2 Corinthians 2:14
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.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(14) Now thanks be unto God.—The apparent abruptness of this burst of thanksgiving is at first somewhat startling. We have to find its source, not in what the Apostle had written or spoken, but in what was passing through his memory. He had met Titus, and that disciple had been as a courier bringing tidings of a victory. The love of God had won another triumph.

Causeth us to triumph.—Better, who always leads us in His triumph. There is absolutely no authority for the factitive meaning given to the verb in the English version. In Colossians 2:15, it is translated rightly, “triumphing over them in it.” It is obvious, too, that the true rendering gives a much more characteristic thought. It would be unlike St. Paul to speak of himself as the triumphant commander of God’s great army. It is altogether like him that he should give God the glory, and own that He, as manifested in Christ, had triumphed, and that Apostle and penitent, the faithful and the rebellious, alike took their place in the procession of that triumph.

The imagery that follows is clearly that of the solemn triumphal procession of a Roman emperor or general. St. Paul, who had not as yet been at Rome, where only such triumphs were celebrated, had, therefore, never seen them, and was writing accordingly from what he had heard from others. Either from the Roman Jews whom he had met at Corinth, many of them slaves or freed-men in the imperial household, or the Roman soldiers and others with whom he came in contact at Philippi, possibly from St. Luke or Clement, he had heard how the conqueror rode along the Via Sacra in his chariot, followed by his troops and prisoners, captive kings and princes, and trophies of victory; how fragrant clouds of incense accompanied his march, rising from fixed altars or wafted from censers; how, at the foot of the Capitoline hill, some of the prisoners, condemned as treacherous or rebellious, were led off to execution, or thrown into the dungeons of the Mamer-tine prison, while others were pardoned and set free. It is not without interest to remember that when St. Paul wrote, the latest triumph at Rome had been that solemnised at Rome by Claudius in honour of the victory of Ostorius over the Britons in A.D. 51, and commemorated by a triumphal arch, the inscription on which is now to be seen in the court-yard of the Barberini Palace at Rome; that in that triumph Caractacus had figured as a prisoner; and that he and his children, spared by the mercy of the emperor, had passed from the ranks of the “lost” to those of the “saved” (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 36). According to a view taken by some writers, Claudia and Linus (2Timothy 4:21) were among those children. (See Excursus on the Later Years of St. Paul’s Life, at the close of the Acts of the Apostles.

The savour of his knowledge.—There is obviously a reference to the incense which, as in the above description, was an essential part of the triumph of a Roman general. It is there that St. Paul finds an analogue of his own work. He claims to be, as it were, a thurifer, an incense-bearer, in the procession of the conqueror. Words, whether of prayer or praise, thanksgiving or preaching, what were they but as incense-clouds bearing to all around, as they were wafted in the air, the tidings that the Conqueror had come? The “savour of his knowledge” is probably “the knowledge of Him:” that which rests in Him as its object.

2 Corinthians


2 Corinthians 2:14

I suppose most of us have some knowledge of what a Roman Triumph was, and can picture to ourselves the long procession, the victorious general in his chariot with its white horses, the laurelled soldiers, the sullen captives, with suppressed hate flashing in their sunken eyes, the wreathing clouds of incense that went up into the blue sky, and the shouting multitude of spectators. That is the picture in the Apostle’s mind here. The Revised Version correctly alters the translation into ‘Thanks unto God which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ.’

Paul thinks of himself and of his coadjutors in Christian work as being conquered captives, made to follow their Conqueror and to swell His triumph. He is thankful to be so overcome. What was deepest degradation is to him supreme honour. Curses in many a strange tongue would break from the lips of the prisoners who had to follow the general’s victorious chariot. But from Paul’s lips comes irrepressible praise; he joins in the shout of acclamation to the Conqueror.

And then he passes on to another of the parts of the ceremonial. As the wreathing incense appealed at once to two senses, and was visible in its curling clouds of smoke, and likewise fragrant to the nostrils, so says Paul, with a singular combination of expression, ‘He maketh manifest,’ that is visible, the savour of His knowledge. From a heart kindled by the flame of the divine love there will go up the odour of a holy life visible and fragrant, sweet and fair.

And thus all Christians, and not Christian workers only in the narrower sense of the word, who may be doing evangelistic work, have set before them in these great words the very ideal and secret of their lives.

There are three things here, on each of which I touch as belonging to the true notion of a Christian life-the conquered captive; that captive partaking in the triumph of his Conqueror; and the conquered captive led as a trophy and a witness to the Conqueror’s power. These three things, I think, explain the Apostle’s thoughts here. Let me deal with them now.

I. First then, let us look at that thought of all Christians being in the truest sense conquered captives, bound to the chariot wheels of One who has overcome them.

The image implies a prior state of hostility and alienation. Now, do not let us exaggerate, let us take Paul’s own experience. He is speaking about himself here; he is not talking doctrine, he is giving us autobiography, and he says, ‘I was an enemy, and I have been conquered.’

What sort of an enemy was he? Well! He says that before he became a Christian he lived a pure, virtuous, respectable life. He was a man ‘as touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.’ Observant of all relative duties, sober, temperate, chaste; no man could say a word against him; he knew nothing against himself. His conscience acquitted him of wrong: ‘I thought I ought to do many things,’ as I did them. And yet, looking back from his present point of view upon a life thus adorned with many virtues, pure from all manifest corruption, to a large extent regulated by conscientious and religious motives of a kind, he says, ‘Notwithstanding all that, I was an enemy.’ Why? Because the retrospect let him see that his life was barren of the deepest faith and the purest love. And so I come to some of my friends here now, and I say to you, ‘Change the name, and the story is true about you,’ respectable people, who are trying to live pure and righteous lives, doing all duties that present themselves to you with a very tolerable measure of completeness and abominating and trying to keep yourselves from the things that your consciences tell you are wrong, yet needing to be conquered, in the deepest recesses of your wills and your hearts, before you become the true subjects of the true King. I do not want to exaggerate, nor to say of the ordinary run of people who listen to us preachers, that they commit manifest sins, ‘gross as a mountain, open, palpable.’ Some of you do, no doubt, for, in every hundred people, there are always some whose lives are foul and whose memories are stained and horrible; but the run of you are not like that. And yet I ask you, has your will been bowed and broken, and your heart overcome and conquered by this mighty Prince, the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Life? Unless it has, for all your righteousness and respectability, for all your outward religion and real religiousness of a sort, you are still hostile and rebellious, in your inmost hearts. That is the basis of the representation of my text.

What else does it suggest? It suggests the wonderful struggle and victory of weaponless love. As was said about the first Christian emperor, so it may be said about the great Emperor in the heavens, ‘In hoc signo vinces!’ By this sign thou shalt conquer. For His only weapon is the Cross of His Son, and He fights only by the manifestation of infinite love, sacrifice, suffering, and pity. He conquers as the sun conquers the thick-ribbed ice by raying down its heat upon it, and melting it into sweet water. So God in Christ fights against the mountains of man’s cold, hard sinfulness and alienation, and by the warmth of His own radiation turns them all into rivers that flow in love and praise. He conquers simply by forbearance and pity and love.

And what more does this first part of my text say to us? It tells us, too, of the true submission of the conquered captive; how we are conquered when we perceive and receive His love; how there is nothing else needed to win us all for Him except only that we shall recognise His great love to us.

This picture of the triumph comes with a solemn appeal and commandment to every one of us professing Christians. Think of these men, dragged at the conqueror’s chariot-wheels, abject, with their weapons broken, with their resistance quelled, chained, yoked, haled away from their own land, dependant for life or death on the caprice of the general who rode before them there. It is a picture of what you Christian men and women are bound to be if you believe that God in Christ has loved you as we have been saying that He does. For abject submission, unconditional surrender, the yielding up of our whole will to Him, the yielding of all our possessions as His vassals-these are the duties that are correspondent to the facts of the case.

If we are thus won by infinite love, and not our own, but bought with a price, no conquered king, dragged at an emperor’s chariot-wheels, was ever half as absolutely and abjectly bound to be his slave, and to live or die by his breath, as you are bound to your Master. You are Christians in the measure in which you are the captives of His spear and of His bow; in the measure in which you hold your territories as vassal kings, in the measure in which you say, stretching out your willing hands for the fetters, ‘Lord! here am I, do with me as Thou wilt.’ ‘I am not mine own; be Thou my will, my Emperor, my Commander, my all.’ Loyola used to say, as the law of his order, that every man that became a member of the Society of Jesus was to be like as a staff in a man’s hand, or like as a corpse. It was a blasphemous and wicked claim, but it is but a poor fragmentary statement of the truth about those of us who enter the real Society of Jesus, and put ourselves in His hands to be wielded as His staff and His rod, and submit ourselves to Him, not as a corpse, but yield yourselves to our Christ ‘as those that are alive from the dead.’

II. Now we have here, as part of the ideal of the Christian life, the conquered captives partaking in the triumph of their general.

Two groups made up the triumphal procession-the one that of the soldiers who had fought for, the other that of the prisoners who had fought against, the leader. And some commentators are inclined to believe that the Apostle is here thinking of himself and his fellows as belonging to the conquering army, and not to the conquered enemy. That seems to me to be less probable and in accordance with the whole image than the explanation which I have adopted. But be that as it may, it suggests to us this thought, that in the deepest reality in that Christian life of which all this metaphor is but the expression, they who are conquered foes become conquering allies. Or, to put it into other words-to be triumphed over by Christ is to triumph with Christ. And the praise which breaks from the Apostle’s lips suggests the same idea. He pours out his thanks for that which he recognises as being no degradation but an honour, and a participation in his Conqueror’s triumph.

We may illustrate that thought, that to be triumphed over by Christ is to triumph with Christ, by such considerations as these. This submission of which I have been speaking, abject and unconditional, extending to life and death, this submission and captivity is but another name for liberty. The man who is absolutely dependent upon Jesus Christ is absolutely independent of everything and everybody besides, himself included. That is to say, to be His slave is to be everybody else’s master, and when we bow ourselves to Him, and take upon us the chains of glad obedience, and life-deep as well as life-long consecration, then He breaks off all other chains from our hands, and will not suffer that any others should have a share with Him in the possession of His servant. If you are His servants you are free from all besides; if you give yourselves up to Jesus Christ, in the measure in which you give yourselves up to Him, you will be set at liberty from the worst of all slaveries, that is the slavery of your own will and your own weakness, and your own tastes and fancies. You will be set at liberty from dependence upon men, from thinking about their opinion. You will be set at liberty from your dependence upon externals, from feeling as if you could not live unless you had this, that, or the other person or thing. You will be emancipated from fears and hopes which torture the men who strike their roots no deeper than this visible film of time which floats upon the surface of the great, invisible abyss of Eternity. If you have Christ for your Master you will be the masters of the world, and of time and sense and men and all besides; and so, being triumphed over by Him, you will share in His triumph.

And again, we may illustrate the same principle in yet another way. Such absolute and entire submission of will and love as I have been speaking about is the highest honour of a man. It was a degradation to be dragged at the chariot-wheels of conquering general, emperor, or consul-it broke the heart of many a barbarian king, and led some of them to suicide rather than face the degradation. It is a degradation to submit ourselves, even as much as many of us do, to the domination of human authorities, or to depend upon men as much as many of us do for our completeness and our satisfaction. But it is the highest ennobling of humanity that it shall lay itself down at Christ’s feet, and let Him put His foot upon its neck. It is the exaltation of human nature to submit to Christ. The true nobility are those that ‘come over with the Conqueror.’ When we yield ourselves to Him, and let Him be our King, then the patent of nobility is given to us, and we are lifted in the scale of being. All our powers and faculties are heightened in their exercise, and made more blessed in their employment, because we have bowed ourselves to His control. And so to be triumphed over by Christ is to triumph with Christ.

And the same thought may be yet further illustrated. That submission which I have been speaking about so unites us to our Lord that we share in all that belongs to Him and thus partake in His triumph. If in will and heart we have yielded ourselves to Him, he that is thus joined to the Lord is one spirit, and all ‘mine is Thine, and all Thine is mine.’ He is the Heir of all things, and all things of which He is the Heir are our possession. ‘All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s.’ Thus His dominion is the dominion of all that love Him, and His heritage is the heritage of all those that have joined themselves to Him; and no sparkle of the glory that falls upon His head but is reflected on the heads of His servants. The ‘many crowns’ that He wears are the crowns with which He crowns His followers.

Thus, my brother, to be overcome by God is to overcome the world, to be triumphed over by Christ is to share in His triumph; and he over whom Incarnate Love wins the victory, like the patriarch of old in his mystical struggle, conquers in the hour of surrender; and to him it is said: ‘As a prince thou hast power with God and hast prevailed.’

III. Lastly, a further picture of the ideal of the Christian life is set before us here in the thought of these conquered captives being led as the trophies and the witnesses of His overcoming power.

That idea is suggested by both halves of our verse. Both the emblem of the Apostle as marching in the triumphal procession, and the emblem of the Apostle as yielding from his burning heart the fragrant visible odour of the ascending incense, convey the same idea, viz. that one great purpose which Jesus Christ has in conquering men for Himself, and binding them to His chariot wheels, is that from them may go forth the witness of His power and the knowledge of His name.

That opens very wide subjects for our consideration which I can only very briefly touch upon. Let me just for an instant dwell upon some of them. First, the fact that Jesus Christ, by His Cross and Passion, is able to conquer men’s wills, and to bind men’s hearts to Him, is the highest proof of His power. It is an entirely unique thing in the history of the world. There is nothing the least like it anywhere else. The passionate attachment which this dead Galilean peasant is able to evoke in the hearts of people all these centuries after His death, is an unheard of and an unparalleled thing. All other teachers ‘serve their generations by the will of God,’ and then their names become speedily less and less powerful, and thicker and thicker mists of oblivion wrap them round until they disappear. But time has no power over Christ’s influence. The bond which binds you and me to Him nineteen centuries after His death is the very same in quality as, and in degree is often far deeper and stronger than, the bond which united to Him the men that had seen Him. It stands as an unique fact in the history of the world, that from Christ of Nazareth there rays out through all the ages the spiritual power which absolutely takes possession of men, dominates them and turns them into His organs and instruments. This generation prides itself upon testing all things by an utilitarian test, and about every system says:-’Well, let us see it working.’ And I do not think that Christianity need shrink from the test. With all its imperfections, the long procession of holy men and women who, for nineteen centuries, have been marching through history, owning Christ as their Conqueror, and ascribing all their goodness to Him, is a witness to His power to sway and to satisfy men, the force of whose testimony it is hard to overthrow. And I would like to ask the simple question: Will any system of belief or of no belief, except the faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, do the like for men? He leads through the world the train of His captives, the evidence of His conquests.

And then, further, let me remind you that out of this representation there comes a very stimulating and solemn suggestion of duty for us Christian people. We are bound to live, setting forth whose we are, and what He has done for us. Just as the triumphal procession took its path up the Appian Way and along the side of the Forum to the altar of the Capitol, wreathed about by curling clouds of fragrant incense, so we should march through the world encompassed by the sweet and fragrant odour of His name, witnessing for Him by word, witnessing for Him by character, speaking for Him and living like Him, showing in our life that He rules us, and professing by our words that He does; and so should manifest His power.

Still further, Paul’s thanksgiving teaches us that we should be thankful for all opportunities of doing such work. Christian men and women often grudge their services and grudge their money, and feel as if the necessities for doing Christian work in the world were rather a burden than an honour. This man’s generous heart was so full of love to his Prince that it glowed with thankfulness at the thought that Christ had let him do such things for Him. And He lets you do them if you will.

So, dear friends, it comes to be a very solemn question for us. What part are we playing in that great triumphal procession? We are all of us marching at His chariot wheels, whether we know it or not. But there were two sets of people in the old triumph. There were those who were conquered by force and unconquered in heart, and out of their eyes gleamed unquenchable malice and hatred, though their weapons were broken and their arms fettered. And there were those who, having shared in the commander’s fight, shared in his triumph and rejoiced in his rule. And when the procession reached the gate of the temple, some, at any rate, of the former class were put to death before the gates. I pray you to remember that if we are dragged after Him reluctantly, the word will come: ‘These, mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before Me.’ Whereas, on the other hand, for those who have yielded heart and soul to Him in love and submission born of the reception of His great love, the blessed word will come: ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things.’ Which of the two parts of the procession do you belong to, my friend? Make your choice where you shall march, and whether you will be His loyal allies and soldiers who share in His triumph, or His enemies, who, overcome by His power, are not melted by His love. The one live, the other perish.

2 Corinthians 2:14. Now thanks be to God, who — In Macedonia, as elsewhere; causeth us to triumph — Makes our ministry successful against all opposition; in Christ — Namely, by the influence of his truth and grace. To triumph implies not only victory, but an open manifestation of it. And maketh manifest the savour — Rather odour; of his knowledge — Namely, the knowledge of God and Christ, and his gospel; in every place — Where he calls us to labour, or in the course of his providence casts our lot. “As in triumphal processions, especially in the East, fragrant odours and incense were burned near the conquerors, so he seems beautifully to allude to that circumstance in what he says of οσμη, the odour of the gospel, in the following verses. And he seems further to allude to the different effects of strong perfumes to cheer some, and to throw others into violent disorders, according to the different dispositions they are in to receive them.” So Doddridge. Macknight gives rather a different interpretation of the passage, thus: “In triumphs, the streets through which the victorious generals passed were strewed with flowers, Ovid, Trist. 4. eleg. 2, line 29. The people, also, were in use to throw flowers into the triumphal car as it passed along. This, as all the other customs observed in triumphal processions, was derived from the Greeks, who in that manner honoured the conquerors in the games when they entered into their respective cities. Plutarch, (Emil., p. 272,) tells us, that in triumphal processions, the streets were θυμιαματων πληρεις, full of incense.”

2:12-17 A believer's triumphs are all in Christ. To him be the praise and glory of all, while the success of the gospel is a good reason for a Christian's joy and rejoicing. In ancient triumphs, abundance of perfumes and sweet odours were used; so the name and salvation of Jesus, as ointment poured out, was a sweet savour diffused in every place. Unto some, the gospel is a savour of death unto death. They reject it to their ruin. Unto others, the gospel is a savour of life unto life: as it quickened them at first when they were dead in trespasses and sins, so it makes them more lively, and will end in eternal life. Observe the awful impressions this matter made upon the apostle, and should also make upon us. The work is great, and of ourselves we have no strength at all; all our sufficiency is of God. But what we do in religion, unless it is done in sincerity, as in the sight of God, is not of God, does not come from him, and will not reach to him. May we carefully watch ourselves in this matter; and seek the testimony of our consciences, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that as of sincerity, so speak we in Christ and of Christ.Now thanks be unto God ... - There seem to have been several sources of Paul's joy on this occasion. The principal was, his constant and uniform success in endeavoring to advance the interests of the kingdom of the Redeemer. But in particular he rejoiced;

(1) Because Titus had come to him there, and had removed his distress; compare 2 Corinthians 2:13.

(2) because he learned from him that his efforts in regard to the church at Corinth had been successful, and that they had hearkened to his counsels in his first letter; and,

(3) Because he was favored with signal success in Macedonia. His being compelled, therefore, to remove from Troas and to go to Macedonia had been to him ultimately the cause of great joy and consolation. These instances of success Paul regarded as occasions of gratitude to God.

Which always causeth us - Whatever may be our efforts, and wherever we are. Whether it is in endeavoring to remove the errors and evils existing in a particular church, or whether it be in preaching the gospel in places where it has been unknown, still success crowns our efforts, and we have the constant evidence of divine approbation. This was Paul's consolation in the midst of his many trials; and it proves that, whatever may be the external circumstances of a minister, whether poverty, want, persecution, or distress, he will have abundant occasion to give thanks to God if his efforts as a minister are crowned with success.

To triumph in Christ. - To triumph through the aid of Christ, or in promoting the cause of Christ. Paul had no joy which was not connected with Christ, and he had no success which he did not trace to him. The word which is rendered here as "triumph" (θριαμβευοντι thriambeuonti from θριαμβέυω thriambeuō) occurs in no other place in the New Testament, except in Colossians 2:15. It is rendered there as "triumphing over them in it," that is, triumphing over the principalities and powers which he had spoiled, or plundered; and it there means that Christ led them in triumph after the manner of a conqueror. The word is used here in a causative sense - the sense of the Hebrew Hiphil conjugation. It properly refers to a triumph; or a triumphal procession. Originally the word θριαμβος thriambos meant a hymn which was sung in honor of Bacchus; then the tumultuous and noisy procession which constituted the worship of the god of wine; and then any procession of a similar kind. - Passow. It was particularly applied among both the Greeks and the Romans to a public and solemn honor conferred on a victorious general on a return from a successful war in which he was allowed a magnificent entrance into the capital.

In these triumphs, the victorious commander was usually preceded or attended by the spoils of war; by the most valuable and magnificent articles which he had captured; and by the princes, nobles, generals, or people whom he had subdued. The victor was drawn in a magnificent chariot, usually by two white horses. Other animals were sometimes used. "When Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony was drawn by lions; that of Heliogabalus pulled by tigers; and that of Aurelius drawn by deer" - Clark. The people of Corinth were not unacquainted with the nature of a triumph. About 147 years before Christ, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, and had destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Colchis, and by order of the Roman Senate was favored with a triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus. Tyndale renders this place: "Thanks be unto God which always giveth us the victory in Christ." Paul refers here to a victory which he had, and a triumph with which he was favored by the Redeemer. It was a victory over the enemies of the gospel; it was success in advancing the interests of the kingdom of Christ; and he rejoiced in that victory, and in that success, with more solid and substantial joy than a Roman victor ever felt on returning from his conquests over nations, even when attended with the richest spoils of victory, and by humbled princes and kings in chains, and when the assembled thousands shouted Io triumphe!

And maketh manifest - Makes known; spreads abroad - as a pleasant fragrance is diffused through the air.

The savor - (ὀσμὴν osmēn). The smell; the fragrance. The word in the New Testament is used to denote a pleasant or fragrant odor, as of incense, or aromatics; John 12:3 see Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18. There is an allusion here doubtless to the fact that in the triumphal processions fragrant odors were diffused around; flowers, diffusing a grateful smell, were scattered in the way; and on the altars of the gods incense was burned during the procession, and sacrifices offered, and the whole city was filled with the smoke of sacrifices, and with perfumes. So Paul speaks of knowledge - the knowledge of Christ. In his triumphings, the knowledge of the Redeemer was diffused abroad, like the odors which were diffused in the triumphal march of the conqueror. And that odor or savor was acceptable to God - as the fragrance of aromatics and of incense was pleasant in the triumphal procession of the returning victor. The phrase "makes manifest the savor of his knowledge," therefore, means, that the knowledge of Christ was diffused everywhere by Paul, as the grateful smell of aromatics was diffused all around the triumphing warrior and victor. The effect of Paul's conquests everywhere was to diffuse the knowledge of the Saviour - and this was acceptable and pleasant to God - though there might be many who would not avail themselves of it, and would perish; see 2 Corinthians 2:15.

14. Now—Greek, "But." Though we left Troas disappointed in not meeting Titus there, and in having to leave so soon so wide a door, "thanks be unto God," we were triumphantly blessed in both the good news of you from Titus, and in the victories of the Gospel everywhere in our progress. The cause of triumph cannot be restricted (as Alford explains) to the former; for "always," and "in every place," show that the latter also is intended.

causeth us to triumph—The Greek, is rather, as in Col 2:15, "triumphs over us": "leadeth us in triumph." Paul regarded himself as a signal trophy of God's victorious power in Christ. His Almighty Conqueror was leading him about, through all the cities of the Greek and Roman world, as an illustrious example of His power at once to subdue and to save. The foe of Christ was now the servant of Christ. As to be led in triumph by man is the most miserable, so to be led in triumph by God is the most glorious, lot that can befall any [Trench]. Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us. His defeats of us are our only true victories [Alford]. The image is taken from the triumphal procession of a victorious general. The additional idea is perhaps included, which distinguishes God's triumph from that of a human general, that the captive is brought into willing obedience (2Co 10:5) to Christ, and so joins in the triumph: God "leads him in triumph" as one not merely triumphed over, but also as one triumphing over God's foes with God (which last will apply to the apostle's triumphant missionary progress under the leading of God). So Bengel: "Who shows us in triumph, not [merely] as conquered, but as the ministers of His victory. Not only the victory, but the open 'showing' of the victory is marked: for there follows, Who maketh manifest."

savour—retaining the image of a triumph. As the approach of the triumphal procession was made known by the odor of incense scattered far and wide by the incense-bearers in the train, so God "makes manifest by us" (His now at once triumphed over and triumphing captives, compare Lu 5:10, "Catch," literally, "Take captive so as to preserve alive") the sweet savor of the knowledge of Christ, the triumphant Conqueror (Col 2:15), everywhere. As the triumph strikes the eyes, so the savor the nostrils; thus every sense feels the power of Christ's Gospel. This manifestation (a word often recurring in his Epistles to the Corinthians, compare 1Co 4:5) refutes the Corinthian suspicions of his dishonestly, by reserve, hiding anything from them (2Co 2:17; 2Co 4:2).

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ: the translation of the Greek here is not certain; for to translate it word for word, it is: But thanks be to God always, triumphing us in Christ; which makes it uncertain, whether there be not a defect of a preposition, upon the supply of which it would be, who triumpheth over us in Christ, having subdued our hearts to the kingdom and obedience of Christ. But the most interpreters rather agree with our translators, and think the sense of the apostle is who maketh us to triumph. In the Hebrew there is a conjugation, where the active verb signifieth to make another to do a thing; and there are several instances brought by learned men out of the Septuagint, where the active verb in the Greek also hath that sense; that which cometh nearest it in the original in holy writ, is that, Romans 8:26, where the Spirit is said to make intercession for us, because it causeth us to make intercession. According to this, the sense is: Blessed be God, who though we meet with many enemies, yet through Christ he maketh us more than conquerors, Romans 8:37, so that we are not overcome by any of them, but, on the contrary, we triumph over them as conquered by us.

And maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place; and this by manifesting by us in every place

the savour of the knowledge of Christ; that is, of the gospel. He calleth it a savour, either with allusion to that sweet perfumed ointment, with which the high priest, under the law, was anointed, Exodus 30:23 Psalm 133:2; or with reference to the incense used also under the law; or with relation to Solomon’s expression, Song of Solomon 1:3, where we read of the savour of Christ’s good ointments, and that his name is as an ointment poured forth. By the savour of the knowledge of Christ here mentioned, the apostle plainly meaneth the reputation or good report that the gospel had in every place: see Hosea 14:7.

Now thanks be unto God,.... The apostle having mentioned the door that was opened for him at Troas, to preach the Gospel with success, calls to mind the great and manifold appearances of God for him and his fellow ministers, in blessing their labours to the conversion of many souls; which causes him to break forth into thanksgiving to God, on this account: what he takes notice of, and is thankful to God for is, that he

always causeth us to triumph in Christ; not only had done so, but continued to do so: some versions ascribe this act of triumph to God, as his act, reading the passage thus, "now thanks be unto God, who triumphs over us", or "by us in Christ"; who has conquered us by his grace, and made use of us as instruments for the conversion of sinners; and so first triumphed over us, having subdued us to himself, and then over others by us, in whose hearts the arrows of his word have been sharp and powerful: so the word is used for the person's own act of triumph spoken of, 2 Corinthians 2:15, but here it signifies, as words do in the Hebrew conjugation "Hiphil", which most commonly denotes an effect upon another, or which is caused and produced in another, and is rightly rendered, "which causeth us to triumph"; and refers not to the triumph of faith, common with the apostles to other believers; though this is in Christ, in his righteousness, death, resurrection, ascension, session at God's right hand, and intercession; and is what God causes, and to whom thanks is to be given for it: but this is a triumph peculiar to ministers of the Gospel, who are made to triumph over men and devils, over the world, the reproaches, persecutions, smiles, and flatteries of it; over wicked men, by silencing them, stopping the mouths of gainsayers, refuting false teachers, and preserving the Gospel pure, in spite of all opposition; and by being made useful to the turning of many souls from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God: and this is

in Christ: it is owing to the victory he has got; it is by his strength, it is in his name, for his sake, and because of his glory herein concerned: and

always; wherever the ministers of Christ are called to labour, and wherever the Gospel is purely and powerfully preached by them, some good is done; and they are made to triumph over hell and earth, over sin, Satan, and the world; and for all this, thanks is due to God; for he it is that causes them to triumph, or they never could; as will easily appear, if we consider what poor weak instruments they themselves are; what opposition is made against them; what wonderful things are done by them; by what means they triumph, by the preaching of the cross, and that in the midst of the greatest pressures and afflictions. Thanks are also given to God, that he

maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place; by "his knowledge" is meant, either the knowledge of God, who causes the ministers of the Gospel to triumph; or the knowledge of Christ, in whom they triumph; or rather of both, of the knowledge of God in Christ; and designs the Gospel, which is the means thereof: and which is said to have a "savour" in it, and denotes the acceptableness of it to sensible souls; and the good name, fame, and credit, which Christ has by the faithful ministration of it; and is an allusion to Sol 1:3. Now this, God is said to make manifest; it was hid before, hid in himself, and to the sons of men; it was like a box of ointment shut, but now opened by the preaching of the word, which diffuses a fragrant smell; and therefore he is said to make it manifest "by us": the ministers of the Gospel, who openly, boldly, and faithfully preach it; and "by manifestation of the truth"; spread the savour of it, and that "in every place", where they come; their commission being at large, to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the {k} savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

(k) He alludes to the anointing of the priests, and the incense of the sacrifices.

2 Corinthians 2:14. In Macedonia, however, he had met Titus, and, through him, received good news of the impression made by his former Epistle. See 2 Corinthians 7:6. Therefore he continues: But thanks be to God, etc., placing first not χάρις, as in most cases (2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Corinthians 9:15), but τῷ Θεῷ, because, in very contrast to his own weakness, the helping God, whom he has to thank, comes into his mind. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:57. Others here make a digression go on as far as 2 Corinthians 7:5, and refer the thanks to the spread of the gospel in Troas (Emmerling!) or Macedonia (Flatt, Osiander). Comp. Calvin and Bengel. Against the context; for, after the description of the anxiety and disquiet, the utterance of thanks must relate to the release from this state (comp. Romans 7:24 f.). The apostle, however, in the fulness of his gratitude to God, includes (and thereby makes known) his special experience of the guidance of divine grace at that time in the general thanksgiving for the latter, as he experiences it always in his calling. This also in opposition to Hofmann, who abides by the general nature of the thanksgiving, and that in contrast to the declaration that the apostle did not preach in Troas in spite of the good opportunity found ther.

τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι ἡμᾶς] given rightly by the Vulgate: “qui semper triumphat nos,” is taken by many older expositors (Luther, Beza, Estius, Grotius, and others), and by some more recent (Emmerling, Flatt, Rückert, Olshausen, Osiander): who makes us always triumph.[148] It is certainly a current Greek custom to give to neuter verbs a factitive construction and meaning. See in general, Matthiae, p. 1104, 944; Fritzsche, ad Matth. p. 250; Bähr, ad Ctes. p. 132; Lobeck, ad Aj. 40, 869. Comp. from the N. T., ἀνατέλλειν τὸν ἥλιον, Matthew 5:45; καίειν τι, Matthew 5:15; μαθητεύειν τινά, Matthew 28:19; from the LXX., βασιλεύειν τίνα, 1 Samuel 8:22; Isaiah 7:6, al. Comp. 1Ma 8:13. θριαμβεύειν τινά is thus taken: to make any one a triumpher. Comp. χορεύειν τινά, to make any one dancei.e. to celebrate by means of dancing (Brunck, ad Soph. Ant. 1151; comp. Jacobs, ad Del epigr. x. 55, 90). The suitableness of the sense cannot be denied, but the actual usage is against it; for θριαμβεύειν τινά has never that assumed factitive sense, but always means triumphare de aliquo, to conduct, to present any one in triumph; so that the accusative is never the triumphing subject, but always the object of the triumph, as Plut. Thes. et Romans 4 : βασιλεῖς ἐθριάμβευσε καὶ ἡγεμόνας, also Plut. Mor. p. 318 B, θριαμβ. νίκην. Quite similar is the Latin triumphare aliquem. See in general, Wetstein; Kypke, II. p. 243. Comp. also Hofmann on the passage. Paul himself follows this usage, see Colossians 2:15. We are thus the less authorized to depart from it. Hence it is to be translated: who always triumphs over us (apostolic teachers)—i.e. who does not cease to represent us as his vanquished before all the world, as a triumpher celebrates his victories. In this figurative aspect Paul considers himself and his like as conquered by God through their conversion to Christ. And after this victory of God his triumph now consists in all that those conquered by their conversion effect as servants and instruments of God for the Messianic kingdom in the world; it is by the results of apostolic activity that God continually, as if in triumph, shows Himself to the eyes of all as the victor, to whom His conquered are subject and serviceable. For the concrete instance before us, this perpetual triumph of God exhibited itself in the happy result which He wrought in Corinth through the apostle’s letter (as Paul learned in Macedonia through Titus, 2 Corinthians 7:6). Note further, how naturally with Paul this very conception of his working, as a continual triumph of God over him, might proceed from the painful remembrance of his earlier persecution of the church of God, and how at the same time this whole conception is an expression of the same humility, in which he, 1 Corinthians 15:10, gives to God alone the glory of his working. Jerome, ad Hedib. 11, translates rightly: triumphat nos or de nobis, but quite alters the sense of the word again by the interpretation: “triumphum suum agit per nos.” Theodoret does not do justice to the notion of the triumph, when he merely explains it: ὃς σοφῶς τὰ καθʼ ἡμᾶς πρυτανεύων τῇδε κἀκεῖσε περιάγει δήλους ἡμᾶς ἅπασιν ἀποφαίνων. Wetstein is more exact, but also takes the element of leading about, and not that of celebrating the victory, as the point of comparison: “Deus nos tanquam in triumpho circumducit, ut non maneamus in loco, aut in alium proficiscamur pro lubito nostro, sed ut placet sapientissimo moderatori. Quem Damasci vicit, non Romae et semel, sed per totum terrarum orbem, quamdiu vivit, in triumpho ducit.” Comp. Krause, Opusc. p. 125 f. The conception of antiquity, according to which the θριαμβευόμενος is necessarily the conquered, is quite abandoned by Calvin,[149] Elsner, Bengel: “qui triumpho nos ostendit, non ut victos, sed ut victoriae suae ministros.” So also de Wette, and substantially Ewald: comp. Erasmus, Annot.

ἐν Χριστῷ] Christ is the element in which that constant triumph of God takes place: no fact in which that consists has its sphere out of Christ: each is of specifically Christian quality.

The following καὶ τ. ὀσμὴν κ.τ.λ. declares what God effects through this His triumphing. That αὐτοῦ refers not to God (so usually, as also Hofmann, following the Vulgate), but to Christ (Bengel, Osiander), is shown by 2 Corinthians 2:15. The genitive τῆς γνώσ. αὐτ. is the genitive of apposition (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:22), so that the knowledge of Christ is symbolized as an odour which God everywhere makes manifest through the apostolic working, inasmuch as He by that means brings it to pass that the knowledge of Christ everywhere exhibits and communicates its nature and its efficacy. How does Paul come upon this image? Through the conception of the triumph; for such an event took place amid perfumes of incense: hence to assume no connection between the two images (Osiander) is arbitrary. To think of ointments (Oecumenius, Grotius), or of these as included (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Beza[150]), is alien to the first image; and it is as alien to suppose that a closed vessel, filled with perfume, is meant, and that the φανεροῦντι points to the opening of the same (Hofmann). Observe, moreover, that by διʼ ἡμῶν (since the ἡμεῖς are those conducted in the triumph, οἱ θριαμβευόμενοι) the thing itself finds its way into the image, and by this the latter loses in congruity.

[148] To this also the expositions of Chrysostom and Theophylact ultimately amount. The latter says: ἡμᾶς οὖν ὁ Θεὸς μετὰ τῶν κατὰ τοῦ διαβόλου τροπαίων περιφανεῖς ποιεῖ. So in substance Chrys. Comp. Ambrosiaster, Anselm, and others.

[149] In the translation he has triumphare nos facit: and in the Commentary it is said: “Paulus autem intelligit, se quoque triumphi, quem Deus agebat, fuisse participem, quod esset opera sua acquisitus; qualiter legati currum primarii ducis equis insidentes comitabantur tanquam honoris socii.”

[150] Beza, Grotius, and also L. Cappellus, contrary to the context, find an allusion to the anointing of the priests.

2 Corinthians 2:14. τῷ δὲ Θεῷ χαρις κ.τ.λ.: but thanks be to God, etc. Instead of giving details of the information which Titus brought to him in Macedonia (chap. 2 Corinthians 7:6), he bursts out into a characteristic doxology, which leads him into a long digression, the main topic of the Epistle not coming into view again until 2 Corinthians 6:11.—τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι: who always, sc., even in times of anxiety and distress, leadeth us in triumph in Christ. θριαμβεύειν, “to lead as captive in a triumphal procession,” occurs again in this sense Colossians 2:15. The rendering of the A.V., “which causeth us to triumph,” though yielding a good sense here (and despite the causative force of verbs in -εύω), must be abandoned, as no clear instance of θριαμβεύειν in such a signification has been produced. The splendid image before the writer’s mind is that of a Roman triumph, which, though he had never seen it, must have been familiar to him as it was to every citizen of the Empire. He thinks of God as the Victor (Revelation 6:2) entering the City into which the glory and honour of the nations (Revelation 21:26) is brought; the Apostle as “in Christ”—as a member of the Body of Christ—is one of the captives, by means of whom the knowledge and fame of the Victor is made manifest. He rejoices that he has been so used by God, as would appear from the tidings which Titus has brought him.—καὶ τὴν ὀσμὴν τῆς γνώσεως κ.τ.λ.: and maketh manifest through us the savour of the knowledge of Him (sc., of Christ) in every place, sc., at Corinth as well as in Troas and Macedonia. It is possible that the metaphor of the ὀσμή is suggested by and is part of that of the triumph; e.g., Plutarch (Æmil. Paul. c. 32) says that the temples were “full of fumigations” during the passage of the procession. But ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας is a frequent LXX phrase (see reff.).

14. Now thanks be unto God] This passage is an instance of the abrupt digressions peculiar to St Paul’s style. See Introduction to the first Epistle, p. 16, and 1 Corinthians 4:8. Also Introduction to this Epistle. “As soon as St Paul came to the word Macedonia, memory presented to him what had greeted him there,” i.e. the favourable intelligence brought by Titus (ch. 2 Corinthians 7:6-7) “and in his rapid way—thoughts succeeding each other like lightning—he says, without going through the form of explaining why he says it, ‘Now thanks be to God.’ ” Robertson.

which always causeth us to triumph in Christ] The verb here rendered causeth us to triumph may also be rendered, leadeth us in triumph. It is used in the latter sense in Colossians 2:15, the only other place in which it occurs in the Bible, but the former sense is defended here by the analogy of other verbs used causatively. See Romans 8:37.

and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge] The word savour (from the Latin sapor, flavour) is, with one exception (Matthew 5:13), used in the Scriptures to denote an odour. See Genesis 8:21; Ecclesiastes 10:1; Joel 2:20, &c. The Apostle as yet does not refer to the ‘sweet savour’ of the sacrifices (Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:12, &c.). If we take the rendering of the A. V. in the former part of the verse, ‘the savour of his knowledge’ (i.e. the sweet scent of the knowledge of God), is the incense, either “rising from fixed altars or wafted from censers” (Dr Plumptre in loc.), which it was customary (see Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, Art. Triumphus) to burn as the conqueror to whom a triumph was decreed passed along. This custom has been revived in our own day, on the occasion of the public entry of the Princess of Wales into London before her marriage. If the sense ‘leadeth us in triumph,’ be adopted, it regards the ministers of Christ either, (a) as the partners in the triumph of their Master, or (b) as the captives of the enemy he has overcome, delivered by His victorious arm, or (c) as the enemies he has defeated and led captive. Either of these yields a good sense, while the ‘savour’ is still the incense which attends the victor’s triumph. See Wordsworth in loc. Dr Plumptre notices the fact, one of great interest to the inhabitants of these Islands, that the last triumph which had taken place at Rome before these words were written, was in commemoration of the victories of Claudius in Britain, and that the British king Caractacus was then led in triumph through the streets of Rome.

by us] St Paul is either (1) the altar (Romans 12:1) from which the odour of God’s knowledge arises, or more probably (2) the thurifer or incense-bearer who diffuses that odour abroad as he passes along.

in every place] The history of the church shews that the first ministers of the Gospel extended their operations over a wide area. It is hardly tradition which regards St Thomas and St Bartholomew as having preached in India, and St Andrew in Scythia. And the first Epistle of St Peter bears witness to a wide dissemination of the Gospel in Asia. See 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 5:13.

2 Corinthians 2:14. Τῷ δὲ Θεῷ, but [now] to God) Although I have not come to Corinth, I did not remain at Troas; nevertheless there is no want of the victory of the Gospel even in other places: The modal expression is added [Append. on Modus, i.e. with expression of feeling, not a mere categorical proposition]; Thanks be unto God.—πάντοτε, always) The parallel follows, in everyplace.—θριαμβεύοντι ἡμᾶς) who shows us in triumph, not as conquered, but as the ministers of His victory; not only the victory, but the open ‘showing’ of the victory is denoted: for there follows, Who maketh manifest. The triumph forcibly strikes the eyes; the savour, the nostrils [sense of smell.]—τὴν ὀσμὴν, the savour) The metaphor is taken from all the senses to describe the power of the Gospel. Here the sight (of the triumph) and its savour occur.—αὐτοῦ, of Him) of Christ, 2 Corinthians 2:15.—φανεροῦντι, who maketh manifest) a word, which often occurs in this epistle, and refutes the suspicions of the Corinthians [towards the apostle.] So 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Verse 14. - Now thanks be unto God. The whole of this Epistle is the apostle's Apologia pro vita sua, and is more full of personal details and emotional expressions than any other Epistle. But nothing in it is more characteristic than this sudden outburst of thanksgiving into which he breaks so eagerly that he has quite omitted to say what it was for which he so earnestly thanked God. It is only when we come to 2 Corinthians 7:5, 6 that we learn the circumstance which gave him such intense relief, namely, the arrival of Titus with good news from Corinth about the treatment of the offender and the manner in which the first letter had been received. It is true that this good news seems to have been dashed by other remarks of Titus which, perhaps, he withheld at first, and which may only have been drawn from him, almost against his will, by subsequent conversations. But, however checkered, the main and immediate intelligence was good, and the apostle so vividly recalls his sudden uplifting out of an abyss of anxiety and trouble (2 Corinthians 7:5) that the mere remembrance of it awakens a thankfulness to God which can only find vent by immediate utterance. Now thanks be unto God. The order of the original is more forcible, "But to God be thanks." The remembrance of his own prostration calls into his mind the power and love of God. Which always causeth us to triumph; rather, who leadeth us in triumph. The verb thriambeuo may undoubtedly have this meaning, on the analogy of choreuo, I cause to dance, basileuo, I cause to reign, etc.; and other neuter verbs which sometimes have a factitive scribe. But in Colossians 2:15 St. Paul uses this word in the only sense in which it is actually found, "to lead in triumph;" and this sense seems both to suit the context better, and to be more in accordance with the habitual feelings of St. Paul (Galatians 6:17; Colossians 1:24), and especially those with which these Epistles were written (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 11:23). St. Paul's feeling is, therefore, the exact opposite of that of the haughty Cleopatra who said, Οὑ θριαμβευθήσομαι, "I will not be led in triumph." He rejoiced to be exhibited by God as a trophy in the triumphal procession of Christ. God, indeed, gave him the victory over the lower part of his nature (Romans 8:37), but this was no public triumph. The only victory of which he could boast was to have been utterly vanquished by God and taken prisoner "in Christ." The savour of his knowledge. The mental vision of a Roman triumph summons up various images before the mind of St. Paul. He thinks of the streets breathing with the fragrance of incense offered upon many a wayside altar; of the tumult and rejoicing of the people; of the fame and glory of the conqueror; of the miserable captives led aside from the funeral procession to die, like Vercingetorix, in the Tullianum at the foot of the Capitoline hill. He touches on each of these incidents as they crowd upon him. The triumph of L. Mummius over the conquest of Corinth had been one of the most splendid which the Roman world had ever seen, and in A.D. , shortly before this Epistle was written (A.D. 57), Claudius had celebrated his triumph over the Britons and their king Caractacus, who had been led in the procession, but whose life had been spared (Tacitus, 'Ann.,' 13:36). The savour of his knowledge; i.e. the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. By us. The details of the metaphor are commingled, as is often the case in writers of quick feeling and imagination. Here the apostles are no longer the vanquished who are led in procession, but the spectators who burn and diffuse the fragrance of the incense. In every place. Even at that early period, not twenty-five years after the Crucifixion, the gospel had been very widely preached in Asia and Europe (Romans 15:18, 19). 2 Corinthians 2:14Causeth to triumph (θριαμβεύοντι)

This rendering is inadmissible, the word being habitually used with the accusative (direct objective) case of the person or thing triumphed over, and never of the triumphing subject. Hence, to lead in triumph. It occurs only here and Colossians 2:15. It is not found in any Greek author later than Paul's date. It is derived from θρίαμβος a hymn to Bacchus, sung in festal processions, and was used to denote the Roman "triumph," celebrated by victorious generals on their return from their campaigns. The general entered the city in a chariot, preceded by the captives and spoils taken in war, and followed by his troops, and proceeded in state along the sacred way to the Capitol, where he offered sacrifices in the temple of Jupiter. He was accompanied in his chariot by his young children, and sometimes by confidential friends, while behind him stood a slave, holding over his head a jewelled crown. The body of the infantry brought up the rear, their spears adorned with laurel. They shouted "triumph!" and sang hymns in praise of the gods or of their leader. Paul describes himself and the other subjects of Christ's grace under the figure of this triumphal pomp, in which they are led as trophies of the Redeemer's conquest. Render, as Rev., which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ. Compare 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The savor of His knowledge

According to the Greek usage, savor and knowledge are in apposition, so that the knowledge of Christ is symbolized as an odor communicating its nature and efficacy through the apostle's work, "permeating the world as a cloud of frankincense" (Stanley). For a similar usage see on 2 Corinthians 1:22. The idea of the Roman triumph is still preserved in this figure. On these occasions the temples were all thrown open, garlands of flowers decorated every shrine and image, and incense smoked on every altar, so that the victor was greeted with a cloud of perfume. Compare Aeschylus on the festivities at the return of Agamemnon from Troy:

"The altars blaze with gifts;

And here and there, heaven high the torch uplifts

Flame, - medicated with persuasions mild,

With foul admixture unbeguiled -

Of holy unguent, from the clotted chrism

Brought from the palace, safe in its abysm."

"Agamemnon," 91-96, Browning's Translation.

2 Corinthians 2:14 Interlinear
2 Corinthians 2:14 Parallel Texts

2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV
2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
2 Corinthians 2:14 NASB
2 Corinthians 2:14 KJV

2 Corinthians 2:14 Bible Apps
2 Corinthians 2:14 Parallel
2 Corinthians 2:14 Biblia Paralela
2 Corinthians 2:14 Chinese Bible
2 Corinthians 2:14 French Bible
2 Corinthians 2:14 German Bible

Bible Hub

2 Corinthians 2:13
Top of Page
Top of Page