The Smell of Victory

Read: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession. (v. 14)

Growing up, I regularly visited dairy farms owned by friends and family. I loved everything about these visits—except the smell. Once, when I said to my father, “It stinks here!” he replied, “I think it smells wonderful.” The smell of the farm reminded him of his childhood and loved ones and simpler times. Now, decades later, it does the same for me.

Paul writes that the gospel of Jesus Christ carries a fragrance that provokes a divided response. To some it smells like death. To others it smells like life. Why? It helps to look ahead to Paul’s other metaphor: the “triumphal procession.” During the age of empires, victorious armies paraded into their capitals to great fanfare. But within Paul’s metaphor, Christians aren’t the kings, generals, or soldiers leading the procession. We’re the captives bringing up the rear.

If you pride yourself in being strong, self-made, and successful, that image is offensive. But what if you already feel like you’re captive to an oppressive regime? You might long to belong to a benevolent, gracious new king. Paul argues that every human being is subject to the powers of sin, death, and hell. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the announcement of a new kingdom characterized by life, and life to the full (John 10:10). To us who know Christ, and to anyone in need of liberation and new life, news of his victory is a sweet fragrance.

As you pray, ask God to make your life sweet to those around you.

About the Author

Ben Van Arragon is the Minister of Worship and Leadership at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He preaches and teaches the Bible in church, online, and anywhere else he has the opportunity.

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series 2 Corinthians: Shining through the Cracks