What does 2 Corinthians 2:15 mean?
ESV: For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
NIV: For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
NASB: For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing:
CSB: For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
NLT: Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.
KJV: For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
NKJV: For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
Verse Commentary:
Scripture has described the Christian life using an unusual metaphor in the previous verse. Paul pictured believers as captives of a Roman general returning in victory from war. In that era, generals would parade the conquered enemy through the streets while burning incense in celebration of the victory. This made the procession a combination of sight, sound, and smell, all of which proclaimed the victory of that commander.

Paul wrote that God parades Christians in this way, except that the spreading fragrance is not incense. It is the "smell" of the knowledge of God. Now Paul gets more specific: Christians are the aroma of Christ in the world. In a very real sense, believers make Christ present on earth, as He is in them. Everywhere they travel, they symbolically "give off the smell" of the Savior to fellow Christians and unbelievers alike. It's an aroma that is received differently depending on one's eternal status. This attitude greatly differs between "those who are being saved" and forgiven for sin in Christ, versus "those who are perishing" in sin without forgiveness because they lack faith in Christ.
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 2:12–17 briefly continues Paul's story of deciding not to come to Corinth until learning whether they were ready. He hoped to learn of their response in Troas, but his co-worker Titus did not show up with the news. Feeling unrestful in his spirit, Paul left. He then transitions into powerfully describing Christians as the aroma of Christ on earth: evoking death to those perishing and life to those being saved. Paul insists that he and his co-workers are sent by God.
Chapter Summary:
Paul explains why he delayed coming to visit the Corinthians. In great anguish, he had written a painful letter to tell them they must correct a man among them. This person may have challenged Paul's authority as an apostle of Jesus. The Corinthians disciplined the man, and he repented. Paul told them to forgive him. He tells of Titus failing to show up in Troas with news about the Corinthians, then transitions into teaching that Christians are the aroma of Christ on earth to everyone they know.
Chapter Context:
Second Corinthians continues uninterrupted from the previous chapter. Paul is explaining why he waited to come to Corinth. He wanted to see if they would side with him, or with the man who challenged his authority. They disciplined the man. He repented. Paul commands restoration and forgiveness. He then tells of failing to find Titus in Troas with news about them before transitioning into teaching that Christians are the aroma of Christ on earth, smelling of death to the perishing and life to those being saved. This brings Paul back to the subject of his own authority in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
Accessed 4/24/2024 5:47:05 PM
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