Despite hardships, the gospel of Christ was spread throughout by the apostles that were commissioned by Jesus. This gospel was not always received the same way by all. Some embraced it and some rejected it even to the point of persecuting those that were spreading it. In this passage below, we will see how Paul speaks directly to this issue of the same gospel being a smell of death to those that reject it (the perishing) and smell of life to those who are being saved. Paul concludes this passage by referring to false preachers who used the gospel to enrich themselves.
2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (ESV Strong’s)
Preaching of the Gospel hindered by Paul’s Great Concern for His Brother
12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
Paul came to Troas to come and preach the gospel but when he got there, his spirit was not at rest. The reason being that he did not find his brother Titus as he expected or wished. For this reason, he left Troas and went to Macedonia. He left Troas despite the Lord having opened opportunities for him to preach. This means he was truly concerned. This is obviously on the background of the kind of persecution/hardships that they were facing. Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:22-23 (ESV), that reconciliation with a brother was more important than offering a gift at the altar which is a form of worship. Paul has also always shown a concern for a fellow brother, see 1 Cor 8 and Romans 14.
Thankfulness despite Hardship
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Despite this great concern that Paul had for Titus, he still found a reason to be thankful to God, in fact two reasons.
God gives Us Victory over Hardships
Paul thanks God who through the relationship that they have with Jesus Christ, always leads them in triumphal procession. I take this pronoun “them” to mean those who are in Christ and those who serve Christ. Paul most likely has in mind a victory parade that the Roman generals used to do leading their troops after a victory. Paul likewise sees the sovereign God who despite current hardships that they faced, always in Christ gives them victory over them. He sees Jesus as leading this victory parade. This is obviously on the backdrop of his great concern for Titus who he did not find in Troas. So, Paul finds comfort in that despite whatever hardships they face, whatever hardship his brother might have faced or is facing, God in Jesus always makes them overcome and gives them victory.
God Spreads the Gospel of Christ Through Us
Paul also thanks God for spreading what he calls as the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere through them. Clearly by this fragrance Paul refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul thanks God for making known the gospel of Christ through them. Take note that it is God who spreads the gospel through them and Paul acknowledges this.
15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
Paul then gives us two reasons why God is using them to spread the gospel everywhere.
1. A life that is Pleasing to God, is used by God to preach the Gospel of Christ
Paul says that God spreads the gospel through them because they are the aroma of Christ to Him. By this Paul means that the kind of life that they live and the kind of servanthood that they have shown for Christ, is pleasing to God. In other words, the kind of life that they are living in totality, shows that they are living as those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that, is pleasing to God. This is one reason why God is using them to spread the gospel.
The ones being Saved and the Perishing
Paul therefore says that their lives are pleasing to God and can be seen among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. Take note that Paul is speaking about those who are being saved, in a passive voice, meaning that they are not saving themselves but rather are being saved. On the other hand, Paul is speaking about the perishing in a middle voice, meaning that those that are perishing are actively involved in the reason why they are perishing. It is not God who is causing them to perish, they are doing it themselves and for themselves. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul describes the perishing as those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved.
The Smell of Death and the Smell of Life
Paul continues to liken the gospel of Christ to a smell that each person will smell differently. He says the gospel is the smell of death to the perishing and the smell of life to the ones being saved. In other words, those that accept this gospel message receives life and those that reject it, are condemned to perish. Jesus said in John 3:18 that whoever does not believe is condemned already.
Paul then concludes with a question of who is capable of doing such a job of preaching the gospel which has these kinds of outcomes, except one who is commissioned by God.
17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
2. A life of honesty and integrity, is used by God to spread the Gospel of Christ
The second reason why God uses Paul and them to spread the gospel is that, unlike those who use the gospel to get rich, they on the other hand are men of sincerity, are commissioned by God and speak in Christ with God watching what they preach. They are honest people full of integrity. They have been appointed by God and they preach knowing that god is watching what they say.
We have a lot of men and women these days who claim to be commissioned by God who are not sincere and use the gospel for personal enrichment.
Paul was very much concerned about his brother Titus. This concern led him to leave Troas where he expected to find him and go to Macedonia. Despite this concern, Paul thanked God always despite hardships that they are going through and that Titus might be going through, for always giving them victory over these hardships. He also thanked God for the privilege of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through them. Paul continued to say that God uses those whose life is pleasing to Him and are sincere to spread the gospel. God commissions preachers Himself and preachers must always preach knowing that God is watching how they perform the work that they have been given.
- How concerned are you about your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
- How thankful are you to God especially for helping you overcome hardships?
- Is your life the kind of life God can Use?
- How does the Gospel smell to you: Smell of death or smell of life?
- Are you a pastor/preacher? If so, are you sincere knowing that God is watching you or are you in it for money?