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. (verses 8-9)
Open door and opposition – I am struck by the fact that Paul embraces these two things with no sense of contradiction. Of course. He is so aware of the reality of the spiritual battle (see Ephesians 6:12) that the experience of opposition does not distract him from the opportunity the Lord has placed before him.
I, on the other hand, have often viewed opposition and resistance as manifestations of a door creaking shut, leading to discouragement. These two verses wake me.
Paul’s experience in Ephesus over a three-year period (recorded for us in Acts 19), was indeed filled with this mix of openness and opposition. Early on he was used by the Lord to help a small band of believers step into the fullness of the Gospel experience in Christ and life in the Spirit. Immediately he had fruitful ministry in the local synagogue, extending for three months. But then, opposition arose – some became obstinate and started speaking against Paul and the Gospel, necessitating his withdrawal to a different venue. This resistance from religious Jews was later matched and intensified by the surrounding pagan culture. The guild of silversmiths, noticing a marked decline in their business crafting shrines of the goddess Artemis, provoked a riot in the city that filled the local theatre with citizens enraged at the message of the Gospel.
Opposition had been real and varied. But so, too, was the open door. Paul ministered in Ephesus over a period of three years (Acts 20:31) with the effect that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the world of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). Effective work, indeed.
I am reminded of the risen Lord’s words to the church in Philadelphia: “These are the words of him … who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open … See, I have placed before you an open door …” (Revelation 3:7-8).
No opposition can get in the way if the Lord himself has opened the door.
Dear Lord, help me to have eyes to see the doors you’ve opened for me. Keep me unsurprised when opposition arises - keep me persevering to press forward, regardless. Your kingdom come; your will be done. Amen.
Reflect: What open door has the Lord placed before you at the moment, big or small? What further steps do you need to take to press through?