Read: 2 Corinthians 2:5-17
Consider: We all can tell when our noses detect a nasty aroma and equally we can tell what is a pleasing aroma. For some it might be the smell of roses, sweetpea, honeysuckle or daffodils. Equally it might be the smell of Spring air, Autumn leaves, or the freshness of sea air.
In today’s reading Paul uses the analogy of an aroma to speak of us spreading ‘… the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere‘ (2 Corinthians 2:14). It is wonderful to think of our witness for Christ as being a pleasing aroma. Despite this there are many times when we speak of Jesus and people react as if it is a nasty aroma. There is something in human nature that causes it to react adversely to the name of Jesus. Can you see that there will be two reactions to the knowledge about Jesus? There will be those who will readily accept God’s offer of forgiveness and to them the aroma will be pleasing. There will also be those who reject the offer of forgiveness and to them the aroma will be nasty. This is how Paul describes it: To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life (2:16).
Notice what Paul says in verse 15: For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. This tells us that whether or not people accept Christ, we are a ‘… pleasing aroma of Christ’ to God. As our desire is to please God, we should seek to live holy lives that correctly reflect Christ in the world. We should also ensure that our words match our lives.
Paul is also reminding his readers of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament, where we read that the burnt offering (whether meat or grain) is described as: ‘… an aroma pleasing to the Lord’ (e.g. Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 2:9). Paul speaks of believers being a ‘living sacrifice’ in his letter to the Romans in this way: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).
So what is a pleasing aroma to God? Firstly, the testimony of those who proclaim the message of Christ to the world. Secondly, while the OT sacrificial system was a pleasing aroma to God, it was not because of the smell of the burnt sacrifice, but because of what it represented – the confession of the nation of its sinfulness and need for forgiveness. Thirdly, the NT sacrifice of Christ has replaced the OT sacrificial system and because of his death and resurrection, those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour, can offer themselves as a living and pleasing sacrifice to God.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
Pray: Father, we recognise that what pleases you is a life that is holy and focussed on you, accepting forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ. May we be the aroma of Christ in the world. Amen