2005-04-24 — Our Triumphal Procession In Christ

Easter 4:
Date: April 24, 2005

Theme: Our Triumphal Procession In Christ

Relying on the gospel:
1. We do not lose heart,
2. We are the fragrance of Christ,
3. We are sufficient.
– 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

– Ude, John

Cached Video:

The Order of Worship:

Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.

Hymns:

TLH 344 : Come, Let us Join our Cheerful Songs Hymnary.org link
TLH 648 : I Am Jesus' Little Lamb Hymnary.org link
TLH 47 : Savior Again to Thy Dear Name Hymnary.org link

Theme: Our Triumphal Procession In Christ

Relying on the gospel:
1. We do not lose heart,
2. We are the fragrance of Christ,
3. We are sufficient.

2 Corinthians 2:12-17

Triumph in Christ

12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 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. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 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. (ESV)

Sermon: 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

In the Name of Jesus April 27, 2005
The Roman General who had led a victorious campaign was received at Rome with a Triumph procession. The ladies of Rome decorated the victors with garlands of flowers, burning large quantities of incense, so everything overflowed with sweet aromas. Paul applies this in our text to: Our Triumphal Procession In Christ. Relying on the gospel: 1) We do not lose heart, 2)We are the fragrance of Christ, 3) We are sufficient.
We have been studying the overwhelming problems in the Corinthian congregation: the lifting up of man’s wisdom over the cross of Christ, the attack on Paul and his ministry, the loveless divisions, the arrogant exaltation of individuals and even a case of incest. In Ephesus where he wrote 1 Corinthians, he endured a city-wide riot against the gospel. He heard the Corinthian’s response to his letter was not a complete following of Christ. In his concern for them Paul was planning to go to Corinth as soon as he could but, unable to leave Ephesus immediately, he had sent Titus and another message ahead seeking to turn them back to Christ. Yet our text refers to the fact that Titus had not returned when expected. Paul was so distressed by all of this he didn’t wait any longer but set off to try to meet Titus along the way. When he got to Troas and Titus hadn’t even made it there, Paul was completely dismayed. Can you see Paul pacing up and down at the boat docks? Where is Titus? What is keeping him? Are the Corinthians unwilling to listen to God’s Word? His anxiety level was so high that even when a door was opened to share the gospel of Christ, Paul’s greatest delight, his spirit was so restless he departed into Macedonia to find Titus and get to Corinth. Despite our Lord’s invitation to lay our anxieties and concerns on Him, we also become restless with worries, don’t we? And when we face such problems as Paul did, especially at church, it’s easy to lose heart. Did Paul? No, in his anxieties he remembers that the gospel ministry is a continual parade of triumph. V.14 “Thanks be to God, the One Who is always leading us in a parade of triumph in Christ and the One Who is revealing the sweet fragrance of His knowledge through us in every place.” Paul takes heart in the assurance that in Jesus death and resurrection we are in the triumph procession of eternity. So though he must keep praying that the Corinthian’s do not forsake the gospel’s triumph, he knows the gospel will not fail. In that Roman triumph parade, the same sweet fragrance filled all the air but for the conquered captives, who were led in chains along the triumph to be executed at its close, it was an aroma of shame and death. Like Paul we may be anxious about loved ones or congregational members failing to follow Christ. Do we so lose heart that we give up on them or quit trusting the gospel? Are we even tempted to take their side, “Yeah, a romp in the mud with the pigs won’t matter,” or “God’s Word really isn’t clear on this and other things are more important, the gospel fragrance really isn’t that sweet?” No, we continually rejoice in the sweet fragrance of the gospel victory: “Christ died to forgive your sins, Christ arose to declare you righteous. Repent and believe for following Christ Heaven is open and waiting for you.” The distress of life may so dismay us that we are pacing the docks. But with Paul, even in the midst of overwhelming problems, we do not lose heart but deeply inhale the sweet fragrance of the gospel’s triumphant procession in Christ.
In that triumphal procession, our text says, we are the fragrance of Christ. What a wonderful assurance the Spirit thus brings us. Your work for Christ is always a sweet-smelling fragrance to the LORD. Children your daily chores done for Christ are a sweet-smelling fragrance to the LORD. Parents all your attempts to raise your children with love and discipline for Christ are a sweet-smelling fragrance to the LORD. All your prayers and songs done for Christ are a sweet-smelling fragrance to the LORD. A member of a congregation that I formerly served asked me, “Since our hearts are always impure, how can I know if I am really doing anything for Christ?” If we were to look at ourselves, the fragrance is an overpowering stench. For if we honestly examine ourselves we must recognize that often our desires and actions are for me not for Christ. And even when we want to show our thankful love for Jesus, there’s that lingering motive of how it’ll be advantageous for me, the subconscious concern about how I will look, and the pausing in front of the mirror to admire and boast of what I have done. Our attempts to raise our children for Him are so easily contaminated with the selfish disgust that shouts and punishes in angry resentment because of how the actions affect me or reflect on me. Even our offerings to Jesus are often contaminated with the selfish wish to give only what’s left over from my needs rather than honoring the LORD with the firstfruits, the selfish resentment that gives out of compulsion, or the pride that exalts in what I’ve done. Paul did not tell us to look at our self to determine if we are the fragrance of Christ. V. 14 our triumph is in Christ. He diffuses His fragrance through us. Only His righteousness makes any of our actions a sweet-smelling fragrance to the LORD. Believing on Him for grace brings us into the triumphal procession with Christ, where everything we do according to His will is producing the sweet-smelling fragrance of Christ. This reference to the sweet-smelling fragrance ties the Roman victory triumph to the Old Testament sacrifices (Ex 29:18, Lev. 1:9,13,17, Gen. 8:21) which were all fulfilled for us in Christ’s death for our sins. Even when men conclude that other things are more important than Christ, the gospel fragrance really isn’t that sweet,” the gospel still remains a sweet-smelling sacrifice to the LORD. V. 16 To be sure to some it is a fragrance out of death into death but to others a fragrance out of life into life. The fragrance, the message is the same for all. Those rejecting it smell their own death. But how easily we fall back into that stinking pit of death where, “my needs are more important than others, my delight is in other’s failures, and my joy to tell ’em off.” But no matter how much corruption fills our nostrils, the gospel is able to lift us up through repentance unto life, complete life. Christ nailed all your sins to the cross and arose from death with life for us. So Eph. 5:2 tells us Christ’s sacrifice is our sweet-smelling fragrance to God “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.” And Phil.4:18 demonstrates that through faith in Him everything we do for Jesus is “a sweet-smelling fragrance an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Inhale deeply the gospel’s triumphant procession in Christ.
“And who,” V. 16 b Paul adds, “is sufficient for these things?” With his own self and ministry under attack, Paul probably smelled his own sinful response too well. His natural response was to exalt himself, his preeminence, teaching, oratory and skills just as the self described “super apostles” at Corinth were doing. But this he declar
es would be selling out the gospel, peddling the word of God. Unfortunately if you are home on Sunday morning you can turn on almost any channel and see a multitude of such hucksters, peddling the gospel for their personal profit. And many who are sincere still undermine the gospel by using “tricks of the trade” to get people to support the gospel. This adulterating of the gospel is much more dangerous than any tavern keeper using tricks: providing salty food to make people more thirsty, misrepresenting products or any other huckstering of things.Rejecting all such peddling the Word of God, Paul presents the faithful gospel ministry in four phrases: V. 17b “in sincerity, from God, in His presence, and in Christ.” Daily the bright light of the gospel is to drive out the selfish motives lurking in the dark shadows so that we minister in sincere love for the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed” (Rom. 1:16). Such sincerity speaks from God. For Jer. 23 declares “let him speak My word, for what is the chaff to the wheat.” Our sufficiency speaks in His presence. More is implied here than that He is ever present to judge our ministry. He is present always (Mt. 28:18) with divine power to effect faith through the hearing of the word. Gospel sufficiency is not dependent then upon marketing salesmanship, worldly enticements, or external pressures but on the power of God that raises the dead (1:9,10). And finally our sufficiency is in Christ. Paul I Cor. 2:2 determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In the midst of every trouble we are to remain in Christ. This gospel sufficiency won the victory over the super apostles, the Judaizers, every trouble in Paul’s day and will in ours. Deeply inhale the sweet fragrance of the gospel’s triumphant procession in Christ. Amen.