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A Door of Faith

From the stone that was rolled away from the empty tomb, to the Ascension that opened the door into God’s presence, to the events of Pentecost that opened the door of language that had been shut since the tower of Babel, to literal doors such as Peter’s jail cell, God is the great opener of doors.

And now, as Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch after completing their first missionary journey, they report that God has opened another door, a door of faith for the Gentiles. Before this journey, a great wall had separated Jew and Gentile, but now a door has been opened so that the Gospel can go out and reach the Gentiles. Above that door, written in letters of blood, is the word “faith”. The means of entry into the kingdom of God is faith, not circumcision, not law-keeping, not even baptism, even though the door of faith always leads through baptism. It is a door of faith, first and foremost, and this faith has come to the Gentiles.

And how has it come? Romans tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and the truth that we are taught in Romans is the same truth that we see in Acts 14 verses 21 and 25. The act of preaching the gospel is the foundation of Paul’s missionary strategy, a strategy on full display here in Acts 14, composed of four steps.

Step one: preach the gospel. Find a public place to spread the message, usually a synagogue, and speak words about Jesus, specifically, what Jesus has accomplished for sinful men by His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Step two: make disciples. This language points us right back to the Great Commission of Matthew 28, which means that we know what this involves: baptizing and teaching. When it says in Acts 14:21 that they made many disciples, it means that they baptized people, and taught them the message of Jesus.

Step three: appoint elders. This idea has not been a prominent one up until now, but before the missionaries return home, before their job is done, they ordain elders (plural) in every church. Paul and Barnabas realize that each church will need capable men to ensure that the church continues believing the apostle’s doctrine, and so they appoint such men in every church.

Step four: establish churches. With prayer and fasting, the apostles commit these new churches to the Lord. Everything they need to be self-sustaining churches (the gospel, disciples, elders) is in place, and now they are formally brought before the Lord and committed to God.

Here’s the strategy: preach the gospel, make disciples, appoint elders, establish churches. All too often we settle for just the first or second steps, and then the mission is aborted, but missionaries have not finished their task until functioning churches with their own elders have been established. This is the example we see here in Acts, and this is what we should expect from our missionaries. This means that if you know people who say they love Jesus, but have not been baptized, or who have not submitted to elders in a particular church, then they are still candidates for missionary work! They are still in the doorway; they still need to be brought fully through the door of faith into the kingdom.

A few things to consider: to begin with, realize that the door being opened here is the door that allows you into the kingdom of God. This is the story of how we came to be included in God’s family, how our great-great grandparents first heard the gospel. The door of faith to the Gentiles is the door that we came through. Praise God for that open door!

And while this passage specifically describes the work of traveling missionaries, many of the lessons can be applied to you. Pray for a door of faith to be opened for someone you know, an unbeliever or unbelieving family, or, if you don’t know anyone like that, ask God to bring them into your life. Expect God to use you to open the door of faith by speaking the gospel to them. What a joyful day it will be when this church gathers together to welcome into membership those who have walked through doors that God enabled you to open.

Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2014 by CJ Bowen