A Door of Utterance

Ever since the fall of man people have been prone to sin. There have always been thieves and murderers and liars. Fornicators and adulterers and sinners of all types have always been around. And people are still sinning today. Yet there is one difference now. In times past most people acknowledged their sin. They did wrong – but they knew it was wrong! And when they came to God they understood what they had to do. They needed to confess and forsake their sin. They needed to repent!

How do you reach a people who no longer recognize sin for what it is? How do you reach a heterosexual couple living together without the benefit of marriage in a society that no longer frowns on that arrangement? How do you reach a homosexual in a culture that no longer considers that lifestyle to be sinful? How do you reach a nation and world that no longer acknowledges its wrongdoing? Is there any hope? Is there any use to even try? Is there any possibility of our successfully completing the commission Jesus gave us? Can we really make a difference anymore?

Consider these words of Jesus to the cities of Galilee: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” (Matthew 11:20-24)

Jesus said that the mighty works of God would have opened a door of utterance to the residents of Tyre and Sidon, and yes, even Sodom, had there been anyone in those cities with a close enough walk with God to make it happen. Jesus said these cities that seemed so hard and unreachable could, in fact, have been reached if God had had opportunity to do what He desired to do there.

The Apostle Paul asked the church at Colosse to pray “that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ…” (Colossians 4:3) When we ask God to open a “door of utterance” for us, His answer may take many different forms depending on who He desires us to reach on that particular day. His answer to our prayers may well include considerably more than just being given an opportunity to witness to our neighbor across the backyard fence. It may be more involved than just giving an invitation to church to the waitress at the local restaurant. It may mean doing something beyond going door knocking on a Saturday afternoon or teaching a Home Bible Study on Tuesday evening – important as those things are.

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Acts 16 relates the story of how God gave a door of utterance to Paul and Silas. “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”

How does one get “a door of utterance” with someone like this Philippian jailer? This man had one thing on his mind – and it was not a friendly conversation with these two pitiful prisoners. In fact, of all the people he might be interested in seeking guidance from – these men would be the least likely. And yet God knew that this prison guard, rough and tough as he was, was a prime candidate for salvation. But what hope did Paul and Silas have of finding a door of opportunity with him. He didn’t have the time of day for the likes of them. That perhaps is why Paul prayed so frequently for a door of utterance.

The story continues: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:24-30)

This door of utterance was opened to Paul and Silas, at high personal cost to them, through a mighty work of God. And now this prisoner, who just shortly before, had no interest whatsoever in what they had to say, was earnestly pleading with them, “How can I be saved?” What a difference mighty works can make!

Doors of utterance usually cost us something! And the world is watching to see how we respond to the suffering that may come our way to make it happen. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” (1Pet. 3:14-15, 18)

Like our lovely example, Christ Jesus, we too will sometimes be called upon to willingly suffer wrong so that we might be used to bring people to God – people who otherwise, would never be interested in what we have to say.

There is good reason why our preaching of truth must be accompanied by the mighty works of God. They are intended of God to open doors of opportunity to us. Some religious people will never listen to what we have to say just because of what they have heard about us. Many sinners are not interested in coming to church because they just do not realize how important it is. Only the mighty works of God in our midst will get their attention. Acts 8:5-8 says, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.”

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:15-20)

Rev. Robert Stroup is the District Superintendent of the Indiana District, United Pentecostal Church International. He is Pastor of Pentecostals of South Lake in Merrillville, Indiana.

photo credit: Marc G.C. via photopin cc

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