The Sweet-Smelling Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.  And who is adequate for these things?  For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

This past week I spent a little time in the aroma of Christ.  I was privileged to travel with eleven other ladies to Pennsylvania.  We were on a mission – a mission to join hands with our sisters in Christ who are hard at work planting new churches with their husbands and families.

We did a LOT of driving!  We left Hendersonville at 6:00 am on Thursday and arrived after 9:00 pm.  (How many bathroom breaks does it take for a group of women to get from NC to PA? 😊) We also did a lot of driving while in Pennsylvania, as the church planter wives were spread out across the state.  We began the week with an overnight retreat, worshipped together on Sunday with some brothers and sisters who speak Spanish, prayer walked some neighborhoods, and cleaned out and reorganized the PA Baptist Mission House.  And on Wednesday, we drove back home (a 12-hour trip).

I. Was. Tired.

It was so worth it, though, and I came away spiritually refreshed, encouraged, and inspired by the heart and passion of the women we served, and those I served with.

How can hard work, long drives, and late nights be refreshing?  Only when it is experienced in the aroma of Christ.

What does Paul mean when he says that we are the fragrance of Christ?

Aroma comes from the Greek word osmē, and is translated “savor” in the King James Version.  It simply means a smell or odor.  We get our word “ozone” from this; something you sense, but cannot see.  You cannot “see” an odor; you can’t put your hands around it.  But you sense it – you know it’s there!

Paul teaches us that God manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ through us.  To manifest is to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way.

We make known the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ – by our words and deeds.  When people look at us, they gain a general knowledge and understanding of who Christ is.  He becomes visible in us!  We leave the aroma of Christ wherever we go, whether on a mission trip, in our homes, or to work.  As we speak and act, the world gets a sense – an awareness – of Christ.  And according to scripture, it should be a sweet aroma.

What impact does this aroma have?

To those who are being saved, it is an aroma of life.

To those who reject, it is an aroma of death.

Our presence, our life, will either draw people towards Christ, or as we live in Christ-likeness, expose their sin and they will turn away.  Either way, our lives are to be such that others are confronted with the knowledge of Christ.

Our lives are the sweet-smelling aroma of sacrifice.

Paul’s terminology takes us back to the offerings in the Old Testament; the burnt, meal and peace offerings were a “sweet savour” (aroma) to God, because they represented not sin, but devotion to God.  It was only after the sin and trespass offerings were offered, that one offered the sweet savour offerings.  Sin had to be dealt with first; this is why our lives are the “sweet savour” offerings – Christ dealt with our sin on the cross.  Now we simply offer our lives in devotion to God.

Something else to think about.  Frankincense was used in conjunction with the Old Testament offerings, giving up the aroma that rose to God.  The uniqueness of frankincense is that it gives off its strongest aroma when it is heated.  It is the fire of our afflictions that reveal the sweetest devotion to God.  When we can love Him in the hard times, rather than becoming bitter, it is a sweet-smelling aroma to God.

How can we be the aroma of Christ every day?

John 12:3 – Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

We are the fragrance of Christ when we love Him more than our own reputation.  We are willing to risk looking foolish to please and honor Him.

Ephesians 5:1-2 – Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

We are the fragrance of Christ when we imitate Him, and sacrifice ourselves for others in love.  We live our lives on behalf of others, not ourselves.

Philippians 4:18 – But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

We are the fragrance of God when we use our resources to meet the needs of others.  We hold our possessions and God-given resources loosely, with open hands, allowing God to use them as He sees fit.

There’s one phrase in these verses where Paul expresses just how I feel about my responsibility to be the aroma of Christ in the world:


Adequate, or sufficient (KJV) means enough; sufficient in ability, i.e. meet, fit; when said of “things” it means enough; when said of “persons” it means competent, worthy.

* John the Baptist said he was not worthy to untie the laces of Jesus’ sandals (Mark 1:7)

* The centurion said he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house (Matthew 8:8)

* Paul said he was not fit to be called an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9)

We are not adequate.  We are not worthy.  We are not competent, or fit for this great task.  So how do we do it?

2 Corinthians 3:4-6b – Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant.

Our confidence is not in our own ability to make Christ known.  It is confidence in God who called us to be ministers and ambassadors for Him.  He chose us!  And as He leads and directs our steps, changing us into the image of Christ, He will release the aroma of Christ through us.

2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.


How will you make the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ known today?

What do you smell like?

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