The Bible is clear about the state of non-believers before they respond to the gospel in repentance and faith. In fact, it often describes them in terms of spiritual conflict:
- They’re following the “prince of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
- They’re living in the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
- They’re under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18).
- They’re blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
- They’re caught in the devil’s trap (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
The implications of these texts are many. First, evangelism is itself a spiritual war. Whenever we choose to engage others with the good news of Jesus, we are entering the enemy’s territory. He does not sit by idly when we proclaim the gospel that frees people from bondage.
Second, evangelism is often difficult. The enemy always fights to keep people in darkness, and he does not give up easily. Thus, it should not surprise us when evangelizing believers despair because no one listens, temptations return and rejection abounds.
Third, we believers are the enemy’s targets. Non-believers are already in his kingdom, so he has no need to aim his arrows at them. Instead, he strikes at us because we’re God’s plan to communicate the good news. If the enemy can wound us in the battle, he temporarily hinders the progress of the gospel.
Fourth, we must be wearing the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). That is, we must know Christ and walk in His righteousness and truth. In faith, we must stand on His Word and announce it to the nations. Our own discipleship matters, for that process teaches us how to follow Christ closely. To take on the enemy through evangelism without also wearing God’s armor is dangerous indeed.
Fifth, prayer matters. We know that truth intellectually, but I am not certain we understand it spiritually. Paul surely understood it, and his repeated calls for prayer on his behalf emphasize that point:
- “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)·
- “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.” (Colossians 4:2-4)
Paul knew his call to get the gospel to the nations, and he longed to go where the gospel had not gone (Romans 15:20). He also knew, though, that he could not do this work apart from the power of God. With great passion, he pleaded for other believers to intercede for each other and for him. From the prison cell — where he found himself for preaching the gospel boldly — Paul requested more prayer that he would continue doing what planted him in jail in the first place!
If Paul needed prayer to speak the gospel boldly, surely you and I do, too. Take some time today to pray for yourself and other brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray they will speak the gospel boldly and clearly. Pray God will open doors for them to share the gospel. At the same time, get to know some non-believers, and let it be your prayer and heart’s desire that they, too, be saved (Romans 10:1).