Have you ever wondered about that “open door?”
1Cor. 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost,
1Cor. 16:9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Growing up often my parents would talk about walking through that “open door.” For them this was often a sign from God that it was the direction in which we were to go. Paul uses this very language when speaking about his own life, travels and ministry. He is writing to the church in Corinth, and he would like to get back to them, to visit them again, but he is in Ephesus. He believes that he should stay in Ephesus until the day of Pentecost. Why should he stay? Because a door has been opened to him.
The language of door that Paul uses here lets us know that it is a very large and broad opening resulting in effective work. The Greek word for effective has at its root the word for energy. It is an “energized” work and that must have been quite exciting. However, at the very same time that there is a huge opening and there is energized work, there are many adversaries.
Just imagine what Circus Maximus might have been like back in the days of the Roman Empire and you can possibly envision the scene that Paul is laying out before us. The entrances to the circus were large and broad — large enough to allow in the circus acts and the competitors. While the door was open to enter, at the same time your competitors would meet you in the center ring. Before there could be great victory there would have to be a contentious battle.
So Paul found himself welcomed into the center ring, to be a great warrior for the sake of Christ. The victories were great as there were huge amounts of converts to Christianity in Ephesus, but as more people came to Christ, the greater the opposition. Now, he is joined in the center ring by stronger and stronger adversaries until finally we read in Acts about the riots that had broken out in Ephesus. Too many people had come to know Christ! The economy of the entire city was shifting because no longer were enough people buying the trinkets and idols made in honor of the goddess Diana.
Paul may have entered through a very broad door and the people of Ephesus were energized through the power of the Holy Spirit but the enemy was angry. Paul, however, focused on the energized open door and continued to walk through it, accepting the adversaries as part and parcel of serving God.
That open door of opportunity! Have you ever prayed that way? That God would open the door and you would know for certain what it is that you were to be doing? I know that there have been times in my life when I have prayed in this way, seeking God’s leading and direction. There come times of transition and we begin to pray and wonder about the direction that we should go. This was the case for Paul. He had a tugging in his heart toward Corinth and yet, he believed that he was to stay in Ephesus. Why? Because the door there had remained open.
How did Paul know that the door was still open to him? Because he continued to see the hand of God at work in the place where he was.
When we are serving God in the place where he desires for us to be, we will see the imprint of his hand on our lives and work. Paul knew that the open and energized doors of opportunity in Ephesus were not because of him. He was not an incredibly good-looking charismatic leader that people showed up just to see him. Physical descriptions of Paul include the fact that he was short, bald with a big nose and one eye-brow. As for charisma in speaking, while I believe he was a powerful and persuasive preacher, I am also drawn to the night that he droned on and on and the young man fell asleep and fell from the window and died! No, what was happening in Ephesus was from God and Paul knew it.
We must be prepared, however, that when we walk through the open doors provided by God we may be met in the center ring by the adversary. The more successful the work of God, the more powerful the adversaries and for this we must be prepared.
(1.) that such a work of grace, such a setting open of a great and effectual door, is often the occasion of increased opposition to the gospel. It is no uncommon thing that the adversaries of Christ should be excited at such times; and we are not to be surprised if the same thing should occur now which occurred in the time of Paul.
(2.) This was regarded by Paul as no reason why he should leave Ephesus, but rather as a reason why he should remain there. It was regarded by him as an evidence that the Holy Spirit was there. It was proof that the enemies of God were alarmed, and that the kingdom of Christ was advancing. His presence also would be needed there, to encourage and strengthen the young converts who would be attacked and opposed; and he deemed it his duty to remain.
(3.) A minister should regard it as his duty in a special manner to be among his people when there is such opposition excited. His presence is needed to comfort and encourage the church; and when the minds of men are excited, it is often the best time to present truth, and to defend successfully the great doctrines of the Bible.
(4.) Ministers should not be discouraged because there is opposition to the gospel. It is one ground of encouragement. It is an indication of the presence of God in awakening the conscience. And it is far more favourable as a season to do good than a dead calm, and when there is universal stagnation and unconcern.
Good stuff! And a great reminder that open doors may lead to opposition, but the Spirit of God is in the midst of it all.
Henry says, “Note, Adversaries and opposition do not break the spirits of faithful and successful ministers, but only enkindle their zeal, and inspire them with fresh courage. Indeed, to labour in vain is heartless and discouraging. This damps the spirits, and breaks the heart. But success will give life and vigour to a minister, though enemies rage, and blaspheme, and persecute.”
If the door has been opened to you, enter, and keep moving forward. Pray for the energizing of God’s Holy Spirit to work in and through the open door but be prepared for the enemy who will meet you and want to go toe to toe with you in the center ring. But in the center ring, turn your eyes to God above who will give you the strength and perseverance to continue through the open door, and remember, the battle belongs to the Lord.
Lord, please help me to continue to walk through your open doors in life. Amen.