Ephesians XXIII: Praying and Proclaiming - Ephesians 6:18-24

Paul began this epistle with grace and peace, and explained over the next six chapters how it’s possible for sinners to receive grace and peace from a holy God, and how we should live as members of God’s household in response. Now he brings the letter to an end with grace and peace once more. This is the message of Ephesians: you are united with Christ by faith to receive grace and peace from God.

In 6:17, Paul reminds us that while we have peace with God and with one another in Christ, we don’t yet have peace in this world. We have a deadly enemy who fights against the King of Peace, and as we stand against him in the armor of 6:10-17, we wage spiritual warfare through prayer. Vv. 18-20 stand as a fourfold call to prayer, marked by four “alls”: pray at all times, with all prayer and supplication, with all perseverance, for all the saints. This is the when/what/how/who of prayer, with the two key modifiers that our prayer is to be in the Spirit, under His influence and direction, and that we are to keep alert, not simply going through the motions or neglecting prayer.

It’s hard to imagine that we are “keeping alert with all perseverance” if we’re not regularly praying together, not just on Sunday morning, but at all times, not just prayers for health or wisdom or guidance, but with all prayer and supplication, and not for just a few specific people and their needs, but for all the saints! So I urge you to evaluate your participation in the Church’s prayer life, asking whether it matches up with Paul’s description here, or if it falls short. Jesus has given us tremendous promises for our prayers, and Paul exhorts us that this is our spiritual warfare, so let us pray.

In particular, Paul asks for prayer for himself, and by extension, for all those who are given the ministry of proclaiming the gospel. Gospel ambassadors need courage to speak freely, and so Paul asks: “Pray that I will open my mouth boldly, and declare the mystery of the gospel boldly, as I ought to speak!”

In asking for this Paul not only has the general truth in mind that boldness is needed for spiritual warfare, but also his specific situation as an ambassador in chains. He has been denied the courtesy due to ambassadors, but he’s still called by God to deliver his message. The imprisoned messenger of the crucified king must stand before the unhinged emperor of the world and declare to him that Jesus is Lord, and that Nero must bow before Him. Pray for boldness, indeed!

But how disgraceful it is now, when Jesus is worshiped all over the world, Christians number in the billions and frequently sit on earthly thrones, and some of His messengers have founded million-dollar media empires, that Jesus’ ambassadors are far less bold than Paul was! Today, we stand before neighbors who instead of beheading us or feeding us to the lions, usually just say mean things about us, and we boldly mumble something about how Jesus is kinda helpful and stuff, if you’re interested. We need the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened once again by Paul’s vision of Jesus highly exalted in Eph. 1! We need to repent and pray for boldness, and we need to proclaim in every area of life that Jesus is Lord. This is how the Church ought to speak.

Paul closes the letter by commending Tychicus, who most likely delivered this and several other of Paul’s letters. He wasn’t just the early church mailman, but a minister who provided spiritual encouragement through his presence. It may seem like a small thing, but for Paul, this how our union in Christ is carried out in the Church: by supplication, when we pray for one another; by communication, when we write to one another; and by visitation, when we travel to spend time together. These are important ways that we maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This is what Paul has given the Church in Ephesians: he has prayed for them, written words of instruction, and sent Tychicus to build the Church up in love with faith. And so as we have heard from this book, Paul has blessed us in Christ, shown us the good news of our salvation, reminded us of our unity in Christ, and taught us how to live in unity as the body of Christ in all our various relationships. We’ve been encouraged in our walk, prepared for our battle, and assured of our glorious inheritance. Thanks be to God for the blessings He has given us in the letter to the Ephesians!

Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2019 by CJ Bowen