Saturday, December 16, 2017

Open Doors

We’ve just published a new article, Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? on our main site. We always attempt to write all articles with a good balance of conviction and charity, particularly on articles that may involve polemics and gray areas of the Bible. Although we try our best, we often fall short of the ideal, usually on the side of favoring conviction over charity. This subject can be a very emotional one for those on both sides of the argument, so we’ve attempted to make an extra effort to present a balanced account of the evidence. We mention this article because one of the arguments for the celebration of Christmas is that it opens many doors to share with non-believers about the real meaning of the holiday.

When the Scriptures speak of an open door, the author is often referring to an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, he reported back to the church at Antioch how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Ac 14:24-28). He also spoke of a door that God opened for Him at Troas (2Cor 2:12).

In Paul’s final instructions to the Colossian Church, he had a prayer request. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should (Col 4:2-4).

Of course, when God opens a door for us, we can almost always count on opposition from adversaries. Near the end of his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes that he plans to visit them soon, but that he 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” (1Cor 16:8-9).

Yet, Paul saw adversity as an opportunity to rely on God’s great strength rather than his own weaknesses. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (2Cor 1:8-11).

In other places, the open door refers to access to God, either in fellowship or in a salvific sense. We first see this in the account of the great flood. After Noah built the ark that was a picture of Christ, the rains came down, Noah’s family and the animals entered the ark, and the Lord shut the door (Gen 7:11-16). Just as the open door represented life, the closed door resulted in a judgment of death for the wicked.

Likewise, in the parable of the bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-13), the ones that were not prepared for the bridegroom (Jesus) when He came, arrived after the door was shut. They called out “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”. (See also Luke 25:22-30 for the similar parable of the narrow door).

The prophet Isaiah gives us the account of God placing Eliakim as the main “storekeeper” under King David. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (Is 22:22). This gave Elaikim control of the palace among other duties and privileges, but the greatest power is that he controlled who had access to the King. He could allow or block anyone from entering into the king’s throne room. In Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev 3:7). Here, Jesus is declaring that He holds the key to the throne room of the Divine King, the throne of Heaven.

So, we see that it is God who opens and closes the doors in all these cases. Yet, there is one case in which we must open the door for ourselves. Going back to the churches in Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev 3:19-20).

There has been some disagreement on the addressee of this statement. It is in the context of His address to the church, yet he also says “that person”. In addition, the next two verses read To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:21-22). These last two verses are obviously admonishing Christians to take heed of what was being said to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. If verses 19 and 20 are part of the address to the churches, they are an appeal for individuals within the church to let Him into closer fellowship. If the verses are part of the address to individual Christians, it could be taken as an evangelistic call.

The former interpretation is probably the most likely, however we know that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10), and that He is the door to Heaven (Jn 10:9). Therefore, when we are called, we must respond to the Gospel by opening the door by faith. If we do so and confess Jesus as Lord, we will be sealed with the Holy Spirit and adopted into the family of God as co-heirs of the Kingdom (Rom 10:9-10, Eph 1:13-14, Rom 8:14-17).