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. 2 Cor 2:14
A triumph (Gr. θριαμβεύω) was essentially a Roman parade. In fact, you could say the Romans invented parades. After a significant military victory, the Senate would institute a triumphant procession in commemoration of the battle, and in honor of the General responsible. These parades symbolized the power of a seemingly indestructible nation.
There are over 200 historically documented Roman Triumphs. Caesar Augustus, just 12yrs before the birth of Christ had issued a particular historical undertaking called the, ‘acta triumpalia.’ This was a record of these triumphs, dating back 750 yrs. Portions of these original records in stone remain today.
The processions were 4km long, lasted 1-3 days! They included shackled enslaved, along with their family members. Senators, the spoils of war, the Roman General, Oxen to be sacrificed, and the Roman soldiers all took part in this spectacle.
The Apostle Paul knew that the Corinthians would understand the illustration. 200yrs earlier their own city was laid to waste by Rome’s General Momeus. So significant was the victory over the Corinthians that a Triumph was held in his honor. To the Romans, a grand victory – to the Corinthians, a tragic defeat.
Paul, praising God for the work of God throughout his 2nd missionary journey, despite his original plans to head elsewhere. He declares that he, the apostles and all who have been conquered by the Love of God – are now being led in Christs triumph! We’re part of the procession, manifesting an aroma of the knowledge of God in every place.
The Romans were into incense. Their pagan temples were open to the public throughout the City during a triumph and wafted their scents throughout the streets. The procession itself would often include incense bearers added to the shouts of triumph, songs and flowers lining the parade route.
God has designed to manifest, or reveal His triumph through His people. The knowledge of Jesus Christ dispels ignorance and sin. This knowledge is called the gospel and is embodied through the ones it conquers.
We were all enemies of the King. He has come, not in physical might, but restrained power. His weapon is humility and love. His sacrifice on the Cross and resurrection from the dead was a consummating triumph. He defeated death, took away it’s sting, and offers not only forgiveness and life today, but eternal hope for the future. Embrace this for your happiness and reject it for your misery.
The following verses Paul says that to some the aroma emitting from the incense bears is ‘death to death.’ For those that reject the truth that only Jesus can forgive and save, the message is a convicting, and bitter pill to swallow, reminded of their guilty state and foreshadowing their eternal condition. Like the slaves that were bound and displayed at the front of the Roman Triumph, the incense was a revolting reminder of their looming execution.
For those that surrender to God’s work, the incense is life. The message of grace and mercy is clung to with gratitude. The incense incites a joy, pointing to the King’s victory, and a future hope when all things will be reconciled.
This was the heart of my message this morning at Christian Life Church in Kiev. I found the study invigorating, and a much needed reminder that I am saved only through the victories Jesus secured. What victories they are!
15 having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Col 2:15
We enter His Triumph over sin and death through surrender, receiving the implanted Word in our hearts. We don’t influence this world through outward moralities, at least with any meaningful effect. We aren’t called to witness to Jesus through a personal showing of obedience as if our marching in His parade was of our own doing. We were enemies, and He has made us friends. We point to His Cross, not a reformed goodness.
We are invited into His great procession. We bring nothing to the dance. Jesus paid it all, and all to Him I owe. Thanks be to God who leads us in His Triumph!
Lord help us to live daily, by faith, in His Triumph. While this world wars and economies shake, let your people be incense bearers by reminding the saved and lost alike – that your victory stands and your Kingdom will not be shaken. Let us exalt our General, who led His Kingdom to victory on the Cross, and in all hearts that believe.
Peace of Christ from Ukraine!