“The Smell Of Death”

February 20, 2014

Amish school with snowman 2/20/14
This morning it’s warming up and the snow is melting but we passed this one room Amish schoolhouse where the children made a big snowman still standing tall against the fence. He’s going to be shrinking over the next few days with rain and warmer temps in the forecast!

“The Smell Of Death”

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“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life…”  (2 Corinthians 2:15,16).

Kids can sure say some interesting things when they’re developing their vocabulary, at times the opposite of what they really mean. I remember Chrissie, one of our foster children, yelling out in self-defense, “I did it on purpose, I did it on purpose” instead of “I did it accidentally.”

One afternoon I came in from a day of hard, physical labor and Ester surprised me with a big hug. She quickly backed off and alerted me, “You need B.O.” (body odor)! Of course I knew she meant “You need deodorant!” Well actually I needed a good hot shower which was forthcoming!

Corpse flower 2/17/14Earlier this week we shared a photo of an interesting flower. It is known as the Corpse flower and has a number of interesting characteristics, must notably a terrible stench when it blooms that is described in numerous ways including that of a dead corpse (thus the name). Our friend, Darlene, told us about the flower months ago which is at her 93 year old mother’s house. This Sunday it had bloomed and she invited us over to see and smell the flower. Her son had removed the flower to the garage because of the stench which filled the house. (The bloom is not open in the photo.)

The smell is offensive to most humans but actually attracts the insects the plant needs for pollination so I suppose odor (whether pleasant or unpleasant) is in the olfactory glands of the beholder. The smell of a decaying rat is extremely offensive to my sensory glands (never mind the visual image), but to the hawk its scent is much like sizzling succulent sirloin steak smothered in garlic, onions and peppers on the grill! (That description makes me hungry as I write.)

How do you smell today? You say, “That’s kind of personal don’t you think!” But actually we are not referring to a physical smell but rather a smell test from our daily text.

Numerous times throughout the 18 years we have written these messages we have used the daily text but in preparing today’s message a different thought came to mind as we focus on the phrase, “To the one we are the smell of death.” This is in the context of how we smell “to those who are perishing”.

To both those who are being saved and those who are perishing we are the “aroma of Christ”. However we “smell” vastly different to each group. To one we are the “smell of death”, to the other the “fragrance of life”.

The Gospel of Christ appeals to some and to others it is blatantly offensive. The message of the gospel is to be released in the world through the transmission of God’s Word and through our Christian testimonies. It should always be sweet-smelling to God and to those who are being saved. But many are repulsed by our “fragrance of life” because they have trained their aromatic senses to follow the “smell of death.” They have chosen rebellion against God and the temporal thrills of this present life over the enduring joys of heaven.

Paul is thanking “God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ”(2:14) which is imagery of the Roman triumphal procession. The victorious Roman general would lead his soldiers and the captives they had taken in festive procession, while the people watched and applauded. The air was filled with the sweet smell released by the cloud of spice-filled incense in the streets. To the victors the aroma was sweet but to the captives in the parade it was the smell of slavery and death.

Bible commentator Dave Guzik offers this explanation, “To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life: The smell of incense burnt to the gods in a Roman triumph parade would be a great smell to a Roman. But it would be a bad smell to a captive prisoner of war in the parade, who would soon be executed or sold into slavery.

In the same way, the message of the gospel is a message of life to some and a message of condemnation to those who reject it (John 3:17-21). “The same happens to the present day to those who receive and to those who reject the Gospel: it is the means of salvation to the former, it is the means of destruction to the latter; for they are not only not saved because they do not believe the Gospel, but they are condemned because they reject it.” (Clarke)

This closing thought may take some consideration and some may initially find it offensive. We want to smell good to everyone, certainly physically through good grooming but also spiritually. We want everyone to like us and say we smell good. But as faithful witnesses upholding God’s truth and standards in the increasingly decadent world we are to those who are perishing the smell of death.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, as we interact with others today we want to release the aroma of Christ as the Holy Spirit works in and through us. It is our prayer that others will take in the spiritual fragrance of Christ, as His sweet presence is released through our endeavors. But help us to also accept the unpleasant truth that for those who are perishing we are the smell of death. We pray that they would be wooed by the Holy Spirit and train their senses to breathe in the aroma of life by seeking out truth as defined and modelled in Scripture, namely in the person of Jesus Christ our wonderful Savior. It’s in His name that we pray. Amen.



Today’s Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources


“Fragrant Offering”  Video  Rita Springer

“Offering”  Video  Paul Baloche

“I Love You Lord”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“Sweet Fragrance”  Video  Crystal Cooper

Dishwasher repair update: In Monday’s message I expressed thankfulness for my Dad and his teaching me common sense house repairs. This morning I received the replacement part for our dishwasher and it appears to correct the problem and the dishwasher is running fine!

Today’s message stirred another “deodorant” memory: Years ago Brooksyne, Ester and I dined in the Crystal Dining Room, a fine historic restaurant in the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The hotel sits on the top of a mountain overlooking the charming Victorian resort village.

It was a very busy setting with many people eating. Several orders we placed required the weary server to come back to our table and apologetically inform us that they had run out of that food entree. Following our delicious meal the rather tired server asked, “Are you ready for deodorant?” Looking at her in great surprise I responded, “Well, do you really think I need it? I just showered this morning!”

Her face reddened as she immediately realized what had come from her lips. She was even more shocked at her words than we were which led her to quickly apologize, “I got my tongue twisted and meant to ask ‘Are you ready to order dessert?'” You can imagine how many times Brooksyne, Ester or I asked the other on our trip home, “Are you ready for deodorant?” It never failed to bring a roaring laughter among the three of us.

The corpse flower is also named the Amorphophallus titanum. Here is some more information. We only got a couple of correct responses identifying this unusual plant.

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