By Irven Lee
There have been periods in the history of man when the church after the New Testament order had to meet in secret if it met at all. There are places like this in our own generation in certain areas that are under the strong control of certain Catholic and Communistic governments. It is hard for Americans to know what it is like to be unable to advertise the place of worship or to hand out written sermons. Buildings may be built for the special purpose of worship in this country, and their locations may be freely advertised. The doors may be opened wide to any who desire to come, and we are free to seek to persuade any we meet to worship with us. They will not lose their jobs if they come, nor will they suffer any physical hardships. Some neighbor might scold them for attending, others might ridicule a bit, but they are protected by law against physical harm for choosing to worship with us. This is a liberty for which we should be thankful.
Paul said, “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:8, 9). In that age of persecution, he mentioned adversaries and an open door in the same sentence. The church has grown in the face of bitter opposition many times. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, and truth is a powerful force. Lives effectively touched by the teaching of the Bible will cause men to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the faith of such people will cause them to endanger their lives, if necessary, to spread the faith that is so precious to them. We owe a great debt to the great heroes of faith who paid such a price to put the Bible in the hands of the people in the language they could understand and to those who also sacrificed much to proclaim its truths where there were many adversaries. Let us use our liberty with much more zeal to spread the knowledge of the truth.
The apostle to the Gentiles found an open door at Troas, but he rushed on into Macedonia because of his special concern for the sick church at Corinth. He had written to them and encouraged other preachers to go to their rescue. He was also making his journey in that direction. He was writing a second letter when he mentioned the opportunity at Troas which he had passed for the time (2 Cor. 2:12, 13). He was eager to meet Titus and get some report from Corinth. No one man can be every where to enter every open door or to teach every honest heart. Many have been the times when good men have wondered where they should go and what they should do to accomplish most. The white fields call for more laborers (Matt. 9:36-38; John 4:34-38). This is a situation about which we should work and pray.
A worthy appeal is found in Col. 4:2-4, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” The apostle even preached gospel sermons when they were brought before kings, governors, and courts in their own self defense. They preached in season and out of season and asked others to do the same. Some of us might have seen the adversaries and supposed that there was no open door. There is need for the strength of conviction that drives men to declare all the counsel of God daily regardless of cost.
In this day, the speed of travel is a great advantage. It does not take so much of one’s life to go on the important errands. What portion of Paul’s life was spent in travel, in the task of getting from one place to another? One today has more time to preach because the time for going and coming is not so much. When you think of the slow rate of travel, do you stand amazed as you think of the generation that carried the gospel to the world in that one period of time (Col. 1:23)? We ought to be ashamed that we have done no more in this generation.
Consider this glimpse of how the gospel was carried so rapidly in the day of slow travel. “I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: but as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you; for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints” (Rom. 15:18-25). Paul himself is speaking of the whole eastern and northern sides of the Mediterranean Sea. He worked with fellow laborers, and they set us an example of preaching beyond the four walls of our meeting houses.
The message of truth has often been carried to individuals, to congregations, or to great numbers by written messages. This is a door through which truth may pass. Luke begins his account of the gospel story by these significant words: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye witnesses, and ministers of the work; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou has been instructed” (Luke 1:1-4). In fact, our whole Bible was given as holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit'(2 Pet. 1:21). There are certain advantages in teaching through written lessons. The reader can stop and consider a remark without being left behind while a speaker moves along. He can also turn back and read portions again. The document can be kept for future study. Let us not overlook this open door to teaching and learning. It is sad that many who could do not read. They miss a lot.
Radio and television stations have in the past offered wonderful opportunities in teaching the word of God. They are not as effective now as when they were first coming into use since there are now so many stations on the air. Listeners may turn to anyone of many and hear various types of programs, according to their own fancy. Times are changing, and I supose the generation is passing that has been able to broadcast the gospel by radio. There is a national trend for radio stations to refuse to sell time at any price for religious programs. Too few of the young preachers who are beginning their work now will have a chance to preach through this medium. Most of the radio time is now given over to cheap, ungodly music because the directors of the stations are convinced that the public desires such. Whatever the desires may be to the contrary, every person should have an opportunity to hear the gospel. It is sad to me to see this great door being closed. By radio many people have been reached who were not attending religious services anywhere and had not before shown any interest in spiritual things. Being able to listen in the privacy of their own homes often led to their interest being aroused which caused them to become Christians.
The challenge before all teachers of truth is to find other doors through which they may enter. As one door closes, perhaps others can be found which are open. Let us all look for them.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 26, pp. 427-428
June 26, 1980