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The Scriptorium

The Fragrance of Christ

What we want to be. 2 Corinthians 2.14-16

2 Corinthians 2 (5)

Pray Psalm 23.1, 2.
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

Sing Psalm 23.1, 2.
(The Gift of Love: Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire)
Because the LORD my Shepherd is I shall not want, for I am His!
He makes me lie in pastures full; I rest in Him by waters still.

Read 2 Corinthians 2.1-16; meditate on verses 14-16.


1. How did Paul describe himself and other believers?

2. How was this received?

We are familiar with the Peanuts© character Pigpen. Everywhere he goes, a cloud of dust stirs up around him.

Even in the dead of winter, during a snowstorm, Pigpen’s dust cloud is his defining attribute.

Just so, the Lord intends a “fragrance of Christ” to emanate from us in all our words and deeds (v. 14). We are God’s diffusers in the world, to emit “the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” Wherever you go in your Personal Mission Field, whomever you’re with, and whatever you’re doing, something that “smells” of the beauty, compassion, loveliness, truth, and righteousness of Jesus can be made known, arising from your soul as surely as the dust does around good Pigpen.

Those who know the Lord need us to be a faithful fragrance of Christ that they might be encouraged to know, love, and serve Him more. To believers in Jesus, the fragrance of Christ will be sweet, welcome, and a source of fuller and more abundant life in the Lord (v. 15).

But that won’t be true of everyone who catches a whiff of Jesus in us. To those who are still dead in their trespasses and sin, Jesus will have the odor of death (vv. 15, 16). He will be perceived as a threat to their “liberty”, a killjoy for their fun, or a cruel taskmaster for a lifestyle they do not prefer.

Only grace can awaken such people from the deadness of sin to newness of life in Christ; and the way we live our faith before them can bring an environment of grace into their lives, which may, over time, make them more inclined to “smell the roses” of Jesus and come to faith in Him.

How will you diffuse the fragrance of Jesus today?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
The psalmist David prayed, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Ps. 23.6).

Most assuredly, we know that if we shower and lather up vigorously, we will smell considerably better. And we know that if we launder our clothing, they will not only look better but will emanate a more pleasant aroma.

However, the opposite is also true.
“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor;
so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor” (Eccl. 10.1).

Beware, Christian, it is the one “respected for wisdom and honor”  emanating a foul odor when folly is displayed in that life.

The psalmist David made note of this: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness” (Ps. 38.3-5).

Either way, as Paul stated, we give off an aroma either of our own uncleanliness and sin; or an aroma of death to those caught up in sin— “the aroma of death leading to death” (2 Cor. 2.16).

The other option being “the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2.16).
“Surely”, as David prayed, this is a possibility when “we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2.15).

“And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2.16).

“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Ps. 24.3, 4).

“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” (2 Cor. 2.14).

Surely—through the power and blood of Jesus, and His indwelling Spirit—we can triumphantly exude a godly aroma of life and death all the days of our lives. Leaving behind us a virtual jet stream of goodness and mercy. Indeed, “The Fragrance of Christ.”

For reflection
1. How should you prepare each day to make sure the fragrance of Christ is with you all day long?

2. How do you expect the fragrance of Christ in you to encourage your fellow believers today?

3. How can you know when you are more a “fly in the ointment” than the “fragrance of Christ”?

The light, even when it blinds someone, is still light. Honey, though it is bitter to those who are sick, is still sweet. So also the gospel has a sweet savor to all, even if those who do not believe it are lost. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 5.2

Pray Psalm 23.3-6.
Pray that God the Father will bless you with more of the fragrance of Jesus, so that His good and mercy will follow and flow from you in all you do.

Sing Psalm 23.3-6.
(The Gift of Love: Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire)
My soul He quickens and will bless; He leads in paths of righteousness.
Though I may walk in death’s dark vale, I shall not fear – He will not fail!

The LORD is ever by my side; His rod and staff with me abide.
A table rich for me He spreads; with oil my LORD anoints my head.

Goodness and mercy, full and free, shall ever after follow me,
and in the house of God, my LORD, shall I abide forevermore!

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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