Fragrant Obedience


One of my favorite “stop and smell the roses” kind of moments is when I see a sweet, older couple talking or walking together, or eating together, and I listen and observe how they interact. I am always struck by how willingly they honor each other, and by how quick they are to compliment and do the other’s bidding. It amazes me how selfless and beautiful the picture of their love is, because they are willing to put the other first and do whatever it takes to serve them. It makes me want to learn their secret and follow their lead.

  • What characteristics do you admire in someone who can easily submit to the will of another, out of love and respect?


12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.


  1. How did Paul describe his spirit when Titus had not yet returned with good news? What does that say about Paul’s concern for the church in Corinth?
  2. How did Paul say God leads believers in Christ? What do you think “triumphal procession” means?
  3. What does God spread through those who follow Christ? How can the same gospel be either the smell of death or the fragrance of life?
  4. How can you spread the aroma of Christ in the environment of your home? Your workplace? What effects could that scent have on others?


A Roman triumphal procession was the victory parade of a conquering general, in which enemy prisoners were forced to march. The paradox in these verses is that we can, like Paul, have joy as a captive, a slave of God through Christ. We have triumph in defeat, and are compelled to love and serve God because he has captured us. When we freely submit our will to him, we become a sacrificial offering to God, our Victor. Willingly led in triumphal procession, we become the aroma of Christ to God, and the “smell” of our obedience spreads the knowledge of God.

  • Ask the Lord to compel you to be obedient to his will and not your own—not out of guilt, pride, or fear, but out of love.
  • Pray that the “aroma” of your sacrificial obedience would honor God, and that others would learn about him because of it.