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. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 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 Corinthians 2:14-17 ESV
The Roman triumphal procession was well known in Paul’s time. The triumphal procession came after the victory – it was the returning emperor showing to all his power, glory and victory. It was the biggest boldest statement of triumph that he could make: look at my victory, look at what I’ve done!
When Paul stops to consider his own calling and commission he sees it is these terms. He isn’t fighting for victory, he isn’t hoping to win. The victory has been accomplished, Paul is announcing that victory to the world. Paul is pointing to Jesus Christ, to his death and resurrection and ascension as the victory. The battle is won and Christ is victorious. And so, as we share the Gospel, we are sharing the Good News of this victory and what it means, and displaying it to the world. This is our ‘triumphal procession’.
The triumphal procession was good news for the victor and for his followers, but it was bad news for the enemy. Often the defeated enemies were taken as captives and displayed for all to see in the triumphal procession – evidence of the victory, the spoils of war! In Ephesians 4:8 we are told that Jesus when he ascended to heaven took ‘captives captive’ – the enemy was defeated and taken. It’s past tense, a done deal. This is good news for those who are on Christ’s side; it’s already bad news for those who are enemies of Christ. I think that in 2 Corinthians Paul has in mind Satan, whose plans he has just referred to prior to these verses. They enemy is defeated and captured. This triumphal message of the Gospel is a life and death matter.
One thing that the Gospel message isn’t is insignificant. We’re not just another group trying to sell our wares, to gain some traction for a set of ideas or ideals in the marketplace of life. We’re not pedlars, we’re following the victor in the triumphal procession. As such we are commissioned directly by God and speak first and foremost before God in Jesus Christ. We are sincere communicators of the most stunning news this world has ever heard or will hear!
Paul and the Corinthians lived in a culture where to be a Christian was to be ridiculed and possibly persecuted. We live in a generation in which more and more we are being ridiculed for ‘believing in all that junk’. How can rational people take it seriously? The temptation is to retreat into justifying our beliefs, in trying to explain the reasonableness of our faith. This is allowing fear of others to trump our fear of God and our understanding of what is actually happening in this universe.
So, there is to be no fear in the proclamation, no cause to excuse repeating God’s dogmatism. Repeating truth is simply that: the sincere and honest announcement of the incredible victory won at the cross when Jesus Christ died for our sins and was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead.
This is no insignificant thing!