The Aroma of Christ

The Aroma of Christ

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus commands his followers to bear witness to His name before all people. This commission to preach the gospel is one of the great pillars of our faith. Rescuing people through the power of the gospel is the goal our God is most dedicated to. As we imitate our Savior and Creator, we must become dedicated to this goal too.

But evangelism is not always easy. Fundamentally, the gospel is about choice. Will people choose to live for God or choose to live without God? It’s a choice of life or death and its consequences will echo in eternity. The stakes are high not just for those confronted with the decision. Being ambassadors for Christ takes a toll on us as well. Christ’s ambassadors often risk belittlement and persecution by those who reject Him. It’s even harder to watch people we care about choose to turn away from God. God is grieved by this too, but like Him we have to accept the choices people make. Consider how Paul puts it 2 Corinthians 2.14-17:

Thanks be to God who always triumphs over us in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among
those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things? For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle
the word of God for profit. On the contrary we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.

First, Paul bursts out in thankful praise because God is triumphant and victorious. He is comforted and inspired that the knowledge of God is spreading to every place. Most scholars suggest that Paul is comparing God’s victory to a Roman parade called a triumph. In the triumph a particularly successful and mighty general would be celebrated for his conquests by a display of spoils and captives that marched before the general and his army. Here is what Barnett says in his commentary:
“The metaphor is at the same time triumphal and anti-triumphal. It is as God leads his servants as prisoners of war in a victory parade that God spreads the knowledge of Christ everywhere through them. Whereas in such victory processions the prisoners would be dejected and embittered, from this captive’s lips comes only thanksgiving to God, his captor. Here is restated the power-in-weakness theme that pervades the letter.”

God has achieved victory. We will share in His triumph only through being conquered by His love. As we march before our God, we spread the knowledge of His victory to those around us. We preach and evangelize so that family, neighbors, and strangers can all be conquered by God.

An important part of the Roman triumph were priests who came before the conquering general. These priests carried censers with sweet-smelling incense burning within. Paul compares all gospel witnesses to the sweet aroma that accompanies the triumph. Our friends and coworkers are forced to react to God when they smell Him on us. Unless, that is, we slather ourselves in the muck of the world. If we’re shining our lights people will have to make a choice about God when they see how He has impacted our lives.

To some we will be an aroma of death. Everyone has a choice and when someone chooses to reject God’s gospel of grace, they doom themselves. When people choose to see God’s word as an offensive or useless stench, they condemn themselves to death.

God wants everyone to join His triumph, but they must choose to surrender to their Creator. To some we will be an aroma of life. When someone chooses God and holds fast to Him, they will gain everlasting life. When our lives carry the aroma of the gospel, we can lead others to the life God offers. A life that fully embraces God will present an inescapable choice to those we encounter. A choice leading either to life or death. Being a gospel witness is not easy. Trials and troubles will rise up and we’ll need to lean on God to overcome them. As we spread the aroma of Christ to all people some will choose death, and some will choose life. It’s an incredibly joyous thing to see a stranger become a brother or to see a family member become God’s child. But it’s grievous and hard to see the opposite.

Thanks be to God that we can take comfort in His approval! Whether the world sees us as an aroma of death or life, God will accept our evangelism as a sweet-smelling sacrifice. God is patiently giving everyone an opportunity to choose Him, and His word will accomplish His will one way or another. Let’s make the choice to let God triumph over us.

–Andrew Outcalt