The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), November 29
Women have been known to send their lovers perfume-scented letters which leave the recipients with no doubt whatsoever regarding the contents of the letter. The fragrance communicates love and affection. Paul uses the analogy of a fragrance or an aroma to describe the witness or message of the Corinthian believers to those around them:
“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. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16a, emphasis added)
Paul isolates the Christ-follower—“through us”—as the vehicle God uses to manifest the triumphs of Christ to the world today. Triumph over sin, the enemy, and the fear of death—the gospel message—is not only preached, but also lived out. When Christ’s followers live in sin and defeat, however, the world is lost to the gospel message. When believers differ little from those around them, they have nothing of substance to offer.
In contrast, believers who walk in the triumph of Jesus over sin, death, and the grave effuse hope and possibility to those who desire to escape the chains of sin and Satan. Theirs are not lives of perfection or performance, but lives of joy, liberty, and hope; that is attractive to those without joy, to those trapped hopelessly in addictive behaviors. But, for those entrapped happily in sin and Satan’s snares, that same vibrant and life-full effusion does nothing.
Even in the midst of sorrow, loss, and despair, believers rejoice when there is no earthly reason to rejoice; they live uprightly in an upside down world as they live Spirit-dominated lives. Their lives perfume a stinking world—a world filled with hopelessness and despair—with the aroma of Christ. Some are irresistibly drawn to Him in reconciliation, while others are repelled.
Naomi, from the book of Ruth, is an example. Even in the midst of sickness, death, and desolation, Naomi’s life offered the possibility of hope. Ruth was attracted to Naomi’s God even as Naomi suffered and struggled with doubt.
Everywhere the early believers went, in spite of the persecution that they experienced, they drew people to the life of Christ within them. Changed and joy-filled lives accompanied gospel proclamation and sparked both interest and persecution—drawing some, repelling others.
Believers must keep in mind that their lives are both a fragrance and a letter: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ . . . written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). What message about God are we delivering to others? Are others being reconciled to God because our lives are gospel-credible? So much is at stake!
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (2 Cor. 2:5-6:13):
What releases the life of Christ in and through a believer? What prohibits Christ from being manifested in the lives of His followers?
What role does the Lord give His followers in the world. What does that role involve?
What function does suffering have in the release of Christ’s aroma in Paul’s life and the writing of the gospel upon his life?