Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
I was originally going to call this, “The way we smell to others,” but thought that might be misleading or inaccurate. Paul uses a very unusual illustration to make an important point in 2 Corinthians 2:12-17. The backdrop of the illustration was when he came to Troas to take advantage of an open door to preach the gospel. It was a trying experience, as he couldn’t find Titus there. He left them for Macedonia (12-13).
In chapter three, he is going to change metaphors. But, first, he describes their work of sharing the gospel as like God sending His fragrance through them which others evaluate or judge (14-15). The same message “smells” differently to the recipients, based on the receptivity and spiritual condition of those hearers (16). But Paul makes clear that their motives and message are not “rotten,” but if it is rejected it is because the listeners are perishing (17). Think about how so many could hear the Son of God Himself teach and preach, and thoroughly reject it to the degree that they even took Him and nailed Him to a cross!
When you share Jesus and the message of His saving grace with others, there will be those who find that “fragrance of Christ” (15) a “sweet aroma” (14). It will be so appealing to them that they leave their old life and follow Him, much as the men God chose to follow Him during His ministry. It’s attractive and satisfying. There are still so many with good, receptive hearts out there. We see that when we share Him.
However, be prepared for some to find that same message repulsive. It’s not what they want and not what they are after. Have you ever been sick in such a way that even your favorite foods nauseated you to smell them cooking? There is no more savory and appealing message than the Bible’s story of grace, but many will reject it anyway! It can leave us feeling so inadequate (16), but we must remember that it is not our message. It is Christ’s message. Our job is simply to spread it with personal integrity, honesty, and righteous motivation. His word will work its power on those who seek their satisfaction in Him.