“Aroma of Christ”: The Meaning of 2 Corinthians 2:15

What does Paul mean when he calls us the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15)? Let us unpack the symbolism of this Bible verse!

Understanding 2 Corinthians 2:15 in Context

2 Corinthians 2:15 is nestled within Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that is preserved in the Bible.

He wrote this letter following an initially difficult visit to the church in Corinth, characterized by disputes. In it, he emphasized forgiveness, reconciliation, and overcoming hardships through Christ.

Aroma of Christ meaning 2 Corinthians 2 15 1

Here, Paul introduces a concept rich in symbolic meaning:

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

2 Corinthians 2:15

What is the meaning of “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15)?

Paul’s metaphorical reference to aroma draws on both the Old Testament and Roman culture.

Old Testament

In the Old Testament, descriptions of the aroma of burnt offerings were often used to convey a sacrifice that was acceptable and pleasing to God (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18).

Aroma of Christ meaning 2 Corinthians 2 15 2

Paul expands this original meaning, inviting believers to be the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Living out our faith makes us like a pleasing fragrance to God. When we truly desire to embody Christ’s teachings, our lives become like the well-received offerings of old.

Jesus Christ Died for Our Sins

Paul further explains this idea in Ephesians 5:2: “Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Christ’s life – his perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins – is the ultimate pleasing aroma to God. As followers of Jesus, our lives, our spiritual “aroma”, should also seek to reflect Christ’s love for His people.

Roman culture

In Roman culture during biblical times, a victorious Roman military would parade through the streets. Incense was burned.

Roman military parade 1

To Roman citizens, it was the sweet aroma of victory. But for the captives in the parade, it was the bitter scent of defeat and death.

Paul uses this as an analogy. The message of the Gospel, much like that incense, is received differently by people who either accept or reject it. “Those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Aroma of Christ meaning 2 Corinthians 2 15 3

This was true during Paul’s time, and it remains true today.

Yet, regardless of how a person receives the Gospel, our calling as Christians to be the aroma of Christ remains the same. We are to spread God’s love and the Gospel message in a way that pleases Him (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Our lives are an offering and testimony to God’s transformative power (Romans 12:1-2).

What is the meaning of “God is light” (1 John 1:5)?

Living as the Aroma of Christ in the Modern World

In a world teeming with chaos and anti-Christian sentiments, how can we embody the aroma of Christ?

In short, we are to stand out, similar to how a pleasant aroma floats through a crowd.

Coffee Smell Cafe

Consider this scenario. You’re on a bustling city street filled with various smells. Suddenly, the distinct aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts from a café. It cuts through the air, attracting passersby.

Similarly, our lives as Christians should exude the spiritual aroma of Christ, making us stand out amid societal pressures and expectations. Not for our namesake, but God’s.

Jesus Christ Bible Verses

Of course, we can never lead ‘perfect’ lives. Only God Himself is truly perfect.

However, we are called to embody love, humility, forgiveness, and sacrifice, reflecting Christ’s attributes as best as we can (1 John 2:6; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 11:1).

Being the aroma of Christ is not just about professing our faith. It is also about our actions, behaviors, and how we engage with the world around us.

Fragrance of God

We can live as the aroma of Christ in a few ways:

  • Expressing Love: Christ’s love is profound. As his followers, we must try to show this kind of love to others. 1 John 4:7-8 reminds us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
  • Living Selflessly: Like Christ, it is good to be selfless amid our own lives. God asks us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). Instead, we must learn to value others above ourselves, lifting people in need up as we point to God’s glory (Philippians 2:4).
  • Promoting Peace: As followers of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), we should also promote peace in our interactions with others. Where possible, we can forge peaceful resolutions, forgive others, and encourage unity.
  • Sharing the Gospel: We carry the message of His salvation. As the aroma of Christ, we have the responsibility to share the Gospel with others in love and patience, bringing them the joy of knowing Jesus (Mark 16:15; Romans 10:15).
Embody Christ

Can you think of other ways to embody the aroma of Christ?

Why did Jesus call us the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16)?

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