Drawing Near to the Lord

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" (John 6:44-45)

Location: Charlotttesville, Virginia, United States

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Fragrance of Christ

By Mark Larson

Every Christian has a responsibility to proclaim the gospel to others according to one’s ability and opportunities (e.g., Acts 8:4). Yet, is every Christian held liable by God for the response each person gives to the gospel? Certainly, there are cases when we do not present the Bible as we should and for these we will be held accountable. We may not have spoken the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) or may have acted hypocritical, having sin in our own lives (Mat. 7:1-5) for example. Yet, what about cases when we present the gospel in a Christ-like manner and people still fail to render obedience? The question is raised because sometimes we unwittingly blame ourselves for other people’s rejection of the gospel.

There is a great temptation to believe that God disapproves of us if we are not successful in getting other people to obey the truth. Parents are sometimes too quick to blame themselves for their children’s reluctance to obey the gospel. Preachers mistakenly believe that they are to blame for lack of numerical growth in a local church. Some Christians tend to equate worthiness before God by the number of converts to Christ they have made!

After all is said and done and we have done our job to teach the gospel to others and set a good example as Christians (Mat. 5:16), the response each person makes to the gospel is essentially their own. As much as we might want to blame ourselves for other people’s decisions, the fact of the matter is: We are not held responsible for people’s disobedience!

On the other hand, we are not to be credited for people’s obedience either. If and when a person does decide to obey the gospel, let us not fail to give God the glory (Rom. 16:25-27; Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 3:6). Successful evangelism is due to the victorious power of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16) and not due to our powers of persuasion. The power to convert a soul is not within us, it is within the gospel.

Sometimes Our Anxieties Hinder Our Efforts in Evangelism

“Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia” (2 Cor 2:12-13, NASB). Like Paul who was unable to put his distress about Titus out of his mind, we also may be troubled or preoccupied with cares that we have in our lives. When we have no rest of our spirits or have no peace of mind in our own lives, it can hinder us and cause us to bypass “doors of opportunity” given by the Lord. Yet, despite our past anxieties, we can move forward and continue to preach God’s word victoriously! (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

Thanks Be to God Who Always Leads Us in Triumph in Christ!

Despite disappointments, we can in confidence continue to proclaim the gospel to others.
In spite of a few setbacks, Paul still had courage and confidence because he put his faith and trust in Christ. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Cor 2:14). He was certain that the Lord was leading him in triumph. His confidence in the victory found through Christ can be ours too!

The phrase “leads us in His triumph” would have been very familiar to those saints who lived at Corinth, a providence of Rome: “A triumph in Rome was a magnificent procession in honor of a victorious general, and the highest military distinction which he could obtain. It was granted by the senate only to one who had held the office of dictator, consul, or praetor, and after a decisive victory in the complete subjugation of a province. In a Roman triumph the victorious general entered the city in a chariot drawn by four horses. He was crowned with laurel, having a scepter in one hand and a branch of laurel in the other. He was preceded by the senate and magistrates, musicians, the spoils of his victory, and the captives in fetters; and followed by his army on foot, in marching order” (ISBE).

Similarly, as Christ “leads us in His triumph” we may picture our own victory parade in which we celebrate our triumph in Christ. Just as the victorious general’s son would walk behind their father’s chariot, sharing in his victory; we as Christians follow in Christ’s magnificent triumph! Christ will lead us in triumph too!

The Triumphal Sweep of the Gospel Gains the Victory!

Praise be to God for graciously allowing us to share in this triumph! (2 Cor. 2:14). When we do our duty to proclaim the gospel, the knowledge of God will spread everywhere: At work, school, in our neighborhood, and throughout our community. The gospel will spread much like an aroma that distributes in the air: “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

When we proclaim the gospel boldly and regularly and let our Christian lights shine in the process, the word of God, like perfume, will permeate or saturate the air so that the people will take notice! And much like the parable of the sower (Luke 8:11-15), depending on where “the seed of the word” lands or where the fragrance of Christ goes, will result in either a reception or a rejection of the gospel. Yet, regardless of the results, let us be thankful to take part in the cause of Christ in spreading His gospel!

The Gospel Will Generate Different Responses That We Are not Responsible for.

During the triumphal entry of the general, the Roman priests burned incense during the parade. To the triumphant soldiers it signified life and victory, but to the conquered enemy it meant defeat and death. To some people we will be like a sweet aroma, to others we will be like a stench. “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
Some people will be receptive to the gospel and it will be like a sweet aroma that is pleasing and joyful to smell. Such people are seekers of truth who desire to please God and go to Heaven, so the truth of the gospel is received and not rejected by them. These people obey the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (1 Cor. 1:18).To others the gospel is foolishness. The smell of the gospel is foul and unpleasant because it exposes their sins and warns of eternal death (John 3:20; 8:24).

“An Aroma from Death to Death”

When Christ-like behavior is observed in us, it is a standard of living that many people do not want to be subjected to. The challenges of truth and need for personal change makes them feel uncomfortable. Like the Jews who covered their ears at the preaching of Stephen and stoned him (Acts 7:54-60), there will be people today who will respond with hostility and reject the gospel. The gospel reminds them of their lost condition which is a horrible “odor” indeed! Those who continue in sin are perishing and will suffer eternal death (2 Cor. 2:15-16).
“An Aroma from Life to Life”

To those who are being saved, the fragrance of Christ is an aroma of life (2 Cor. 2:15b). The fragrance of Christ (i.e., gospel) means eternal life to those who obey it! When the gospel that we live and proclaim to others has such a positive impact, we rejoice for the salvation of their souls. “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

We Can Triumph in the Cause of Christ When We Put Our Trust in Him.

The life or death impact of the gospel causes us to ask: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16c). Who is adequate to carry such a responsibility for proclaiming such a powerful gospel? May we always remember that our adequacy comes from God (2 Cor. 3:5) and we will have all the strength and confidence we need.

When We Proclaim His Word with the Aim to Please God We Are Victors!

“For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God” (2 Cor 2:17). We do not sell the truth like a peddler who tries to sell his goods for a profit, tricking his customers to buy what he is selling. We do not retail or market the gospel, corrupting it so that people will find it appealing. We do not alter it or change it in any way. We are not in this for personal gain, vain glory, or to win prestige in the community. Instead, our heart’s desire in all sincerity is to please the Lord as we evangelize the world.

Knowing that we have pleased the Lord by proclaiming His gospel must be our focus.
Whether one receives or rejects the gospel is not under our control. Instead, let us take heart knowing that we have done what the Lord has asked us to do. Let us be overjoyed and thankful that when we proclaim the gospel to others that we are “the fragrance of Christ,” exactly what God would have us to be.


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