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The Triumph & Sweet Fragrance of the Gospel
by Fred G. Zaspel
“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. For we are to God the aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.To the one we are the smell of
death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:14-16)
Notice the exciting terms Paul uses here to describe the gospel enterprise. First, he presents it as irresistibly
advancing. The conquering Christ is successful in making captives for his own name’s sake. Despite its many temporary
frustrations - so many of which seem at the moment to be insurmountable! - the cause of the gospel is not in doubt. Christ is
fulfilling his mission sovereignly and successfully.
Next, Paul likens this gospel advance to a Roman triumphus (“triumph”) in which a victorious general, returning
home along with his proud soldiers, would lead in a triumphal procession - a victory parade, if you will. Following along behind
him were the disgraced prisoners of war who were thus exposed to public ridicule. We cannot press all the details of the
metaphor, and it is difficult to know whether the apostles (and, thus, all Christians) are being presented as the rejoicing
soldiers who share in the benefits of Christ’s victory (cf. Rom 8:37) or the willing captives who count it a privilege to be part
of God’s “triumph” (cf. Rom 1:1; Col 4:10). In either case, the metaphor is powerfully suggestive in this respect: “Christ
undertook a battle not rightly his; we share in a triumph not rightly ours” (Murray Harris, Commentary on 2 Corinthians).
Finally, Paul describes this gospel advance as spreading a fragrant aroma wherever it goes. The assumption, of
course, is that this world just doesn’t smell very good. Bluntly, it stinks with sin. But as the gospel of Christ makes its
advance, God spreads far and wide the fragrant knowledge of himself in his Son (Col. 2:2-3).
What an exciting picture of the gospel enterprise! It is irresistibly triumphant, and it beautifies the world. This is the
privilege of the work of evangelism. As we spread the good news of Christ we participate in an endeavor that smells good to
God and is destined to succeed! Here is motivation to gospel work indeed.