26 May 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (6:18-6:24)

Ephesians 6:18-24

18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

21 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.

23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

The last installment of this series. We have seen so far that Paul wrote this letter to a congregation of Christians who were living in the middles of a city that was filled with the worship of pagan idols. The worship of Artemis—or as the Romans called her, Diana—was the main focus of all religious activity in the city. He spent two years there, reasoning and persuading in the synagogue. It got to the point that so many people were fleeing from the worship of Artemis and were following the group of people who were called “The Way.” In Antioch they were called “Christians” but in every other city they were called “The Way.” And Luke tells us in Acts 19:23-2723 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”

If we are preaching the gospel properly, we will be hated by many. This nonsense about having to look like the world and be partakers with the world of the things of the world—is abomination. It is abomination. Yet what do we find in Laodicea these days? Um, I mean, America? We have all these huge gatherings of people inside of buildings where they talk about something that kinds sounds like they might be talking about Jesus. But they are so busy trying to please God by making friends with the world that their speech is closer to that of the world than that of God. Yet what happened to Paul when he preached the true gospel? He was beaten up, thrown in jail, whipped with rods, scourged, left for dead. If only he had a copy of The Purpose Driven Life to show him how to be more of an influence on people. If only Robert Schuller had been around to teach him a better way—one where he could have avoided all that pain and agony he went through. If only Kenneth Copeland could have shown him how to speak to his situation. If only Paul could have sown a $58 seed to Mike Murdock. After all, Jesus just wanted us to feed the poor, He didn’t want us going around telling people what to believe. (Of course I’m being sarcastic, why do you ask?) This is why we read the words from Paul in today’s passage. After exhorting these Ephesian believers to take up the whole armor of God, he encourages them to be praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…

…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…
The English in most translations is not constructed on a literal rendering of the Greek. If it were, they would say, through all prayer and supplication be praying in the Spirit… The words prayer and supplication (προσευχης [proseuches] and δεησεως [dehseos]) mean “a prayer of worship” and “a prayer from a position of extreme poverty.”

The prayer we are to offer is up one that tells God that He is in control of everything, that He is the object of our devotion, that He alone is above all things. It is the prayer that says, “Lord, you are my King, you are my Master, you are the Most High. I come humbly before you, acknowledging you as my King and my God.” Because He deserves it. He is God. He alone is worthy of worship. William Cowper wrote in his hymn Exhortation To Prayer,

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian armor bright,
And Satan trembles when he sees.
The meanest saint upon his knees.

And what is prayer but acknowledging that God is God! If we could go through this life on our own, we wouldn’t need to pray. But here, after exhorting us to put on the armor, what is the first thing Paul tells us to do? Pray. We can know the truth. We can know what it means to be righteous. We can have knowledge and willpower. We can have all these weapons. But without prayer, we will utterly fail. Because the power of this armor is not in the one wearing it—it’s in the one the armor comes from. Paul did not tell us to put on OUR armor—he told us to put on the armor OF GOD. And it is only by admitting to God that He is our strength, He is our shield and our buckler (2nd Samuel 22), our strong tower (Psalm 61:3; Proverbs 18:10), our very present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1) that the armor has any power at all.

Then we offer our supplication. Our petition from poverty. We have nothing to offer to God. Anything we could give Him—He could create it. “Here Lord, I offer you all of planet earth, and all its riches!” How would He reply? “It is written, ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof’” (Psalm 24:1). The gods made with hands that the people were worshipping in Ephesus constantly needed to have things given to them to appease their anger and their ego. What could we ever give to God? This is the prayer of supplication. God is sovereign, He does as He pleases, and there is nothing we could do to alter His plan. We extend our pleas to Him, asking Him for mercy, for His will to be done, and for Him to hear our plea.

…in the Spirit… This is not some mystical, mysterious form of prayer that is only available to the super-duper-spiritual. This is not some esoteric type of prayer that some make it out to be. It simply means that your spirit is seeking the same things as the Holy Spirit. And how is one “in the Spirit?” Paul told us in Romans 8:9, But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed …the Spirit of God dwells in you. So we have two possibilities here. You are either in the flesh, or you are in the Spirit. And if the Spirit is not in you, then you are not in the Spirit—but in the flesh. This is not where you want to be. Because if you are in the flesh, God will not hear your prayer. Many people who do not know the Lord think that if they pray about something God will answer it. They are wrong. God does not hear the prayer of a sinner. Proverbs 15:29The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. His ears are open to the prayer of the righteous (1st Peter 3:12), but His ears are closed to the prayer of the wicked.

And His ears are closed to the prayers that are offered up simply for our own comfort. James 4:2-32 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Jesus was very explicit in teaching us what to pray for. Did He ever teach us to pray for comfort? NO. Did He ever teach us to pray that God would help us avoid trouble? NO. You see, the concept of prayer in this country has been so screwed up that most people think it’s like rubbing a magic lamp and calling for a genie to come out. That we are entitled to something just because we pray for it. Is any of us better than the apostle Paul? 2nd Corinthians 12:7-97 a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Why does God allow us to go through trials? To grow us into the full measure of Christ, to conform us to His image, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:3-4).

…being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints… Watchful. αγρυπνουντες (agrupnountes). Being without sleep. Don’t let your eyes slumber, but always be on the lookout for the enemy. Or do you think your enemy will wait until you are ready for him to attack before he comes against you? If you do, then you really need to examine yourself, if you really understand who your enemy really is. This one who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking out the slow, the weak, the ones who aren't paying attention so he can devour them (1st Peter 5:8). And be watchful with all perseverance. Because it will not be easy. After all, are we called to endure, or are we called to coast?

Matthew 24:12-13“12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
2nd Timothy 2:3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 12:1let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
James 1:12Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for…he shall receive the crown of life.

I would challenge anyone who thinks the Christian life is supposed to be easy to find a passage that says anything to that effect. They may find something they can take out of context and twist to fit their warped theology. But in the end they will be no more than liars and thieves.

…and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. What is this! Even the apostle Paul, the one who wrote half of the New Testament, the man who spoke the gospel all through Greece and Asia—needs the saints to pray for him? Shouldn’t he be praying for the saints? You see, even the chief of all the apostles needed the prayers of the saints. Even he knew that he could do nothing without God working through him. And he knew it was only by the Holy Spirit speaking through him that he could preach the fullness of the gospel boldly. Or, as he says, with παρρησια (parrhsia), “openly, without reservation, without ambiguity, with free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, assurance.” Oh, that this would be the prayer of every man who claims to be a preacher of the word of God. That they would do so without being the mealy-mouthed peddlers of half-truths that they are. That they would seek to be bold in proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only means of reconciling fallen, sinful man to the One and Only God who alone is holy, righteous, and just!

…for which I am an ambassador in chains… Are we not all bound to the gospel? Are we not all slaves to Christ? For if you are not a slave to Christ, then there is only one other option. The man who is free from Christ is a slave to sin. Romans 6:16-2216 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?...18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness…just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness…so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness…22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. There is no escape from slavery. As long as we walk in these bodies of flesh, we present our bodies, every day, to our master. We can either present ourselves to Christ, that we may be slaves to righteousness and holiness. Or, if we do not present ourselves to Him, then we, buy default, present ourselves to uncleanness and iniquity and lawlessness. As Robertson wrote 250 years ago this year:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

If we are Christ’s we are sealed to God by the Holy Spirit. And do the Scriptures not tells us to not grieve that Holy Spirit, by which we are sealed until the last day (Ephesians 4:30). See, this is where so many people get messed up when it comes to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He does not protect us from all evils. He does not exist to make us speak a bunch of gibberish in the middle of a worship service. He does not work by making people flop around on the floor like a fish. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, and will give us the words to speak—but we need to submit to Him, so that He can work through us.

You see, the Holy Spirit does not work by causing all these weird “manifestations” like we see today. That may be a spirit, but it ain't the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within each and every believer the moment they repent of their sins and call upon the name of Jesus to save them and be their Lord. And every day we are to give our minds and our hearts over to that Spirit that He may lead us in paths of righteousness. This is not a passive thing. Many times people pray for the Spirit to stop them from doing something that is sinful. Well, He’s not always going to do that. In fact, about the only time He will is if we are about to do something that will end our life before the time that God has appointed us to die. And we also pray for the Spirit to give us boldness. But if we are given that boldness, it is then up to us to exercise that boldness, and make known the mystery of the gospel as [we] ought to speak.

But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. We know a little about Tychicus. His name means “fortuitous” or “fortunate.” We know that one of the last things Paul did was to send Tychicus to Ephesus with his second letter to Timothy (2nd Timothy 4:12). Some subscriptions to the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians say that they were written by the Tychicus, most probably dictated to him by Paul. Unlike Demas who, as Paul wrote, had forsaken Paul, having loved this present world (2nd Timothy 4:10), Tychicus was a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord (Colossians 4:7).

We can learn quite a bit from these two. While on the one hand Tychicus was with Paul until the very end, sticking as close as a brother and remaining faithful even in the face of much adversity and opposition, Demas followed Paul for a while. But he looked at the Cross that was set before him, and considered the cost of carrying it. And rather than take it up and follow our Lord, he instead turned his back on the Lord and embraced this fallen and corrupt world, and loved it more than he loved Christ. He loved the world. What did the apostle whom Jesus loved have to say about this? 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1st John 2:15-17).

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. Who does peace come from? Can we make our own peace? No. Not as God gives peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27). This peace that Jesus gives us He gives us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. For the fruit of the Spirit is…peace (Galatians 5:22). And God gives peace to all who belong to Him. Because if we belong to Him, if He is our Shepherd, if He is the one watching over us, then what can the world do to us? Romans 8:31-3531 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? If we belong to the Good Shepherd, we shall never follow the voice of another. If Christ has saved us, then our life is hid in God with Him (Colossians 3:3). And as goes the old song which speaks of us standing Before the Throne of God Above,

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

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