Chapter 02 – THE AROMA OF CHRIST
I.) PAUL’S REASON FOR WRITING THIS LETTER (Thematic Verses) (v1-4)
“For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” – (v1-4)
In the opening section of chapter 02, Paul continues his explanation about his change of plans and why he wasn’t able to visit the Corinthians personally. According to Paul, aside from it being the Lord’s will, he also preferred to not return personally to avoid another “painful visit.” In his wisdom, Paul discerned that a letter would be more useful than a face-to-face confrontation. Through a letter, the Corinthians would have more time to contemplate and understand Paul’s sentiments. This is why this passage also represents the theme of this letter. Paul’s primary intention is to let the Corinthians know how much he loves them and not to cause them pain.
II.) FORGIVE THE SINNER (The Mystery Man) + THE EVIL SCHEMES OF SATAN (v5-11)
“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.” – (v5-8) NLT
Paul moves on to another thought. And this time, he talked about the “man who caused all the trouble.” Some believe that this man is the one who committed sexual immorality with his step-mom in 1 Corinthians 5. However, many still think that this is a completely new person. According to them, this man is probably the leader of the rebellion against Paul. But the most praiseworthy thing about this is that Paul never dropped his name. Many see this as a good example of a true Christlike Christian leader. Instead of shaming the man (and being recorded for eternity in the Bible), Paul encouraged the Corinthians to forgive him instead (and even comfort him!). According to Paul, this is to avoid discouraging the man and to reaffirm their love for him. This is the Christian trait that modern churches need to remind themselves of. With the prevalence of bullying and cancel culture today, it is a very common sight to see Christians persecute their fellow Christians for their mistakes. We act as if we are so perfect and holy while others don’t have the right to make mistakes. Just like Paul is teaching here, Christians must learn to forgive and comfort each other. Even the worst of Christians still deserve to be forgiven.
“I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” – (v9-11) NLT
In the next verses, Paul dropped a very interesting revelation: “so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” As he encourages the Corinthians to forgive this mystery man, Paul revealed that if they don’t, Satan will outsmart them. It turns out that when a Christian harbors unforgiveness in his heart, Satan wins; and it’s true. According to Ephesians 4:26-27,
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
According to Paul (who also wrote the letter to the Ephesians), harboring anger in our hearts gives the devil an “opportunity” (or a foothold in other translations). Anger is a very unhealthy emotion that when not handled properly, could lead one to do terrible and unimaginable things (the worst one being murder). This is why Paul highly encouraged the Corinthians to forgive the mystery man for the safety and well-being of their entire church.
III.) THE TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION IN CHRIST + THE AROMA OF CHRIST (v12-17)
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.”
Before the next major section, let’s first discuss this short passage. Here, Paul explained again his change of plans. He reiterated that it was God who opened these doors/opportunities for him. Paul is somehow emphasizing that God is his commander and he is simply following His orders. Another, Paul’s statement that he was “not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there,” reveals that Paul was not a lone-wolf in his ministry. In other passages in the Bible, it can also be observed that he always (or most of the time) has companions like Barabbas, Priscilla and Aquila, Timothy, and here, Titus. This teaches us that the Bible is really discouraging Christians from being alone, especially in serving God.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. FOR WE ARE THE AROMA OF CHRIST to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” – (v14-17)
We have come to the main passage of this chapter. Paul’s first revelation is about the “Triumphal Procession in Christ.” What is this???
To understand this, we must first establish its connection to the preceding verses. Before this passage, Paul was talking about preaching the Gospel to Macedonia. Therefore, this passage is about the evangelist’s place in the Kingdom of God. And the first of these is being in a triumphal procession in Christ. Here, Paul dropped a Roman Empire reference. The triumphal procession is a roman practice where a victorious general and his army return to Rome (along with their war loots and defeated enemies) in a parade-like manner while the citizens celebrate their victory. It is like a city-wide welcome party. The roman emperor also awaits them to personally congratulate and give honor to the victorious general. According to Paul, we are like this in Christ. Christ is the victorious general and we are His soldiers who march along with Him as the heavens welcome and celebrate with us.
And then, Paul added that “THROUGH US,” the “fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is being spread everywhere, for we are THE AROMA OF CHRIST.” This is a very important revelation about Christians. According to Science experts, scent, or aroma, is one of the most retainable memories. True enough by observation, we easily recognize or remember something once we smell its scent. Also, the aroma reveals that its source is just nearby (which most of the time, we can’t see or didn’t see first). While it is obvious that Paul is not literally telling us that Christians smell like Christ, it is a metaphor concerning how Christians should live. As stated, the scent or aroma of something signals the people who can smell it that the source is just nearby. In simpler terms, the aroma reveals the presence of the source. And in this case, Christ. Therefore, our role is to be the signaling aroma of Christ. Just like aroma, our lives should make people feel and notice the presence of Christ. Even though they can’t see Him, our lives alone should testify that He is just nearby.
However, Paul also revealed that the aroma of Christ is not appreciated by everyone. The aroma of Christ is only pleasing to those “who are being saved” (elect). To those “who are perishing,” it is the other way around. In Paul’s words, it is like a “fragrance from death to death” for them.
But let’s close the matter. Paul asked, “who is sufficient for these things?” again, this entire passage is in the context of evangelism. Paul answered his question and claimed that he is sufficient and qualified to preach the Gospel because he is not a “peddler of God’s words” (which means those who water down the Gospel or don’t preach it faithfully and truthfully). He added that he is a “man of sincerity,” “commissioned by God,” and is speaking in Christ and the sight/presence of God. Therefore, this is a call for everyone to be a faithful servant and witness of God. WE CAN ONLY BE AN EFFECTIVE AROMA OF CHRIST IF WE ARE LIVING LIKE CHRIST. And to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere requires faithfulness to the task and most of all, to the Gospel. When Paul ended this chapter with the line, “in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” He is basically making a swear or an oath that God is his witness to his truthfulness and faithfulness to Him. May all of us be like this!
As we close, 2nd Corinthians chapter 02 is a very powerful reminder of how Christians should live and behave in this world. Again, we are the aroma of Christ. And as His aroma, our presence should make others feel that Christ is just nearby, close to our hearts, and ever-present to help.
God Bless!! 🙂