2 Corinthians 2:14-16. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
What does your life smell like?
It’s not the usual question we ask each other, is it? We might ask each other what our lives sound like or what our lives look like in Christ. But smell?
Or what if I asked you, what does victory smell like? That’s another question that we’re not used to answering. But in Paul’s day when a great general or emperor would win a big battle they would plan a massive triumphal procession back into the city. Like a championship team parade, but with a major twist – it wasn’t only the victorious army that marched in, the conquered enemies would also be paraded around for everyone to see. They were the spoils of war. And along with these conquered enemies, there would be incense. Lots and lots of incense. The smell of victory!
This is the picture Paul has in mind when he describes us in Christ. We are the spoils and the smells of Christ’s victory. Our lives are the burning incense in Christ’s fragrant victory parade. Christian, your life today is God parading you around in Christ’s triumphal procession. Your life is meant to tell the world that Jesus has won!
But that he only won through defeat.
2000 years ago, Christ himself was paraded out of the city to the cross by his enemies. He was the conquered one who smelled of defeat. Sweat, blood, urine, feces – the stench of Christ would have been awful at the cross. But this was the fragrance of God’s great love. This was the smell of the Trinity’s greatest victory. At the cross Jesus sent the stink of our lives up to God as the smells of a conquering king. A valiant hero. Our Christus Victor.
This means we are the ones he has conquered. We are the enemies of Christ who have been defeated and are now being led as his captives in his triumphal procession. Because of Christ’s willingness to be defeated FOR US on the cross, we who once lived in open rebellion against Christ are now defeat BY HIM. We have been conquered by Christ’s love. We have been taken prisoner by his grace. But this enslavement is not bad news; it is the best news ever. We have been defeated and set free to be the aroma of Christ rising up to the nostrils of God.
Christian, you smell like Christ. Like at the cross the stench of defeat IS the sweet aroma of victory. But what does this mean, that we smell like Christ? How is our life the fragrance of Jesus?
We “smell” like Christ when we live humbled, conquered lives. Lives of submission to our new commander. Lives of sacrifice that simply display the conquering power of the grace of God. And we “smell” like Christ when we live joyful lives of praise rising up to God. Lives that embrace the love, beauty, and goodness of God and display it for all to see.
Humble and joyful living – this is the aroma of Jesus.
This is no small thing. Paul asks who is sufficient for these things? Of course the answer is no one apart from Christ. None of us could be the aroma of Christ’s life without the imputed righteousness of Christ freely given to us by grace. But that is the whole point of “to live is Christ” isn’t it? We can never do it alone. If our humility and joy are going to be the fragrance of Christ’s own life, then we will need to live by faith in the one who loved us and gave himself for us.
And when we choose to embrace his cruciform life, our sacrificial love will always be the aroma of the crucified Christ to others. To some it will be a fragrance from life to life. But to others it will be a fragrance from death to death. To some your life will smell sweet, and to others your life will be a revolting stench. Some will embrace you, others may reject you. Our response to the cross is a life of humility and joy that spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. The rest is up to God.
What does your life “smell” like? Is it Christ and his sacrifice?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ allow you to see yourself humbly as the conquered one, and yet joyfully as the sweet aroma to God?
Christ in you
Where do you need to embrace humility today? Where do you need to embrace joy today?
Playlist: Christ’s Fragrance.
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