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.
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).