The Aroma of Christ

Read Together: 2 Corinthians 2:12–17  

On Sunday, we reflected on the cost of the mission and the worth of Jesus. The mission of disciples is costly, but Jesus is worth it. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Through dying with Christ to our sin, we truly live. In 2 Corinthians 2, the apostle Paul reflected on how this played out in his ministry. 

Paul declares that God, in Christ, is leading him in “triumphal procession.” A triumphal procession in the Roman world was a victory parade through a city where a general marched ahead of a host of defeated enemies. Here, Paul is placing himself in the role of a defeated captive. In Christ, God has conquered Paul and leads him in triumph to spread the knowledge of God around the world.

God leads Christ’s people in triumph to spread the aroma of Christ. And this often includes suffering, as it did for Paul. Paul describes his ministry in chapter 4 as “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies,” (2 Cor 4:10). Paul’s message was the “word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18), “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

For some, this aroma of Christ smelled like death. They could only see the suffering apostle who proclaimed a suffering Savior. But others smelled life! In Christ, we too have become “captives of God,” but this is a liberating captivity.* We are living sacrifices, the aroma of Christ to the world. Some will see our lives and hear the gospel and smell death, but others will smell life and come to know the true life found in trusting Christ and following him in the way of the cross.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean that God leads us in triumphal procession?
  2. How are we the “aroma of Christ” in the world?  
  3. What are some ways you can follow Jesus in the way of the cross this week?

Ideas for Younger Kids

  • Read “Confessing Christ” in The Biggest Story Bible Storybook (pages 354–57). Discuss with your kids who Jesus is as our King and Suffering Servant, who went to the cross to give us life and calls us to follow him in the way of the cross as we trust in him for life. 

Memorization: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

Song: Listen to “The Wonderful Cross” (performed by Pat Barrett).

Pray Together

  • Praise God that he has given us life in Christ!
  • Confess before God that we often view Jesus as a means to an end instead of the One we were created to know and love and follow.
  • Give thanks to God that in Christ he always leads us in triumphal procession to spread the knowledge of him in the world.
  • Pray that God would help us to be bold in our mission for Jesus, that as we spread the aroma of Christ in the world through our own suffering and witness to Christ, we would know that Jesus is worth the cost.

Go Together


*Dane Ortlund, “2 Corinthians”, in Romans–Galatians, vol. X of the ESV Expository Commentary, p. 432.

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