2 Corinthians chp 2 vs 14 to 17: 'Fragrance from the Flame' - J Stewart Gillespie 

3 Description of the Christian revealing Christ: 


Sweet Savour of Christ (2:15) 

'savour of His knowledge' (2:14) 


Living Letter (3:2-3) 

'known and read of all men' 


Earthen Vessel (4:7) 

'light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ' 


3 descriptions of the Christian as: 

knowing God 
revealing that knowledge of God to others 

The setting of 2:14-17 is that of suffering and persecution 

The whole epistle could be regarded as an exposition of 2 Co 1:3: 

The Father of Mercies 
The God of all Comfort 

It is in suffering that we: 

Find Christ – not in its politics / entertainment but in its rejection and suffering (Heb 13:12,13). 
Fellowship with Christ – we see the world the way that He sees the world. 
Feel with Christ – feel the same way that He does about this world. 

Chps 1 to 5 – Suffering and personal Spirituality 
Chp 6 – Suffering and Sanctification 
Chp 7 – Suffering and the Sorrow of Repentance 
Chp 8 – Suffering and opportunity for Service 
Chp 10 – Suffering and Spiritual warfare 
Chp 11 – Suffering and Satanic Attack 
Chp 12 – Suffering and all Sufficient Grace 

2:14-17 falls in to the section of Suffering and personal Spirituality 

A perfume of Christ 

Why a perfume of Christ in suffering? 

There is opportunity for a perfume of Christ to emanate from every aspect of the Christian life of course, not only in suffering! 

There is probably no epistle so Christ centred and Christ exalting as Ephesians and it concludes with the reality of living out Christ in the every day experiences of life! 

Christ in our marriage (Eph 5) 
Christ in our families (Eph 6) 
Christ in our employment (Eph 6) 

What is it about the suffering experience which lends itself to producing a 'fragrance of Christ?' 

It is often in the trying experiences that we do see the character of Christ manifest: 

Love – self sacrificial love 

consider Judah volunteering himself as surety for Benjamin 

consider the devotion of Ruth for Naomi in adversity 

Joy – Psalm 16 – the other side of the grave 
Peace – enjoyed 3 fold in the upper room 
Long-suffering – Job 
Gentleness – 'thy gentleness hath made me great' (2 Sam 22:36) – the setting of this is in the many trials of the life of David (2 Sam 22:1ff) 
Goodness – Noah, Daniel and Job (Ezek 14:14) 
Meekness – Moses in the wilderness 
Faith – David and Goliath, Peter walking on the sea 
Self Control – Joseph in Potiphars household, or David with the opportunity to slay Saul 

God is able to turn each and every circumstance to triumph: 

When Satan sends a storm God is able to use it to show His sons power to calm the waves 
When Satan lays low in lameness God is able to raise up and prove His power to forgive sins 
When Satan deprives a soul of light from birth God is able to display the one who is ‘the Light of the World.’ 
When weakness of physicians will display the power of a touch of Christ 
The cross will be transformed from 

a place of rejection to a place of reconciliation 
a place of torture to a place of triumph 
a place of suffering to a place of sacrifice 
a display of cruelty to a display of compassion 

Nebuchadnezzar's furnace becomes the platform for Isaiahs ministry (Isa 43:2) 
Josephs slavery became Israels salvation 
God has a great track record of bringing triumph from tragedy 

v14 'savour of His knowledge' 

A fragrance with a purpose; ‘a fragrance of His knowledge.’ 

A fragrance of that knowledge, perhaps not a full appreciation of that knowledge but an awareness that it does exist. 


As men and women look upon your life in suffering they are able to perceive a 'savour of His knowledge.' Perhaps not a full exposition of the gospel but a sense of another world and another way. 

Maybe they that are watching do not know God but by our character they will now know that there is a God to know. 

1 Sam 17:4-6 'There is a God in Israel' 
2 Kings 5:15 'there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.' - perhaps not Namaans God! 
Dan 6:26 'The God of Daniel' – perhaps not Darius God 

In trial and suffering the Christian: 

The flame of affliction purifies; 'Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.' (Num 31:23). We are forced to abandon the limitations of the flesh, those resources which are finite and failing and to  draw from resources beyond themselves and to be rid of what we know is ineffective: 

‘strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.’ 
cf. The armour of Saul rejected as ineffective and the inner armour of David chosen for the task of defeating Goliath! 
For Peter to walk on the water he had to leave the boat behind, it was not sufficient resource for the storm although it seemed to be the only resource he had. 
cf. Moses at Red Sea 
cf. Aaron at Jericho 

Fragrance of the Flame: The savour of Christ is the fragrance of the flame! The aroma is the attributes of God. It is no coincidence that the attributes of Christ are to be seen in suffering. These are the attributes of a sovereign, omnipotent and thus inevitably victorious God. Such a God must therefore possess attributes sufficient for each and every problem in life. He must have an answer, an attribute and a resource to persevere and to triumph in the trials of life! It is no coincidence that we display Christ likeness in the trials for these are the essential characteristics of the Saviour that guarantee victory in the trial; 'causeth us to triumph in Christ' (2:14). These are the characteristics which guarantee victory. 

 'Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.' (1Jn 4:4) 

We overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21) 
We ultimately defeat hatred with love 
We persevere through trials with patience and long-suffering. 
Who is it that continues when there is little to encourage outside and around? He who has the joy of the Lord as his strength. 
The priority of faith in triumphing (1 Sam 17; 2 Thess 1:4; Heb 11) 

The Source of the Fire 

Trials are not purely natural phenomenon with material explanations 
The trials and attacks of the Christian life are part of a spiritual battle, not against flesh and blood 
cf. 2 Co 10:2ff 
Nebuchadnezzar as he casts Shadrach, Meschech and Abednigo into the fiery furnace, the whole event re-echoes through the rest of scripture until it terminates in the wicked events of the antichrist in Revelation chp 13 – the worship of the beast and the persecution and murder of the elect. 
Daniel – not just an assassination attempt in Daniel chapter 6 but the roaring lions are there. 
Pharaohs attempt to destroy Israel in Exodus and obliterate the Messianic line 
Peter wasn't just facing some hard times and pressing problems but Satan desired to have him and to sift him as wheat. 
Against the Devil only the Divine will do as a resource! 

Gods promises are at stake 

He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us 
Noting can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus 
Thus His present help in trouble is ministered and manifest not as the strenght of our personality or natural resources, not our ingenuity nor our ability but His character. It is the Lord who stands by us and strengthens us. 
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
Let me hide myself in Thee; 
Let the water and the blood, 
From Thy wounded side which flowed, 
Be of sin the double cure; 
Save from wrath and make me pure. 
Not the labor of my hands 
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; 
Could my zeal no respite know, 
Could my tears forever flow, 
All for sin could not atone; 
Thou must save, and Thou alone. 
Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to the cross I cling; 
Naked, come to Thee for dress; 
Helpless look to Thee for grace; 
Foul, I to the fountain fly; 
Wash me, Savior, or I die. 

Perfume to God, believer and unbeliever of Christ (2:14-17) 

The word for tribulation in 1:4 is ‘θλίψει’ : pressure, crushing . 
Pressure does something to a person, it crushes, In so doing there is a consequence! 
Trials and pressures crush the perfume in the ‘art of the apothecary.’(Exodus 30:25) 
When we feel the crushing pressures of trials upon us, let them crush and press down upon us, for from that experience there comes the sweet fragrance of Christ. 

Pressure transforms a Levite into a priest, producing the Holy anointing oil. 

Something for God (2:15) 
Something for Unsaved (2:15) 
Something for Saved (2:15-16) 

Pressure on an ungodly person brings out what is inside – threatenings, slaughter (Acts 9:1), revenge and cursing. 
What comes out is what is inside. Pressure brings that out. A boxing match brings out the flesh! 
If what is in us is the Spirit of God, then it is the characteristics of the Spirit of God which will come out. 

The fragrance left from a believers life on the altar is that of Christ! 

What happens when a believer is put under extreme pressure? 
With that suffering we have not so much an exposition of the Gospel but an Exposure of the Gospel preacher for what he is. Is he what he claims to be? Is he something else? (4:2) 
Affliction, trial, pressure is the mortar and pestle which produces the fragrance of the sanctuary 
As the incense burns a fragrance is released! 
Like the fragrance of the sanctuary. 
This fragrance is appreciated first and foremost, objectively and absolutely by God as a fragrance of Christ / reminiscent of Christ! This is absolutely a fragrance of Christ and thus appreciated by God; ‘unto God’ (v15). 
The world may: 

Hate our humility 
Slander our sincerity 
Mock our meekness 

Even if the world does not appreciate who we are or what we are, God appreciates the fragrance of Christ and this gives our suffering absolute rather than relative value and worth