…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. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 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 Cor. 2.14-17
True apostles are men “commissioned by God” Himself, and their witness to Christ constitutes His very “aroma” among men. Upon the basis of flesh, none can be “sufficient” for the realities of apostolic faith, but as men who have by the grace of sanctification been shaped to bear the very aroma of God, the very “sincerity” of Christ, apostles speak “in the sight of God.” The “grace and apostleship” which has been given to them produces a quality of character which Paul describes as a “triumphal procession”— that is, a joy-filled perseverance in the presence of great resistance and suffering, and a manner of living and serving which “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”
The ministry of reconciliation is no light thing. It is a precious privilege, one which requires painstaking attention both to orthodoxy and to orthopraxy. Where ministry is approached in a professional way, where it is perceived and performed according to the wisdom of men, abuses and distortions will abound.
Evidently, in Paul’s day there were “so many” who functioned as mere “peddlers of God’s word.” The number of that “so many” is likely greater in our day, and it behooves us to pray that we would not be found in such a warped condition of heart when the Chief Shepherd appears. Therefore, “Watch closely your life and doctrine.”
It is within the possibilities of grace to serve with the same kind of power and wisdom that the early apostles possessed. Regarding those who were mishandling God’s word and ministering according to the flesh, “we are not like” them.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. || 2 Cor. 4.5
The fragrance of God is the fragrance of God-riveted servanthood, the kind of life which is poured out as a drink offering for the sake of His Name, and for the sake of others. There is little room left for self-seeking in the life of a man who has been brought to this glorious place.
We are in profound need of servant-leaders in the Church who have been so wrung out, so emptied, and so filled with the wisdom and power of Christ, that this would be the fragrance of our lives and ministries.
May the Lord have for Himself a company of such servants, in both domestic and pioneer fields, that “this gospel of the kingdom” would “be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”