Thanks Be To God – Christ’s Triumphal Progress

“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place”, 2 Cor 2. 14. Paul’s experience did not always look like a triumphant progress. Sometimes it had the appearance of reverse and defeat In chapter 1 he writes of “tribulation”, of “the sufferings of Christ” abounding in himself and Timothy, of “trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life”, and of having “the sentence of death in ourselves”. Nonetheless, as he wrote elsewhere, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”, Rom. 8. 37. What had the appearance of defeat was, in reality, a triumphal procession, for which he could exclaim “thanks be unto God”.

The rendering of verse 14 R.V, expresses Paul’s thought more clearly than the A.V, “But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ-… ”. In a footnote to this verse, Conybeare writes, “The verb here used … means to lead a man as captive in a triumphal procession; the full phrase means to lead captive in a triumph over the enemies of Christ. The metaphor is taken from the triumphal procession of a victorious general. God is celebrating His triumph over His enemies; Paul (who had been so great an opponent of the Gospel) is a captive following in the train of the triumphal procession, yet (at the same time, by a characteristic change of metaphor) an incense bearer, scattering incense (which was always done on these occasions) as the procession moves on. Some of the conquered enemies were put to death when the procession reached the Capitol; to them the smell of the incense was ‘an odour of death unto death’; to the rest who were spared, ‘an odour of life unto life’.”

As a preacher of the gospel, Paul’s preaching was as “a sweet savour of Christ” to God, as were the “sweet savour” offerings of the Old Testament. Christ gave Himself “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour”, Eph. 5. 2. His sacrifice is central to the Gospel, the preaching of which is infinitely pleasurable to God, however it is received. The preaching of the gospel is a “sweet savour” to those who believe and are “saved” by it. To such it is a “savour of life unto life”. They have been reprieved from death, and know life as a growing experience, the life “more abundantly” of which the Lord spoke. Conversely, the same Gospel is a “savour of death unto death” to those who reject it, and who “perish” in consequence. They are “condemned already “, John 3. 18.

A solemn responsibility, therefore, rests upon the preacher of the gospel. He must preach an unadulterated gospel. Some at Corinth preached a spurious gospel, another Jesus, a different gospel, which was a travesty of the real Gospel, 2 Cor. 11. 4. Paul had a clear conscience in the matter, “we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ”. 2. 17. The allusion in the verse is to the practice of a fraudulent vintner who adulterated the wine he sold, in order to increase his profits. He was not concerned with the quality of the wine, but only with making the maximum profit out of it. His motive was impure, and so was the result.


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