I am sure I had read this verse previously, yet reading to understanding can be as different as hearing to listening. Paul was speaking of himself and Timothy. Yet I believe it is also speaks of believers as a whole.
This reiterates to me the fact that God's people are not going to be liked by all. Indeed, we will be hated as much as death. So much that we will smell as such. Death has an aroma that is unique. There is nothing that can be mistaken for it. On the other hand, to those who know God, we smell of life. For this I think of the beginning of life, an infant. Infants have a sweet smell (most of the time). It is also very recognizable.
Does God give his children a sense to know when they come across a fellow believer or a non-believer? I really don't know. Yet, I have often met someone and felt a kinship with them to later discover we also share a belief in the son of the Living God. There are others that I feel a lack of hope even from the first handshake. As time goes by, I learn we do not share the same beliefs and our relationship does not deepen. I cannot tell if this is a God-given gift or simply a bias that I have.
As part of my resolutions for 2006, I will keep my baby smell clean and unfettered by filth. I will do my best, by the grace of God, to be the sweetest smelling child of His that I can be.