2 Corinthians 2:12-17

ProvidenceWhen I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 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.

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.


  • Paul had no peace in Traos even though God had opened a door for him to preach.
  • Paul had no peace in Traos because Titus was not there.
  • Paul left Traos and went to Macedonia.
  • Paul left Traos even though God had opened a door for him to preach.
  • God leads us as the Romans lead captive slaves in their triumphal procession.
  • God used Paul and his party to spread the aroma of knowledge of God everywhere.
  • Paul and his party were different types of aroma to both those being saved and those perishing.
    • to those being saved – pleasant, life giving.
    • to those perishing – unpleasant smell of death.
  • Paul did not peddle the word of God for a profit.
  • There were those who did peddle the word of God for a profit.
  • Paul was commissioned by God.
  • God knows Paul spoke in Christ.


Titus was not in Troas as Paul had expected. This caused Paul a great deal of anguish. He had sent Titus to Corinth and was excepting a report back from him about the state of the Corinthian church. Even though Paul had opportunities in Troas and might have done a lot of good there, he left and went to Macedonia looking for Titus.

Here is evidence of a strong attachment and concern for the Corinthian church. Paul could not rest until he knew about them. Even when a great opportunity presented itself, Paul’s heart was concerned about the Corinthians.

If Paul was so concerned about the Corinthians why did he delay going to Corinth? He did not want to go to them until he had learned their condition. As a result, he came to them later than he had promised. His delay was not due to forgetfulness, fickleness or uncaring. The delay was to benefit the Corinthians.

Why would Paul leave Troas, particularly when doors were opening to him and he was able to preach the gospel? It appears that Paul had erred. Isn’t the opening of a door is evidence of a divine call? The answer is that Paul was not confined or bound to one church but rather to many churches all at the same time. Further he had a connection to the church at Corinth. He had a duty to aid it.

It is only reasonable that Paul would regard a church he founded and ministered with singular affection. Just as today it is our duty to promote the welfare of the whole Church and be concerned for the entire body and yet we all have a closer connection with our own church.

Paul gives praise to God for His sovereignty and providence. Verse 14 is not a verse you will hear preached much in our culture today. But with Paul we can thank God for His benevolent providence. We claim an independence from God. The Armenian view is that we are not slaves. And of course our culture finds the whole idea that we are lead around like a possession offensive.

Paul finds no offense in this. In fact he finds reason to rejoice. Yes, Paul sees himself a slave to God. But being a slave to God is not something to be shunned. When Roman generals would return from battle they would hold a parade. They would show off the prizes of their conquest. Part of that would be the captives parading behind the chariots. That is the illusion Paul is making. God is the triumphant King.

Paul sees himself as part of God’s procession. The difference though is this is not bad news for the captive. It is not even good news. It is great news. Paul, God’s former enemy, is excited. He is more than a captive. He is one who participates in the blessings of the King’s victory. That is the type of slave I want to be, one who is captured only to be given the riches of the kingdom.

As the Roman city would prepare for the parade they would spread perfume and flowers to disguise the smell to the captives. The captives would stink with the odor of death and defeat. To keep the city from smelling like the captives the city would cover it with pleasant odors.

Paul builds on this. We play both roles, the role of sweet aroma and stench. The message of the Gospel is life to the elect. To those who reject the Gospel, their rejection only further condemns them.

The Gospel is preached for salvation: that is why it is preached. But believers alone are partakers of salvation. The Gospel also condemns unbelievers — that arises from their own fault. “Christ came not into the world to condemn the world,” (John 3:17,) without Christ, all men are condemned.

This teaching is remarkable. No matter how our preaching and service to God is received by others, our preaching is pleasing to God. Even though all do not respond to the Gospel’s call. God is glorified even in when the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin for those who reject it.

Finally, Paul condemns those who preach the gospel or teach Christianity only as a means to make a living. Paul is not claiming those who minister to us should not be paid. In 1 Corinthians 16:10-11, he tells the Corinthians to help Timothy. Paul is addressing the motive or heart of those who are preaching solely as a means to make a living. Paul’s goal was not personal benefit or financial reward, but the glory of God.

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