Note from Jesus
As Paul gets ready to talk about the new covenant of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, he pauses long enough to make an important point about his authority as My messenger. He uses the image of a conquering warrior or king returning with the spoils of war. This image includes the prisoners who follow along in the victory procession. Those who are the victors enjoy the sweet aromas of incense burned in celebration as well as the sweet smell of perfumes worn by the women welcoming their warriors home. Behind the victors came the prisoners of the defeated enemy. They were dying, on their way to death, or on their way to being imprisoned or becoming slaves.
For these vanquished warriors, an awful stench permeated everything. The horses ahead of them were defecating and urinating on the road they had to travel. Their body odor from hand-to-hand combat was awful and mingled with the dreadful smell of rotting and dying flesh from their war injuries. Mingled with all of this stench was the smell of fear which permeated their sweat as they marched in shame toward their death, imprisonment, or enslavement.
Paul uses these powerful images to talk about his authority to minister for Me. He says that I have conquered him. He has yielded his heart without reservation to serve Me and follow Me. I am the triumphant King of Kings. As a vanquished warrior, he is happy to be part of My victory procession and celebration of life. As one vanquished, he had gladly given up his old life to live a new one in subjugation to Me.
For people who do not know Me as their Lord and Savior, Paul’s voluntary service to Me seems crazy and wrong-headed and a huge waste of his life. These skeptics cannot see how surrendering to Me as Lord brings them any gain. They look on those who have yielded to Me with disdain or pity. They do not recognize the truth of what I taught My disciples in My earthly ministry:
Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”
(Luke 9:21-26 NLT)
Paul believed My promise. Paul surrendered his heart, his life, and his future to Me to do My work. Those who do not believe in Me cannot understand Paul’s behavior. However, for those who have come to love Me and who call on Me as their Lord, Paul’s service in My kingdom has the aroma of life — everlasting life that cannot be overpowered or taken away!
Paul placed himself in bondage to Me, but I empowered him and liberated him to do My work, the work he was made to do. His surrender to Me as his Lord didn’t mean that he lost out on life, but that his life was caught up into something bigger and better with a future that is forever glorious. For those who believe, Paul may have entered My triumphal procession as a captive, but he is not marching to death; he is marching to life, purpose, and triumph.
Verses to Live
Paul is open with the Corinthians about his struggles and his doubts and concerns about them. He talks about the challenges he faced in places all over the world where he served Me and My people at great risk and endured great hardships. Despite his challenges, what emerged was the life that only I can bring — meaningful life for Paul and new life for all who were impacted by his words and turned to Me! So in this letter to the Corinthians, he repeatedly focuses on the source of his sufficiency. This sufficiency was not found in himself, but in the power only I can give (2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 2 Corinthians 4:1-16; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 12:6-12). So Paul boasts in his weakness because My power is revealed in his weakness. He wants the Corinthians (and you) to know that this is truly the procession that leads to life because I am leading the procession!
When I [Paul] came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.
(2 Corinthians 2:12-17 NLT)
Response in Prayer
O Father, may my glory be the cross of Jesus and the surrender of my heart to follow Him as Lord. I know that such surrender seems silly and pitiable to some people. However, I believe that I find my greatest freedom, joy, and future in living for Jesus as My Lord. Help me keep my focus on Jesus. I ask this prayer in His name. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.