The Aroma of Christ 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

Let’s take a few moments to reflect and meditate on these words – especially verses 14-17.

What pictures come to your mind? What is Paul saying when he says this?

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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The triumphal procession

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

What is our place in Christ’s victory procession? The soldiers in the victorious army – or the prisoners of war?

Roman conquerors would lead their shamed captives in a “triumphal procession.” Christ hasa triumphed and now leads believers as his captives in the procession.

Paul uses the same picture in
Ephesians 4 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

We Christians are the captives in the victory procession. Paul also used the picture of the victory procession in

1 Corinthians 4 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

End of the procession – first into the arena to face the lions! Do we still think that being a part of Christ’s victory procession is quite so wonderful?

15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

What picture does that create in our minds. “The pleasing aroma of Christ.” ???

In the Roman triumphal procession sweet-smelling incense was offered to the gods. So what is Paul actually talking about here when he speaks about the aroma of Christ?

The word AROMA euodia appears 44 times in the NIV. Four times in the New Testament in these four verses. 40 times in the Old Testament and in 39 of those the subject and the context is the same. Offering sacrifices.
The first occurrence of the word is in Genesis 8 after God brought Noah and his family and the animals safely out of the ark. Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices to God and we read this.
Genesis 8 20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
The aroma was an essential part of Old Testament sacrifices. It was pleasing to the Lord. Even though animal flesh burning can be one of the most revolting smells. The aroma was part of the sacrifice.
So we read this in Numbers 15:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home 3 and you present to the LORD offerings made by fire, from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the LORD—whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings— 4 then the one who brings his offering shall present to the LORD a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil. 5 With each lamb for the burnt offering or the sacrifice, prepare a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering.
6 “ ‘With a ram prepare a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil, 7 and a third of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Offer it as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
8 “ ‘When you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, for a special vow or a fellowship offering to the LORD, 9 bring with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. 10 Also bring half a hin of wine as a drink offering. It will be an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 11 Each bull or ram, each lamb or young goat, is to be prepared in this manner. 12 Do this for each one, for as many as you prepare.
13 “ ‘Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

The aroma is part of the sacrifice. The sacrifice is the source of the aroma. There is another word for smell or aroma, osmen, usually translated fragrance or pleasing aroma in the New Testament. And it gets used in the context of a sacrifice as well.
Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The sacrifice is not necessarily physical or literal. The fragrance is there all the same.
Phil 4:18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
The pleasing aroma of Christ. Not quite as comfortable an image when we realise that the source of the aroma is the sacrifice. And we Christians are the sacrifices!

15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

The aroma of Christ brings knowledge of God. It brings life to those who put their trust in Jesus confirms death to those who reject him. But it is our lives of sacrifice, taking up the cross daily and following Christ, which spreads that aroma into the world.

17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

I read an interesting quote from Steve Chalke the other day.
“‪Inequality will never be addressed until our society moves away from traditional models of project delivery, where experts do things ‘to’ or ‘for’ people, to one of grass roots empowerment where everyone works together.‬”‬
At one level there is much wisdom there. At another it reveals much of what is going badly wrong in many parts of the church in these days. Because all the problems are not solved when ordinary people start ignoring experts and everybody’s voice is considered to be equal. These days of social media and social networking have seen the rise of “post-truth.” For young people especially how they feel about something has become more important for them than what the facts may say. The idea that everybody’s opinion is equally valuable and equally true has contributed to the rejection of Bible truth in favour of the ideas of this month’s favourite celebrity. It is easier than ever to peddle the word of God for profit.

2 Timothy 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
We live in the age of itching ears and teachers who peddle the word of God for profit.
2 Cor 4 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
2 Timothy 2 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Not distorting the word of God. Correctly handling the word of truth. That demands sacrifice in todays post-modern post-truth world. Refusing to compromise over what the Bible clearly teaches, about who will be saved, about hell, about morality and ethics. Just as with the apostle Paul, our commitment to the truth helps spread the aroma of Christ and the knowledge of God, the aroma which brings life to those who put their trust in Jesus. But being captives in the victory procession, first in the queue to face the lions, isn’t always going to be glamorous or easy!

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