Gospel momentum was increasing. Paul’s Damascus Road encounter was a game changer. No longer could Christ proclaimers be written off as just uneducated, blue-collar men. Take the Holy Spirit power that was so powerfully upon those “mere fishermen” of Galilee and put that on one educated among the elite of the elite in things of the Scriptures, and it was a force to be reckoned with. Where Paul went many Jews believed. And where the Jews thought they were above salvation, scores of Gentiles rejoiced, receiving freely the gospel of forgiveness and the promise of eternal life as they glorified the word of the Lord.
To be sure, despite the persistent persecution, a wave of wonder was flowing over every region where the good news was proclaimed. A river of revival among Israel. A fountain of unimagined freedom for the Gentiles. The spring of salvation had burst forth and many were being cleansed in the life-giving water of the word of God.
And what I’m chewing on this morning, as I hover over Acts 13 and 14, is a phrase that occurs nowhere else in the Bible. But one that encompasses the behind the scenes dynamic of every soul who came to Christ then, and every soul who has believed the good news since.
[Paul and Barnabas] sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
(Acts 14:26-27 ESV)
God had opened a door. All that Paul and Barnabas had related to their commending church was less about what they had done for God and what God had done through them. It was the God who is sovereign over all the nations who had provided the opportunity. And though they planted faithfully, and others watered just as faithfully, it was God who gave the growth (1Cor. 3:6). An abundant harvest. A harvest by faith and for faith. God had opened a door of faith.
Like the lid on the antithesis of the proverbial Pandora’s box, there was no imagining the abundant blessing available to those who encountered the gospel when the door of faith was opened.
The gift of faith (Eph. 2:8) making way for salvation from sin. Those dead in trespass and sin made alive. Those excluded from the promises brought into a new covenant with eternal implications. Those once far away now brought near into abiding relationship, recipients of “the immeasurable riches” of God’s grace “in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:1-7).
The door of faith opened and a righteousness revealed (Rom. 1:16-17). A door of faith opened and, for those who would walk through it, healing attained–spiritual healing and, in many cases physical healing, as well. The door of faith opened and new ways of navigating life enabled, people now able to walk by faith and not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). The door of faith opened, and ordinary people able to accomplish extraordinary things, of whom the world was not worthy (Heb. 11). The door of faith opened and mere mortals now able to bring pleasure and joy to the Creator, for with faith it is possible to please God (Heb.11:6).
Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.
~ Jesus (Revelation 3:8 ESV)
The door of unimaginable blessing, power, and opportunity forever opened.
No wonder Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities where the gospel had been received to encourage the saints to keep walking through that door.
. . . they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith . . .
(Acts 14:21b-22a ESV)
Continue in the faith, weary saint. Keep on keepin’ on. The door is still open. The gates of heaven are still swung wide. Every spiritual blessing in heaven still ours. And that, by faith.
Because of everlasting grace. All for His everlasting glory.