Summary: Evidently, Paul is tired. He has already spent more than eight years on his first two missionary journeys traveling from city to city, working tirelessly, preaching the gospel, starting churches, facing opposition, sometimes even having to flee from thos
AN OPEN DOOR
Tonight I feel a little bit the way the Apostle Paul felt when he wrote the words we find in 1 Corinthians 16:5-9.
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 and 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, and there are many who oppose me. 1Corinthians 16:5-9
Do you hear what he is saying? Evidently, Paul is tired. He has already spent more than eight years on his first two 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, and he is writing to some friends in the church at Corinth. He is saying that he would like to come and spend some time with them, maybe even spend the winter.
He sounds to me like someone who needs a vacation. And he is hoping to make it soon. But then notice what he says in vs 9, But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and 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 three 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 and cities around Ephesus. It became a center from which the gospel flowed throughout all the provinces surrounding them.
Paul saw a great door opening for him.
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 and 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 and legalized prostitution. In fact, that was a part of their worship of the goddess Diana.
It was a city where people were superstitious and believed in magic. They were constantly looking for soothsayers and fortune tellers to guide their lives. It was not a place where Christians would normally want to live.
When Paul looked at Ephesus, he saw tens of thousands of people going about their daily activities, and thought, There is an open door here and I guess I’ll stay on a while longer. He saw the opportunity that was there.
Someone said that the difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that a pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity. But an optimist sees an opportunity in every problem.
Paul saw the opportunities. There were so many people who needed to hear about Jesus, and Paul was determined to share the Gospel with them.
The U.S. Center of World Missions reports that in 30 A.D., when the church was just getting started, there were 200 million people in the world and only about 5,000 Christians. That is a ratio of 40,000 to one.
By the year 1900, there were a billion people in the world and 10 million committed Christians. That’s a ratio of 100 to one.
Today there is six and a half billion people in our world and 650 million committed Christians, not counting about 1.2 billion nominal Christians. And, that’s about a ratio of ten to one.
What does that tell us? It tells me two things, first, the Gospel of Christ is having an ever increasing impact on the non-Christian world.
Secondly, it tells me that if all the 650 million Christians got serious about sharing their faith, all we would have to do is to win ten people apiece and the world will have been won to Jesus.
Paul was also a great strategist. 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.