Wednesday, 23 November 2016
…for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:20
The words “for which” are speaking of “the mystery of the gospel” which Paul just mentioned. It is for this marvelous message from God, and which speaks of peace between Him and man through the work of Christ, that Paul found himself “an ambassador in chains.”
His words here are an oxymoron, and even a paradox. Paul claims to be “an ambassador” but he also states that he is “in chains.” The very nature of being an ambassador signifies one who is granted outward splendor and high honor. This was, and continues to be, a law of nations. A violation of this honor could then, as now, spark immense outrage and even war. An ambassador represents a leader. Thus Paul was a representative of Christ, and yet he was bound as if a criminal. The word for “ambassador” here is presbeuó. It “means to act as an established statesman (diplomat) – a trusted, respected ambassador who is authorized to speak as God’s emissary (represent His kingdom)” (HELPS WORD Studies). It is found only here and in 2 Corinthians 5 –
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21
The ambassador of Christ, who represented the One who knew no sin, but who was made to be sin for us, was also accounted as one who had committed an offense. Paul emulated His Lord well in order to bring the word to the world. Even today, he is despised by Jews, his words are attacked by world leaders and college professors, and his life and work is even diminished by ill-informed Christians as to the nature of what his writings mean. He is often ignored by churches, and yet it is his writings which establish proper doctrine for all churches during the Gentile-led church age. As Christs’ ambassador, rejecting him and his word is thus a rejection of Christ and His word. But in his life, the Lord allowed him to be so bound.
The word translated here as “chains” is actually in the singular in the Greek. Paul would have been bound by a manacle connected to a chain, and that may then have been connected to his Roman guard. Or, it could be that his chain was bound to a ring on the wall next to him, or even loose. If loose, it could easily be grabbed by the guard as he tried to escape. No matter what, Paul was free on one hand so that he could move about, write, and so forth, but he was still bound. It is this chain which he is now considering the badge of his ambassadorship. Unlike other ambassadors who were considered immune from prison, Paul found his ambassadorial duties intimately connected to his confinement.
In this state, he asks for prayer and supplication (see verse 18) “that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” As can be seen, his request for prayer wasn’t just some arbitrary desire, as if he was looking for people to unnecessarily recognize him. Rather, he truly needed this prayer because of the abnormal state in which he was placed. He, an ambassador bound to a chain, was a representative to the Gentile world of the grace of God which is found in Jesus Christ.
Life application: Christ Jesus was made a public humiliation in order to reconcile us to our heavenly Father. Paul followed Him in this and became an ambassador of Christ who was frequently afflicted with trials, imprisonments, beatings, and the like. Should we not consider that oppression and trial for the sake of the name of Christ is also a badge of honor if we so suffer? Let us not forget that our faithful testimony in such circumstances will be rewarded by the Lord when we face Him on the day of our judgment.
Lord God, there are many faithful Christians, even right now in the world, who are being persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Help us to remember them in our prayers, help us to not be ashamed of their afflictions, and help us to be likewise faithful in such trials if that time comes for us as well. Let us bear the reproach of the world gladly for the sake of the exalted name of Jesus Christ our Lord. For even He took our reproach upon Himself so that we could be reconciled to You. Help us to emulate Him in all ways that the circumstances of our surroundings call for. Amen.