A careful reading of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution reveals that it protects several basic liberties — freedom of religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly. Interpretation of the amendment is far from easy, as court case after court case has tried to define the limits of these freedoms.
In regards to speech, the First Amendment specifically prohibits the making of any law impeding abridging the freedom of speech.
There is good reason the protection of free speech was written into law – the framers anticipated that there would be opposition to this right!
And they were right!
In our current PC environment, speech is front and center. For increasing opposition to free speech seems the order of the day for those who appropriate this precious right!
In the spiritual, as Kingdom citizens, we not only have the freedom to speak, we’re commanded to speak. And what is we are to utter? The truth!
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9)
The gospel message itself centers on the person and work of Jesus, and we are to proclaim His praises, which includes telling of Who He is and what He has accomplished through His death and resurrection.
But as with opposition to our First Amendment rights regarding speech as American citizens, we are also opposed spiritually as we strive to proclaim in word the gospel of our Lord!
And make no mistake, this opposition is relentless. You see, Satan and his minions seek to muzzle our witness or simply keep us from speaking at all. There is nothing new under the sun, so it’s no wonder the Apostle Paul exhorted the saints in Ephesus to pray for him to boldly open his mouth and proclaim the gospel.
As believers we are familiar with Ephesians 6, where Paul exhorts the church at Ephesus to be strong in the spiritual battle by putting on the ‘whole armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:10-13). He then specifies the components of the armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).
I have recently been struck by the last two verses of this section on spiritual warfare, because they apply precisely to not only our gospel witness, but the proclamation aspect of that witness:
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)
The Greek word parrhesia is rendered “boldness” in these verses. It also conveys the idea of free and fearless confidence.
Paul wrote Ephesians while a prisoner in a Roman jail. It certainly took boldness to make known the gospel in the midst of constant opposition, hostility and persecution while in the free world. And now an imprisoned Paul is asking the Ephesians to pray for him to boldly proclaim the gospel – ‘as he should.’
In my Christian life I have prayed this prayer for myself and have asked others to pray for me in this manner. For whether it was sharing my new faith with my Jewish family as a baby Christian – I was the first believer in my family, or sharing the gospel on the streets of New York City – there have been situations that absolutely intimidated and scared me…situations where I needed boldness to open my mouth and boldly proclaim the gospel! And there are situations I face in my current walk with God where I need boldness to open my mouth and speak truth!
Because opposition, hostility, and persecution are real possibilities. And therein lies a component of the spiritual battle we must face. Specifically, we may called to proclaim the gospel in situations where the possibility of painful consequences exists.
We think of Paul as a tremendous witness for Jesus and he was. Yet he experienced fear in ministry.
Paul experienced fear even among believers when he shared these words in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:
“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Additionally, in his second letter to the church in Corinth, he also revealed fear in ministry:
“For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5)
I don’t know how the opposition to your witness today is being manifested, but I do know the enemy wants you silent. He wants every witness for Jesus silent. For we are in a spiritual battle.
May we not only put on the whole armor of God, but may we pray for ourselves and each other to exercise our responsibility to boldly proclaim the gospel message as God provides opportunity.
For we pray for open doors and open hearts. But we must also pray that when opportunities arise, we are given the words to boldly proclaim the gospel about our Lord Jesus, Who is the hope of the world. Pray for me and I will pray for you.
Father, I thank you for my brothers and sisters who desire to proclaim Jesus! I pray for them and myself, that whenever we speak, words may be given us so that we will boldly make known the mystery of the gospel. I pray that we may declare it boldly, as we should. Amen.