2 Corinthians 2:12-17
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 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? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”
Over the past 6 weeks, we have taken a journey through the Old and New Testament to show the majesty of our great God and King. He is the Sovereign that reigns over the affairs of all people, and none more so than His people, we the redeemed in Jesus. We who are His children (1 John 3:1) and are secure in Jesus, no longer slaves but friends of our Master and Saviour (John 15:15). God is ALWAYS, according to our text in 2 Corinthians 2, leading us in Triumph.
This Triumph was a procession that was given most often for returning Generals who had won some decisive battle for the Roman Empire. The whole city would cry out and form a welcoming party for him and his soldiers. The defeated enemy would be marched into the capital and displayed, the spoils of war displayed, and then at the end of the procession, the General often carried would enter the city to the cries of his name. It was a spectacle. It was loud, and for many Generals, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen how God can bring Triumph from any circumstance and situation no matter how that matter started; God is in control and able to bring great victory.
We explored the life of Joseph, who was sold as a slave by his brothers. They first wanted to murder him, but God intervened and rescued him, so to speak. Joseph endured more trouble than most of us have, and yet he could see that God was superintending everything for His glory, and in the meantime, preserving Joseph.
Job was in the crosshairs of Satan for what seems like a long period of time. He lost family, wealth, health, and there was even a dispute with his wife that was thrown at him. Then he came face to face with friends who accused him of being a horrible man. Yet, God was on his side, and in the end, Job received children back, twice the wealth, and an apology from his friends.
Later, we looked at Samson and discovered that he was his worst enemy. He was a womanizer, a man who put himself in precariously dangerous situations, and eventually, a man who had to learn the hard way that God is not one to tolerate pride; and so, Samson lost his strength for a season. But God still used him to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines, and then God spoke well of him in Hebrews 11:32.
Last week we looked at Jesus, persecuted by the religious folks, betrayed by his friend, and denied by one of his close friends; yet, He died to save the world, and we have not been the same since.
Today, we will look at what God can do with you and me. We, like these other men, are just that – men and women in Jesus, children of God, set here for His purposes and His glory.
In our text, Paul goes on to tells us that we are a ‘fragrance’ that is diffused for His knowledge. This fragrance was a reference to the incense that was often a part of the Triumph procession. It covered the whole parade, the smell letting everyone know what was going on. Smell, we are told, is one of the most important senses for memory. A smell can trigger a memory even as far back as our childhood.
Some smells bring back good memories, and others, bad memories. In the Triumph procession, the fragrance of the incense would mean different things to different people. If you were the victor, that General and his army, the fragrance was one of joy, promotion, victory, recognition, seeing one’s family after a long war, the end of the fighting, and many other good memories. But, if you were the defeated army, this same fragrance meant loss, death, the end, horror, and pain. The same fragrance, yet two very different memories and ends. Paul explores this about our lives when he talks about the fragrance of our life in Jesus.
- The Fragrance of Our Lives to the saved, verses 15-16
How do you smell? What does the scent of your life leave as a memory for the people around you? Paul tells us that our lives should leave the scent of life to those that are saved and a scent of death to the lost. Our lives should build up the saved and convict the lost. Our lives should be a sweet savor, a sweet smell to those that know Jesus. We should be kind and loving to each other, serving and honoring each other. We should serve each other as Jesus served us, and we should be merciful and gracious as He is to us. We should be courteous and gentle, understanding and simply uplifting to all around us, especially to our family in Jesus (Galatians 6:10).
All too often, we do not treat each other with love. We can discourage our very brothers and sisters from following Jesus because we are mean and unloving to them. We destroy and hurt; we cut and consume each other rather than honor and lift each other up. We point out other’s failures to make ourselves look good, and we secretly hate the ones that Jesus called His own. This is not the fragrance that we need to leave, and it is not the fragrance of Triumph in Jesus.
Joseph left a fragrance from his life that lasted over 400 years of direct benefits to the Jews in Egypt, and it continues some 4000+ years later to be a sweet fragrance of God’s Triumph over human nastiness.
Job is still the standard of faithful endurance to this day. His influence thousands of years later is still a fragrance of God’s faithfulness and God’s loyalty.
Samson reminds men like me that God is greater than my own failures and that God can use fallen men who humble themselves before Him. His fragrance of God’s greatness is still being made into movies today in 2021.
Of course, no one left a sweeter fragrance than Jesus – a fragrance of love, compassion, kindness, meekness, and grace. No matter what the world says, there is no comparison; He is still the standard of love and sacrifice. His fragrance has changed millions if not billions of lives around the world for the last 2,000 years and will affect billions more for eternity.
We should be a sweet fragrance to each other, a fragrance of help and encouragement, a fragrance of love and forgiveness, a fragrance of joy and peace, a fragrance of mercy and grace, a fragrance of prayer and consideration, a fragrance of refuge and compassion. How do you smell to your brother and sisters in the Lord? Does your fragrance bring back loving memories, or do they bring back horrible memories?
- The Fragrance of our lives to the lost, verses 15-16
How do you smell to the lost of this world? All too often, the smell that Christians leave is not a nice smell to the saved, and it is a repugnant smell to the world. Make no mistake; Satan makes sure that the lost know how we should behave. They can see our hatred and indifference, they can see our hypocrisy, and they can see our fruitless lives.
How we should smell is that of conviction. When the lost of this world interact with us or see us interact with others, it should make them wonder why we are the way we are?
Just a few weeks ago, I was in a fast-food restaurant, and when I was done, the lady behind the counter says to me, ‘Sir, I wish all of our customers were as courteous as you; I like it when you come in.’ All I said was please, thank you, called her ma’am, and smiled. I am not tooting my horn; what I am telling you is that it does not take much effort to make a difference in someone’s life. Do people look forward to seeing you or seeing you leave?
We should interact with the lost in such a way that it convicts them about their relationship to and with Jesus. We should be a fragrance of judgment to them. We let them know that we live the way we do because of who we are in Christ. We let them know that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. There is a difference between the children/friends of God and the children of the world. They should want to cross over or regret not making the trip. How do you and I smell to the lost? Do we leave them wanting and missing Jesus?
- The Fragrance is not for sale, verse 17
You can’t buy the fragrance of Christ in your life. You have to get it from God, and it is only for those in Jesus. Our victory is only in Jesus. There is too much money-making in what is promoted as the ministry of the Kingdom here on earth. The Gospel is free to us; it was expensive for God and Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is free to those in Jesus. The image of Christ in us is formed by the Holy Spirit freely as we surrender to Him. But there are too many that seek to monetize the Gospel. Stop it.
The scriptures allow a pastor to be paid and paid well if a church can afford it. The Old Testament priests were well cared for financially. But if money is the only reason you minister, you are not ministering. And if everything you do has a price on it, then you should be careful. Those of us that are called in the ministry need to be careful not to make money the end all and be all of it. It is not. For many of us, myself included, we live very well here in North America. Don’t sell to people what God gives them, or at least offer them freely. Let us not make merchandise of God’s Gospel, God’s Triumph, and God’s grace.
I pray that – like Joseph, Job, Samson, Jesus and countless others that let God be God in their lives, who trusted Him in the darkest times and glorified Him in the victories – we will leave a fragrance of His love, kindness, mercy, grace, peace, service, salvation and faithfulness long after we are gone from this mortal coil.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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