2 Corinthians 2:14-17
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.
triumph (v.14) = lead around, make a show, lead one as my prisoner in a triumphal procession
Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in the Christ and makes known the aroma of the experiential knowledge of himself through us in every place, because a fragrance of Christ we are to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to the one, an odor proceeding from death resulting in death, and to the other, an aroma proceeding from life resulting in life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as the many who are adulterating the word of God, but as of an unadulterated, unsullied purity of character, but as from God we are speaking in the sight of God in Christ. — Wuest, page 420.
[Paul] comforted himself [for having to leave Troas and being concerned with the Corinthians—vs.12-13] with the knowledge that continually and everywhere he was being led in triumph by God in Christ; that he was Christ’s willing captive; that both he and his message were a sweet savour of Christ to God; that he was a faithful preacher of the Gospel—not adulterating it as many did—and that though incompetent in himself to originate any spiritual matter, yet he had been made fully competent by God for the ministry of His Word.
The scene before the Apostle’s mind was evidently that of a Roman triumph. The advent and the presence of the victorious general were announced by slaves scattering sweet odours all along the historic way that ended at the Capitol. The victor was followed by a multitude of captives, some destined to life, others to death. On reaching the Capitol those doomed to death were slain; those assured of life, liberated. The glory of the conqueror was published by the condemnation of the one group and by the liberation of the other.
The odour of the incense was a savour of death to the captives condemned to death, and of life to the captives ordained to life. The glory of Christ is the subject and purpose of the Gospel. It announces everlasting destruction to those who refuse to obey it (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) but eternal salvation to those who accept it (1 Thessalonians 5:9). A Gospel that excludes either of these doctrines is a false Gospel—it is not a sweet savour of Christ to God—and it does not glorify, but, on the contrary, it dishonours Him. — Williams, page 898.
Who is sufficient? (v.16) — Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
sufficient (v.16) = sufficiently strong, worthy, suitable
of sincerity (v.17) — 2 Corinthians 1:12
“For we,” [Paul] says, “are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, i.e., when we proclaim the good news about Christ, it is like a sweet fragrance to God; He is pleased.
And, says the apostle, this applies whether we preach Christ to those who are saved or to those who perish. God is vindicated in either case. Our success or failure, i.e., the results of our preaching, in no wise affect the fact that we are always victorious if we preach Christ in truth. It is not success, but faithfulness that pleases God.
But note: It is not merely the mention of Christ that pleases the Father, but the proclamation of the blessed truth that He died for our sins and arose again as our living Savior. This is clearly stated in Ephesians 5:2: “… Christ also hath loved us and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” — Stam, page 55-56.
Is the apostle asking who is “sufficient” to comprehend these things? By no means. He asks, rather, who is equal to such responsibilities. What manner of preacher ought he to be who preaches a gospel that may determine the eternal destiny of some of his hearers, indeed, that may prove fatal to some who come in contact with it?
Surely Paul did not consider himself “sufficient for these things.” In the very next chapter, verse 5, he says: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” — Stam, page 57
The Greek kapeluontes means literally “making gain by corrupting,” and is rendered variously as “peddling an adulterated message,” “bartering the Word of God,” “trying to make a petty profit out of the Word of God,” “a peddler of God’s message,” and (mostly), “corrupting the Word of God.” It appears evident that the word came to be used of the tricks used by petty peddlers or hucksters to sell their goods, and thus of any corruption for base gain.
Paul was by no means a petty peddler of the Word, “but as of sincerity, but as of God in the sight of God,” he says, “speak we in Christ.” And, certainly, his message was not cheap. — Stamp, page 58.
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