Much has been written about the overpowering forces of the ancient Roman armies. As Rome spread her control over the Mediterranean Basin and beyond, it was her custom to welcome her victorious generals and their troops to the capitol city with a massive celebration after each great victory.
But what has not been as widely recognized was that whenever they were victorious in a great war, they often celebrated by placing their captured enemies in shackles and parading them through the streets for all to see. As part of these celebrations they burned incense on altars that were placed throughout the city, filling the air with the fragrance from the incense. The purpose for this was that those who couldnít see the procession would know that the army was victorious because they heard the music and smelled the scent of the incense.
The procession would work its way through the Forum and end at the Coliseum.† It was a day of celebration. The procession typically would include:
2. Spoils of war
3. Pictures of the conquered land
4. Captives in chains
5. Musicians playing lyres
6. Priests carrying censers of perfume
Also, along the line of march there would be soldiers holding flowers and soldiers holding urns of burning incense.† The aroma would be sweet to the victors. Thereby, the scent became symbolic of their victories.
How does this relate to the Christian? In II Corinthians, 2nd Chapter, the Apostle Paul wrote, beginning in the 14th verse:
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? NKJV
Here Paul is expressing his confidence in Christ to continually lead us to triumph over the obstacles that are placed in our way by the enemy. Out of these victories and through us He diffuses a fragrance, a sweet aroma of knowledge that He had been the source of each victory. Although others might not fully understand His participation, that fragrance leaves an unmistakable impression of His presence. Oftentimes, even those who are not believers in Christ have to acknowledge that there was an unexplained participation in our victories; that was the source of the fragrance.
Harder for them to understand is that we are the fragrance of Christ. As a result, we are affecting those who are being saved and flourishing, and those who are refusing Christ and therefore perishing. To those who are continuing to refuse to accept Christ, we are the aroma of the hopelessness that comes from rejecting a relationship with Christ, the aroma of death leading to death. To those who are being saved, we are the aroma of the hope that comes with salvation, the aroma of life leading to life.
ďAnd who is sufficient for these things?Ē Paul is asking who is sufficient to be used by God to carry His fragrance. In order for this fragrance, the Christian scent, to be manifested, our lives must be devoted to the cause of Christ. He finishes by affirming that many are peddling the word of God, rather than speaking or acting out of sincerity.
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. NKJV
Our roles as Christians include diffusing the fragrance of Christ throughout the culture in which we live. Diffuse means not concentrated or localized. It means to pour out and permit to cause to spread freely. We do this by distributing our beliefs and the evidence of our salvation throughout our communities.
Christians will sometimes encounter others who, for no apparent reason, often before even getting to know them, quickly develop an intense dislike for them. Many times this will be disconcerting to the Christian, not understanding what they could have done to deserve this treatment. But many Christians donít fully understand that the evidence of their relationship with Christ includes their emanating the fragrance of Christ. This aroma is sometimes quite offensive to those who have developed an intense resistance or hatred for the principles of Christianity. In these instances, Christians must recognize this resistance and accept it as further evidence of the power of a relationship with Christ.
Therefore, we should strive to spread the aroma of Christ. There is a specific purpose for this fragrance and Christ intended for us to use it appropriately. It is evidence of our relationship with Him and others should be affected by it. Some will be drawn by that fragrance, while others will tend to be offended by it. Either way, Godís Word is being fulfilled and His purpose is being served.
Christians should be the salt of the earth. In this instance that salt has an aroma.
There is a certain parallel to history and the history of the Christian church. The history of the Christian Church is one of triumph. As a triumphant church we should bear the fragrance of Christ and show evidence of the life of Christ flowing from what we are, what we do and what we say, either verbally or non-verbally.
In other words, there should be no doubt about our beliefs, our convictions, or our determination to affect our culture and the society in which we live. The world around us should know without a doubt what we stand for and what we stand against.