Open Doors and God’s Will (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)

1 Corinthians 16:8-9 – But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Here in the closing portion of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells them that he is not planning to make a hurried visit to them. Instead, he plans to remain in Ephesus for a while, and then come see them later. His reasoning for wanting to stay where he is comes out of the fact that a great opportunity for ministry has become available to him, and he does not want to neglect it.

This passage speaks to us regarding one false factor that many Christians use to try to determine whether or not something is God’s will. We see the words of Paul here, and we say that we need to look for an opened or closed door in order to know whether or not something is what God wants us to do. But I want you to recognize that, if you look at Paul’s words, you will see that what he describes as an open door is what most who use the “open door principle” would actually call a closed one.

In the same breath, Paul says that a wide door for effective ministry has opened for him, and that there are many adversaries. He is not saying that the sign of the open door is that things are easy or simply laid out before him. On the contrary, his open door is marked by opposition and hardship. His open door is a door to a battleground for the sake of Christ. He is not looking at the ease of the ministry or the simplicity of the opportunity, but rather is looking at the fact that he has a chance to obey the commands of God in a significant way despite difficult circumstances; that is Paul’s open door.

So often, we look for open doors, and we think that open doors are those through which we can walk with comfort and ease. If the job looks good, the money looks right, and the school system looks strong, we conclude that God has opened the door for us to go to the new town. While there is nothing wrong with those three things lining up, they are not the signs of an open door. Open doors are simply these: places and circumstances in which we can obey the commands of God to the utmost of our ability. We might face terrible circumstances all the way. We might never make enough money, have any comforts, or have a moment’s peace from conflict. Such things are not the marks of open doors, regardless of how clearly the prosperity gospel preachers say they are. Paul’s open door in Ephesus led him into battle with adversaries. Your open door to ministry may very well lead you to the same place.

The point here is that we do not use our understanding of open doors and circumstantial evidence to determine whether or not a certain place or ministry is God’s will for us. There are better criteria in place. The criteria that we should use is the word of God, which calls us to live in certain ways and do certain things. Then, when we get the opportunity to obey God in those areas, we take it, even if we face adversaries along the way. The open door is an expression referring to opportunity to obey the clearly given commands of God, not of effortlessness in overcoming circumstances.

Dear Lord, I pray that you will open doors for me to do effective ministry. I recognize that such open doors need not be marked with a lack of difficulty. I simply ask that you will show me where and how I can most effectively follow your commands for your glory. That is the open door through which I desire to walk. Lead me along paths of righteousness, I pray, for your name’s sake.