Summary: In this sermon we learn how important it is for us to accurately reflect Christ, and that the power to do so comes only from God.


A. Some smells are very pleasant and very pleasing, and some are not.

B. Reader’s Digest carried this funny quip:

1. One day a woman was filling up her car at a gas station, when she accidentally spilled gasoline on her shirt.

2. When she went inside to pay, she noticed that the woman standing next to her was crinkling her nose.

3. She tried to put the woman’s mind at ease at by announcing: “If you smell gas, don’t worry, it's me.”

C. Have you ever paid attention to the names of some perfumes?

1. One day a teenage girl was shopping at the mall and stopped at the perfume counter.

2. She noticed the names of the perfumes, “Insolence,” “Obsession,” “Desire”, and “Ecstasy”.

3. She said to the salesperson, “I don't want to get myself into trouble...I just want to smell nice.”

D. What are some of your favorite smells?

1. Coffee brewing? Bacon frying? Popcorn popping? Cookies, brownies or bread baking? Freshly cut grass? How about Thanksgiving morning? Vanilla? Summer rain? Lilacs?

2. Isn't it amazing how certain smells transport you to another time or place?

3. Smells can penetrate recesses of memory and imagination that the other senses can’t get near.

E. In our text for today, we notice that Paul talks about being the aroma of Christ – the fragrance of life and death.

1. We also notice that he talks about being a letter that can be read by everybody.

2. So today we want to talk about becoming something to smell and something to read.

3. Let’s work our way through 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 12 through chapter 3, verse 6 and see what lessons God would want us to learn.

I. The Explanation

A. Look at 2 Cor. 2:12-13: Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

1. Paul began by telling how his anxiety to know what was happening in Corinth made him so restless that he could not wait in Troas, even though there was a lot of opportunity there, so he moved on to Macedonia in search for Titus.

2. Titus finally arrived and gave Paul the good news of the favorable Corinthian reaction to Paul’s tearful letter.

3. The Corinthians had repented and Paul’s role and reputation among the Corinthians was restored (2 Cor. 7:5-7).

4. This caused Paul to launch into a shout of praise to God who had brought all things to a happy ending.

B. Look at verses 14-16: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

1. When set against the background which was surely in Paul’s mind, these verses become a vivid picture for us.

2. In Paul’s mind must have been the picture of the Roman Triumph.

a. The highest honor that could be given to a victorious Roman general was a Triumph.

b. It was their equivalent of the American “ticker-tape parade.”

c. To attain it, the general must satisfy certain conditions.

1. If a commander-in-chief won a complete victory over the enemy on foreign soil, and if he killed at least 5,000 enemy soldiers and gained new territory for the Emperor, then that commander was entitled to a Roman Triumph.

d. The processional would include the commander riding in a golden chariot, surrounded by his officers.

1. The parade would also include a display of the spoils of battle, as well as the captive enemy soldiers.

2. The Roman priests would also be in the parade, carrying burning incense to pay tribute to the victorious army.

3. The procession would follow a special route through the city of Rome and would end at the Circus Maximus where the helpless captives would entertain the people by fighting wild beasts.

e. It was considered a very special day in Rome when its citizens were treated to a full-scale Roman Triumph.

3. That is the picture that was surely in Paul’s mind when he wrote these verses.

4. He viewed Christ marching in triumph throughout the world with himself marching in that conquering train.

a. Paul was certain that this triumph of Christ was something that nothing could stop.

b. In that sense, we believers in Christ do not fight for victory, we fight from victory.

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