Summary: The Gospel is an "aroma" of life for some and death for others
Heroes, in Paul’s day, were usually great generals, leaders of mighty armies, and
conquerors of nations. Really it is the same today. That is why we know whom Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great is. These men whose fame and fortune came from desolated cities and enslaved people—were allowed what was called a “triumph.” A triumph probably looked much like Times Square in NYC looked on New Year’s Eve. A triumphal procession was arranged in their honor and this was the event for any Roman general. The general was received at the city gate by the nobles and wealthy of the city and was led through the streets of the city. The streets were crowded with shouting people and adoring fans.
The parade was in a very specific order. First, the older Roman senators would walk and simply by their presence you knew what was coming was important. Then, other leading men of the city would follow behind them—leading merchants, government officials, and other politicians. Then, then came the trumpeters ringing out the huge sound above the crowds. They were announcing the real beginning of the celebration. Following the trumpeters, were carriages and wagons full of the spoils of war. The most beautiful and rare items were out on display for all to see. Look what this general has done! On a flat wagon, there might be a model of a fort or city that had been conquered. Then in cages, animals of the region would be on display. Gold and silver statues or perhaps articles dedicated to these defeated people’s gods.
Then, there were servants who carried censers filled with perfumes, burning incense, and other fine materials that sent a sweet smelling aroma into the air and onto the ground and into the crowds. The wonderful smell was everywhere. This would have been quite a change from the animal smell or the other aromas of so many people in such crowded spaces. The aroma filled the air.
But, the “triumph” was far from over. After the servants, came the conquered. They would march in chains, humiliated and defeated. These people were the leaders, conquered generals, and other soldiers who had been captured. Look at what this general has done!!
And then… Majestic white horses would come into view and here was the conquering hero. He would stand in this splendid chariot adorned with gold and silver and carried a royal scepter in his hand. After him would come his officers and honored soldiers. They would march all through the city until they reach the capitol building. Some captives would be killed. Some animals offered in sacrifice. But always, there was a great feast waiting. Look at what this general has done!
I. PAUL’S USE OF THE WORD PICTURE
Paul obviously had seen such a display in his life, probably more than once. He had this
parade or “triumph” picture in his mind as he thought about our roles in telling others about Jesus Christ. We are allowed to parade in with Christ, the ultimate victor, through the grace of God. Paul could not help but think about the chained humiliated conquered ones. What is the sound of the trumpet to them? What was the aroma to them?
We find that those prisoners, when they smelled that sweet aroma, would know that their death would come soon. The aroma meant that they were marching in a parade that held only death for them. We find that to the conquering general’s solders would have smelled this aroma and would know that a feast awaited them and promotion and wealth.
This sweet incense in the air meant different things to each of these two groups. To some it is life. To some it is death.
I ask you this morning, what is the aroma? If we are marching confidently and victoriously through life with Christ, and we smell the aroma and know that for us it means eternal life and happiness and heaven—what is it? What is this aroma that when others smell it, they think of only judgment and death and Hell? It is the gospel! The aroma moving through the crowds is the message of the Gospel and how Jesus conquered sin and death.
II. THIS WORD PICTURE’S MEANING FOR US
A. There are two results of the preached Gospel
1) The proper result is life
a) It is God’s desire that people who are “dead in trespasses and sins” receive life and not death and have life more abundantly.
b) Jesus, while He was here on earth, was concerned deeply with life. He was always deepening life, restoring life, giving health, and renewing life.
c) We who are in Christ live a new life in Him. Our lives are not the same as before. We are new creatures and life has meaning… eternal meaning that we want to share.