II Corinthians is a fascinating letter because it is so personal. We learn a great deal about Paul himself in this epistle as he defends his apostolic ministry. We unmistakably see that suffering usually accompanies faithful gospel proclamation. From beginning to end, this letter is stuffed with valuable information related to our missions effort today (for the first post in this series, please click here).
Is there a key passage? I don’t know that I would call the most important, but 2:14-17 stands out as key. Paul writes:
“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.”
What can we learn from these verses?
1. God deserves all thanks for the victory.
Paul understands that it is God alone who deserves the thanks in the missions effort. Although Paul goes through much suffering and would be considered a “loser” by the world’s standards, God makes Paul’s efforts successful. Paul in this passage describes God leading them in “triumphal procession,” as if in a victory parade. When we read the book of Acts we see this again and again. God deserves praise for anything positive that comes about when we share the good news. Toward the end of the passage Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The unstated answer is obvious: God.
2. God spreads his fragrance to both those accepting and rejecting him.
Paul understands that it is ultimately God who spreads the gospel everywhere. Although Paul is used as a vessel, it is God who makes it happen. The apostles are pictured here those used by God as spreaders of a fragrance/aroma. As a smell permeates a room, the gospel permeates wherever it goes. Acceptance of the fragrance brings eternal life while rejection means continued eternal death.
3. Our duty is to sincerely proclaim on person: Christ.
In defending his apostleship, Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that he never asked them for money. He did not “peddle” the gospel. Instead, he and his companions lived in sincerity in Corinth, speaking of one person – Jesus Christ. As we read in I Cor. 2:2, Paul, “…decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Putting it all together, we see that God deserves thanks and praise for his victory in spreading the fragrance of his glorious gospel to the lost. Some will accept to life, while others will reject to death. Our duty is a simple one: sincerely live and proclaim Christ.
Previous posts in this series:
Missions in Matthew
Missions in Mark
Missions in Luke
Missions in John
Missions in Acts
Missions in Romans
Missions in I Corinthians