Ephesians 6:21,22 NLT - "To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord's work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose--to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you."
Ever want to know how other believers are doing? Your heart is concerned for their spiritual growth or you're so blessed by their ministry to you that you want to hear how many others are being blessed by them too. Paul knew the believers he has written to had a genuine concern about him. So he sent a faithful helper in the Gospel, Tychicus, to share with these believers a ministry report about Paul. Paul also sent him to be an encouragement to their ongoing spiritual growth.
Today, we rely on the quickness of email messages to keep us up to date almost to the minute no matter where other believers are all around the world. How blessed both the missionary and their supporters are to share current prayer requests or to give progress reports. Praise the Lord for these technical blessings to the Church!
One thing to especially note: Tychicus is described as a beloved brother and a faithful helper in service to the Lord. Paul was blessed having traveling companions who loved him and provided much needed fellowship and friendship as he reached out to a lost and dying world. But Tychicus was also a "faithful helper" in ministry. Paul knew he couldn't do everything - remember, he spoke of how the Church as the Body of Christ is made up of many members each having a specific job to fulfill. This is so needed today. Christians need to realize they have been given gifts to use to help other believers fulfill their responsibilities. Many of us know this truth as a fact. But, do you know their truth in your experience? Are you a "faithful helper in the Lord's work" to your Christian family?
Ephesians 6:20 NLT - "I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God's ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for Him, as I should."
For the majority of Christians I know of, including myself, the words, "I am in chains now..." just don't quite compute. Oh yes, we understand that Paul and many of God's servants have faced imprisonment for their faithful service to God. But I, for one, can't really imagine what it must be like to be in that kind of situation! Yet Paul took it as part of his ministry for the Lord. He knew he would suffer, but he also knew something else: He knew as God's people prayed for him he would be effective even "in chains!"
Christian, God calls on us to "remember those who are in prison, as if you were there yourself." Hebrews 13:3 NLT. And the way we remember them is to pray for them. And you get the sense of what Paul is saying that he wasn't asking so much that he would be released. He was praying that his witness would still be strong and that he would speak boldly as he should!
How did the Philippian jailer get saved in Acts 16? His job was to watch the prisoners in his prison. He didn't have time to go and hear the preacher who was making quite a stir in his city. So, what did God do? God sent the preacher to the prison! And as God's people were praying for Paul God was blessing Paul's witness whether he was "free" or in chains.
My encouragement for all of us in these most recent passages is to pray for God's servants to have an effective witness for Christ wherever they are and in whatever situation they may find themselves.
Ephesians 6:19 NLT - "And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God's mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike."
Okay, think about what you just read. Paul asked these believers to pray for him that God would give him the right words to say, and in his case, the words that would help him explain the mystery he spoke of back in chapter 1:9 and other places in this letter. Paul relied on these believers to assist him in his ministry by praying for him.
Note 2 Corinthians 1:11, "And you are helping us by praying for us..." There are other places where requests are made for prayer support. (Note my "Weekly Connections" for this coming week). The point I want you to see here is that the warfare we fight is more often in prayer than in any other activity! Paul seems to stress this by placing the instruction on prayer in verse 18 and this request for prayer here right after he spoke about the armor of God.
We must NEVER underestimate the power of our prayers for the work of God to move forward in effectiveness! I hope the Spirit of God will use my feeble attempts here to stir you to greater praying for God's servants. The fact that Paul spoke of this need should be a strong catalyst to encourage you to spend much time in intercessory prayer for missionaries, pastors, and other Christian workers! But remember what Jesus said in Matthew 9:37,38 NLT - "...The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields." Jesus stressed the need for this kind of praying in His own prayer request!
Do you think your prayers matter? Why would Paul and Jesus ask for you to pray if they didn't know they would be effective?! Let's ask this question, "Do you think the lack of your praying for God's workers has any impact on their ineffectiveness??!!" I think it will be revealed in Heaven what our praying or lack of praying had on the work of God. May you and I dedicate ourselves to greater praying for those who serve. And don't forget yourself as one of those servants!
Ephesians 6:18 NLT - "Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers, for all believers."
According to Romans 8:9, every believer has the Holy Spirit living in them. And it should be understood that He wants to be the controller of each life and be a part of every activity, including prayer. Romans 8:26,27 tells us of the Spirit's ministry in our lives to help us to pray as we ought. So, to "pray in the Spirit" is to pray in fellowship with God's Spirit which implies that we are willing to pray under the Spirit's guidance praying for the things we should. We will want to pray according to the will of God and we will have an anticipation to see God's answers whatever they may be.
We are to pray at all times. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We are to make prayer a habit of life in which we are constantly walking and talking with God. And that will lead us to pray "on every occasion" and in whatever situation we may find ourselves.
We will also do what Jesus said in Luke 18:1 to pray and not give up. Being "alert" is recognizing how in every situation we find ourselves we will take the opportunity to ask God for His guidance, protection, and wisdom. We will persist until we sense God's answer. And we will do this not only for ourselves, but we will be praying on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This gives Biblical grounds for taking prayer requests from others and praying for those requests.
Now, this admonition from Paul comes right after he has spoken about the Armor of God. It gives good grounds to say that the battle we are engaged in is primarily a battle in prayer. And that is why the armor is so important. (More to be said in another study). We are to fight against the enemy. Our armor is described in verses 11-17. Our strategy is in verse 18: PRAY!
Ephesians 6:17b NLT - "...and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Most commentators will point out that of all the pieces of the armor, the "sword of the Spirit" is the only offensive weapon mentioned. Of course, in Bible days, it was the sword that was the equivalent to our modern day police officer's gun. The sword was available to the soldier to use if necessary to defend himself, defend someone else, or show an intimidating weapon that would cause the enemy to either flee or surrender.
Thinking about the "word of God" as our weapon there are a few things that might be helpful. First, its not just having a sword that will aid a Christian in battle. Its being familiar with your weapon that is important. Get a Bible you can understand and then open it! Seek help from older Christians who can show you the basic layout of the Bible, the various books, the chapter and verse divisions. Get to know how to find a reference in the Bible. Ask for help in finding out where to look in the Bible for helpful insights about God, salvation, Christian living, etc.
Second, the Word of God is meant to give the believer the means to oppose the enemy when temptation comes or when trials and difficulties arise. God's Word in a believer's heart can keep the believer from sin - Psalm 119:11 KJV, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." God's Word helps keep a Christian strong against the enemy. It also gives the believer the promises of God to believe to be encouraged during trials. Verses like Philippians 4:13 show a believer that their strength comes from Christ or Philippians 4:6,7 that shows a Christian why they don't need to worry about anything if they would learn to pray about everything! There are many other ways in which the Word of God ministers to a believe helping them to face the enemy.
Third, the Word of God is God's message of salvation for the world. It is therefore the believer's weapon of opportunity to share this Good News with everyone! We are told to preach the Gospel and make disciples for Christ. It is the Word of God that touches the heart. 1 Peter 1:23 NKJV, "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever!" Share this glorious message with others.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, the Word of God is meant to be read every day and meditated on all throughout a believer's life. Psalm 1:2 NKJV, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night." This "sword of the Spirit" is never to be out of a believer's life! The Christian needs to have God's Word available in his hand and in his heart to fight the good fight of faith.
One final thought from Psalm 119:97 NKJV - "Oh, how I love Your law!..." Love the Word of God and treasure it highly in your life.
Ephesians 6:17a NLT - "Put on salvation as your helmet..."
Why discuss "salvation" when it is assumed Paul knows he is talking to believers who are already saved?! The answer may be seen in understanding two important truths:
First, salvation should always be on our minds, not that we need to be saved again and again, but more so that salvation, like the cross, is something we should never forget! Hence, the protection of the head where we keep our thoughts! Keeping our salvation on our minds reminds us that we were saved from a life of sin and we don't want to go back to that again. Salvation also teaches us that we've been given a new life that we should want to live! Also, salvation reminds us that we just weren't saved to forgive our sins. Salvation also teaches the next truth:
Second, salvation has three tenses. PAST TENSE - We were saved from the penalty for our sins. Romans 6:23 reminds us that "The wages of sin is death..." and John 3:16 reminds us that those who "...believe on Him will not perish..." Our sins were dealt with and we were forgiven. PRESENT TENSE - We are constantly being saved from the power of sin! Romans 6:10-11 NLT says, "When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus." We no longer need to say "Yes" to sinful temptations. Christ has given us the power to say "NO" to sin! FUTURE TENSE: we will one day be saved from the presence of sin. Psalms 103:12 NLT tells us, "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west." Also, Philippians 3:21 NLT - "He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own..." As He is without sin, so we will be in eternity!!
Now, knowing that we have such a complete salvation is a strong part of the armor to protect us from Satan's power.
Ephesians 6:16 NLT - "In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop all the fiery arrows of the devil."
The words, "In addition to all of these" have been translated in other versions, "Above all...". The idea here is to recognize that taking the shield of faith should not to forgotten. The other apparel of the armor is worn on the body. This particular object, the shield, is something that is not worn, but is held.
The important truth here is to recognize how important FAITH is to a believer facing the battles against evil. Its great to have Truth, God's Righteousness, and Peace in our lives, but we must not venture forth against the enemy without a firm hold on Faith! From the very beginning of the Christian life the believer enters by faith and needs to continue to walk by faith. Note the words of Colossians 2:6 NLT - "And now, just as you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him." You entered Christianity by faith and it is by faith you live. Faith believes God! Get that? FAITH BELIEVES GOD! As I like to say, "God wants to be believed."
Now, faith comes from hearing the Word of God, Romans 10:17. This "hearing" involves paying attention to the Scriptures whether you listen or read. Most believers in the New Testament times didn't have a copy of the Scriptures to read. They had to listen and remember what they heard. Most of us today have God's Word, but it doesn't do much good unless we take time to read it! Spending time in the Scriptures gives the believer the opportunity to read how the people of God trusted Him and how He proved Himself over and over again by doing what He said.
Holding the shield of faith keeps the promises of God's Word always in our minds and hearts. So when the devil throws his "fiery arrows" of lies and deceits at us we refer back to what God said and, thus, avoid the penetration of the arrows hitting our hearts and minds. Satan hates our faith - he is always defeated by a believing Christian!
Ephesians 6:15 NLT - "For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared."
The New Living Translation has placed the idea of "readiness" as a result of having God's peace in believers' lives. Other translations give the idea of being ready to share the Good News of God's peace for believing sinners.
In one sense, then, having a clear sense of peace in your life is something you "stand upon" and supports you in your ministry. To know that you are at peace with God gives you a security to hold you during trying and difficult times in the battles you face. You'll be ready to face a very deceitful foe. This peace is that which Paul said in Romans 5:1 NLT - "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us."
The other way of looking at this verse Paul says we should have our feet covered with the preparation to preach this wonderful message of peace to the world. It's like putting on the appropriate footwear to either compete in sports, or work in construction, or some other specialized field. Whatever you wear should help you to be ready to do your job. And the Christian should be sure their "foot apparel" is helping them share the Good News with a very troubled world.
Ephesians 6:14b NLT - "Stand your ground, putting on...the body armor of God's righteousness."
The next piece of armor is described in the New Living Translation as the "body armor of God's righteousness." I like that. This clearly teaches that the only "righteousness" that God accepts is His own shown through His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul emphasizes this in both Romans 10:1-4 and in Philippians 3:9. Therefore, the body armor we are to wear is the righteousness given to us through Christ. That is, the righteous standing we have before God we received when we put our faith in Christ. Romans 3:22 NLT says, "We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are."
God's righteousness gives us a proper "standing" with Him, thus it paves the way for us to call upon God when we face each battle and we are able to receive from Him all the resources we need to face Satan.
Also, having God's righteousness, we have a secure place to stand when Satan tries to deceive us with his lies and tries to make us think we're not "good enough" for God. Our response to that is that we're not relying on our goodness but on the goodness of Christ Himself! And Jesus IS Good Enough for God!!
Also, wearing God's righteousness shows that we're not "self-righteous" before the world. Nothing turns people off to the Gospel than a self-righteous Christian! The kind of righteousness we have in Christ keeps us humbly relying on Him and keeps us from acting proud and boastful.
Ephesians 6:13b-14a NLT - "Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth..."
The rest of verse13 makes it clear that we will be in a battle; that we will see what happens after the battle: if we have God's armor on we can be assured that we'll still be standing firm; that it is but one of many battles; and, that it is not the whole war. We as Christians must understand that battles will come, many of which we've probably already faced without even realizing we were in them! Those were the times when we either succumbed to temptation and felt ashamed afterwards because of our "failure," or when we enjoyed a real blessing because we were obedient without realizing God had clothed us with armor we didn't realize we were wearing! Only in heaven will we get the full picture of our lives on earth and we'll be amazed how often God brought us through many struggles. And we'll also realize how unprepared we were so many times because we neglected to dress ourselves with God's armor.
The first piece of armor Paul speaks of is the "belt of truth." Truth is who Jesus is, John 14:6, and what best describes God's Word, John 17:17. If we are going to face an enemy who is known as the "father of lies," John 8:44, we need to clothe our hearts and minds with God's truth. There are many passages in the Scriptures that speak of the deceitfulness of Satan. And a Christian who isn't clothed with God's truth will fall victim to the enemy's lies. Truth allows us to grow strong because we are believing what God said. We are able to help other believers grow because we will teach them the truth that we ourselves have learned. Truth not only protects from lies it also gives us great joy when we see all that God has prepared for us!
Learn the truth by studying the Word. This is how you clothe yourself with truth. You can't just expect someone else to know the truth and you just rely on them standing for truth. We are all called on by God to wear this piece of the armor every day. You will be faced with deceit all around you. God's truth in your heart will give you the ability to stand against the enemy.
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 856.981.7288