Triumph in Christ
In Psalm 119:130 the Psalmist says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” The reference appears to be the unfolding of God's Word written on scroll from one spindle to the other.
Let’s “unfold” a passage of God’s Word found in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul says, 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Have you ever thought of your life in Christ as an aroma or fragrance? Paul uses this metaphor for the believer’s life four times in these three verses. Let’s get started with the context of these references.
In verse 14 Paul says, “14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ.” I struggle with the word “always” because it certainly seems as if there are times when a given earthly experience or season in our lives as a believer doesn't look, sound or feel like “triumph.” In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Paul speaks of his own life and calling in terms of intense labors, imprisonments, beatings, being stoned and shipwrecked, drifting in the sea all night and day, frequent journeys, being in danger from rivers and assassins, danger both in the city and the wilderness, false friends, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, exposure to the elements, and constant concern for all those he had evangelized and/or discipled.
None of that sounds like “always being led in triumph” to me. But we either take God at His Word or we don’t. We either conform our minds to the truth of what God’s Word says or we try to conform God’s Word to the false notions of our minds.
So to what is Paul referring when he says, “we are always being led in triumph”? I think it is a lifestyle of faith. It’s a faith described in Romans in 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” “All things working together for good” is an expression comparable to “always being led in triumph.” Such faith which admittedly can sometimes be unimaginably tested kept Paul assured.
I must admit that my battle with cancer (beginning in 2011 now in remission) introduced me to some “distress” that made it difficult to think of that life-changing experience as “working for my good.” Many of you have had similar and much more extreme experiences.
So, how did that work for my good?
1) Suffering can bring us/me to an even deeper understanding of the depth of Jesus’ love as demonstrated on the cross. During my days and nights of trial, one thing I was being taught to understand was how on the cross Jesus’ in extremis was brought to cry out from Psalm 22:1a, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” The rest of that verse says, “Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning” (Psalm 22:1b). If Jesus could be brought to such a place, we shouldn't ashamed to admit that we can too.
2) My suffering was a stark reminder to value my earthly life now by living in the light of heaven to come. Physical existence is frail and unpredictable under the best of circumstances. The best way to live it is as “slave to righteousness” (Romans 6:17) and in anticipation of freedom from all earthly trial in a new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-4).
3) Another thing suffering did for me was to remind that I have a “Divine Prayer Partner.” - In the verses immediately preceding Romans 8:28 Paul says, 26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” What does this mean? Apparently when I was groaning incoherently with fluctuating faith, the Third Person of The Trinity Himself was interceding for me with an understanding, an empathy, a thoroughness so deep that it became its own language of “divine groanings.”
Of what was Paul assured when he said, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ”? He was assured that he was constantly under God’s sovereign care no matter the extremity of his circumstances—including death. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Be watching for more thoughts on this passage which describes our lives as believers as “a sweet aroma of the knowledge of God in Christ.” - In the meantime let’s remember that “we are ALWAYS being led in triumph IN CHRIST. - It’s Something to Think About.
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All Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.