Sweet Aroma of a Believer
The Bitter-Sweet Smell of Christ Through Us
Do want to make a difference for Christ? Or are you content on just being a person who is saved from hell and not really caring about others. Do you want to have an impact on this world for Jesus? Or are you going to simply do what you want to do and Jesus can come along if he wants to? Have you ever thought about what you can do to not waste your life? Today we are going to explore the significance we can have with God through Christ when we understand our role.
We continue to see Paul's love for these believers at Corinth. We have seen how to confront a brother or sister in a way that communicates love and not judgment. We have seen how to forgive and comfort a person that has repented from sin. Now Paul takes a turn and talks about the Gospel of Jesus Christ our responsibility toward all people. He is going to show us how we are to view our lives. He is going to demonstrate to us a proper understanding of how we can make a difference in this world.
If there is anything I would like you to do when you leave this ministry it is make a difference in this world for God. That you would love God with a love that puts nothing before him. That you would make a commitment now to live for Christ. If you don't get anything else from me, that is fine. I want you to live to glorify Christ.
Let's take a look at the text. He continues to explain the dilemma he faced that led him to not make another “painful visit.” Remember, this was quite a debate for some people. It even caused a person to disciplined by the church so extensively that Paul had to tell them to stop. Paul says that he went to one city and God opened an opportunity for him to preach the Gospel so he took it. Then, he was waiting for Titus to come before he made a decision about what to do with those folks in Corinth. But he had no idea about what was going on with Titus, I guess the internet was down in Troas and he couldn't get cell reception or even text messaging, so he continued on to Macedonia to spread the Gospel of Christ.
Paul is now about to show us the dual nature of the Gospel. He is going to show us how making a difference is glorious on one hand and shameful on the other.
So, he gets to the Gospel and he talks about what it means to be a Christian and have the Gospel with us all the time. Read with me verse 14. Some of your Bibles might read like mine in that it sounds like we are the victors with God, like WE have conquered some mighty army and he leads us around like a victory parade. But, this is not the full image. This word can mean a simple victory march, but this is not the most likely meaning here. The word, more often than not, paints a picture of a military conqueror marching through the city with his captives. This happens quite often in the military setting of the Roman world. So Paul says that he, along with all believers are being led as captives of Christ in his victory procession. Before you say to me... Hold on Aaron, this isn't the way Paul wants to portray his relationship with Christ. Let me just tell you understands greek pretty well and he knows what he is saying. Look at Col 2:15, Paul says God triumphed over Satan in this same way. But the key is that he leads them around IN CHRIST. Also, this fits with his whole theology on his relationship with Christ. In Romans 5:8-10 Paul explains that we were enemies of God before he captured us. This procession was a way to state that the ruler was ruler over all. This means that God assumes the role of final victor over the whole earth and Paul is simply proof of that power as God leads him all over the world.
Paul also wants to show these Corinthian believers that hardship does not mean God does not like you. Remember, Corinth was more like the U.S. than other places, obsessed with money power, prestige, and luxury. But Paul had little of these things. Instead, he is a slave of God. His suffering, as well as ours, does not nullify God's glory. No, it only heightens it. Paul is stating that it is better to be a slave of God than be a general in satan's regime.
So Paul has been captured by love. 5:14 Paul says that he has been captured by love. The Love of Christ CONTROLS me or has captured me. So, to some this view is horrible. Paul is being led around as a captive, being led to die! But Paul is THANKFUL b/c he gets to be part of God's victory parade. Paul knows that Romans 8:17 is true. That if we suffer with Christ we WILL be glorified with HIM!
Next, Paul uses another image that has a dual meaning. He says because of God leading us around the fragrance of the knowledge of God spreads to all we come in contact with. You and I are the SWEET aroma of Christ to God. Paul says that it is not our odor, thank goodness, cause some of you guys... need to DEodorize! No, instead we carry around the aroma of Jesus Christ for God. Look at Eph 5:2 That same fragrance that God smells that means so much love and sacrifice of Christ, we carry that same fragrance to God.
This means that first and foremost we care about what God thinks. We carry around the sufferings and joys, the love and sacrifice, and the obedience of Christ and that is pleasing to God. Just like these candles give off an aroma when they are burnt. They are being used up. And everyone who walks in this room is subjected to that aroma. It's not like a picture on the wall. You may never get over there and take a look. But you are guaranteed to breath. I thought about getting like 40 candles, but thought someone might have an adverse reaction to it. But when walk into this room you are subjected to the scent. We are an aroma to everyone we come in contact with. Whether they are saved or lost, it doesn't matter. If they come into contact with you, you carry around the aroma of Christ. But that brings with it a consequence.
You see, not everyone likes the same smells. Have you ever smelled a perfume or cologne and thought, man is bottled puke? I have, Bethany and I were in Kohl's the other day waiting on mom and we walked past the fragrance aisle. Let me tell you, Bethany picks out perfume like a true 6 year old, by how pretty the bottle looks. I showed her how to spray the scent on those little pieces of paper after she sprayed me with the second fragrance that smelled like the north end of a south bound horse. (some of you JUST got that...) I didn't like it, but someone did or they wouldn't have made so many bottles of it.
Likewise, not everyone likes the aroma of Jesus Christ. In verse 16 we see that to the one who is perishing, from verse 15, we are the smell of death to death. That is truly sad. When they smell Christ and his love and his sacrifice it only smells like death. Have you ever smelled something that was dead? Not pleasant. That is what they smell. When they hear the Gospel, they hear nothing but death. They look at the cross of Christ and all they see is death. They do not see the hope, they don't see the joy, the promise of the future, love, peace, none of it. So they look, hear, smell and they turn away. They continue down the same path of death. That is truly sad. They don't believe. They do not see Christ as a treasure, they see it as only death. It does not satisfy them, it only smells like death to them.
Something that is even harder is that no one is allowed to be neutral on the subject. I can smell a perfume and not care about it one way or another. But with Christ, there is no neutral. You either view/smell Christ as death or you view/smell Christ as wonderful life.
To those that are being saved Christ is a wonderful smell. That smell of Christ's sacrifice on the cross is wonderful. It is the very thing that gives us life. And not just any life, life everlasting. So we smell it, we understand how precious that aroma is to us personally and we embrace it. We don't turn away. Instead, we run to it. We love it b/c it is our ability to live.
We have before us two metaphors about the two pictures of a life that lives to make a difference in Christ. The first is as a prisoner that is being led around as a captive. God conquered Paul when he was his enemy now he, and we, are being led around as both a victor and a prisoner in Christ. In both triumph and suffering. The second image is Paul as an aroma to God. He smells strong for God and it is a sweet smell of life to some and the horrid smell of death to others.
Now Paul asks the question that EVERYONE who wants to live for God asks. He asks "who is sufficient for these things?" This is a heavy burden. If you commit to live for Christ and you decide to take the message of the Gospel to your school, your family, your friends you are in for a hard road ahead. I'm not even talking about being an obstinate preacher standing on tables at lunch preaching the Gospel. I'm saying if you are willing to make an impact for Christ and even just engage people in conversation about Jesus Christ in a nice way there are going to be times when people hear your message and choose DEATH over life. People you care about will choose death over life. What if you went to school and everyone who met you some came and followed you and accepted Christ and others fell over dead. Paul asks who can bear that burden. Who can handle that? Who is qualified, or large enough, or worthy enough to bear that burden?
The obvious answer is no one! I'm not able, you are not able, none of us are able... by ourselves. We are like Moses when God asked him to confront Pharaoh. Moses says his not able or sufficient, but God says the ONE who gave you a mouth will open your mouth and teach you what to say. So in our weakness God is strong and able. He is able to raise the dead, so he is able to help us bear this burden. Let me tell you, no one who is living for Christ thinks they are sufficient. Not a pastor, not a missionary, not a chaplin, not a business man operating his business according to the Bible, no one.
But Paul gives us a test to see if we are able, in Christ, to handle living for Christ. There are 5 tests for the Corinthians to weigh everyone who preaches for them. Read with me in 2:17. I'm going to ask you 5 questions surrounding this verse and I want to you answer honestly to yourself.
Do you love Jesus enough that you will not peddle his word? These sellers of God's Word did not love God. They loved money. They used God's word and Christ to get money. So, do you love Christ more than money?
The next 4 all concern how we speak.
- Will you speak from sincerity? Will you be real? Will you say what you mean and mean what you say? Will you put away the facade that you have it all together?
- Will you speak as from God? Will you speak God's words and not your own? When it means you may sound like a coward or a softy, or that you are too hard and judgmental will you speak as from God?
Will you speak before God? Will you treat him as the only judge in your life? Will you care more about what his assessment of you is rather than what some person thinks about you?
Will you speak as in Christ? Will you rely on his power? Will you be bold for his sake? Will you put off a strong scent of Christ rather than a little wimpy scent? Will you get your courage and identity from Jesus Christ?
There are no perfect people. But a person who wants to live for Christ will answer those questions YES LORD! As much as I can know this is what I want to be. I want to love you more than money. I want to be real with people. I want to speak your words. I want to care most about what you think about me. And I want to to get all that I need from Christ alone.