2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the aroma of his knowledge by us in every place.…
A Roman triumph, to which the apostle refers in this passage, was the most magnificent of earthly pageants. The conqueror, in whose honour it was given, was an illustrious commander, who had defeated an enemy or gained a province. The route traversed by the triumphal procession lay through Rome to the Capitol itself. The spectators who feasted their eyes upon the sight were the vast population of the city. Before, the victor passed onwards the captives taken in the campaign, and the spoil which had been wrested from the foe. Behind, followed the army, flushed with victory and rejoicing in the insolence and pride of military might. The conqueror himself, mounted aloft upon his car, was the centre of observation and attraction. Every mark of honour was paid to him. Sacrifices were offered by the priests to the gods to whose favour victory was ascribed. Incense bearers marched in the procession, and fragrant clouds ascended, floating in the air and mingling with the shouts and with the strains of martial music. And in the temples sacrificial offerings were accompanied by the presentation of the odorous incense.
I. THE TRIUMPHS OF THE GOSPEL. The warfare of the Word is against the sins of the rebels who have defied the authority of the Most High. In apostolic times the progress of the gospel, though often opposed and often checked, appealed to the view of Paul as a triumphal progress. God, who had triumphed over the enemies whom he converted into his friends and companions, made them, as his representatives, triumph in their turn, and admitted them to share his triumph over the enemies of truth and righteousness.
II. THE INCENSE BEARERS IN THE TRIUMPHAL TRAIN. There is a prodigality of wealth in the imagery here employed. Paul and his fellow ministers were themselves both captives and also incense bearers - "unto God a sweet savour of Christ." As the Son of the Eternal is infinitely acceptable to his Father, so those who share his mission and purpose, and faithfully publish his gospel, are well pleasing to him, as the odour of the fragrant incense to the nostril.
III. THE ACCOMPANIMENTS AND RESULTS OF THE GOSPEL TRIUMPH. These are twofold and opposed.
1. To the perishing the ministry is a sentence of death. Some captives were taken aside and put to death in cold blood as the procession approached the Capitoline hill. The incense to such was deadly - an odour premonitory of a violent and miserable death. Thus the proclamation of the gospel, in itself an unspeakable blessing, is actually the occasion of the condemnation of unbelievers, who reject and despise it.
2. To those in course of salvation the ministry is a message of life. Welcome and pleasant alike to God and man, the glad tidings of redemption tell of life to those whose desert is death. A welcome and delightful fragrance to the saved, it promises participation in the glorious victory and the eternal reign of the Divine Redeemer. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.