2. Sensing God: Smelling the Aroma of Christ

2. Sensing God: Smelling the Aroma of Christ

2. Sensing God: Smelling the Aroma of Christ.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death, to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

Paul here is drawing for us a picture of a Roman procession parading through the streets. The military general is coming into town, fresh from a significant victory on the battlefield. He is riding in his chariot, surrounded by his soldiers, basking in the victory. In front of him in chains march the naked captives taken from the battle, who will either become slaves or be executed. Fresh flowers are being thrown onto this procession, bringing a sweet fragrance to the proceedings. Also, there is a perfumed incense being burned along the route, in honor of the gods who brought the victory. The aroma is strong and wafts everywhere in the parade. It is sweet and it is pungent at the same time. To the captive soldiers, the smell would be bitter, because it reminds them of their certain doom. To the people lining the street, and the victorious soldiers, the aroma was sweet, reminding them of the triumph and their victorious life.

Paul elsewhere comments on a procession like this, “God disarmed the rulers and powers ranged against us and shamed them by making a bold display and public example of them, triumphing over them in Christ and in the Cross.” (Colossians 2:15).

So Paul seems to be imagining a victory parade, a triumphal procession where the powers of darkness are displayed in chains, defeated and stripped naked. Christ the general is riding the chariot, which is the Cross. The believers are the pleasant aroma that comes from knowing Christ and spreading that knowledge everywhere like a sweet perfume. To those who are perishing, the aroma reminds them of judgment and doom and is the smell of death. To those being saved, the fragrance is life-giving and triumphant. The sweet smell of life is pleasing to God and is referred to by Ezekiel: “I will graciously accept you as a soothing aroma, and I will display my holiness through you as all the nations watch.” (Ezekiel 20:41). In Christ is the sweet perfume that is wafting throughout the world, the fragrance of Christ’s victory over darkness, the smell of knowing God and of spreading that knowledge, and the aroma of God’s holiness being spread in the eyes of all the nations.

“Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5:2). How can our lives be a pleasing fragrance to God? By walking in love, following the example of Jesus. He offered Himself up and sacrificed Himself for our sakes. And that sacrifice was like a delicious perfume inhaled by God. We can offer up a sweet fragrance as well by loving others in the same spirit, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Make love a lifestyle, a slow and steady walk that defines our life and sets our  direction every day. “Give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.” (Romans 12:1). The sweet aroma of love and sacrifice is eternally pleasing to God.

The sense of smell is the strongest of our senses. Smells trigger memories more quickly and vividly than any other sense we have. Of all the things we remember in life situations, it is the smell that lodges in our brains the longest. To offer a lasting, pleasing aroma to God and to those around us, we need to make love our lifestyle choice; deepen our knowledge of the Lord; spread that knowledge everywhere we go; offer our body as a living sacrifice; recognize Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness; and remind the people around us of God’s holiness by what we say and do. That is the sweetest aroma we can offer. May who we are and what we do be a soothing fragrance to you, O God.