2021-02-21 – 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6 – The Fragrance of Christ
2021-02-21 – 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6 – The Fragrance of Christ
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
We have this game at home called TriBond that we just played again last night. Where on a card it gives you three things, and you have to figure what they have in common. So I thought I would give you all one this morning to start us out. Ready? Eternity, Chanel, and Coco? (They are all Perfume brands). Did you get it? Speaking about perfume, this morning we are going discuss what Paul wrote about the “fragrance of Christ.” We are also going to hear about some of the challenges that Paul experienced during his missionary travels and work.
Please turn now to 2 Corinthians 2:12, page 1024 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. Prayer..
In the previous verses of this letter, Paul wrote that he really struggled with the choice of whether to go back to Corinth to visit the church that he started there, or to forgo it for now and wait until the circumstances were more ideal. He was looking for the Holy Spirit to guide him in this situation. Subsequently, he ended up going instead to Macedonia where he wrote this second Corinthian letter. Paul said though that he was in tears thinking about them and the fact that they thought he might have just brushed them off. As we will see in this next set of verses, Paul was going through a lot of inner turmoil over this issue. Not only were his missionary travels riddled with physical challenges, but he had a lot of emotional challenges as well. Starting at verse 12 he wrote:
12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though the Lord opened a door for me, 13 I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. Instead, I said good-bye to them and left for Macedonia.
If you look at the map, you can see that Troas (marked with the red arrow) is on the east side of Aegean Sea. Paul was on his way now to Macedonia, but first stopped at Troas in hopes to rejoin with Titus. Titus along with Timothy were Paul’s most trusted apprentices. Paul, who I would guess to be about my age at this time, was looking forward to having the assistance and the fellowship of Titus.
As you probably realize, Titus is for whom the Bible letter-book of Titus was written about (a very good and worthwhile read). Unfortunately, as Paul was in Traos and then Macedonia, Titus went back to Corinth, but then later joined Paul again in Philippi, Crete and finally in Rome where Paul was eventually martyred. Having partners in ministry is essential for success. I am so blessed to have you all, but especially Jeremiah and the leadership here in this church to carry forward the work that God has appointed us to be doing. Verse 14 continues:
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession, and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things? [SLIDE] 17 For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many.
On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.
You might have noticed in these verses that Paul talks about the “fragrance of Christ”, the “aroma of death” and the “aroma of life”. I know many people that are really “smelly people”. By that I mean, they are very sensitive to the way things smell and it comes up a lot in their daily lives. It can make or break their experiences. Sadly, I lost some of my smelling ability while I was back in the Army. In some ways that’s a good thing, but in other ways that’s bad, lol.
Can anyone guess where this is? A few years ago, I had the privilege of taking my daughter Adeline to London, England. We had the best of time walking around and visiting the popular sites like the London Bridge, the Big Ben clock tower, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral just to mention just a few. We also did some shopping and had a ball going around some of the very swanky stores there. One store we visited was really fancy, and the prices were really amazingly outrageous. They even had a department in the store that only sold perfumes, and since there wasn’t many customers that day, I asked the proprietor what was the most expensive perfume he had to sell. To my surprise it was something like $10,000 an ounce. He let us sniff it and I thought it smelled good but, in my opinion, not $10,000 good. They also had in that shop some actual frankincense and Myrrh, akin to the gifts that were given back when Jesus was born.
Those also were way too expensive for my budget, but we had a lot of fun that day, and I will surely cherish our time together there. However, thinking back, I can hardly fathom that people actually spend so much money on perfumes.
These days I know many people that make an income selling fragrances and essential oils, and that’s a good thing. In our text today, Paul wrote about the “fragrance of Christ”, the “aroma of death” and the “aroma of life”. But what is the difference between a fragrance and that of an aroma? I did some research and found that a fragrance is generally a pleasant smell like from flowers and perfume. Whereas an aroma can be good or bad and can encompass most any smell both natural and manmade. In our context today, The Fragrance of Christ is indeed a most pleasant experience, however the “aroma of death and life” can be good or bad indeed. The Israelites used incense and perfume in many of their religious practices back then and even today. I love how it says in this verse 15 that “to God we are the fragrance of Christ”, isn’t that an awesome thought?
This reminds me of when my children were still little babies and I would hold them in my arms and just take in the smell of their hair and their baby skin. I still enjoy that even today, and it brings me joy to think that Father God enjoys my fragrance too because I have the scent of His precious Son on my person. Amen?
On the other hand.. verse 16 says, “To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life”. What that means is that some people will want to be near us because we smell like or emulate Jesus and Heaven. But others will want to avoid us or repel us because we remind them sadly that they are headed towards death and Hell. These are powerful words indeed that Paul writes here, and I am truly grateful for them.
Our verses for this message continue now in chapter 3, verse 1. And this section is entitled Living Letters. In that Paul wrote:
3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God—not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
I have written many letters of recommendation over the years. As a matter of fact, I wrote a letter of recommendation for somebody just the other day, and I pray it makes a positive difference. And I invite you all as well, to use me in this regard too if you so please. But please know I will not lie or exaggerate when I do write those letters of reference. Letters of recommendation or reference are generally desired when you are applying for a job or for a benefit from people who don’t know you. They can certainly help; however, might I suggest that actual knowledge of somebody’s character or performance is always much better. The Corinth church members knew Paul intimately as he initially started their church in the first place. Paul is attempting to remind them of that relationship. Likewise, just as the Corinth members were to be Paul’s referential evidence, we too are Christ’s referential evidence to the world. When people look upon us Christians, they should be able to see Christ in our character. That is what Paul is trying to convey in these verses today. Question: When people look upon you, do they also see Jesus? And based on that, do they then give credit or discredit onto what Jesus has done in and for our world? And do you compliment Jesus in your actions and behaviors? Or do you effectively tarnish Christ’s beautiful reputation and character with your sinful ways? I know those are tough questions to ask, but ask them I should.
As I said before, I will be the first to admit that I am a sinner that is only saved by the graces of God. And until I get to heaven, I will always be a sinner. But because I am a Christian, most every time I sin now, I get that feeling of remorse in my heart, knowing that I am not always living up to the Christ follower disciple that I should be trying to be emulate. Ephesians 4:30 says, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed”. Knowing that the Holy Spirit is “sealed” in my heart and that I grieved Him, that causes me to again ask for God’s forgiveness. Then I thank the Lord again for His amazing grace and love. That God sent His precious Son to die on the cross for all of my sins. And that only through His amazing grace that I am saved. Thank You Jesus Christ! Amen?
Our last verses today start now at verse 4. Paul wrote: 4 Such is the confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 It is not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. 6 He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
As Christians, we are now products of the “New Covenant”. The word covenant is akin to the word contract. We are no longer under the authority of the Old Testament covenant contract, but the New Testament covenant contract. And under that New covenant, we are saved by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Christ paid the price for all my past, present, and future sins on the cross at Calvary. The Old Testament laws pointed out what the definition of sin is, and now in the New Testament we have this amazing thing called grace.
I love that old Christian hymn titled Grace that is Greater. The refrain goes like this: Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Isn’t that a wonderful hymn? Paul is reminding the Corinthian believers, and us today, that everything we believe is pinioned on that Amazing Grace, and we can have confidence now through Christ before God. Because we have Jesus as our Savior, and because we have the Holy Spirit sealed in our hearts, that should give us as Christians the assurance of eternal life and eternal security.
Brothers and sisters, you now are the beautiful Fragrance of Christ. And Jesus Christ now lives in you and through you. As Christians, you represent Him in all you do. According to Paul’s letter here, you are Jesus’s reference letter to this dyeing world that we now live in. “To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life”.
I pray you are willing and able to stand up to that understanding. Don’t waste the time you have on this great creation of God call Earth, hiding your Christian fragrance. It is much too valuable a commodity to be wasted. More valuable than even a $100,000 per ounce fragrance. I would suggest to you that our relationship with God through Christ it is the only thing that is truly priceless in our world today.
In closing I will add that this fragrance message today also reminds me of the day that Jesus was anointed by Mary just prior to Him being persecuted. In John 12:3 it says, “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”. Mary loved Jesus so much. She didn’t care what anyone thought about her actions that day. She sacrificially gave Him all that she had to give. She loved Jesus and she wanted Him to know how much she appreciated everything He had done for her and everything He was preparing to do for her.
How much do you love Jesus? Do you dare to show the world the fragrance of His presence? Will you stand up for Him and be His reference based upon what He has done for you? And in that regard, let us now stand together and blanket all this with prayer. Let us sing together, one verse of Amazing Grace.
Next week we will continue in this second chapter of Second Corinthians. Thank you again for joining us today. May God be with you till we meet again.