Summary: 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.
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. As all of you are now very well aware, this is a special morning for us here at Central. And it is an emotional one, too. We feel sadness in saying "goodbye" to some who are a precious part of our congregation. At the same time we rejoice in their commitment to Christ, & their decision to serve Him in a special way.
Then there is a tinge of concern, also, as we know just a little bit about the risks & dangers which they will be facing among primitive peoples in a very remote part of the world. But this is what they have chosen, & we wish them "God speed," realizing that there will undoubtedly be times when they will feel very lonely & far away from many they hold dear.
We pray that those times will be few, & that many more times they will know the joy of real service to Jesus & to their fellow man. And may they realize also the victory of seeing multitudes coming to know Jesus as their personal Savior & Lord because of the help that they have given.
B. I think that is a little bit the way the Apostle Paul felt when he wrote the words we find in 1 Corinthians 16:5-9. Listen as I read.
"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."
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."
C. 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.
PROP. 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.
I. A DOOR OF OPPORTUNITY
A. 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 & 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.
ILL. Someone has said that the difference between a pessimist & 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, & Paul was determined to share the Gospel with them.