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.…
The immediate occasion of St. Paul's expressing this sentiment was the glad tidings which he had received of the Church at Corinth, together with the door opened to him of the Lord at Troas.
I. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER'S TRIUMPH.
1. The idea of a triumph implies that there has been a conquest achieved; surely the success of the gospel of Christ has now, as well as in the days of St. Paul, the best title to this distinction. We have not now, indeed, like the apostles, to resist the authority of learning and rank, but we have still the ignorant and obdurate heart of man to conquer; we have still to cope with the love of the world, the dominion of passion, and the force of evil customs; we have still to subdue the pride and presumption of men, and to induce them to be saved by faith in the death and sacrifice of Christ. The drunkard is to be made sober, the unjust righteous. And is there no triumph in accomplishing this?
2. We admit, indeed, that to the eye of sense there appears no splendour in achieving these victories.
3. But still, to the eye of piety and faith, there was, amidst all, a triumph. The very external ignominy, sufferings, and infirmities of the apostle, contrasted with the effects of his preaching on the hearts and lives of men, would only the more illustrate the surprising victory of the grace of God.
4. And in cases of remarkable revivals of religion, when the Word of God runs more rapidly and is glorified, may not the language of the text be applied in a still more full and appropriate sense? Is not this a magnificent triumph?
5. This triumph is described in the text to be in Christ, and that because it is gained entirely by His grace. It is not natural reason or the power or skill of the minister which can change a single heart.
6. It is also in Him because it is gained by His doctrine, and by that only. It is not by enticing words of man's wisdom, but by plainly exhibiting the simple truths of redemption, that men are converted unto God.
7. It is likewise a triumph in Christ because it is effected by the means of God's appointment; not by force or persecution, but by a holy example and continual efforts and affectionate warnings and invitations addressed to the heart.
8. How superior is this triumph to every other!
II. THE SPECIAL BLESSINGS WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER COMMUNICATES. "And maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place." There is always a proportion in the Holy Scripture between the description and the importance of the thing described. No triumph, no glorying is spoken of, except the occasion justly demands it. Thus, wherever the spiritual triumph of the apostle advanced, the knowledge of Christ, like a reviving odour, was diffused around, and men were refreshed and invigorated.
1. The knowledge of Christ is the leading blessing which the gospel confers. Other truths may be necessary as introductory to it or consequent upon it, but Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, is the basis and the substance of Christian doctrine.
2. The knowledge of Christ, strictly taken, more immediately regards the Divine person and grace of Jesus Christ, His glory as the eternal, incommunicable Word, His incarnation for our redemption, His obedience, sufferings, and death.
3. But who can describe fitly the savour of this knowledge? The mystery of redemption is not a cold abstract truth, like a subtle question in metaphysics, an obscure point in chronology, or a probable fact in history. It is something infinitely greater and more interesting than all these. There is, therefore, a savour, a fragrance, an unction, so to speak, in the knowledge of Christ. These expressions imply something of delight and refreshment in the doctrine of the Saviour which it is difficult adequately to describe. As a proof of this, ask only the guilty and self-condemned penitent. He will tell you there was a savour in the knowledge of Christ which no words can express. Inquire, again, of the afflicted, tempted, and perplexed Christian. He will rejoice to acknowledge, because he will have deeply felt, its unspeakable blessedness. Or ask the expiring Christian, as he lies on the bed of death. The name of Christ is to such persons as a reviving fragrance to the faint. This language may be regarded as tinctured with enthusiasm. We admit that the corrupt moral taste of men who have never so repented of sin as to abhor it, and therefore have never comprehended this doctrine aright, can find no sweetness or refreshment in it; but the holy and enlightened mind is not to be measured by the low, defective standard which is adapted to the sensual and immoral. Thus, in natural things, disease, it is true, may vitiate the organs, and the most exquisite perfumes may become in such cases offensive.
III. THE GRATITUDE WHICH THE APOSTLE OFFERS TO GOD FOR THIS TRIUMPH. The language of the text is that of impassioned transport — "Now thanks be unto God," etc. God, in the dispensation of His grace, uses such instruments as may best illustrate His own glory. And, indeed, if the Roman conqueror in his triumph is said to have deposited his golden crown in the lap of Jupiter when he arrived at the Capitol, and to have dedicated to him a part of the spoils which he had won, much more should the apostle of Christ cast his crown at the feet of his gracious Saviour, and devote all his acquisitions to His honour. The moment the minister of Christ, unfaithful to his trust, begins to glory in himself, and to ascribe his success to the might of his own power, he may expect to be deserted by his Lord. In comparison with such a triumph he will think nothing of his labours and anxieties.
1. Let us inquire, in the first place, whether we have indeed for ourselves obeyed the gospel of Christ. Have we considered the gospel in the manner in which the text represents it? Have we understood the triumph connected with it? Have we received the knowledge of Christ which it exhibits?
2. But, further, if, as I trust is the case with many of us, we have obeyed the gospel, let us inquire whether we are habitually acting agreeably to it. Are the effects of the victory evident?
(D. Wilson, M. A.)
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.