But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me — yet many oppose me.
This particular Scripture appealed to me this week because of both its worldly and spiritual implications. In these two simple verses. Paul is speaking to the Church at Corinth about the opportunities he has received to do great work for the Kingdom of God in Ephesus... the chance to do effective ministry, and he doesn't want to waste or lose the moment. Yet, he admits that there are many adversaries, or opponents working against him.
What we need to understand is that Paul desired to go to Ephesus, the greatest city of Asia Minor, long before he actually went there. In fact, we read in the 16th chapter of Acts, that the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from entering the province of Asia during his second missionary journey. At the time, Ephesus was a vital and booming commercial city and the capital of the Roman province of Asia (it would be located in modern Turkey today). It was the home of the famous temple for the fertility goddess Diana, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There was a vibrant business centered around making and selling idols associated with the Temple, as well as all sorts of superstitious religious practices, temple prostitution, and emperor worship.
So, when in God's own timing, Paul had the opportunity to preach and teach in Ephesus, he wasn't going to let that door close on him. And he was quite successful in his ministry and outreach; not only in Ephesus, but in the rest of the province of Asia -- so much so, that when so many people in Ephesus turned to Christ and renounced their pagan ways, some of the craftsmen in the city started a riot because he threatened their livelihood. So, it is important to understand that although Paul was seeing tremendous results from his Holy Spirit-filled teaching, Ephesus was still a pagan, superstitious, spiritually dark city. Yes, there were men of the world who didn't much like his success, but you can bet that there were spiritual entities that were none too happy with how he was affecting their "business" as well!
And that brings me to my personal testimony about why these two verses struck a chord with me this week. I have shared before that I am part of a small, faithful ecclesia of people dedicated to studying the Word and growing in their knowledge of God and His Kingdom here on earth. We have committed ourselves to tackling the tough books of the Bible. These are the books that the modern Church tends to avoid because they are too difficult to understand -- or let's be honest; they are simply too scary to contemplate. We have spent years together as a group, and have grown so much in our faith, and borne much fruit, through our studies of the Book of Revelation, Daniel, and Romans. We didn't shy away from the tough passages, and researched the Hebrew and Greek translations in order to discover what these Scriptures had to say to us modern-day Christians. Now, we are beginning the study of the Book of Acts; or as I like to call it, The Book of the Continuous Work of our Ascended Savior Through the Apostles.
You see, I believe all the Bible is a supernatural Book, and as such, is full of examples of the supernatural power of our God being transferred to men through the Holy Spirit. That is what the Book of Acts is about! We will be studying the Authority and the Power of God that was first displayed in the miraculous acts of healing and casting out of demons that our Lord performed. The opening chapter of Acts finds the resurrected Savior telling the apostles to prepare to do the same miracles through God's supernatural power that will soon be coming upon them. These supernatural acts will enhance the spread of the Gospel message.
And, as I have stated before, I believe that this Authority and Power did not end with the Apostles. We, too, are filled with that same Holy Spirit and can receive those same spiritual gifts that allowed them to teach, and preach, and heal, and deliver. And that's where the words of 1 Corinthians 16:9 have special meaning to me.
Just as Paul began receiving opposition when he was doing God's Kingdom work, so our little group can expect that we will receive resistance. There will be those in this world who do not agree that we have the same spiritual authority and power that the apostles had; and that's fine. We will continue to study and let God's Word dictate our position. Man's objection doesn't bother me. But it is the antagonism coming from the spiritual world that we are already beginning to face, and we are only on the first chapter of Acts!
As I shared recently in a post, nearly half of our home church has suffered the loss of a beloved pet in the last month from sudden or mysterious circumstances. This may be hard to digest, but last week my husband suffered a physical injury after being slammed to the ground by an unseen entity that he felt on his back. He didn't understand why, until the Lord revealed in a dream that we are under attack because we are studying how to claim our authority and power from God. And now, one of our members -- a vibrant and knowledgable woman of faith -- is under an oppressive attack of severe depression. The email I received from her about why she wouldn't be attending our gathering didn't even sound like her. It contained the words of a defeated, insecure, and beaten down woman who was listening to what a demonic spirit was telling her. It is obvious the spiritual world wants to take her out of the game and reduce her influence.
You see, as a group we have begun an informative study that will result in an effective ministry as we learn how to fight and defeat those who oppose us in the spiritual realm --- and they are not happy about it. We can expect to be tormented and harassed as we shake off the cobwebs from inspired Scripture. If the demonic realm can scare us off this study, we will be unproductive and fruitless Christians. We will still have our salvation, but we will not be reaching our full potential for the kingdom of God ... and that's just what they want.
But I know our faithful group. We will persist and endure and grow and become effective ministers in this, the 21st century version of a pagan, superstitious and spiritually dark world. And I fully expect to be inspired and encouraged and motivated as we follow the Apostles through their acts of obedience to God. We recognize that we are nothing, but through His Authority and Power we can do great things in His Name, and nothing can defeat us!