“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)”
Paul draws from the Roman Triumphal Procession or Victory Parade here; where the victorious Conquer would lead the procession with his army behind him and then followed all of the spoils of the war, trophies and the captured enemy who would be humiliated and most likely executed.
Paul, who also called himself: “the prisoner of the Lord” in his letter to the Ephesian’s. Here in the middle of this letter he gives an out-burst of thanks to God; (he paints a picture of God), who is our conquer through Jesus, whereby we now become a sweet fragrance or aroma unto God; and find our triumph in Christ which leads us into life, as opposed to those outside of Christ who will find death.
As the Triumphal procession comes close to the city, the air would fill with the aroma of incense both within the city and outside in the procession as it moved closer to the city. (The burning incense would be carried into the city, as well as it would be burning throughout the city, filling the air.)
As the people smelled the fragrance in the air, there would be a sense of great joy within the city; images and thoughts of a celebration for the victors would come into their minds.
At the same time there would be a sense of great dread for the prisoners who had images of their pending death, as they smelled the same fragrance in the air. (Each person smelling the same fragrance, but each drawing a different conclusion of what it meant to them.)
Through this image Paul reveals that not only his life, but our witness for Jesus (lived out through our lives) and our spreading of the Gospel is also like a sweet aroma to God. This same sweet fragrance also places images and thoughts in the people’s minds; to one it brings thoughts and images of life and hope, while to another it brings thoughts of dread and death.
After the Procession enters the city, some people will receive gifts and rewards during the time of celebration, while others are put to death.
Paul’s out-burst of joy reminds us , how God is continually bring gifts and rewards into our lives; where God is continually raising some up, while putting some down.
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)”
As the “word of God” goes out from the Lord, it never leaves anything in a neutral position; either it is received or it is rejected, but no one is left indifferent. This is how the Gospel and our witness also works.
Though we are the bearers of God’s word, through the Gospel and his words lived out in our lives; it’s not us that are being received or rejected, but rather it’s the Lord. To one we are vessels of life bringing the news of life, while to others we are vessels of death bringing news of death.
It’s not our choice how people perceive us, our choice is only to be the vessel which carries the aroma of life, as a worship to God; how the people perceive us, whether we are a fragrance of life or death, that’s between them and God.
Therefore, be the best vessel you can be and let the world smell your worship and hopefully you will bring forth the aroma of life that God will find much pleasure in.