2 Corinthians 2:15-16
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
As a child I spent a great deal of time, perhaps a little too much, watching cartoons. I remember seeing, on more than one occasion, a scene where a character smelled the fragrance of a home-baked pie. The smell would lift him in the air and carry him to the window sill of the farmer’s house where the delicacy sat. Regardless of the danger posed by the farmer, he would attempt to steal the pie. While I am quite certain Paul did not see the same cartoon, he is reminding the Corinthians of the effect their lives can have of drawing others to Christ. He refers to our lives as being like a fragrant aroma that will lead other people to Jesus. Notice he refers to us as being two different aromas, to two different groups of people. If we follow his word order, he seems to be suggesting, to the Christian, the one who is being saved, we are the smell of death, while to the unsaved, we are the smell of life.
Jesus spoke of abundant life being a byproduct of a relationship with Him. He spoke of torrents of living water, and of bearing the fruit of the Spirit. All of this flows from the life of the Christian who is abiding in Christ. Not only providing the Christian with abundant life, but it is also designed to lure others to Jesus. The more time you spend growing in your relationship with Jesus, the greater effect you will have in leading others to Christ.
Paul also spoke of the fragrance of death. Death has at least two smells. One is the rotting smell of decay, a horrendous smell. The other is the fragrant smell that comes off the grill. In Old Testament times, the children of Israel were required to offer multiple sacrifices to the Lord. Part of the purpose, was to offer a sweet aroma to the Lord. The smell of burning flesh is a sweet aroma in heaven and a wonderful smell on earth. Have you ever been driving home, smelled someone grilling, and hoped that the smell was coming from your house?
Paul mentioned being led in triumph by the Lord. The idea is not only that of God leading him into victory, but Christ having victory over Paul. In ancient times, when a general was conquered, he would be laid at the feet of his conqueror, who would put his foot on his neck. We will have the greatest effect on others when Christ has conquered us. When we choose, like Paul, to lay our lives down and pick up Christ, a sweet aroma will fill the air and lead others to do the same. How often have you heard the testimony of another Christian, who speaks of putting aside sin and self, to live for Christ and others, and you were encouraged to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus? That is the fragrance of death leading to death.
Paul wrote that he dies daily, and always carries about in his body, the dying of Christ. He said he was crucified with Christ, and now lives for Christ. If we want to have an increased impact on others for the kingdom of heaven, it is time that we surrender all to Christ, and abide in Him.
Questions for 2 Corinthians 2
- In verses 1-3 Paul gives some great principles on relationship and conflict. The Corinthian church was plagued by problems. They were a very “fleshy” church; they often didn’t act like Jesus. Because Paul loved them, at times he had to correct them, both by letter and face to face. It’s almost never a comfortable thing to correct someone.
A. In verse 1 Paul says that he has made up his mind not to come to them “in sorrow”. In other words, having said his peace to them, he gave them space and time to change. Do you have any broken relationships? Have you said what the Lord would have you say to that person? If you have, ask God for patience with those people, and give God room and space to work.
B. In verse 2, Paul indicates that although he loves them very much and would be very happy to see them; at this time they would not be happy to see him. Sometimes in our relationships we have such affection for a person that we push things too much. We care more about how they make us feel, than about the person. Take some time to assess your most important relationships. Ask God to help you to want what is best for them, and not simply what you get from them or want for them.
C. Verse 3 sums up the reason for these things. Relationships are about joy! Read Matthew 22:36-39. When you put the welfare of others first, how does that affect your relationship with them? Ask God to fill you with His Spirit when you spend time with loved ones. As He does you can be a joy and a blessing to be around, and God can use you to heal those broken relationships.
- Read verse 4. Paul had to speak some very hard words to the Corinthians in his last letter to them. What was his motivation for speaking this way to them? What was not his motivation? When you deliver difficult counsel to someone, do you make sure to communicate that you love them?
- As we look at broken relationships, it is valuable for us to take time to thank God for all that He has done and continues to do to heal the brokenness in our relationship with Him. What has God done to keep our relationship with Him joyous?
- In verses 5-8 Paul speaks to them of the man who needed to be corrected in his first letter (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-7). Note verses 7 and 8. What should we consider after we have rebuked or corrected someone?
- Look at verses 10-11. Forgiveness is central to the Christian life. We are a forgiven people, because of a forgiving God, and so we should be forgiving. Read Matthew 18:21-35. When we are not forgiving, how does that leave an open door for Satan to do damage in our lives?
- Paul had no rest in his spirit in the ministry in Troas, despite an open door from the Lord. Something was missing, and he moved on to Macedonia. This looked like a failure, but notice Paul’s comments in verse 14. Does Paul sound defeated? What caused him to have the attitude that he had?
- We have a fragrance that comes off of our lives. As Christians, we want people to sense Jesus in us. However, although He is beautiful to us, to the unrepentant He is not. Are people clear about who Jesus is when they spend time with you? Do they know more about Him when they are around you?