12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:12-17 ESV)
This is a stunning image, this “spreading the fragrance of knowledge.” Not the knowledge itself here, but’s smell, as thing we cannot see yet we perceive.
Smell is powerful. Some of my most intense and fondest memories are triggered by smells. Smell lingers, it precedes, it remains, and it is evidence often times of things that aren’t seen and must be hunted for.
Paul says here “we are the aroma of Christ to God,” making us a sacrifice, a burnt offering, incense, that wafts up to God. We are something only somewhat tangible, something coming but not yet here, something being consumed. We are smoke, we are vapor, we are a sign pointing to something else. We are not the knowledge and we don’t even necessarily spread the knowledge, but merely its aroma, its fragrance.
We bear witness to the thing that bigger than us — Christ, who is life. And we are also, as the Body of Christ in the world, something of a living sacrifice offered up to God, a reminder to God of who and what we are, and of God’s presence in our midst.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:20-22 ESV)