Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:19d “. . .to make known the mystery of the gospel,”
Paul’s third request in our text is that his words would be, in addition to appropriate and bold, focused. He wanted to avoid being distracted, diverted from his appointed course. Paul longed to stay focused, not scattered. He wanted to keep the main thing the main thing, to remember his main purpose, his primary priority, “to make known the mystery of the gospel.” The Apostle desired to tell people how to be saved, to let everyone know the secrets God had revealed about salvation.
Every Christian has three basic spheres of responsibility: holiness unto God, exercising a spiritual gift in the local church, witnessing to the lost. Godliness, spiritual gifts, and soulwinning constitute three basic ingredients of Christian living.
Notice, evangelism is not a spiritual gift. Some wrongly excuse themselves from their obligation to win souls by saying they do not have the gift of evangelism. The Bible does refer to the gift of evangelist, an office filled by people who preach effectively to the lost (eg. Billy Graham, Billy Sunday), but the act of evangelism is not a spiritual gift. God commands all Christians to be a witness, to evangelize.
Since God requires soulwinning of all believers, it is an activity God will empower all Christians to do. What God commands, God will enable. Thus, when we have opportunity to witness, but sense our will withering under Satan’s assault, we must castle ourselves within the power and promise of God for help. When it comes to soulwinning, Satan always tempts us to be quiet. When we face this trap, we need to retreat into prayer rather than into our pat excuses for not witnessing.
We can become so skillful at reciting excuses that they keep us not only from witnessing, but also from prayer. Often, we are not only not witnessing, but also not even praying about witnessing, our excuses having salved and callused our consciences. As we pray for the lost, include somewhere in our prayer, “Lord, use me.”
I know the excuses well; unfortunately, I am a master of them all. Some excuse themselves, saying they fear they will drive the lost farther away. Where can we drive them to? Hell number two, or Hell number three?
Many claim they know not what to say in a soulwinning situation. We will train you. Some do not feel worthy to share. While we soothe our consciences with a false piety and bogus humility, our loved ones are going to Hell.
We sometimes use as an excuse our natural timidity, we are too bashful. Our text waylays this rationalization. Our natural temperament has nothing to do with whether or not we can witness. It depends solely on supernatural empowerment. Failure to evangelize is never a failure in personality, but rather a failure in prayer.
Spreading the Gospel was the Apostle’s greatest accomplishment, and our text reminds us where the power came from–from God. Success in soulwinning was not inherent in Paul. He was not self-confident. Prayer was his key to success.
Effective witnessing has to come from God, for no matter how eloquently we speak, or how good our presentation may be, only God can make the message effective. We speak to the ear, only God can take the message from the ear to the heart.
Eph. 6:20a “For which I am an ambassador in bonds. . .”
“Bonds” signifies the chain by which Paul was handcuffed to a Roman soldier (AC 28:16,20; 2 TM 1:16-17). What a paradox!–“an ambassador in bonds.” The person of political emissaries is sacred, inviolable. To desecrate them is to declare war against their country. When David’s envoys had half their beards shaved and half their clothes ripped off, Israel went to war against Ammon (2 SM 10).
Paul’s incarceration made one fact crystal clear, Rome was at war with Jesus. The way they treated Jesus’ representative bespoke their attitude toward Jesus. A political ambassador is normally extended every possible courtesy in the country where he is sent, but in this case, the great King of Kings, whose word could have pulverized Rome into atoms, found His ambassador to Caesar bound in chains.
All roads led to Rome, and from every corner of the known world, ambassadors streamed into Rome. They arrived and departed in droves. Some wore chains of gold; Paul’s was of iron. Many wore decorations; Paul’s only medal was a manacle. Someone said, “God is not going to look us over for medals and decorations but for scars, to see what we have endured for Christ’s sake” (quoted by Ironside).
The soldiers assigned to Paul were the luckiest troops in the world, for they had opportunity to hear the gospel from Paul’s own lips. These guards were relieved every four hours. Once one was shackled to Paul, it was probably hard to tell, for the next four hours, which one was the actual prisoner. Paul certainly had a captive audience. He possibly began every conversation with, “If you were to die right now, are you absolutely sure you would go to Heaven?”
Despite his disgraceful surroundings, Paul was not ashamed of himself or his mission. Whatever people thought, he deemed himself a duly appointed “ambassador” sent to represent King Jesus in the imperial court at Rome. Paul’s chain was to him a decoration, a badge of his office. The Apostle sensed his own dignity.
To be effective in Kingdom work, we must feel self-worth and sense the importance of our task. If we feel useless, we will never try to do much, and thus end up useless. When people mock our faith, our natural inclination is to feel embarrassed and to draw up into a shell, never to speak again. In the midst of personal indignities hurled against us, rather than letting insults shame our witness into silence, we must retain a sense of personal honor by remembering who we are and Whose we are. We are the light of the world, the salt of the earth; we have the most important task in our community, and are thus its most important people.
Always remember the colossal significance of our position as representatives of Jesus, the King of kings. “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 C 5:20). We, like Paul, bear the words of a royal Master. Believers are, as it were, and stated with humble reverence, God-substitutes. God beseeches “by us,” we appeal “in Christ’s stead,” we alone can fulfill God’s desire of calling people to reconciliation to Himself. By God’s grace, we are not nobodies with nothing to say, but rather somebodies with everything to say. Our task is vital, and we all matter.