Smells genuine!

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Make a shortlist of the people you see on a regular basis. What is your influence on them?

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Bible passage: 2 Corinthians 2:12 – 3:6

Ministers of the New Covenant
 12Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

 14But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3

 1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

 4Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Triumphal procession
The greatest honour that could be bestowed on a Roman citizen was a triumph. A victorious military leader would be allowed to process through Rome displaying the spoils of war, exotic caged wild animals, captives taken from foreign lands including kings and princes and, of course, the legions of soldiers sharing in their general’s triumph. These processions were amazing spectacles and could be miles long. For Roman leaders there could be no greater affirmation than this. As the triumph processed, sacrifices would be made to the gods. Roman citizens rejoiced as incense filled the air. The very same smell reminded the captives that many of them would be ceremonially killed just like the sacrificed animals (2:15,16).

Victorious general
This passage asks the question, what is the source of Paul’s authority? How is he affirmed or vindicated? Who commends him? His answer is that God alone affirms his ministry (3:6). We march in Christ’s triumphal procession not (as some translations have it) as captives, but as fellow-soldiers. Any validation or status we have derives from our victorious general, not ourselves.

Ultimate vindication
For Paul the ultimate vindication of his ministry is the changed lives of the people who had benefitted from his ministry (3:2), not any boast of his.

Steve Silvester


Take confidence before God through Christ (3:4). You are on the winning side! Pray that, as a result of his work in your life, others will also share in his triumph.

Deeper Bible study

The idea of being a sweet-smelling fragrance or ‘aroma’ (2:14,15) is a powerful – we might say pungent – one. Paul draws from the rich imagery surrounding the Old Testament sacrifices, where burnt offerings were often said to give off a ‘pleasing aroma’ to the Lord (eg Gen 8:21; Lev 3:5). As we give ourselves to God daily as ‘living sacrifices’, we too carry the fragrance of the one true God, who reveals himself perfectly through his Son, Jesus Christ (see Rom 12:1). I was recently in an all-age service based around verses 14–16. As we left we were each given a small bag of aromatic spice to remind us to be the aroma of Christ wherever we go. I kept mine with me in my pocket long after it ceased to have any fragrance. It helped me to remember as I went about my day that people I dealt with should ‘smell’ something different – the wonderful aroma of Christ.

Not that everyone will respond positively to this distinctive aroma. Praise God, some will. As Jesus makes a difference to our lives – at work, in the community and in the home – some people will be attracted and experience salvation for themselves. However, that same smell will be the stench of death to others. They will recoil both from it and from us. We should not be surprised by this, as Jesus himself both attracted and repelled. ‘And who is equal to such a task?’ (v 16). Of course, none of us is. Yet, as Paul goes on to remind us, as Christian disciples we have within us ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (3:3). It is he, and he alone, who makes us ‘competent’ and even ‘confident’ in the ministry God has given us (vs 4–6).

Praise God that he not only calls but also equips. Pray for his help as you seek to give off his ‘aroma’ today.

Rev Dr Peter Morden

Metaphors that challenge

Smells are evocative – the smell of coffee, bread baking, cakes, meals cooking, flowers and perfumes. These are smells we enjoy and make us feel good. There are other smells we don’t enjoy, such as sewage or rotting vegetables.

Something I specially enjoy is receiving letters, though letter-writing is a dying art in our age of texting and emails. We can identify with these two metaphors used by Paul.

Smelling of Christ
Note the context of the first (v 14). It is set in the paradox of Paul rejoicing at being a conquered slave, joyfully participating in Christ’s victory celebration. In that context, Paul describes how he is like the incense scattered along the route of a victorious Roman general (vs 14–16), an aroma that divides people, speaking of life for some and death for others.

Paul goes on to contrast his motivation for ministry with that of contemporary hucksters (v 17).

An open letter
He then uses our second metaphor, that of the Corinthians as a letter he has written (v 2,3). Who is it who authenticates Paul’s ministry? Why is he confident of its validity and effectiveness (vs 4–6)?

The new covenant is superior to the old because the truth is written on human hearts by the Spirit rather than on ‘tablets of stone’ (v 3). Today still, changed lives are the best evidence of the gospel’s truth.

Spirit-filled lives
Do we see ourselves as joyful captives led in Christ’s victory celebration? Do we present to the world an aroma of Christ, or do we try to blend in with the world’s aroma?

Are we living lives filled with the Spirit, such that the world can ‘read’ our letter from Christ to them, or have we stopped writing, hoping that a quick text or email will suffice?

Our lives say something about us. What is yours saying today?

Julie Robb

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Proverbs 13,14

Colossians 4


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Song: We will seek Your face (Touching heaven changing earth)
Composer: Reuben Morgan
Artist: Stoneleigh band
Album: Beautiful saviour/Covenant of Grace
Publisher: Kingsway Music
Copyright: Copyright © 1997 Reuben Morgan/Hillsong Publishing/
Buy this and other great worship songs at

There is a hope so sure
Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 2002 Make Way Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 13 August 2019

    Sorry Steve Silvester, I really appreciated the picture of the victory procession, but I will not be done out of being a captive of conqueror Jesus. The Bible Project illustrated it perfectly: Jesus plundered satan’s kingdom to rescue us; we are joyful, liberated trophies in His victory procession, gratefully giving ourselves to Him as ‘bond slaves’ for life. Never will we be sold off; never will we be cast out, but live in His home, serving Him gladly, treated more as friends than as servants. Then there’s the aroma, and the stark reminder that it rises from the sacrifice. We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, being willing to die to ourselves so that the aroma of His life wafts from ours. Sacrificing ourselves hurts, and I pray for us all on this journey together, (thinking of you Roger today) and thank God for the beautiful pictures and thoughts in this reading today.

  • Sam Leinster | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Rachael as usual your comments are a blessing. This old hymn expresses the idea beautifully

  • Ruth Davies | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Yes Rachel, fragrance released through our living sacrifice. v14 also says ‘fragrance of the knowledge of him.’ So the more we know of him and the more we know him and allow his spirit his way in our hearts, the more the fragrance we spread will reflect him. Time spent studying His word (reading Wordlive notes and comments) is never wasted but cannot be an end in itself - if I’m not careful I can spend more of the time I set aside to pray etc reading all the wonderful comments than I do actually praying. Ezra reminded me that knowing Gods word is critical but I need to not neglect the actual praying bit! That is the bit that changes things. So discipline to embrace one (study) but not neglect the other or all my “study” will just be knowledge, not fragrance.

  • Thelma Edwards | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Captives or fellow soldiers"? Such different interpretations or illustrations. Which did Paul mean? Taking scripture as a whole we can see we are called to be both, but I did find it confusing when there was no consistency in the explanations today. I felt left to decide for myself if I was to be a slave or soldier today. Yes RUTH how easy it would be today to spend time on pondering that question today rather than praying about what sort of fragrance I will be and asking for God's help to be what He wants me to be today - fragrance of death or life?

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    It is not merely a sweet odour produced by Christ, but Christ Himself is the savour which exhales in the character and work of the one who is dead to self and alive to Christ.

  • Roger Hall | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Burnt flesh does not really appeal to me as a sweet savour. However, we do know that it's not the point. Any sweet fragrance around me has consistency because only Jesus has given it to me. Interesting too is where it emanates. Probably from the smile.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    God asks each one of us to come into His Kingdom and does not use force or coercion to obtain compliance with His will. He wants us to make our own choice and come willingly and to know we are truly ‘at home’. God welcomes everyone who comes freely into His presence and accepts “the Spirit of the living God” into their life. .......”the capacity we have comes from God” and it is His presence others “breathe” when close to a follower of Christ.

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Good morning friends we have just returned from a ten day holiday on The Isle of Mull and Iona such peace and beauty. I hope to post as usual this evening. God bless you all.

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Barbara, I had a wonderful few days on Mull and Iona. I loved them and could have spent much more time there. I would describe Iona as having a spirit of peace and reverence. My bucket list includes a retreat at the monastery there. Meanwhile how goes your health?

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Cousin Di is now a resident in a modern, state-of-the-art aged care residence. She seems to be settling in OK and really enjoys the company of her cat. I was chatting with her about activities she could participate in and I suggested church. Her response was along the lines, "What? Worship a God who has given me all these health problems which have completely messed up my life? No way I am going to church services!" Please keep interceding on her behalf. Thank you for your on-going prayers for her.

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Rachael, unusually I am puzzled by your response to Steve Silvester. I hear what you say about being "captive of conqueror Jesus." Steve says "we march in Christ’s triumphal procession not.. as captives, but as fellow-soldiers." Jesus said at one point that he no longer called his disciples servants but friends because the knew him. Elsewhere we are not spiritually speaking to be "slaves" but know "freedom in Christ" by being a "slave to Christ" are we not? So surely this depends on context - aren't both yours and Steve's points valid - different appreciations of the same thing - not one right and the other wrong? "To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." Yes, important then to gauge how we are "in Christ" not by people's reactions to us but with conviction - we may be doing something perfectly loving, honourable and "in Christ" but to someone they may perceive us as being destructive?

  • Nicole Finch | Thursday, 15 August 2019

    In fact, I would really like to study in more detail the influence of odor in humans. Since the smell is a rather interesting and insidious sensation. Personally, as for my smells are associated with people which I miss or whom I love. And when I was at university, I preferred to spend time with loved ones than to stay at home and write essays or other similar work on this, so I bought all personal statements. So in order for me to have more free time, I used the services, because this is the best service that provides the highest quality of any work. Now, I rarely see those with whom we were close at the university and when I smell a familiar smell, I immediately remember them.

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