For we are unto God a sweet savour
Here a reason is given, why the savour of the knowledge of God in Christ is made manifest by the ministers of the Gospel, because they themselves are a sweet savour; not that they are so in themselves, for they have the same corrupt hearts and natures, and complain of them as other men; but as having the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God, comparable to fragrant and sweet smelling ointments, ( Song of Solomon 1:3 ) ( 4:10 ) , by which they are enabled to preach the savoury doctrines of the Gospel, and to adorn and recommend them by their exemplary lives and conversations: the allusion is to Aaron and the priests under the law, who were anointed with the anointing oil, which was poured upon their heads, ran down upon their beards, and descended to the skirts of their garments, so that they were all over a perfume, a sweet smell and savour; and so are the ministers of the word, being anointed with that, which the other was typical of. They are said to be a sweet savour
because they have their gifts, grace, and Gospel from him, and he is the subject of their ministry; so that this sweet savour of theirs, is not properly theirs, but his, whose person, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, grace, and the fulness of it, as held forth in the Gospel ministry, are sweet and savoury to believers. Moreover, it is "unto God" they are such a savour, not unto men, mere carnal men, for with them they are the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things; but they are grateful and well pleasing to the Lord, as their ministrations make for, and show forth his honour and glory: and this they are
in them that are saved,
who are chosen by God unto salvation, for whom Christ has wrought it out, to whom it is applied by the Spirit of God, who are heirs of it, and are kept unto it, and for it, by the power of God, and shall certainly enjoy it: yea, they are a sweet savour
in them that perish,
all mankind are, through sin, in a perishing condition: some of them shall never perish; but are, and shall be saved with an everlasting salvation: others will perish in their sins, to which they are abandoned; and what sense the ministers of the Gospel are a savour in these is shown in the following verse.