Sermon quotes on smell

Ambrose of Milan

Christ is the flower of Mary, who sprouted forth from a virginal womb to spread the good odor of faith throughout the whole world, as he himself said: “I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley” (Song 2:1). The flower, even when cut , keeps its odor , and when bruised increases it , and when torn does not lose it; so, too, the Lord Jesus on that gibbet of the cross neither failed when bruised , nor fainted when torn ; and when cut by the pricking of the lance, made more beautiful by the sacred color of the outpoured blood , He grew young again, Himself not knowing how to die and exhaling among the dead the gift of eternal life. 

Quoted in Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 126.


The aroma of the knowledge of God comes from Christ and through Christ. The reason why Paul said “aroma” was this: Some things are recognized by their smell, even though they are invisible. God, who is invisible, wishes to be understood through Christ.

The preaching of Christ reaches our ears just as an aroma reaches our nostrils, bringing God and his only-begotten Son right into the midst of his creation. A person who speaks the truth about Christ is just such a good aroma from God, worthy of praise from the one who believes. But one who makes erroneous assertions about Christ has a bad smell to believers and unbelievers alike.

Ibn Ezra

The ear is sometimes deceived in hearing sounds, which are only imaginary; the eye, too, sees things in motion, which in reality are at rest; the sense of smell alone is not deceived.

Commentary on Isaiah

John Calvin

We ought to attend, first of all, to the metaphor in the verb smell, which means that Christ will be so shrewd that he will not need to learn from what he hears, or from what he sees; for by smelling alone he will perceive what would otherwise be unknown.

Commentary on Isaiah

Anne F. Elvey

Smell — as the matter emitted from a thing, its being sensed, and the sensory communion of smelling—links self and other, in such a way that the fragrant or odorous other gives of its essence and is taken into the body of the self. 

Matter of the Text: Material Engagements between Luke and the Five Senses (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011), 110.

Gregory the Great

And we, as often as we hear anything of good people, draw in as it were through our nostrils a breath of sweetness. And when Paul the Apostle said, “We are a good odor of Christ unto God,” it is plainly given to him to be understood that he exhibited himself as a savor indeed to the present, but as an odor to the absent. We therefore, while we cannot be nourished by the savor of your presence, are so by the odor of your absence.

Writing to a friend he missed, Quoted in Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), p.126.

Lisa Sharon Harper

Shalom is what the kingdom of God smells like.

The Very Good Gospel (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2016), 14.

J.R. Miller

Prayers when they reach heaven become fragrant roses, pouring out their holy perfume before God. As from gardens of flowers blooming on the earth, fragrance rises, sweetening all the air, so from homes and hearts of praying ones, God’s children in this world, there rises continually to God holy incense, a pure offering, sweet fragrance. God smells a sweet savor when we pray believingly, sincerely, adoringly, with love.

The Blossom of Thorns (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1905), 236.


Put an altar of incense in your innermost heart. Be a sweet aroma of Christ.