First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, April 30, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Aroma of Christ!”
Genesis 8:20-22; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
How did the Early Church understand Christ’s resurrection? What did the resurrection mean to the early followers of Jesus? What impact the resurrection had on the early disciples? Well needless to say, the resurrection of Jesus is so central to our faith, which means, if it never happened, we wouldn’t be gathering and worshipping our risen Lord here today.
To emphasize how foundational the resurrection of Jesus is, the Church has chosen to worship on Sunday. Our gathering here every Sunday is a continued celebration of the glorious news that our salvation is won, and our eternal destiny is sealed once and forever.
The New Testament writers have expressed the magnitude of this event in some remarkable ways. One of the Scripture passages that we’ve been examining is 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, where the apostle Paul gives us at least two ways the resurrection was perceived by the early Christian community.
The Triumphal Procession of Christ
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul likens the completion of Christ’s mission through His life, death, and resurrection to a Roman triumphal procession, where a Roman military leader is received with shouts of joy after securing peace, expanding the kingdom, and crushing the enemies of the empire. Christ secured our peace, preached the coming of God’s Kingdom, and crushed the enemy of our soul.
A couple Sundays ago, I highlighted two ways we can live out this truth in our lives. First, we are to give thanks to God for what Christ has done. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14. Second, we need to remember that in Christ we are always triumphant. It’s true that we may not feel very victorious at times. We may even feel worn out and defeated and ready to quit. We may feel deeply overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and weakness. But here’s the fact: even then – even then, and always – we are being led by God in Christ’s triumphal procession! The triumphal parade may not have appeared on this earth yet, but you we already in it.
The Pleasant Aroma of Christ
This morning, as we continue to unpack 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, we get to see another great image that Paul uses to describe how the resurrection has transformed our lives. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 state, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
We are the aroma of Christ. In order to understand this imagery, we need to look one more time to the Roman Triumph. In these Roman triumphal processions, it was customary to release sweet odors from burning spices and setting flowers in the streets of the parade. Again, Paul takes this language of scent, and he applies it to the Christian life. I see an invitation and a channlege before us today:
An Invitation: Let’s Be the Pleasant Aroma of Christ
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.” Followers of Jesus are supposed to spread in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing Jesus.
Have you ever thought about this? Wherever we are, at school or work, at the grocery store or the doctor’s office, walking down the street or breaking bread with family and friends, God has left us on earth to spread the fragrance of Christ. Like a beautiful scent, we, by our lives and our words, spread the knowledge of the power of God for salvation to everyone we meet in every place we go. This is a task that all of us have been called to do. A lot of us will find it difficult to witness to others, but a perfume doesn’t have to do anything to spread its fragrance; a flower doesn’t have to do anything to spread its aroma. If Christ is real in our lives, it will certainly show.
A Challenge: Be the Aroma of Christ No Matter What
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. As we go around in this world being the aroma of Christ, we must know that this aroma does not invoke the same reaction in everyone. As believers, we consider the knowledge of the gospel to be lifegiving and a word of peace and hope. For some people it is, and they are attracted to the scent of Jesus, but for others it is quite the opposite.
The people’s reaction to the aroma of Christ in us has an impact on us whether we want to admit it or not. Because we know that some people will hate what we represent and will not welcome what we say about the gospel, we sometimes become shy representing Jesus. We want to hide the aroma of Christ. But Paul says in here, be the aroma of Christ no matter what.
Friends, after the flood, Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Genesis 8:21 states that the Lord was so pleased to smell the odor. As God’s people, you are the fragrance of Christ in this community. You have a tremendous opportunity. You are the aroma of Christ to everyone you meet in every place you go. I want to encourage you today not to hide that aroma, but to allow it to emanate from you as the beautiful scent of the life-giving gospel. I want to encourage and even urge you to not allow the fact that people may reject the gospel to hinder you from proclaiming Jesus. Let people smell Jesus in you! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.