The section begins with our need to be strong in the Lord; it now ends with our dependence upon the Lord. As the soldier would be dependent upon his centurion in the battle, this verse teaches how we should always look to God in the face of the conflict in which we are engaged. In the verse we have the prayer, the power in prayer, the perseverance needed, and the people for whom we pray.
We must pray always. The preposition would indicate the channel of an act.1 It would carry the thought of prayer on all occasions, at all seasons. There must always be a looking to God and the bending of the knee to Him. Paul urged, ‘Pray without ceasing’, 1 Thess. 5. 17. If we are in close combat with the enemy we need to be in close contact with the Lord. Prayer has to do with worship and honour, and supplication with our need. The former is God-ward; the latter brings in man.
We are to pray in the Spirit. Once again, this is spiritual warfare and we need the Spirit’s help in bringing our petitions to God. The order of prayer in the New Testament is – to God; through the Lord Jesus; and in the Spirit.
In this dispensation we are not told to pray for the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to each believer at the moment of our conversion.2 For any to be like Simon and desire and seek to do what was an apostolic act, in this day, is a gross misunderstanding of scripture.3 Jude verse 20 would express that we pray in the Holy Ghost.
As a Christian soldier, I must wear the armour at all times, for we know not when the enemy will come, and, in the same way, there has to be persistency in prayer, never letting our guard down, always dependent on our God.
We are encouraged to pray ‘for all saints’. As we are all in the battle, we need the support of each other that we might have the ability to overcome.
The ministry – intercessory prayer, v. 19
The ministry is twofold: the prayers of the saints for the apostle, and that ability might be given to Paul to fulfil in a bold way the service that God had given him. This servant of God appreciated the value of the supplications of saints on his behalf. Prayers are never forgotten in heaven, Rev. 8. 3. We recall the angel’s words to Cornelius, ‘Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God’, Acts 10. 4. Oftentimes we may wonder if there is any value in praying because the answer is not always instant, but how often we look back to see the hand of God working, though unseen to us at the time!
Paul’s concern was for him to have ability to speak well of the gospel. The ‘mystery of the gospel’ must be made known and Paul wanted prayer in regard to how to speak it, ‘utterance’, and the power to preach it, ‘boldly’.
It is evident that this mystery of the gospel is more than the gospel that the Lord commissioned His disciples to preach, Matt. 28. 18-20, for there is no mystery associated with that. As we have seen, New Testament mysteries were hid from ages and from generations and were something only revealed in this present church age, and then only to faith. It would seem that Paul has in mind in this verse the great dignity of what the gospel brings us into, the church comprised of Jew and Gentile.
Perhaps there is a court appearance to be faced by this captive preacher, and that he is thinking of standing before the dignitaries of Rome, for, at this moment, he is in the confines of a prison cell.
If thoughts of an impending trial are in his mind, it is little wonder that he places himself among the aristocracy, being a divine representative, an ambassador of God. What dignity marks the service of Paul and his bonds cannot detract from the honour he feels as being able to make known the blessings of the gospel.
When speaking the gospel we must remember that there is a definite manner in which we ought to speak. What we are handling are divine words! Peter’s First Epistle has emphasized the manner of speaking for God, and would remind us that we are stewards of the manifold grace of God. We are speaking divine oracles which can only be ministered aright when given divine ability, 1 Pet. 4. 10-12. Perhaps these thoughts were in Paul’s mind. Would that we all felt the same convictions when handling divine truth!
It must have been an encouragement to Paul to have those around him who had given valuable service to the Lord along with Paul. Tychicus was one of these, called here a beloved brother and a faithful minister. As a beloved brother we see what he is, and as a faithful minister, what he does. The word minister is diakonos and is used in the Epistles of those who preach and teach the word of God. In Colossians chapter 4 verse 7, the fact that he is a fellow-servant is added. He was evidently esteemed and respected by Paul. The desires of Paul to inform Timothy, and with him the saints at Ephesus, how he fared in prison, was carried by Tychicus, and in all probability he carried these letters which have been a blessing to the household of faith.
The visit of Tychicus was not only to inform Timothy along with the church of Paul’s affairs, his state of mind and his health, but that such news would be a comfort to them. The last time the Ephesian elders had seen Paul was as they kneeled and prayed with him and wept sore for they knew they would see his face no more, Acts 20. 36-38.His mutual blessings, vv. 23, 24
This letter, being a letter that speaks of the wonder of the union of all believers, does not carry individual greetings, but, as he closes his Epistle, he cannot help but have in mind the wider congregation at Ephesus and desires the riches of God’s blessing upon them.
These blessings, as in all his letters, are seen to be from both the Father and the Son, proving the equality that is known in the Godhead. If the Lord Jesus is inferior to the Father, they would not be linked together as joint dispensers of all we require during this present age.
The features that Paul brings before us as needful are: peace, love with faith, and grace. What blessedness is felt when we have peace, both with God and among ourselves. Paul desires it particularly for the brethren. Does he reflect upon his word to the Ephesian elders in Acts chapter 20 when he could foresee the dangers that would assail the assembly and disturb the peace among them?
As it begins, so the Epistle ends, with grace. This is an Epistle of grace; grace is found on twelve occasions through it. All is of God as chapter 1 verse 6 unfolds, every blessing we have is ‘to the glory of His grace’. The redemption we have is ‘according to the riches of His grace’, 1. 7. The apostolic calling and spiritual gift of Paul was by the grace of God, 3. 2, 7, 8. Our conversation should ‘minister grace to the hearers’, 4. 29. We can do no better than Paul as we close the Epistle and say, ‘Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen’.