2 Corinthians 2:17


Thursday, 25 June 2015

For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:17

Paul’s words in this verse reflect a horrifying truth concerning false teachers; they were present even at this extremely early point in church history. He has to actually contrast himself to them because of their numbers which are hoi polloi – “the many.” In other words, the majority of those proclaiming the word of God were hucksters. It should be noted though that this could be anyone proclaiming portions of the Jewish canon because this was “the word of God” at that time. The New Testament didn’t yet exist.

Therefore, they could intentionally be proclaiming Christ incorrectly, proclaiming a false Christ, or they could otherwise be engaged in some misuse of the Scriptures which existed. And the reason for this type of misuse of Scripture was because there was profit in it. They were “peddling the word of God” The word used here is kapéleuó. It is found only here in the New Testament and it means “properly, to act as an unscrupulous merchant, i.e. ‘a huckster‘ who profits by ‘peddling the Word of God’ for personal gain.”

Involvement in religion has always been an easy way to benefit off of others. If someone is an eloquent orator, a smart businessman, or a cunning deceiver, he can make a great deal off a religious presentation. This is because a desire to know more about such things is instilled in all of us. If the right buttons are pushed, the cash will generally flow out from the target with ease.

However, there is a contrast to this which is teaching the word of God out of “sincerity.” Paul notes that this was the intent of himself and those with him. They determined to teach “as from God.” This means of teaching is often far less rewarding from a monetary standpoint because it involves an effort in thinking that most don’t want to engage in. Proper theology is actually hard work for an individual to assimilate. Most people would rather be taught what to believe and then follow through with that belief regardless of its truth because it is easier to swallow and often goes down smoothly.

Paul wanted nothing of this. Instead he said that “we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” He knew to whom he was accountable and he feared what not speaking the truth meant. Others, lacking a fear in the true God, said what tickles the ear because it was easy, profitable, and bore the ability to wield control over others. Paul, being “in Christ,” rather determined to preach the truth of God in a sincere fashion, knowing that there was a greater reward ahead for both himself and for those whom he instructed.

Life application: Unfortunately, great orators often gain large audiences regardless whether they actually teach the word of God in truth or not. If they sound authoritative, they can pretty much say anything and reap a great harvest of very poor grain. It is up to each person to be discerning and to study and show himself approved concerning what is assimilated into his repository of accumulated theology.

Heavenly Father, it seems that too many preachers have found a niche in the world through great oration, flashy presentation, or charming manners. And yet, an evaluation of what they say to the people leaves much to be desired in the area of sincerity concerning Your word. It breaks my heart to see people follow after untruths which sound good, but which are incorrect. And so Lord, I would ask You to open the minds and hearts of Your people to be diligent in checking what they hear and sticking closely to what You have laid out for us in Your superior word. Amen.



2 Corinthians 2:16


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:16

Paul just noted that the apostles (meaning the message they carried) are “to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Expanding on that, he gives a contrast as to how this fragrance is received. He says that, “To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death.” In Greek, it reads ek thanatou eis thanaton – “from death to death.”

The state of the unregenerate is already death. This is because “the wages of sin is death” and “all have sinned.” Those who reject the gospel message do so from death to death. There can be no life for someone who is already dead and who has chosen the path of death by rejecting Christ. Therefore, Paul equates the fragrant message of Christ as the aroma which a prisoner headed to death would smell. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“Some find here an allusion to a revolting feature of the Roman triumph. Just as the procession was ascending the Capitoline Hill, some of the captive chiefs were taken into the adjoining prison and put to death. ‘Thus the sweet odors which to the victor – a Marius or a Julius Caesar – and to the spectators were a symbol of glory and success and happiness, were to the wretched victims – a Jugurtha or a Vercingetorix – an odor of death’ (Farrar).”

This same type of terminology has been noted among the rabbis as well. It is obviously a universally understood concept then. People of all cultures know that death is the end. Most cultures believe in an afterlife that must somehow be merited. Therefore, if the way of merit is not attained, then there is only death leading to death. Thankfully for the Christian, there is an absolute assurance which is found nowhere else. It is “to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”

For the one who reaches out and receives the fragrant aroma of the gospel message, it is ek zoes eis zoen – “from life to life.” The Source of life is found in the gospel message which centers on Jesus Christ. When that life is received in an animated being, he moves to the life which is true life. The spiritual reconnection to God is made and eternal life is granted. It is more than a hope, but it is rather a certain, present, and guaranteed reality.

Paul finishes the verse with the sobering words, “And who is sufficient for these things?” He asks this rhetorically as a way of showing the immense responsibility laid upon the one who shares the gospel message. It is a two-edged sword which will lead some to life and some to death. The words when transmitted will lead to either eternal life or eternal damnation. Who would take such a responsibility lightly? Who would even be willing to speak such words, knowing what the result could be? Paul implies here that it is the grace of God alone which enabled him to pronounce the eternal destiny-deciding words.

Life application: We have all been asked to share the message of Christ, either in word or in action. As our lives are to be a gospel message in and of themselves, let us walk soberly and consider that when we fail to responsibly reflect Christ to others, it may be to them the fragrance of death leading to death. How great is our responsibility then!

Heavenly Father, others are evaluating a relationship with Christ based on my actions. Should I present myself other than a faithful, trustworthy, and fully dedicated follower of You, then I may be the very reason that they never receive Jesus as their Savior. If this is the case, then how terrifying a thing will then occur? They will have gone from death leading to death because of my irresponsible actions. Help me to live my life and calling in a manner which would be above such an occurrence. Help me in this O God. Amen.



2 Corinthians 2:15


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15

In the previous verse, Paul spoke of himself and the other ministers of Christ saying that He “…as through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” Building upon that, he now states that “we are to God the fragrance of Christ.” Their ministry is what diffuses “the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” God has chosen to use fallible humans to carry the infallible message of His Son to the people of the world.

In this, the fragrance goes forth as God purposes. The imagery is that of the streets of Rome after a triumph had been realized for the empire. The air would be filled with the fragrance of incense as the victors proceeded through the streets. However, there is another part of the scene that the world saw. Not only would the victors walk in their uniforms with their heads held high, but following them would be the vanquished foes. They would be captives taken as slaves or for display in the Coliseum where they would be put to death. The same fragrance would go forth to both, but the effect upon them would be completely different in its reception.

This fragrance of Christ then diffuses “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” In Paul’s words is an inescapable truth. Some will be saved and some will perish. The gospel is the standard by which this will come about. Those who receive Christ will be the victors and to them the sweet fragrance is that of life and salvation. Those who reject Christ will be the vanquished. Among them that sweet fragrance will be a testimony against them that death, banishment from the presence of God, and eternal punishment will be the result.

Life application: In today’s pluralistic world, people teach that there are many ways to God and that salvation can mean a host of things. Instead of following what God has said in His word, they make stuff up that sounds good and they run with it. But such a message has no true pleasing fragrance. The incense has been tainted with untruth and it only carries the smell of death. There is but one way to be saved – through Jesus Christ, and that salvation carries with it an ultimate truth – reconciliation with God by the putting away of sin. There is no other way, so accept the gospel, be saved, and be a victor through the work of Christ.

Heavenly Father, You word says that there is but one way to be reconciled to You. Apart from receiving Jesus Christ, no person can be saved. I believe this message and it is my desire to continue to proclaim it, even to death itself. Governments or false religions can take my life, but they can never exterminate my faith in Jesus Christ. I stand on the gospel because it is the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  Amen.



2 Corinthians 2:14


Monday, 22 June 2015

 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul, in what is not uncommon in his writings, breaks into a shout of joy as he considers the situation. He lets out a resounding “Now thanks be to God.” This is based on several key points which came to a confluence in his life at the same time.

First, he had finally met up with Titus. Second, because he had heard the good news from Titus about the positive status of the Corinthian church. And third, he was overwhelmed with the great abundance that came about from his visit to the Macedonian churches concerning a gift for the church in Jerusalem. These points won’t be seen until chapters 7 and 8, but Paul hints on them now before addressing many important issues. He will return to these thoughts though and give them in detail at that time.

For these things, he sent his thanks “to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” The word for “leads us in triumph” is thriambeúō. It is used only one other time in the NT, in Colossians 2:15 and it means “properly, to display triumph openly; publically exalting the victor who leads a victory-procession – and putting the conquered on display.”

Scholars and translators vary on how to render this. It could either be something like “causes us to triumph in Christ,” or “leads us in triumph in Christ.” The two are vastly different and yet either could be deduced from the surrounding text. However, the fact that the surrounding issues were handled by the Lord, even directed by Him, it would make sense to say that it is He who leads us in triumph. Because of this, it is He who “through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge and power in every place.”

As He leads us in triumph, our lives are used to diffuse what we know of Him to others. The idea of “fragrance” is used by Paul elsewhere to indicate the offering of Christ Himself for us (Ephesians 5:2) and of a gift that was sent to Paul (Philippians 4:18). The intent of this “fragrance” is that it permeates all things and is pleasing in and of itself. Therefore, like incense, the “knowledge and power” of Christ is diffused through the disciples of Christ to the glory of God.

Life application: Paul takes time to weave the difficulties of His life into larger pictures of God’s obvious hand in them by bringing them together not for greater difficulty, but for overall benefit. If we can overlook the small difficulties in our lives and see how they all actually turn out for a greater benefit, then we can truly rest in the fact that God has it all under control. Let us learn from the Bible that there is a good end and God is working towards it, even through our failings, faults, and trials.

Heavenly Father, it is more than wonderful to know that the times of trial and difficulty I face are actually being used for a good end. I can look at the lives of great men like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul and I can see that even though they faced immense trials, each was a part of a greater whole which was being used for a very good end. As this is so with them, and as I am Your child through faith in Jesus, then it must be true with me too. Thank You for this certain knowledge as I face the times of trial which come my way! Amen.



2 Corinthians 2:13


Sunday, 21 June 2015

I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:13

In the previous verse, Paul mentioned his arrival in Troas for the purpose of transmitting the gospel. While there he noted that “a door was opened to me by the Lord.” However and despite this, he says he “had no rest” in his spirit. The thing that usually brought him the greatest joy was telling others the news of Christ. He worked tirelessly in this and took every advantage of it. And yet, even with a door wide open before him to walk through and share the news, he was in anguish to hear about the state of affairs at Corinth.

He then notes the reason behind the anguish. It was “because I did not find Titus my brother.” It is apparent that the two had intended to meet up and either he was late in arriving, Titus was late in arriving, or circumstances had changed Titus’ original plans. It was Titus who would carry news about the affairs at Corinth, but for whatever reason, he now had no way of hearing how things had transpired there. And so he left this great field of harvest at Troas in order to hopefully find Titus in Macedonia.

The entire thought is one which shows the immense care that Paul felt for this church which he was so closely tied to. It was a burden that he felt for all of his children-churches, so much so that he almost couldn’t endure not knowing how they were faring in their lives and doctrine. The same general sentiment that is expressed now towards Corinth is also seen in his first letter to the Thessalonians –

“For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.” 1 Thessalonians 3:5

We are shown in these letters of Paul that sometimes correcting doctrine of current believers is to be considered on the same level as evangelizing new ones. The importance of correct doctrine for believers is because if they get off course, then those whom they evangelize will never come to know the truth of the gospel message. Paul felt this burden in the most intense way.

Life application: There are only so many hours in a day and there are only so many avenues we can pursue with this small amount of time we have been given. Let us make sound choices as to where we will focus our attention, redeeming the time as best we can.

Lord, I know that there are only so many hours in a day. How will I use them to most effectively serve You? Help me to be wise and discerning about events as they unfold before me and to prioritize them to be the most advantageous for Your kingdom. Let me not be slack in my efforts to bring the good news to those around me and to minister to those who reach out concerning whatever needs they face. I guess what I am asking Lord is for You to direct my steps according to Your wisdom and not mine. Amen.