Hot and dusty, Bob dismounted from the bus he had ridden to a city far from home. He was tired from a long day of travel and grateful that he would be able to have dinner with friends of friends who lived in the area. They welcomed him in, and he immediately felt a sense of peace. He felt at home, comfortable, safe, and valued.
Later, wondering why he had felt such peace in an unfamiliar place, Bob found an answer in 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul describes people who follow God as having the “pleasing aroma of Christ.” “That’s exactly it!” Bob said to himself. His hosts had “smelled like” Christ.
When Paul says that God leads His people in Christ’s “triumphal procession” spreading the fragrance of His truth, he’s referring to a practice in the ancient world. Victorious armies would burn incense as they marched through the streets. For their supporters, the smell brought joy. In the same way, Paul says the people of God carry a pleasing fragrance to those who believe. It isn’t something we create on our own but something God gives as He leads us in spreading the knowledge of Him.
Bob is my dad, and that trip to a faraway town took place more than forty years ago, but he’s never forgotten it. He’s still telling the story of the people who smelled like Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for leading Your people in triumph and spreading the fragrance of Your truth through us.
Who smells like Christ to you?
The phrase “pleasing aroma” or “aroma pleasing” occurs thirty-nine times in the Old Testament—once in Genesis when Noah made a sacrifice to the Lord after the flood (8:21) and three times in Exodus (dealing with the consecration of the priests in chapter 29). The remainder are found in Leviticus and Numbers, most of which provide details about the various sacrifices or offerings the Israelite people were to bring God, such as burnt (Leviticus 1:13), grain (2:9), fellowship (4:31), drink (Numbers 15:10), sin (v. 24), and food (29:6). All of these offerings and sacrifices, when given in the prescribed way, were an “aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 3:5). Two of these sacrifices were required: the sin offering and trespass offering, which were to atone for sin.
In the New Testament this phrase appears only once, here in today’s passage: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). No longer are sacrifices necessary, for Jesus paid the sacrifice for our sins. When we follow Him, God is pleased with us because of what Christ did on our behalf.