“After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you – for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now & make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, & there are many who oppose me.” 1 Corinthians 16:5-9
Do you hear what he is saying? Evidently, Paul is tired. He has already spent more than 8 years on his first 2 missionary journeys traveling from city to city, working tirelessly, preaching the gospel, starting churches, facing opposition, sometimes even having to flee from those wanting to kill him.
Now Paul is in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, & he is writing to some friends in the church at Corinth. He is saying that he would like to come & spend some time with them, maybe even spend the winter.
He sounds like someone who needs a vacation, doesn’t he? And he is hoping to make it soon. But then we notice the 9th verse that says, “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, & there are many who oppose me.”
Paul didn’t know it when he wrote those words, but God was opening up a great door for him in Ephesus. In fact, Paul ends up staying 3 years there, more than twice as long as he ever stayed any place else on his journeys.
And from what we read, God not only used Paul to start a great church in Ephesus, but while he was there, many more churches were started in the towns & cities around Ephesus. It became a center from which the gospel flowed throughout all the provinces surrounding them.
Now the point I want to make is this: When Paul saw that great door opening for him, he saw that it was a door of opportunity, a door of obligation, & a door of opposition.
A door of opportunity.
Ephesus was not exactly a place where most Christians would have wanted to settle. Yes, it was a big city, one of the major cities in the eastern Mediterranean area. It was a financial, commercial center and a very rich city.
It boasted one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Diana was there with all its gross immorality & legalized prostitution. In fact, that was a part of their worship of the goddess Diana. It was a city where people were superstitious & believed in magic. They were constantly looking for soothsayers & fortune tellers to guide their lives. It was not a place where Christians would normally want to live.
But when Paul looked at Ephesus & saw the hundreds of thousands of people going about their daily activities, he said, “There is an open door here & I guess I’ll stay on a while longer.” He saw the opportunity that was there. Paul saw the opportunities. There were so many people who needed to hear about Jesus, Paul was determined to share the Gospel with them.
Paul was a master missionary. He said, “I have become all things to all people.” “If you need a preacher, I’ll be a preacher. If you need a teacher I’ll be a teacher. If you need a tentmaker, I’ll make tents with you. I will become all things so that some of you might come to know Christ Jesus.”
We must also recognize that there is more than one way to get the job done. In the 13th chapter of the Book of Acts the church in Antioch. they laid hands on Paul & Barnabas & sent them out to preach the gospel. They prayed for them & supported them.
But remember also that back in the 8th chapter of the Book of Acts persecution fell upon the church in Jerusalem. And many Christians had to flee from Jerusalem in order to escape the terrible persecution.
Today, people are being moved from one place in this world to another in record numbers. Executives, business men, agriculture experts and teachers are being moved to places like Japan, Singapore and Bangkok. And people from all over the world are coming to our cities, too. God can use this scattering to give us opportunities to share the Gospel with the world.
Today doors are opening all over the world. I think God is getting ready for a great surge before He comes again. As never before, we have wonderful opportunities to go through doors and preach the Gospel to people who have never been free to hear it before.
Paul also saw a door of obligation. He said, “The door is opened to me.” He didn’t say it was opened to Timothy or Barnabas or someone else. It had opened to him. He felt a personal obligation to stay in Ephesus and preach the Word of God to them.
We must each realize that I can’t do your work for you, and you can’t do my work for me. We have a personal obligation to share the Gospel wherever we are. As we see new homes being built in our neighborhoods it is an opportunity to reach out to more and more people. God is opening doors. But it becomes my obligation and your obligation to walk through the door.
Amy Carmichael tells of dreaming that she was in a jungle sitting by the campfire one night. As she watched the flames of the fire soar into the sky she said that she could see a grassy place, a clearing in the jungle, and many people were walking across it towards a terrible precipice.
There was a mother with a little girl clinging to her skirt walking towards the precipice, and no one said anything to her. She fell over the precipice, Amy could hear their screams as they plummeted to their death.
Then she saw a little boy walking towards the precipice, & he was blind, even as the mother & the little girl had been blind. As he was walking to his death Amy thought, “Why doesn’t someone say something to him?”
As the boy fell over the cliff, he grabbed hold of a little tuft of grass and screamed for help. But no one came, finally he, too, plummeted to his death. And there were thousands of others, all of them blind, all of them were heading towards the precipice, too.
In her dream, Amy Carmichael said, “I cried from the depths of my soul, `Why doesn’t someone tell them about the precipice and warn them of their danger?’” “Then,” she said, “I heard the voice of God saying, `Whom shall I send?’ And I said, `I’ll go. I’ll go.’ `All Right,’ said the Lord, `Then you’re my messenger.’”
Vs. 4 tells us that “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Wherever they went, they shared their faith. And they turned the world upside down with the gospel. The whole world started changing because wherever they went they told others about Jesus.
You see that’s a picture of our world. There is a precipice & people are walking blindly toward it. Does anybody care? Will anybody stand with Isaiah & say, “Here am I, Lord, send me”?
A Door of Opposition
The Apostle Paul also saw a door of opposition. He said, “There are many who oppose me.” It’s true. There will always be those who oppose the advancement of the Gospel.
In Ephesus there was Demetrius who made silver idols and sold them for profit. When the Gospel was proclaimed and people became Christians they stopped worshiping idols, &Demetrius went out of business. So he became an opponent of the Gospel and started persecuting Paul.
But perhaps the worst opponents to the advancement of the Gospel are not its enemies. They are the people who sit in the pews and who are nominal Christians. They hear the messages. They see the blind people wandering towards the precipice, but they go home unmoved and uncaring. And they are among the worst opponents.
Doors, all kinds of doors, are swinging open. And there will be opponents, no question about that. But we dare not look at the problems. We must seize the opportunities.
We must see the opportunities to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We are offered opportunities every day. God offers each of us an opportunity to come to Jesus, confess your faith, repent of your sins, be buried with Him in Christian baptism, & raised to walk in the newness of life. The doors of opportunity are open and waiting for you and I to walk through them and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.