“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV)
As a preacher, I recognize the importance of words and the value of the right words. I try in articles, messages and correspondence to share the right words for the circumstance, often but not always with success. Words are occasionally slippery, though. Every culture has words that hold special meaning (for example, Bostonians use terms like bubbler, jimmies, and cellar that have little meaning elsewhere). The church culture also has its own lexicon which includes words like salvation, grace, God and redemption. There are many words that Christians use that require explanation if they are expected to be understood, let alone embraced, in a larger context. Yet these are the words, often, that express the dynamic spiritual change that believers experience when they trust Jesus as personal Lord and Savior (even this sentence contains a number of words that really require a culturally specific definition).
The scripture passage above speaks of ‘words’. Paul’s prayer requests to the church in Ephesus give me pause and hope at the same time. They give me pause that God’s commission covers ‘whenever I open my mouth’. Whenever I open my mouth – in traffic, when I hit my thumb with a hammer, while I make small talk with a neighbor, with friends at Fenway discussing the game – are my words making known the mysteries of the gospel? They also give me hope because we are promised ‘words may be given me’. God is faithful to allow me to say the things He wants spoken in that circumstance.
Paul’s prayer requests to the church may only cover his teaching or preaching ‘words’; after all, he does frame the petition around words like mystery, ambassador and declare. But what if it applies to all language, not expecting us to quote scripture every time our lips move but claiming every conversation for the cause of Christ? Are there conversations to which I contribute that have no redemptive value? Sadly, I do. But this is not because of the subject matter but my laziness in directing any aspect of the conversation toward the gospel.
Perhaps these words in Ephesians are encouraging those who call upon the name of the Lord to speak for Him through our interactions over the Red Sox, “Dancing with the Stars” and election results, among other things. Then, if we can do that, perhaps we could move forward in our dialogue to also speak fearlessly (boldly and without shame) while making known the mystery of the gospel (the wonderful good news that makes a person drowned in sin alive through God’s unmerited favor demonstrated by Jesus’ intentionally sacrificial death and powerfully restorative resurrection).
I hope that the right words have been given me in this situation, and I pray that they’ve made the gospel known in your reading them.