The Greatest Thing Happening Today2 Corinthians 2:5 – 3:18Theme: The glory of the Gospel.This week’s lessons teach us about what God is doing in the world today.
LessonIn the second section of this portion of 2 Corinthians, Paul begins to talk about his ministry. This is where he explained how he went to Troas. He was supposed to meet Titus there, but Titus didn’t come, so Paul grew restless. The Lord had opened a great door of opportunity for him, but he was still restless. He was so concerned about the Christians at Corinth that he wanted to go on. So, he left Troas. Finally, somewhere in Macedonia, Paul met Titus.
In his letter Paul explained what God had been doing in his life and the way his ministry had progressed. In doing that, he introduced a number of images. Paul apparently had seen triumphal processions where the great Roman generals would lead captives in their train following a decisive battle or conquest on the fringes of the empire. Some of those captives would be set free, while others would be executed. Paul picks up that image to explain that he is a captive to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the conquering general and he has led Paul along in his train. Paul was just going where Jesus led him, and he was delighted to do it.
Paul then mentioned an aroma–the aroma of Christ spreading among those who are perishing. He said, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Cor. 2:14).
Honesty compelled him to say that there are those who hate Christ and his kingdom. So wherever they went spreading the sweet aroma of Christ’s Gospel, there would be people who hate it. When people respond with hatred, that which should be a message of life is to them a message of death. And so, he said, we are ministers of death on one hand, and of life on the other. However, he goes on to say that the great thing is that where we go with that Gospel, God does use it to bring many to faith. Life comes, and people who were spiritually dead beforehand are made spiritually alive. Furthermore, the Corinthians were among that number.
Paul goes on to talk about some letters of recommendation. Apparently it was a problem in the church. There were people, he said, who required letters of recommendation. Perhaps Paul is referring to his enemies there at Corinth. They must have said, “Look, we come with letters of recommendation. But who’s Paul? He doesn’t have any letters of recommendation.” That’s true. Paul did not. But Paul spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And he wrote the same way. Paul was not without recommendation, however. He said that his letters of recommendation were the actual Corinthian believers because they could see in their own hearts the effect of the Gospel that he had preached to them.
Having explained that he had come as a minister of death unto death, and life unto life, those who had received the Gospel had experienced newness of life, which is to be found in Jesus Christ. So if you ask, “What are the great things that are happening today?” there it is: not only are there sinners who find forgiveness, but people who are dead in sin find newness of life.
Have you ever thought of it that way? That is the only really new thing that is happening in human history. Whatever you read in the newspapers, it is always the same thing. My father had a saying. He used to say, “It’s just the same thing happening to different people.” Have you ever thought of it that way? Pick up the newspaper, and you’ll see the same thing happening to different people every day. That is the way the news goes. History repeats itself – same problems, same sins, same discouragements, and same disappointments.
The only really new thing happening in all of history is that newness that comes from God’s Spirit in the hearts and minds of people who surrender to Jesus Christ. When God works in that way, he brings newness of life. Morality follows and all of the other blessings that come from walking in God’s way. That is what Paul is talking about. So when he speaks of his ministry, it is not in terms of how important he considers himself to be, but it is what God does through Paul, a slave, in the triumphal procession of Jesus Christ.
Why did Paul leave Troas?
What did Paul have in mind when he spoke of being led in triumphal procession?
What recommendations did Paul present to the Corinthians?
ReflectionHave you noticed the different ways that people respond when you share the Gospel? To those who are condemned, you are the aroma of their impending judgment, but to those who are God’s chosen ones, you are the sweet fragrance of God’s gift of eternal life.