But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
It was the day after my birthday, and I was getting my “gift” from my husband – a shopping trip with a budget that I could spend on whatever I wanted. My sweet, amazing husband did work in his car while I shopped and answered his phone by saying, “Angel’s shopping taxi service! How may I help you?” whenever I called.
I was almost done exploring the new outlet mall in Charlotte when I saw the Crabtree and Evelyn shop. I had to go in to see if they had something I had been looking for for almost six years. You see, one of the hotels on our honeymoon had the Crabtree and Evelyn LaSource toiletries in our room, and I loved the scent of it. When we got back from our honeymoon, I went to the Crabtree and Evelyn store at our mall in search of the LaSource shampoo and conditioner. I was so disappointed to find that they had a few things with the scent, but nothing I would really use and not the shampoo I wanted. So ever since then whenever I have seen a Crabtree and Evelyn display, I look for LaSource shampoo.
It turned out that my birthday was my lucky day! They had it! Granted, it was in huge bottles with a ridiculous price tag on them. But hey – it was my birthday and I’d been looking for six years and I still loved the scent and it was in my budget. So I bought that bottle of LaSource shampoo!
I tell this little story to illustrate the value of a “sweet aroma”. Maybe you can relate to making a purchase like that. Most of us as women have scents that we love whether it is lotion or shampoo or soap or a candle. When you think about it, Bath and Body Works and Yankee Candle wouldn’t exist if fragrances weren’t very important to us!
Did you ever stop to think that you are a “sweet aroma”? That is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14. Actually, the aroma isn’t you – it’s the aroma of Christ that you carry everywhere you go.
Commentators tell us that the imagery Paul uses here is of a Roman triumphal entry of an emperor or general after they had conquered in battle. There would be a huge procession that sometimes would last all day long. The procession would be made up of animals and other booty that had been seized along with all of the people who had been captured. In the front of the procession would be those who would be released to become Roman citizens and in the back were those who would be executed. 1
“In these triumphal entries there was always the burning of incense. . . . All the way through the procession would be clouds of smoke from the incense, sometimes even obscuring the procession as it passed by.”2
So Paul uses this imagery that his readers would be familiar with to describe the confidence we can have, especially as we seek to share the gospel with others. Jesus leads us in His victory, and we are the incense bearers bearing the aroma of Him to all those around us. I love that the word “always” is in this sentence. He “always leads us in His triumph” and always makes the aroma of the knowledge of Him evident through us.
Can you imagine our world without sweet aromas? What would you miss each day? For me it would be the scent of my shampoo and soap in the shower, the Bath and Body Works soap as I wash my hands, the fresh scent of the laundry as I take it out of the dryer, the smell of gardenia as I walk by my neighbor’s house, the smell of bacon cooking on the stove – and the smell of the candle that takes away the yucky grease smell that follows. It would be a sad world without these fragrances and many more.
Similarly, our world would not be the same without believers emanating the aroma of Christ. And your part of that world wouldn’t be the same either without you. Your co-workers and neighbors and friends need you to be there to manifest the fragrance of Christ. Of course, it’s not always well-received. Paul goes on to say that to those who are perishing (who reject Christ), our aroma is really an aroma of death. But to those who are being saved, we are an aroma of life!
Paul finishes this thought by saying, “And who is adequate for these things?” I imagine that, like me, you feel that way. How can any of us be adequate to be a fragrance of Christ? But just a few sentences later, Paul answers his own question – “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5). He is the One who makes us adequate. So we go back to the beginning – “Thanks be to God”.
1 Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Volume 5, page 95.