|Vol. 13 No. 12 December 2011||
J.C. Choate (deceased)
The Scriptures speak of open doors several times. Paul often mentioned them in describing opportunities that were presented to him to preach the Gospel. On the first missionary journey, it is said that the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). While in Ephesus Paul wrote, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
On another occasion, Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother, but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). The great apostle was referring to the time that a man appeared to him in the night, asking, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Paul went and preached the Gospel to Lydia and her household as well as to the Jailer and his household, and with their obedience to the Lord, the church was established in that part of the world (Acts 16:6-34).
Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, “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” (Colossians 4:2-4).
Yet, while doors may be open to preaching the Gospel, on other occasions they may be closed, or appear to be closed. In recent years, it seemed as though the door was closed to the Gospel in numerous countries around the world. Some of these were Russia, the East European nations, many of the Arab countries, China, North Korea and various others where visas seemingly could not be obtained for mission work or for any other reason. We thought that the door to India was closed because of the many failed attempts to get visas in the early 1960’s. We were finally forced to turn to Pakistan, which we were permitted to enter. Later, it was found that our Canadian brethren could go to India without having to obtain visas, since they were Commonwealth citizens. With the passing of time, and making additional efforts, we too were able to go to India on short-term visas, and we have continued to work there for many years.
Today, many countries that were formerly closed to missionary work are now open. Russia, for example, and other countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union, along with the nations of Eastern Europe, are open for the preaching of the Gospel. Even China can be entered for limited work. India now gives a long-term visa that is good for 10 years, up to 6 months at a time. With that visa, after spending 6 months one can leave India, go to a neighboring country [for two months], and return again for another 6 months. Where, now, are all of those who wanted to work full-time in India? If you are really serious about working there, you can go. The door is open!
Burma, under a military dictatorship and wanting to remain isolated, once allowed visitors only 24 hours. After years of that policy, they finally relented and gave a visa for one week. That led to a two-week visa, and now one can go in for one month [i.e., 28 days]. They even grant visas with multiple entries. Therefore, in comparison to the past, Burma seems to be wide open! That is a good example of a country changing its policy so that more time and effort can be spent there in preaching the Gospel.
There are still some areas in the world where it seems that the door is closed as far as evangelism for Christ is concerned – at least by the methods we generally consider, such as going in and living on a resident permit, or at least going in occasionally on short missionary trips. Typically, if these methods cannot be used, we describe those places as being “closed to the Gospel.” While it simplifies things to be able to enter a country on a long-term basis, or even for a short period of time, the inability to do so does not mean necessarily that that country, or that part of the world, is closed to the Gospel.
As I look at the world in the modern day setting, with all of the technology available to us, I see the whole world as open to the Gospel. There are now all kinds of ways to proclaim Christ. Teaching can be done through literature, radio, television, satellite, cable systems, video, email, websites, the postal system and any number of other ways.
As the communication systems of the world continue to expand, no doubt greater and even more exciting avenues will open up to us, making it possible to evangelize every nation, tribe and tongue. No longer can we stay at home and fall back on the excuse that we cannot go to a particular country or to some other part of the world because the door is closed. The fact is, all the doors are open to the truth, whether one works from his own home or goes physically to some distant point on the globe.
My brethren and friends, the Gospel is for all mankind, for every living soul. It is time for us to take the message of salvation through all the doors open to us. The world is waiting. What are we waiting for?