Thursday, July 24, 2008

What kind of triumph?

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God (2 Cor. 2:12-17).

I have heard the first part of verse 14 ("But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ") quoted many times by Christians when faced with adversity such as sickness, financial reversals, and relational challenges. They use it to bolster their faith that, with God’s help, they will overcome these hardships. And turning to God for healing, provision, and solutions to all problems is the natural attitude of one who knows the Father’s love and care.. . . casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

However, verse 14, when read in the context above (verses 12-17), does not seem to refer to triumphing over personal afflictions and calamities. I say that after making careful observations of this passage:

· Verses 12-13 are about Paul’s visit to Troas to preach the gospel, which was cut short because Titus was not there.
· Verses 14b-16a are about the aroma of Christ—how it is spread (through us) and what effects it has.
· Verse 16b asks who is equal to such a task. (I presume he is talking about the task of mightily affecting people with the knowledge of Christ.)
· Verse 17 speaks of the spirit and motivation in which Paul ministers the gospel.

Sandwiched into this context, Paul’s familiar exclamation “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ” would have a different interpretation than I have previously heard. It apparently means “Thank God that even when ministry opportunities are fraught with complications and perplexities, we can be sure that the gospel will eventually triumph. The gospel will have a powerful effect because our personal knowledge of him causes people to experience the fragrance of his person. And this supernatural result will continue to happen as long as our hearts stay in Christ and we speak what God sends us to speak—and do not settle for preaching for a living.”

No comments: