The last few verses in our adult Sunday School lesson yesterday were of special interest to me, being that I have been working a secular job for the past 2 years. They speak of the effect of a Christian’s speech on those who hear the gospel message.
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. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 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? 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.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
The apostle Paul uses the idea of a fragrance to show how people responded to his preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. The message he spoke was like an aroma which God was fanning throughout the world as it spread from city to city. To those whom God saved through faith in Christ, the message was like a pleasant smell. Hearing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection was a good experience which led them to the abundant life promised by Jesus (see John 10:10). But to those who refused to believe, the message was like a bad odor. Hearing the message was a bad experience which only revealed their pitiful future without Christ—death in Hell forever.
The message that Paul spoke to people then is still bringing the same results today. When someone hears about Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins, they can respond in two very different ways. Those who reject the truth dislike the message because it points to their guilt before God. “Who are you to judge me? I’m not a bad person!” Sadly, the very message that should give them hope turns them away. But others receive the message with gladness, realizing that Jesus’ death and resurrection promises forgiveness of sin, eternal life, and a hope they never had before. The same message produced very different responses—one to life, the other to death.