Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 24 May 21:
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 — But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
Paul was very troubled by the problems within the church at Corinth. So, he had sent Titus there to check-up on them. However, Paul was so concerned, he couldn’t wait for Titus any longer, and he left his fruitful ministry work in Troas to meet up with Titus in Macedonia. We will read later in chapter 7, that while in Macedonia, Paul continued to face many struggles – “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5) But Paul gives thanks to God for the experience and uses two metaphors to describe it: a “triumphal procession,” an emanating smell (fragrance and aroma). What does he mean by these metaphors?
“Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.” The Greek word used here for “lead in triumphal procession” is thriambeuō, which some versions translate as, “causes us to triumph,” but which actually refers to the practice of Roman generals victorious in battle who would lead and parade through the streets their plunder and prisoners for all to see as a testimony to the conqueror’s victory. The reader of Paul’s day would instantly understand the reference, having likely witnessed such a parade. Previously Paul wrote, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.” (1 Corinthians 4:9) As Paul faced tremendous hardships, he not only reminds us that Christ has already triumphed, but he also reminds us that as we face hardships as His previously conquered foes, we glorify Him and demonstrate His power in our weakness – “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) Paul was eager to play his small role to proclaim the glory of the Victorious King as He was being led not to death but rather to eternal life.
- Romans 6:22 — But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God.
“…and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” The imagery here is that of a sacrifice to God — “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) Jesus “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:12) Now, “we are the aroma of Christ” as “living sacrifices” to Him. (Romans 12:1) We spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God wherever we go when we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed to others. In order to spread the Gospel, God might send us to places we never intended or desired to go. When we suffer in our service to the Lord, we share in the sufferings of Christ, and it too is a fragrant offering, pleasing to the Lord. Paul had joy in his hardships because he knew his labor in the Lord was not in vain. Do you?
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Paul recognized that he was fulfilling his role as “the aroma of Christ,” spreading the “fragrance of the knowledge of God,” whether people accepted it or not. When you spray perfume in a room, everyone smells it. Likewise, God calls us to live lives that reveal Christ to everyone. Paul understood that not everyone who heard his message would believe. He simply shared the Gospel with everyone and left the results to God. We too must share the Gospel with everyone we can, and trust God with the outcomes.
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God.” There are many “peddlers of God’s word,” people who use God’s word for their own benefit, even profit. However, Paul demonstrated his sincerity by giving his all (eventually his life) to share the Gospel. Paul was willing to sacrifice all he had for the Gospel. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Gospel?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 May 21: Today, be the aroma of Christ, and spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God wherever you go.