Opportunity and Opposition
There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.
1 Corinthians 16:
As Paul wraps up his letter to the Corinthians, he mentions his travel plans, including his hope to visit Corinth before too long. In the meantime, he is remaining in Ephesus because "there is a wide-open door for a great work here" (16:9). As eager as Paul is to get back with the Corinthians, he doesn't want to miss the opportunity presented to him in Ephesus, where, it seems the Gospel is being well-received by many.
But not by all. Yes, in Ephesus there is "a wide-open door for a great work." But also, Paul adds, "many oppose me" (16:9). He does not explain the nature of the opposition in Ephesus, though it seems to be significant. Acts 19:23-41 provides a glimpse of some of what Paul faced in Ephesus. A group of silversmiths who made little statues of the goddess Artemis became concerned that the success of Paul's ministry would hurt their business and rob Artemis of her prestige. They started a riot, with the intent of injuring Paul and his colleagues. But the mayor of Ephesus was finally able to disperse the crowd.
From his years in apostolic ministry, Paul knew that great opportunities for ministry are often joined by great opposition. This happens for several reasons. People can resist the Gospel because they rightly understand that, if received in faith, it will bring transformation to individuals and communities. The Ephesian silversmiths were not crazy in their fears about the threat posed by Paul. Yet there is also a spiritual dimension to hostility to the Gospel. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, "we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). Thus, like Paul, we should not be surprised when fruitful service to God encounters significant opposition.
Notice that Paul did not seek to run from his enemies. On the contrary, he chose to remain in Ephesus because of the potential for fruitful work there. When we face challenges to our faith, when our efforts to serve the Lord engender opposition, we can be inspired by Paul's example to press on, knowing that God is greater than anything that would oppose his work. Though the battle continues, we rejoice because we are on the winning side.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced something like Paul did in Ephesus, where a "wide-open door" for ministry encountered serious opposition? What did you do? What gives you the strength to press on in the face of antagonism?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must say I don't like the fact that opportunity for fruitful ministry often comes with significant opposition. It would be so much easier if things didn't happen this way, and you know how much I like things to be easy. But I do understand, Lord, that your Gospel will encounter opposition because it upsets the status quo of our personal lives and our society. And, in truth, I wouldn't want to devote myself to a less troublesome gospel.
I also acknowledge, Lord, the reality of our battle, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers that oppose you. Help me, Lord, to be strengthened for this battle, to wear your armor, to fight with spiritual weapons. Join me together with brothers and sisters who will encourage me and whom I can encourage. May we be fellow soldiers in your battle.
Prepare my heart, Lord, so that when opposition comes, I am not surprised. Help me to trust you more, to pray more, to hope more, and to remain faithful in all things.
All praise be to you, God of power and might. Amen.