For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16
The first thing that we need to understand is who Paul is talking about in this passage. He’s referring to himself and his ministry team. He tells us that their lives give off a spiritual fragrance.
Of course, this could also apply to any believer who’s walking in their calling. Christians who are living for themselves don’t have this “aroma”. That’s because the life of Christ is only evident in those who strive to live as Jesus did.
The apostle says that their lives create a spiritual atmosphere around them. When people are near them, they pick up on the truths that are a part of Paul’s ministry.
Paul mentions two groups of people who his ministry affects. He also tells us what the “fragrance” is that he’s giving off.
The two people groups have to do with the direction that they’re heading. That’s how Paul describes them. The first group is those who are heading toward salvation. The second is those who are heading toward destruction.
The effect that the ministry has on these two groups may sound counter-intuitive at first. But as we look closely at it, we’ll see what Paul means.
The first group is composed of people who are headed toward salvation. Their desire is to see God’s completed work accomplished in their lives. To those believers, Paul’s ministry is the aroma of death.
Why is that? Simply put, it will take the death of self to see the resurrection power of Christ at work in you. This all points back to something Paul wrote about in his first letter to this church.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
It’s the message of the cross, where our old self is crucified with Christ, that releases the power of God in our lives. Those who are headed down the path to ruin and loss think that the message of the cross is foolishness.
However, Paul’s ministry also had an effect on those who were headed toward destruction. That was the evangelistic side of his calling. His goal was to bring light and life to those who are in darkness and sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the other side of ministry. There has to be the call to receive Christ’s offer of salvation. It’s a call to life.
As I look at the apostle’s ministry, and how he sees these two goals, I have to agree with his final assessment. “Who is equal to such a task?”
In our own strength and intelligence, we’ll never be able to accomplish this great work. But, I praise God for the Holy Spirit who lives in us. It’s His work in us that makes us competent ministers of the grace of God.
Question: How do you see the “aroma” of life and death at work in your ministry?
© 2020 Nick Zaccardi