentary
He asks first of all that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me. Here are a couple of points on this:
- We need to open our mouths. We need to speak about the Lord. There will be a right time and we should pray for that. But when the Lord opens a door, we should open our mouth! That sounds a little weird, but we need to speak about Jesus when the opportunity comes. If our mouths remained closed, how will they hear?
- We should all be praying for the right time and words. The Lord knows what a person needs to hear and when they are ready to hear it. We don't... without that sense from the Lord. No one will get saved because of our clever presentation of the Gospel. It takes God to remove the veil that covers the eyes of the blind and they can get saved through a simple testimony when God is involved! I listened to the testimony of an atheist at the very end of his rope, who turned his life to God after hearing 5 words from the book of Ecclesiastes - "Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless!"2 So we should be praying and asking the Lord for the right person, the right time and the right words. And then follow His lead.
To give a recent example, for some time my mother has been seeing an osteopath due to pains in her back. Recently she had another appointment but this time felt to take a specific book, Grace plus nothing, with her to read while in the waiting room. Normally she doesn't take any book but felt lead to do so this time. Now the osteopath must have seen Mum reading it because in the midst of twisting and tweaking her back, she asked Mum what she likes to read. Mum said that she reads the Bible and was also currently reading this book, Grace plus nothing. 'Oh I could do with that!' the osteopath said and proceeded to tell Mum that as she was not going to take the Covid jab, she would not be allowed to continue her practice. And being the breadwinner in her family, it was going to make things really really tough. So they spoke some more and on the next visit Mum felt to bring her osteopath a great book called 'Once an Arafat man' - it is a testimony of an Muslim Arab man who worked under Arafat in the PLO, hating, fighting and murdering both Jews and Christians. Until he found the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior that is! Then all things changed! It is a great story of how God can change a person and bring love and hope into their life.
The osteopath was very pleased to get it and is very open at the moment. As I write, it is too early to know what will happen but we can see God in the situation and are praying for her while she reads! And there are many that are more open at the moment. The craziness in this current world is forcing people to start looking for answers! Expect to see more and more looking for answers outside of this world as the days become darker.
So that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel
Paul continues 'that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel'. Here is something else to pray for both yourself and those around you - boldness! We should be praying for boldness at this time. Some are naturally bold in speaking to others about the Lord. Others are not so. Timothy, in the Bible, seemed at one stage at least to fall into the latter category and needed to be encouraged again by Paul:
2Ti 1:6-8 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (7) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (8) So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
Always remember that we, as believers, have been given the Holy Spirit... a Spirit of power and not of fear. We often get fearful but thank God for His gift of the Spirit. You may be a mouse but He is a lion! As we rely upon His Spirit and pray for opportunities, God can and does make a way... even for the timid little mouse! We see in Acts this connection between boldness and dependence:
Act 14:3 Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.
So Paul wanted to declare the gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we think we don't know enough or can't answer all the questions people might have, so we keep our mouths shut. Yet often the most powerful testimonies are the simple personal ones of the difference that the Lord has made in your life. It doesn't, and shouldn't, be complicated. Keep it simple!
Speaking of simple, I heard a Pastor online give the gospel from the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme the other day! I liked it : ) You know the one...
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again
In a way this represents us all. We, as humanity, have had a great fall. It left us utterly broken for that which we were designed - to know God and express His image. And no amount of self help could fix this fall. We couldn't put all the pieces back together again. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put us back together... But the King could. The King could. And He is the only One that can. But to do it He had to be utterly broken Himself, to the point of death, that we may receive new life. Always remember that. All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put us back together again. But the King Himself can and does! And one day all believers will be utterly and completely restored into His very image, never to experience any cracks, any brokenness, any fail, ever again. And that day is quickly approaching! Look with hope and expectation of this soon coming day! As C.S Lewis said in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
For which I am an ambassador in chains
We see also that Paul saw himself as an ambassador for the true King and even his chains were not going to stop that. Whether he was free to go as he pleased, or locked up in a prison, he saw this tremendously high calling as an ambassador for another country - a heavenly one. So what is an ambassador? An ambassador is someone authorized to speak and represent a sovereign or foreign country. They are not expressing their own opinion but represent the thoughts, will and intent of their leader. Paul spoke of this role as ambassadors of God in one other verse only. Notably, it is in a well loved passage to the Corinthians:
2Co 5:18-21 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (20) We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
You will see here that 'we', all believers, are Christi's ambassadors. It wasn't just Paul's role. We all represent our King and our heavenly country through our actions and speech. We are Christ's ambassadors. God makes His appeal to a lost world, through us! That is some calling, position and responsibility! We bring a message from the Most High - that the way is open through the cross to be reconciled to God.
Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
The part that stood out to me here was 'As I should'. Paul is not the only ambassador. All believers are. We have a responsibility to speak and represent our Heavenly country well.
1Co 9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
John Bunyan. the author of Pilgrim's Progress and other great books, was imprisoned for 'illegally preaching the Gospel'. While in prison he was on more than one occasion he was offered his freedom on the condition that he 'abstains from preaching. To which he constantly replied, “If you let me out today, I shall preach again tomorrow.”
Now you may not be a Paul or a John Bunyan... Who is? On the lion-mouse scale I often feel more down the mouse end. But do you feel the greater burden to tell people the hope that you have in these days? I do. I truly believe, as I mentioned earlier, that more and more people are going to be struggling in the coming days and more and more are going to be open and receptive to the Gospel message. Paul prayed that he would declare the message fearlessly, 'as I should'. We should be praying the same.
You're not a Paul? Maybe a Tychicus?
Eph 6:21-22 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. (22) I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.
"He commends Tychicus as a beloved brother and faithful minister (servant) in the Lord. There are only five references to this man in the NT. He was one of the party that traveled with Paul from Greece to Asia (Act_20:4). He was the apostle's messenger to the Christians at Colosse (Col_4:7); to Ephesus (cf. 6:21 with 2Ti_4:12) and possibly to Titus in Crete (Tit_3:12). His twofold mission at this time was to inform the saints concerning Paul's welfare in prison, and also to encourage their hearts, allaying any unnecessary fears."
William MacDonald - The Believer's Bible Commentary
Look at what we can glean from these two verses about Tychicus. He was:
- A 'dear' or 'beloved' brother - He was well liked. Not just a brother but a beloved brother. He was a good man with a good heart who cared about people. That was Tychicus.
- A faithful servant - He would come into a fellowship looking to see how he could meet people's needs, not just have his needs met. He wanted to serve, not be served.
- A helper - He helped Paul. He would carry the message from Paul to other believers. If you are not a Paul in the frontlines of ministry you can still find your place as a Tychicus helping where you can.
- An encourager - He was sent to bring encouragement our verse says. No wonder he was 'beloved'! All believers need encouragement from time to time and the gap between those times seems to be decreasing!
Upon his death, here is what he would have heard:
"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (Mat 25:21)
And is that not what we all want to hear?
Conclusion - The closing thought
Eph 6:23-24 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (24) Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
"He closes with a twofold benediction. Most of the great words of the gospel are contained in it: peace, love, faith, grace. Hope is absent, for the believer is in the heavenly places where all is realized."
J. Vernon McGee
John MacArthur wrote that “Ephesians begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees.”
But that is a good place to be! It is a powerful place to be in this battle that we find ourselves in. As we have gone through this series we have explored all of these great themes. The peace with God that we have (even if the situation around is not peaceful!) through coming into this relationship with our heavenly Father. The love and faith we have experienced from our Lord and, in return, express to our Lord. And grace... oh grace. Where would we be without grace? If you are a believer, some day soon you will be with Him for the rest of eternity. And for the rest of eternity you will be marveling at His incredible love and grace. There will not be one boast in your mouth of what you did. You will be in awe of the One who did it for you and offered it to you, freely, by grace.
Ephesians is an incredible book.3 It is a book of riches. And I am talking true riches...
- The riches of God's grace4 (Eph 1:7)
- The unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8)
- The riches of His glory (Eph 3:16).
We have been given but a glimpse of these things. Today our task is to speak and teach others of such things. Tomorrow they shall be reality. Today we low hold of them by faith. Tomorrow they shall be by sight.
As Ephesians has taught us, live today with tomorrow in mind!