“Now thanks be to God who always leads us to triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
– 2 Corinthians 2:17 –
The world is full of smells. Some are wonderful and enjoyable: the satisfying air of a forest just after a shower, the inviting order of freshly baked bread, the sweet scent of a perfume. Others are revolting and repugnant: the awful stench of a dog caught out in the rain, the foul smell of burnt bread, the overpower scent of someone wearing too much perfume. Often, whether we savour or abhor a smell depends upon our individual perspective and circumstances. For example, a study in the middle part of the 20th century revealed that wintergreen is typically perceived by North Americans as a wonderful smell (think candy), while people in the UK consider it repugnant (think medicine). The same is true of sarsaparilla, a disliked medicinal odour in the UK, but a beloved smell in North America—root beer.
Time and again, we are told in the writings of the Old Testament that the sacrifices produced “…a sweet aroma to the LORD.” These offerings were the shadow of things to come, namely, the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. To the saints in Ephesus, Paul remarked that Christ “…has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). Indeed, the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God brought forth the sweetest aroma every to ascend to the heavens. However, His sacrifice does not exclude us from offering acceptable and fragrant sacrifices before the Lord, rather, through Him we have now become “the fragrance of Christ.” For by the mouth of His faithful servants, God disperses the sweet smell of His word throughout the world.
Interestingly, Paul said we are the euodia (sweet smell) of Christ in verse 15, but in verse 16, we are simply the osme (smell) of either death or life. It matters not what company we are in, whether faithful or unbelievers; we remain the sweet smelling aroma of Christ to our Father. How we are perceived by our company though depends upon their attitude toward God’s word and the impending judgment. To those who are offended at the word, finding it detestable, our speech is contemptable and reeks of weakness and misery. They could not consider the death-sentenced life of a Christian, foregoing the pleasures of sin. Sadly, their perception of the fragrance of Christ as the stench death leads them to eternal damnation. Conversely, those who delight in the law of God, esteeming it to be the “pearl of great price,” smell the refreshing and life-giving scent of the gospel. Thus, they are led by the fragrance of Christ to eternal life.
May our life be a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord, and may the fragrance of Christ go forth from us effectively. We cannot control how people respond to the scent of the gospel in our lives, but may we ensure that the scent is pure, unmixed, and identifiable as being from the Lord.