Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Did you notice in Clarke’s commentary yesterday the following comments?
“During this time all the temples were opened, and every altar smoked with offerings and incense.. . . his sacrifice was that of thanksgiving to his Lord; and the incense offered on the occasion caused the savour of the knowledge of Christ to be manifested in every place. As the smoke of the victims and incense offered on such an occasion would fill the whole city with their perfume, so the odour of the name and doctrine of Christ filled the whole of Corinth and the neighbouring regions; and the apostles appeared as triumphing in and through Christ, over devils, idols, superstition, ignorance, and vice, wherever they came.”Adam Clarke
As the triumph strikes the eyes, so the smell strikes the nostrils; thus every sense feels the power of Christ’s Gospel. The approaching triumphal procession was made known by the odour of incense scattered far and wide by the incense-bearers in the train. The Roman triumphal procession was smelt as well as seen. It was an olfactory experience as much as it was a visual one. Fragrant odours were diffused around; flowers were scattered in the way; and on the altars of the gods incense was burned during the procession, and sacrifices offered, and the whole city was filled with the smoke of sacrifices, and with perfumes. [ὀσμὴν osmēn] The smell; the fragrance. The word in the New Testament is used to denote a pleasant or fragrant odour, as of incense, or aromatics.
Do you realise you have a personal odour? Over some of us there is a wafting cloud of perfume; a sweet smell. Sometimes it is because we are laden with deodorant or after shave or perfume. Over others of us hang a smell of body odour, stale sweat and as Paul says the smell of death. You can stop and ponder your odour for yourself. Maybe your friends need to tell you when you have bad breath or need to spray under your arms. I will leave that personal stuff aside for those close to you.
Paul is referring to the smell that our life has to others. And this smell has nothing to do with what we do. We can’t spray it on or wash it off. It just is because the sensing is not in us but in those who are interpreting the smell. Interpreting us in terms of their own background and experience. Allow me to illustrate with two stories, my testimony on planes. I have done a lot of travelling and have been seated beside lots of strangers over the years. They interpret me through the grid of their five senses. I am either a sweet fragrance to them or the stench of death.
On one flight I got talking with the man next to me whose name was Paddy. We exchanged pleasantries and soon he asked me what I did. I told him I was the Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (NZ) – which I was at the time and am no longer. From that moment on our conversation took a different tack. He was so open and began asking all kinds of questions. I was the fragrance of life to him. He was brought up a Catholic and was like God turned the switch for him and gave him the opportunity to return to faith. The Kiss of Life.
On another flight I was seated next to a woman. We started talking and the same question came up. What do you do (for a job)? I told her the same thing. Her reaction was immediate and final. She simply turned her back to me and looked out the window for the rest of the trip, and it was a long trip. At one point I looked at her and thought she was asleep, but then noticed she was not asleep; she was pretending to be asleep. How sad! How very sad. Something had happened in that woman’s life to make her react that way. To her I was the stench of death. Nothing I had done. She had reacted to the things of God and His Christ, the remedy for her sins, in such a way that cut her off from the very help she needed. There was the smell of spiritual death all over her.
In those situations you can’t do anything about it. You can’t put on deodorant to make you the fragrance of life. You can’t wash off the smell of death. In Christ there is death and there is life and it’s on you as His ambassador, there is death and there is life; Life to some and death to others. The decision is not ours; it is theirs.
I told you about the friend who has a unique spiritual gift that operate like teletext (Bible Gem 436). Let me tell you of another who can discern spirits through smell. One person I met has a spiritual sense of smell that yields a sweet fragrance if the person is a Christ follower and yielded to Him and a smell of death and decay if that is not the case. God you are truly amazing in Your creativity. Like Francis Chan said whom I quoted a couple of days ago, “Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” We truly can’t exaggerate Him!
If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears. Isaac Hayes The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.George William Curtis
The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.Chanakya
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. (Be a flower which gives fragrance even when you are crushed.)Mark Twain
Nothing is mundane. Whether you’re a popstar, painter, president or part-time phone answerer, God Almighty is with you.Louie Giglio