by Mike Ratliff
And having gone through the Pisidia they went into the Pamphylia and having spoken in Perga the Word they went down to Attalia and from there sailed off to Antioch, from where they having been commended by the grace of God to the work they had fulfilled. Having arrived and gathered the assembly together they declared all that God had done with them and opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples. (Acts 14:24-28 a personal translation from the Greek text)
Not all of the letters to the churches from our Lord in the book of Revelation were as harsh as the one to Laodicea. In his letter to the church in Philadelphia he commended their faith and good works. In that letter He made one marvelous statement (v8) that we will be the focus of this post.
Here is the entire letter with v8 in bold.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:7-13 ESV)
Here is v8 from the Greek text, “οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα· ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ἐνώπιόν σου θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην, ἣν οὐδεὶς δύναται κλεῖσαι αὐτήν· ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν, καὶ ἐτήρησάς μου τὸν λόγον καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὸ ὄνομά μου.”
Here is a word-for-word translation of v8, “I know of you the works, look I have given before you door having been opened, which no one is able to close it, because little you have power and you kept of me the word and not you denied the name of me.”
The words the ESV translated as “open door” and I as “door having been opened” are θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην. The word θύραν is the Accusative, Singular form of θύρα or thura, which is simply the Greek word for a door. Of course, it also is used in the New Testament figuratively by our Lord saying that entering His Kingdom requires us to go through a door, but when that door is closed in judgment, there is no more opportunity for those who knock because the owner never knew them (Luke 13:24-25; cf, Matthew 7:21-23). On the other hand, our Lord Himself is called “the Door.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:1-10 ESV)
Notice that genuine sheep hear their true Shepherd’s voice and flee from false shepherds, but, tragically, many are fooled into following false shepherds to their destruction. That is rampant in our time. This deception happens to those who are not listening to the Shepherd, but to others. The true Shepherd speaks through Scripture alone not through visions, dreams, inner urgings, or any other subjective means. What does our Lord mean when He spoke to the church at Philadelphia that he had set before them an open door?
We have seen what a θύρα is. What is this reference of ἀνεῳγμένην? This the perfect, passive, participle version of ἀνοίγω or anoigō, which simply means “to open” and is used most frequently in the New Testament with θύρα. Notice in the reference at the top of this post in Acts 14 to how Paul spoke of God opening the door of faith to the Gentiles so that his missionary work could prosper. Paul worked. Paul traveled. Paul preached. Paul witnessed. But without God opening that door of faith it would have been for naught. Oh, he might have been able to start some man-focused religiosity stuff, but that is most certainly not the same thing and Paul knew it. He knew and we must learn as well that without God opening this door of faith, there is no gift of faith, there is no granting of repentance, no one can obey the command to repent, no one can believe the Gospel nor will be be compelled to do so (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12-13; Colossians 4:3). Many have tried to counterfeit this through emotionalism and constant revivalism, but all that produces is empty, emotion-driven, evangelicalism that is based on nothing more than feelings and good intentions with possibly some tradition thrown in.
Why was this persecuted church in Philadelphia granted this gift of the open door? Jesus says that He knew of their works, they had kept His word and had not denied His name even though they were under attack for standing firm. This Church was not a Laodicean church. It was not a church according to what the people wanted. Instead, it was all wrapped up in the Lordship of Christ. That is the exact opposite. They heard and obeyed the Word of God. They were sinners saved by grace and were standing firm against those attempting to get them to conform to the false gospel of judaizers. Also, when given the opportunity to share their faith, they did so. They preached the Word. They preached the Law and the Gospel as we are commanded. The Law to show us our need for a Saviour and then the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t all that complicated.
The Christians at Philadelphia spiritually supped with the Lord as their honored guest. They spiritually washed His feet as the woman who did so with her tears as he reclined at the couch in Luke 7:36-50. They were not focused on self, but on Him and His glory. They were eternally focused not temporally focused. They knew the sound of their Shepherd’s voice and followed Him while fleeing from the false shepherds trying to deceive them. They were able to do this because they only listened to His voice and that meant they stayed in the Word not in what men say, but in what God says.
Soli Deo Gloria!