Wednesday, 24 June 2015
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? 2 Corinthians 2:16
Paul just noted that the apostles (meaning the message they carried) are “to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Expanding on that, he gives a contrast as to how this fragrance is received. He says that, “To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death.” In Greek, it reads ek thanatou eis thanaton – “from death to death.”
The state of the unregenerate is already death. This is because “the wages of sin is death” and “all have sinned.” Those who reject the gospel message do so from death to death. There can be no life for someone who is already dead and who has chosen the path of death by rejecting Christ. Therefore, Paul equates the fragrant message of Christ as the aroma which a prisoner headed to death would smell. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes –
“Some find here an allusion to a revolting feature of the Roman triumph. Just as the procession was ascending the Capitoline Hill, some of the captive chiefs were taken into the adjoining prison and put to death. ‘Thus the sweet odors which to the victor – a Marius or a Julius Caesar – and to the spectators were a symbol of glory and success and happiness, were to the wretched victims – a Jugurtha or a Vercingetorix – an odor of death’ (Farrar).”
This same type of terminology has been noted among the rabbis as well. It is obviously a universally understood concept then. People of all cultures know that death is the end. Most cultures believe in an afterlife that must somehow be merited. Therefore, if the way of merit is not attained, then there is only death leading to death. Thankfully for the Christian, there is an absolute assurance which is found nowhere else. It is “to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”
For the one who reaches out and receives the fragrant aroma of the gospel message, it is ek zoes eis zoen – “from life to life.” The Source of life is found in the gospel message which centers on Jesus Christ. When that life is received in an animated being, he moves to the life which is true life. The spiritual reconnection to God is made and eternal life is granted. It is more than a hope, but it is rather a certain, present, and guaranteed reality.
Paul finishes the verse with the sobering words, “And who is sufficient for these things?” He asks this rhetorically as a way of showing the immense responsibility laid upon the one who shares the gospel message. It is a two-edged sword which will lead some to life and some to death. The words when transmitted will lead to either eternal life or eternal damnation. Who would take such a responsibility lightly? Who would even be willing to speak such words, knowing what the result could be? Paul implies here that it is the grace of God alone which enabled him to pronounce the eternal destiny-deciding words.
Life application: We have all been asked to share the message of Christ, either in word or in action. As our lives are to be a gospel message in and of themselves, let us walk soberly and consider that when we fail to responsibly reflect Christ to others, it may be to them the fragrance of death leading to death. How great is our responsibility then!
Heavenly Father, others are evaluating a relationship with Christ based on my actions. Should I present myself other than a faithful, trustworthy, and fully dedicated follower of You, then I may be the very reason that they never receive Jesus as their Savior. If this is the case, then how terrifying a thing will then occur? They will have gone from death leading to death because of my irresponsible actions. Help me to live my life and calling in a manner which would be above such an occurrence. Help me in this O God. Amen.