The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 46

The Fragrance OF CHRIST

“Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour (or fragrance) of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour (or fragrance) of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.”
2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Have you ever been curious when you sometimes pick up the fragrance of the perfume or cologne that someone in the room has used? Or have you ever picked up the lingering smell of tobacco from someone who may have taken a few puffs of a cigarette before meeting with you? You would want to find out more if the fragrance was a lovely one, and probably reacted with disgust if the smell of the tobacco is offensive.

In the Old Testament, when Moses was going to meet with God in the Tabernacle of the congregation (Ex 30:34-38), God instructed Moses to take along “sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense… make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy… thou shalt beat some of it very small… it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” This scent was unmistakable associated only with God or the worship of God. It is symbolic of the sweetness of God’s glorious nature, and His goodness towards us. If any of the priests of the Tabernacle detected any such scent outside the Sanctuary, they would immediately set to work to punish the offender. Thus, it was a scent which was not to be taken lightly.

Psalm 45:6-8 gives a description of who Christ is: “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with oil of gladness above thy fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.” After Christ’s death, the women returned to the tomb where His body was laid, with “prepared spices and ointments” (Lk 23:55-56). Myrrh is traditionally symbolic of Christ’s pain and sorrow. Aloe symbolises His bringing physical, emotional and spiritual healing and restoration. The cassia has the ability to kill bacteria, and is symbolic of humility and the complete surrender of our wills to Him. It also symbolizes Christ’s triumph over death and sin.

When God communes with His people, He leaves behind a lingering fragrance in the sanctuary where His people worship Him. This sweet fragrance is part of God’s very nature, His heavenly nature radiating with the beautiful perfume of eternal glory. And after we commune with God, we are to leave the sanctuary with this fragrance (our savour) of Christ, passing it to both fellow-believers, and those who are non-believers (2 Cor 2:14-15).

How do we manifest the fragrance of Christ?

It is in true worship of God that worshippers will soon produce the exact ingredients found in God’s holy character. In other words, when we worship God “in spirit and in truth,” our life and lifestyle will exude His fragrance. It is this fragrance that will enable us to draw unbelievers to our great God.

Some people spray a lot of perfume or cologne on themselves in order to smell nice, or to get rid of other unpleasant smells emanating from their bodies, clothing or room. But, this is not so for those who follow Christ. We cannot try to spray a large amount of any “canned” fragrance of God around us so that we can be more attractive to others. God wants us to be that sweet savour (or fragrance) of Christ in all that we do. If we are happy with serving God in the little things we do, others around us will be able to enjoy God’s fragrance in us. The fragrance of God is a very attractive scent. A little amount of it will draw many to Christ Himself.

When Christ was on earth, He drew the multitudes to Himself. People followed Him everywhere He went. They were curious to see Him and listen to Him. They wanted to see Him perform miracles. Christ drew even the individuals like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well. After meeting with Him, Nicodemus said to Jesus: “No man do these miracles that thou doest except God to be with Him.” (Jn 3:2) Thus, Nicodemus wanted to know more from Christ. The Samaritan woman wondered how the Stranger she met at the well knew so much about her life and lifestyle. She eventually ran back to where she came from, and brought others to meet with Christ. This fragrance of Christ gives hope to those who came to Him.

Christ’s sufferings on the cross represented the way this fragrance of God was to be prepared. God told Moses that “thou shalt beat some of it (the spices) very small.” Christ came from heaven’s glory to pass through the painful experience on the cross; of being “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:5-6). Christ’s sufferings on the cross was an essential process through which the fragrance of God and His nature would be made available to all those who come to Him. When we believe in Christ, our sins are forgiven, our sinful nature dies, and we put on God’s nature. Christ’s suffering gives us, once sinful men, hope of new life on earth, and eternal life with God in heaven when we die.

We are to manifest the “savour (or fragrance) of His knowledge to every place

We are challenged not to keep the fragrance of God to ourselves, but to carry it to every place. We are to be like incense-bearers, diffusing God’s fragrance to those around us. Perfumes are said to be not affected by their surroundings. Their fragrance is released into the surroundings and enjoyed by those around. So it is with us who have the fragrance of God. The Apostle Paul emphasized that we are to labour for the Lord, and in so doing we will radiate all of God’s glory and fragrance when we share the good news, the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ with others. If we have been so busy serving God and others, yet no one is “affected” by God’s fragrance, then there could be something not right about our labour in the Lord. Sometimes, you do come across Christians who claim to be in the service of the Lord, but they are not carrying around with them the fragrance of the Lord in their service. In face, some prefer to avoid contact with such persons. These may discover that they are gradually losing their friends. So, if you have lost this fragrance of Christ, or are facing a situation in which people are avoiding you, then perhaps you need to re-examine your worship of Him, and service in Him. If people around you are avoiding you, then perhaps the scent you are radiating is not of the fragrance of Christ; instead it could be the scent of jealousy and bitterness.

Christ’s life was said to have consist of an inner life of fragrance made possible because of the fact that He came from God, and was God Himself. Christ’s fragrance cannot be manufactured in large quantities, but it can be acquired only by those who live in close communion with Him. And like a good perfume whose scent is released in small amounts, the fragrance of Christ in our lives cannot be diffused through a large amount of artificial or outspoken ways of attracting others to ourselves through good works or kind words. As someone mentioned, suffering in Christ’s life was not an “extra” on the cross. So, it is not an “extra” in our ministry, but a necessary process of “bruising and crushing” which brings out the fragrance of a life surrendered totally to Christ.

The pruning of a small jasmine plant may help us understand the need to suffer in order for fragrance to be diffused in our lives. For many years this jasmine plant did not bear flowers. After observing such a plant belonging to others and consulting the ‘experts’, we found out that you actually need to keep pruning the branches. After weeks of pruning and proper watering, the branches bore bigger flowers which gave off a lovely scent whenever the wind blew. Indeed, the plant needed to be pruned again and again before the fragrance could be released. So it is with our lives – we need to be pruned by our Lord Jesus before we can bloom for Him, and become the “savour (or fragrance) of Christ to them that are saved, and to those who perish.”

Today, as we enter into the presence of God, may the fragrance of Christ so overwhelm us so that when we leave the sanctuary we will continue to diffuse His fragrance to those around us throughout the days and weeks ahead. Let us not leave with, or pick up unpleasant scents of the world. Let us leave with the fragrance of Christ, and manifest the fragrance “of His knowledge by us in every place.”

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing 22 April 2012)

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