2 Corinthians 2:14-17
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
What would you pay for the good news of salvation? Would you even pay for it at all? The wondrous thing about the gospel is that it is FREE, that we need not pay anyone for it, that we need not even work for it. The good news comes freely to all who will listen–and even to those who won’t listen. Of course, not everyone wants to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so some hear it and think, “What an awful thing, that someone had to die like that!” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25) But to others who know they are dying in their sin, the Word of God is amazing and powerful and truly life-giving. To those who are being saved, the Word of God is, as the Psalmist wrote, more to be desired than fine gold. (Psalms 19:10)
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
Here Jesus was teaching His disciples how He alone was the key to eternal life, and yet it was this moment that “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (v.66) Why? They left because He spoke about His authority–His SOLE authority–to grant eternal life to whomsoever the Father chose. When they realized that He was offering them a simple choice between life and death, they chose the life they knew rather than the life He promised. For those who left, the gospel of Jesus Christ was sweet only so long as it didn’t involve following Jesus through all things, only so long as they weren’t challenged, didn’t have to repent and believe in Him as the one way and truth and life.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4 “And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Many don’t like that idea of there being only one way to salvation. Actually, to be brutally honest, most people aren’t even in the market for salvation, only for a better life than the one they are living now, and so the closest many folks come to the gospel is a watered-down self-help version of some of Jesus’ teachings. And for that, they are willing to pay quite handsomely. But the “hard sayings” of Jesus are, in fact, the very ones that God wants us to accept. Those hard-to-accept teachings sort out human “truth” from God’s Truth, they divide the teachings of men from the Word of God.
When Paul wrote to the churches about his own ministry, he pointed out again and again that he never tried to sell them anything, never depended on their support, never free-loaded while preaching the gospel. On the contrary, Paul often worked while he was among the churches where he preached, and it was only later, when he was literally in chains for the gospel, that he actually hoped that the churches could help him with occasional supplies. Do you see the reversal? Paul never sold the Word of God, never asked for any money, never required anyone to pay for prayers or healing or preaching. Instead, Paul gave to all freely as had need, and when he was imprisoned for his faith–when he might have asked so much more–he continued to send out his letters and his disciples to share the Word of God. Paul himself paid for the gospel he gave to others.
This “fragrance of Christ” that Paul brought through his ministry was indeed a sweet aroma leading to life for many who believed, and yet it was conviction and condemnation for those who did not believe. When Jesus had taught that He was the one way to God the Father, that set the mark, the standard by which we would all be judged:
Know Christ? Know peace with God.
No Christ? No peace with God.
It really is that simple. If we know Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God, and we accept that He died for our sins and rose again to bring us eternal life, then we shall know the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The aroma of Christ’s sacrifice is a sweet aroma to us indeed. But if we refuse to know Christ, deny His saving work on the cross, refuse to repent and believe, then we shall not know peace with God. Those who deny Christ shall instead be condemned forever.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
The apostles, their disciples, and any true ministers of God’s Word, all speak “in the sight of God in Christ,” speaking publicly, honestly, sincerely about the light that is Christ our Lord. They did not and do not seek dishonest gain from sharing the Word but instead give it freely so that all may benefit. The teachings of the Bible are not meant to be hidden, are not meant to be treated as esoteric secrets known only to those who pay. The only “fee” required by God is our obedience to His will in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who is to be our Lord and Savior.
Paul didn’t peddle the Word of God, because he knew its cost to himself. He knew what he had paid and had yet to pay for believing in the only begotten Son of God as his Savior and Lord. He knew that this good news he brought to the nations was a dangerous thing, something not to be taken lightly despite its great benefit to those who believed. And so Paul never tried to sell that which cost him so much.
At the beginning of this message I asked, “What would you pay for the good news of salvation?” We who believe have not paid a dime for the gospel, but we will pay dearly if we are to be true followers of Jesus and bring His gospel to others. The gift of God is His grace, and it is not something we have purchased nor ever could purchase. And it is not something to be peddled or prostituted for money or personal gain. Quite the opposite, in fact: we are to be so free in giving the gospel that it actually costs US to share it.
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Are we ready for that? Are we prepared to be in chains like Paul? Are we prepared to face death like Peter? Are we ready for the persecutions that will actually cost us our lives and homes and families? Are we ourselves willing to pay for believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ? This sweet “aroma of life leading to life leading to life” is a foul stench to those who feel its fires convicting them of sin and disgrace, and those who are dying would rather have us die before them. The unbelievers will fight us and persecute us, they will deliver us up to torture, imprisonment, and death. But we know–we truly KNOW–that we shall have eternal life no matter what the cost in this mortal life. What would you pay for the good news of salvation?
This day, let us reflect on this wonderful gift of the Word of God, how its power has been manifested through the healing of the gospel. Let us meditate on whether we have paid what we might for this grace. Are we living freely within this grace and shying away from giving the gospel to others–an act that might cost us in the end? Or are we truly giving freely that which has been given to us, knowing the cost and yet happy to pay it? We will be reviled and accused by those who deny Christ, but as Jesus said, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21) Paying some cost in this life is a small price indeed to receive the great reward of eternal life with Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us be sincere in sharing the gospel of Christ, speaking before God with boldness and truth, knowing that the good news we so freely give is the gift of life to all who are being saved.
Holy Father, I desire nothing more and nothing less than to live in You and to speak Your Word with integrity and sincerity. Teach me, Lord God, to be a better servant. Purge my lips of the words of men and help me to speak only truth and life. Let me never peddle Your Word but only pay for it myself with my life, so that I may live. Amen.