|When a Roman General returned from a great and mighty conquest, the Roman Senate would often honor the conquering General with a parade. This honor was reserved for the greatest of victories and given great importance. The parade would display the captured spoils of war; the captives that the Roman General would free (provided that they gave him tribute, of course); the captives that the Roman General would kill (in order to provide an example to those providing tribute); and many, many incense-bearers. These incense-bearers would carry lit incense and provide continual sacrifices of incense to the false Roman gods.
The sweet fragrance, or savor, of this lit incense would disperse throughout the capitol city, freshen the air, and alert everyone within nostril-shot that there was a grand procession transpiring. The common people, alerted by the sweet savor, would flock to witness the parade. In an age without radio, television or social media, it was an ingenious message system.
Paul draws upon this imagery to explain how he views his life and ministry at the end of Second Corinthians chapter 2. He views himself as an incense-bearer in the procession of a Great and Mighty Conqueror– a great Lord who defeated sin and death and provided people with the means to reach heaven. Paul viewed himself as a sweet savor that drew people to the Gospel and, in turn, gave glory to Jesus Christ.
To those who accepted Christ as their Savior, it was the sweet fragrance of life– just as the incense at the Roman parade was a wonderful smell to the Roman captives awaiting their freedom. To those who rejected Christ, it was the terrible smell of damnation and judgment– just as the aroma of incense was a horrible smell to those Roman captives awaiting execution.
Regardless of whether a person accepts or rejects the Gospel, Christ was still glorified. In one case, He is glorified because He gets to demonstrate His mercy and grace. In the case of those who reject Him, glory is still given to Jesus because He willingly died for those who would reject Him and this is the greatest act of love ever known.
This begs the question: how’s your aroma been lately? Has your life been giving off a strong aroma that attracts others to the Gospel or have you been stifling your smell so that no one will know you’re a Christian? It is by us that the Gospel is known. If we hide the Gospel from those around us, then how will those people be saved?
Don’t be intimidated into keeping your aroma hidden; make the fragrance of your life strong and great. Let those around you smell the sweet fragrance of life so that they’ll have the opportunity to accept the salvation of Jesus Christ.