19 ¶ And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul now refers to his own situation where he is a prisoner in Rome. He asks that the Christians pray that he will be able to testify to the gospel where he is. He is not asking, like we often do, to be removed from his position, to be freed from his chains. He is asking that the Ephesians and other Christians pray that right where he is he might be an effective witness.
We look around us and often don’t see the mission opportunities that God has made available to us. We usually have a place of work or school. We have a family, maybe an extended family, and we have a neighborhood. But, we are constantly wishing that we were in some place distant, more exotic, perhaps in our fantasy minds more dangerous, and it is there we can be an effective witness for Christ.
But, if you aren’t willing to be a missionary in your own town, at your own job or school, or among the people you see every day then you will not be effective in some far off land.
The traditional ending of Ephesians has Tychicus writing the letter that Paul dictated from Rome to the church at Ephesus as an amanuensis, a secretary. Imagine Paul, who after spending two years in prison in Caesarea (Acts 24:27) was sent to Rome after his own request to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12) and after much trial and tribulation arriving there (Acts 27-28) was able to explain the gospel to the Jews at Rome (Acts 28:29) in a house in which he was imprisoned at his own expense (Acts 28:30-31). He even was instrumental in converting members of the emperor’s own household staff (Philippians 4:22).
Without arguing about how Paul got there and whether or not the Bible indicates that it was in God’s original plan for him or moreso the consequences of his own pride and stubbornness let us remember that Paul uses the time of his imprisonment wisely and asks the Ephesians to pray for his ability to speak to those around him. Your mission field starts at your front door and perhaps even before you get there with every keystroke on your computer and every word you say to your family at home. Quit complaining that you want to serve Christ and start serving Him where you are. Then, perhaps He will trust you with a field afar.
We are told to remember those in chains for Christ.
Colossians 4:18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen. « Written from Rome to Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus. »
We are to identify with them.
Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
The point I want to make from these verses is that we ought to speak boldly for Christ and from right where we are, whether it be chained to a guard in a rented house awaiting trial or working a machine in a local factory or seated on the Quad at our school. If we show the fruit of the Spirit then people will, indeed, want to know what we believe and why. Paul did not gain converts among his captors as the fictional character, Uncle Tom, did of his executioners in the famous novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by being a mean-spirited and paranoid, frightened bigot. The truth of what he knew and believed had to have come out in how he dealt with his awful situation and the people he interacted with every day. We would do well to think of that when we wish for a more effective witness.