Peace, grace and blessings everyone! I’m new to this board. I look forward to everyone's answer.

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 2 Cor. 2:15-16

Now my focus is where it says “to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life”

What I'd like to know and understand is whether the “death unto death” is a statement referring to those who are “perishing” or to those who are being “saved”?

I may be in the minority, but I believe the "death unto death" is referring to those being "saved" and the "life unto life" to those who are perishing.

I say that base these passages:

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Rom 6:3

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:24

It seems to me that understanding our union and death in Christ is what brings "death unto death" which is indeed "precious in His sight" because I believe God wants us to understand that it takes a death to bring real life. The more that we know that nature of Adam was crucified and buried, the more we awaken to our union and oneness with God because of Christ For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.(1 Cor 15:22) And so to those who are then "perishing" (no knowledge or intimacy with God) the message of the cross and reconciliation can become "life unto life" once they believe and receive the free gift of salvation.

If we believe that it pleases Him that the aroma of those in Christ who minister the message of love and grace brings"death unto death" to those who are "perishing", then I beleive it contradicts what God says to Ezekiel:

Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God...Ezk 18:23

Would love to hear what others think. Thanks!

  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This question is off-topic and does not fit into one of the Types of questions that are within community guidelines If possible, edit this question so that it better fits into one of those question types.
    – fгedsbend
    Nov 27 '14 at 2:27
  • I like your question! As far as I can see, the only thing that's wrong is that everything after the question mark should be in an answer. That way, you give answerers full license to address the question in the way that makes sense to them.
    – user208769
    Nov 27 '14 at 10:50
  • I like where you're going with your theology, but try to keep your view segregated from your actual question (so it doesn't just sound like you're preaching at us.) Also, since you are looking for the interpretation of a single text, you might consider posting your question on Hermeneutics.StackExchange as well. (Just keep the theology to a minimum over there.)
    – Jas 3.1
    Nov 28 '14 at 17:32

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 - what does this passage mean?

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Paul uses the human faculty of sensation perception through chemicals in the air we know of as odor. He is saying that there is something distinct about Christians that is specifically discernable to God, the unsaved, and to other Christians.

When God perceives us, he is pleased to consider the life of Christ in us as a sweet reminder of all that is Jesus.

When the unsaved perceive us they also are able to detect something of Christ.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

It may be that the unsaved perceive at some level their own eventual doom and see in Christians that which is odious.

It is also possible for a Christian to perceive another Christian like the encounter of a pleasant smell.

Philippians 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.


We are the fragrance of Christ in this world, among the perishing and those who will be saved. In the same sense, we are the salt and the light of the world.

Matthew 3:13 (NKJV) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?

Matthew 3:14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

When we preach with the power of the Holy Spirit or work according the fruit of the Spirit, our testimony will be that which brings light to those who will accept it, and condemnation to those who reject it. Thus, "to the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life."

In the same way, Christ the rock is a stumbling block to those who reject Him, but to us who accept it, it is the power of God, allowing us to break to pieces our old life and live life anew through Him.

Mathew 21:44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

"And who is sufficient for these things?" Only through God, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zechariah 4:6).

2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”


2 Corinthians 2:14–17. “For We Are unto God a Sweet Savour of Christ”

After teaching that Saints should love and forgive each other, Paul taught more about the characteristics of disciples of Jesus Christ. He declared that God would always support His Saints, causing them “to triumph in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14). He then drew upon the imagery of sacrifices and incense burned in the temple when he said that the Saints are “unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). The smoke of temple offerings was described as a sweet savor to God (see Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; Numbers 15:7). Similarly, the lives of righteous Saints represented an offering that was pleasing to God, for they were becoming like Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Verse 16 describes the effects that the Saints and the gospel of Jesus Christ had upon listeners. To Christ’s enemies, the sweet fragrance of the Saints and their witness of Christ was like the savor of death, but to those who accepted the Apostles and their teachings, it was the savor of life.

When Paul asked, “And who is sufficient for these things?” he recognized that no person is sufficient to represent the Savior unless he has the Savior’s grace to help him. And he declared that he and the other disciples did not “corrupt the word of God,” but with sincerity “in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16–17).

The word corrupt, as used in 2 Corinthians 2:17, is taken from the Greek word for a peddler; it referred specifically to persons who sold impure or adulterated goods. As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul did not preach the gospel for money nor adulterate its message as some were doing in Corinth at that time.

Chapter 41: 2 Corinthians 1–5, New Testament Student Manual, 2014


To my mind, the overriding context, is expanded in 1 Peter 2:7-8

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message — which is also what they were destined for.

From this, I would argue that Paul is indeed intending a straight reading - that to those who are dead [in sin and trespasses], the people bringing the message, or aroma, only succeed in confirming their death. To those that God has chosen, the message, the knowledge of Christ, is life.

To answer your point about the apparent contradiction between it being a "pleasing aroma" to God and it being death to those who reject it, something similar is argued against in Romans 7:9

Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.

Does this mean that the law was displeasing to God? (Romans 5, 6 and 7 go into this whole topic in much more depth)

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