2 Corinthians 2:12-17
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”
This ‘pandemic’ has sparked a lot of issues in our lives in general. But in the lives of many Christians – the command not to assemble and when we could assemble – the limited capacities have been a burden. Here in Canada, we have had 2 pastors arrested for holding service; one was just released from jail yesterday after having been in jail since June 14th. His crime was holding church. We have had countless other churches fined, and one was confiscated by the Alberta Health Services. Yes, they came up and put a fence around the church building to try to stop people from assembling.
In the past few weeks, I have heard of splits in aged churches, some that have been around for 40+ years. The deacons and the pastor(s) have had disagreements as to how to behave in this time, and there have been resignations and division. No one in their right mind denies that COVID is real, but it is clear that it has become a tool for politicians to try and see how far they can go with taking away our freedoms before we will say ‘no more.’
It is easy for many of us who have had the privilege of worshipping without much persecution in the past to feel like we are victims, even if somewhat collateral damage in this pandemic. Paul knew what it was like to be a real victim; he was beaten, thrown to lions, shipwrecked, spent a day and night in the deep of the Mediterranean Sea, and had a host of other encounters with danger.
Over the course of almost 55 years in the church, I have heard people complain about the members of the churches they quit going to – they were cold, or too much, or too whatever they needed as an excuse to leave. We learned in Seminary that people rarely leave the church over principles like doctrines. They most often leave over personality conflicts. People get hurt and quit going to church; they blame God and think that will stand in the judgment day. Man, are they wrong!
Too many have been led to believe that the Christian life is a way out of the problems of life as opposed to a way through the problems of life, and they are disillusioned when the trouble comes, and it will.
Here in 2 Corinthians 2, we will explore a promise that God has for us, and over the next few weeks, we will look at some Bible characters that could have turned out to be victims, but in Jesus, they were victorious. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at men and women who could have claimed victimhood by the way they were treated, and yet they were victors and saw Triumph in Jesus. We will explore those that were victimized by the families, by religious leaders, and even the devil himself. They will hopefully empower us all to trust Jesus even when the way is dark, completely obscured, or fraught with danger.
To understand the passage, we need to know the context; Paul was referring in verse 12-13 to an incident that is recorded for us in Acts 16: 1-10, where he and his traveling missionary companions sought to go to Asia and then Bithynia, and they were strictly forbidden from doing so by the Holy Spirit. In verses 9-10, Paul sees a man in a dream asking him to come to Macedonia. He arises from his sleep the next morning and immediately heads for Greece. In 2 Corinthian 2:12, we learn that he wanted to take Titus with him but could not find him, and he left without him so as to be in obedience to the Lord’s clear instructions.
- Your Obedience verses 12-13
One of the hardest things to learn in life is to be obedient. As children, we are told in the Bible to obey our parents. In an encounter with Saul, king of Israel, in 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Samuel tells King Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is simply defined as doing what you are told when you are told and with the right attitude.
Paul was the embodiment of this definition. He heard the call of God and immediately sought a way to get to Macedonia. He did not let anything get in his way, even that he missed Titus. God’s way was more important than Titus’s presence. If we are going to be victorious in Jesus, we must be obedient. To be obedient, we must know what God says in His Holy Word. We need to study, read, apply and repeat. King David put it this way, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”
Are you and I going to sin even after we are saved? Yes!! But we can mitigate the amount and maybe even the severity of the sin that we engage in by knowing, reading, and memorizing God’s word.
If we are going to be victorious in Jesus, we must know what victory means and what it is. A runner needs to know where they are running to; if not, they can run in the wrong direction and not be victors, no matter the amount of effort they put out. One other thing about obedience in the Kingdom of Heaven: there is no competition. We are not trying to beat each other; we are not trying to knock each other out and get to the top in a ‘king of the hill’ type of competition. Rather, we are to honestly cheer for each other, pray for each other and help each other to succeed. We are there to serve each other in the path of obedience, not being hindrances to each other but being each other’s biggest fans and helpers.
Can you imagine how different some of our churches would be if we all had this attitude and mentality?
- Your Triumph, verse 14
In verse 14, Paul tells us that God ALWAYS LEADS US IN TRIUMPH, in Jesus. Always!! Not sometimes, not on occasion, not just when the chips fall your way, but always. This idea of triumph is based on the Roman ritual that the city would perform for a returning general who had won a decisive victory.
In David Guzik’s Blue Letter Commentary, he quotes Meyer and Barclay, and this is what we learn about the Triumph that Paul was envisioning in his mind as he wrote these words,
- “The idea is borrowed from an ancient Roman triumph, which to the eyes of the world of that day was the most glorious spectacle which the imagination could conceive.” (Meyer)
- “In a Triumph, the procession of the victorious general marched through the streets of Rome to the Capitol … First came the state officials and the senate. Then came the trumpeters. Then were carried the spoils taken from the conquered land … Then came the pictures of the conquered land and models of conquered citadels and ships. There followed the white bull for sacrifice which would be made.
Then there walked the captive princes, leaders, and generals in chains, shortly to be flung into prison and in all probability almost immediately to be executed. Then came the lictors bearing their rods, followed by the musicians with their lyres; then the priests swinging their censers with the sweet-smelling incense burning in them. After that came the general himself … finally came to the army wearing all their decorations and shouting Io triumph! Their cry of triumph. As the procession moved through the streets, all decorated and garlanded, amid the cheering crowds, it made a tremendous day which might happen only once in a lifetime.” (Barclay)
III. “That is the picture that is in Paul’s mind. He sees Christ marching in triumph throughout the world, and himself in that conquering train. It is a triumph which, Paul is certain, nothing can stop” (Barclay). And, Paul sees himself as sharing in the triumph of Jesus, the Captain of the Lord’s Army, and Paul is one of the Lord’s chief officers!”
Paul never saw himself as a victim, not once, no matter the circumstances, the prisons cells, the beatings, the arrests, and whatever else was thrown at him. Paul saw himself as triumphing in Jesus.
What about you and me? How do we see ourselves in trying circumstances? How do we see ourselves in Jesus? Do we play the victim card or are do we see ourselves in the triumph that Jesus has gotten? Are we in the processional enjoying the victory of our great General, King Jesus?
Notice that the Triumph was done for people who had been to war. People who had been involved in the fighting gave up freedoms and maybe even family for the advancement of the Kingdom. In this case, Rome.
What have we given up for the Kingdom of Heaven? Have you and I been to war? Have we been in the fight? Too many Christians are simply spectators; they live on the sidelines, careful not to offend and careful not to appear to be on ‘the side.’ They straddle the fence, so to speak, so as not to cause conflicts. ‘Live and let live,’ they say. We are going to heaven, but we do not want to offend anyone on the way, and many never take any with them.
No, the Triumph was for people of war, people of action, people of doing and achieving, and people of accomplishment, even if that accomplishment means nothing in the eyes of the world. Are you in the Triumph? Or are you a spectator?
- Your Scent verses 15-17
When we are obedient, when we are in the Triumph that we have in Jesus, we will never see ourselves as victims. Thus, we will have our eyes and hearts open for opportunities. We will be witnesses of God’s love and power, His peace, and His salvation to all we meet. Even to the ones who hate us and reject the Gospel we bring. When people receive the Gospel, we are the sweet aroma to them of God’s grace and love. When people reject the Gospel we bring, we are still a sweet aroma of God’s grace and love. You cannot make people be saved; they have to want it for themselves. We are responsible to make them aware that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
We are not to peddle or sell the Gospel. This does not mean you can’t buy a Bible or get a religious book in the local Christian bookstore or Walmart. No, it means that we should never charge anyone to hear the Gospel. It is not designed to make us money; it is designed to be freely offered to all men everywhere. Jesus paid the price so that the Gospel can be freely had by all men. When I was a boy, I was saved at a Billy Graham-type crusade. They took an offering, but all could come freely to hear the Gospel. This is the way it should be.
We here at Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church invite you to hear us on FB. I will be teaching through this series over the next few Sundays at about 11 am eastern time (or thereabouts). We have lesson one already posted.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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