In the last post we saw that believers should view themselves as those who have been conquered by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are led in the triumphal procession of Christ. Our rebel hearts have been conquered, and we rejoice in the fanfare that exalts our great and conquering King. In the second part of v. 14 (2 Cor. 12), Paul makes reference to the sense of smell and continues to make reference to it throughout the next verses.
Triumphal processions were full of ritual and pagentry, not the least of which was the burning of incense creating strong fragrances that would surround the festivities. Those who had been led in triumphal procession wreaked of the fragrances. Paul, therefore, writes that God uses his conquered servants led in triumphal procession to “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.” In short, those who have been conquered by the gospel ought to have the smell of the gospel on their lives. Believers are authentic, mouthpieces of the gospel wherever they go. We must smell of our Conquerer. This means the spreading of the gospel is not just an activity that comes and goes. The spreading of the fame of Christ is not just a scheduled duty. We are saturated with the smell of the gospel so that wherever we go, the gospel goes. This passage is speaking of an authenticity that should be present in a believer’s life.
Verses 15 and 16 go on to say, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” In this case the fragrance is objective, but the responses are subjective based on the olfactory senses of the receiver. To those who are being saved, the aroma is sweet. To those perishing, the aroma stinks. This idea speaks to the dependency we should have on God to do his work in hearts concerning salvation. We are not called to tweak the odor so it is palatable to people who would otherwise reject it. We must waft the aroma of Christ and His gospel for what it is and depend on the work of God in individual hearts whereby he changes their evaluation of the smell from that which is putrid to that which is sweet.
This picture is reminiscent of Paul’s words in I Cor. 1:18,”For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” As we emit the smell of Christ as those who have been conquered by Him, may we rejoice more and more as God works in the hearts of men. Man by default views the gospel as fooliness, a bad smell. God, however, graciously works in hearts as only He can whereby that which was foolish is miraculously recognized as true wisdom, a sweet aroma.
We are conquered by the gospel for the gospel. May we rejoice in the privilege of smelling of the grace of God. May we faithfully emit the fragrance of Christ as God graciously grants perception to sinful men and their faulty olfactory senses.