"To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?"
2 Corinthians 2:16
In the prior verses, Paul painted a beautiful and startling word picture—or, perhaps, something more accurately called a "nose picture." Paul has described Christians as "the aroma of Christ" on earth. He so permeates our being that His essence travels with believers into their relationships with everyone they know. This is true whether those who a believer knows "are being saved" from hell—through faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin—or "perishing"—are on the road to eternal destruction in punishment for sin. Those are the only two options—there is no middle ground (John 3:16–18).
One origin of this metaphor was the use of incense during Roman victory parades when captives would be marched to give evidence of triumph. To those in the crowd who hated and feared Rome, that smell would evoke thoughts of death and defeat. For those who allied with Rome, it was the smell of victory.
In that vein, Paul adds that "the aroma of Christ" smells differently to these two opposed groups. To those on the path to hell, "the aroma of Christ" is the odor of death. Their rejection of Him is the rejection of the opportunity to move from eternal death to eternal life. To them, evidence of the reality of Christ's influence is a source of condemnation and conviction. Believers, on the other hand, from each other reassurance of life in "the aroma of Christ." He is the source of all life, and faith in Him is the path to eternal life.
Paul expresses that this influence—this unseen impression—which Christians carry is a privileged burden. "Who is sufficient for these things?" is Paul's rhetorical statement about how potent this idea really is. In other words, who is worthy to carry such a fragrance? Arguably, nobody is truly worthy (Romans 3:10). Still, in this sense, Paul implies that such influence is only appropriate for those genuinely sent by God—not the false teachers or false Christians who had infiltrated the church (2 Corinthians 2:17).
Summary - Paul explains why he delayed coming to visit the Corinthians. In great anguish, he had written a painful letter to tell them they must correct a man among them. This person may have challenged Paul's authority as an apostle of Jesus. The Corinthians disciplined the man, and he repented. Paul told them to forgive him. He speaks of Titus failing to show up in Troas with news about the Corinthians; then, he explains that Christians are the aroma of Christ on earth to everyone they know.
PLEASE PRAY WITH ME: Dear Abba, let the incense which is my life, and my prayers arise as a sweet fragrance to you. Thanks be to you, my God, that you always lead me in triumph and spread the scent of the knowledge of Christ everywhere through me. Thank you that you have appointed Christians to be the aroma of Christ to yourself among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one, we are a fragrance from death to death; to the other, a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? Certainly not I! Your grace alone upholds me. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, and Savior. AMEN.
GOD BLESS YOU.