For the past several weeks, the Apostle Paul has been in Ephesus on his third missionary journey – preaching the Word of God, doing miracles, and as usual, causing riots and uproars!
As we’ve been following Paul on his journeys through the book of Acts, it seems every city he visits ends up absolutely divided in their opinion of him! Either the people love and accept Him as a brother – or they reject and hate him as public enemy #1.
And the city of Ephesus is no exception to that rule. Last week the entire city was in an uproar against Paul – stirred to action by the silversmith Demetrius (who accused Paul of destroying his lucrative idol-making business and undermining the worship and the credibility of their goddess Artemis.)
Thankfully, the mayor of Ephesus didn’t see things quite the same way. He didn’t see Paul or Christianity as a threat to their city and he was able to disperse the mob before things got out of hand.
But now today, in contrast to that angry mob, we’re going to see the opposite side of that spectrum. Today we’re going to see just how dearly loved Paul was to the many who had been transformed by the power of the Gospel! It seems that Paul never had a neutral effect – you either loved him or you hated him!
Paul actually wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 2:15…
15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16a
I really like Paul’s metaphor here of being a fragrance – and it certainly fits his experience!
Now to be sure, Paul was certainly a strong scent. He was kinda like smell of garlic… You either love it or you hate it! There was no middle ground! But one way or another, Paul’s life made an impact on the people around him.
- To those who wanted nothing to do with God – Paul’s life was a stench and everything about him was repulsive to them.
- But for those who were seeking a real, authentic relationship with the God of heaven – Paul’s life was a breath of fresh air – like the smell of freshly-baked bread or the country air after a spring rain! For those who would come to Christ, Paul’s life and his message was absolutely refreshing!
And I think that’s really what we are called to be like as well. Jesus describes us as salt and as light – two things that should made a tremendous impact on the environment in which we find ourselves. As salt, we should be packed with flavour – and as light we should be like a million-candle-power flashlight! What a tragedy it would be if our lives were like a 1 watt bulb – or just a single grain salt in a big batch of french fries! NO! We need to be like Paul – packed with flavour – lighting up the darkness like a floodlight! Or to use Paul’s analogy, people should be able to smell us a mile away!
Perhaps that’s not the most attractive analogy, but do you get my point? God didn’t leave us on this planet to be neutral, to be unnoticed, to be inconsequential to the world around us. Like Paul, God has us on this planet to make an impact – one way or the other – for Him.
And today, as we read through Acts chapter 20, Paul is going to tell us exactly how He did that – and how we can do that as well.