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Open Doors and Adversaries

According to John Gipson, back in 1884, General Bragg shook up the entire political convention when he closed his nominating speech for Grover Cleveland with the words, "We love him for the enemies he has made." Have you made any enemies? It's not necessarily a bad thing, you know. Jesus had enemies who hated Him without a cause (John 15:25). To know that a man or woman is hated is only half the story. Of great import is the question of why they are hated, and who hates them. In his commentary on 1St John, William Barclay writes: "In ancient Athens the noble Aristides was unjustly condemned to death; and, when one of the jurymen was asked how he could have cast his vote against such a good man, his answer was that he was tired of hearing Aristides called 'The Just.' " Jesus' statement in Luke 6:26 reminds us that high numbers in the popularity polls are not necessarily a good thing — "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets."

Along these lines, 1st Corinthians 16:8-9 has always been a fascinating and thought-provoking passage of Scripture to me. The apostle Paul writes, "But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." Paul's precise reason for staying in Ephesus is clearly and concisely stated. In the words of the New International Version, "a great door for effective work has opened to me." A quick scan of Acts 19:8ff confirms Paul's analysis.  In this great first century metropolis – saturated with sin, materialism, idolatry, religious superstition, and false teaching – Paul preached the powerful gospel of Christ for two years. The results were positive and dramatic. We read that "all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord" (vs 10)....the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified (vs 17b)....and the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed (vs 20)." The door was indeed open in Ephesus – wide open. And Paul and other disciples were running through it with the gospel. The cause and church of the Lord was enjoying great success as many obeyed the gospel.  But not everybody was happy. As in every other place, gospel preaching in Ephesus made some glad, some sad, and some mad! Acts 19:23 records, "about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way." I love what the King James Version says here — "there arose no small stir about the way." The following verses (Acts 19:24ff) inform us that people who opposed Paul stirred up a real stink, instigating a riot which resulted in the apostle leaving town. Sometimes I am haunted when I compare my situation in preaching with what I read in the Bible. When the apostle Paul preached, there was often a riot afterwards. When I preach, people often say, "Good sermon, Preacher. I really enjoyed that," or they get up and walk out and say and do nothing at all. All of this raises two questions that won't leave me alone: Do I ever make any enemies? And, what would it take to once again cause "no small about the Way?"

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ