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.
16. savour of death unto death … of life unto life—an odor arising out of death (a mere announcement of a dead Christ, and a virtually lifeless Gospel, in which light unbelievers regard the Gospel message), ending (as the just and natural consequence) in death (to the unbeliever); (but to the believer) an odor arising out of life (that is, the announcement of a risen and living Saviour), ending in life (to the believer) (Mt 21:44; Lu 2:34; Joh 9:39).
who is sufficient for these things?—namely, for diffusing aright everywhere the savor of Christ, so diverse in its effects on believers and unbelievers. He here prepares the way for one purpose of his Epistle, namely, to vindicate his apostolic mission from its detractors at Corinth, who denied his sufficiency. The Greek order puts prominently foremost the momentous and difficult task assigned to him, "For these things, who is sufficient?" He answers his own question (2Co 3:5, 6), "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able (Greek, 'sufficient') ministers," &c.