2 Corinthians 2:12-17
12. Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and door was opened unto me of the Lord,
12. Porro quum venissem Troadem in Evangelium Christi; etiam ostio mihi aperto in Domino,
13. I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
13. Non habui relaxationem spiritui meo, eo quod non inveneram Titum fratrem meum; sed illis valedicens profectus sum in Macedoniam.
14. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savior of his knowledge by us in every place.
14. Deo autem gratia, qui semper triumphare nos facit in Christo; et odorem cognitionis eius manifestat per nos in omni loco.
15. For we are unto God a sweet savior of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.
15. Quia Christi suavis odor sumus Deo, in iis qui salvi fiunt, et in iis qui pereunt.
16. To the one we are the savior of death unto death; and to the other the savior of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
16. His quidem odor mortis in mortem, illis vero odor vitae in vitam; et ad haec quis idoneus?
17. For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
17. Non enim sumus quemadmodum multi, adulterantes sermonem Dei: sed tanquam ex sinceritate, tanquam ex Deo, in conspectu Dei in Christo loquimur. 1
It may seem, however, as if Paul had erred in this -- that disregarding, or at least leaving unimproved, an opportunity that was placed within his reach, he betook himself to Macedonia. "Ought he not rather to have applied himself to the work that he had in hand, than, after making little more than a commencement, break away all on a sudden in another direction?" We have also observed already, that the
Here we have a remarkable passage, by which we are taught, that, whatever may be the issue of our preaching, it is, notwithstanding, well-pleasing to God, if the Gospel is preached, and our service will be acceptable to him; and also, that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel, that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so. If, however, this is a sweet odor to God, it ought to be so to us also, or in other words, it does not become us to be offended, if the preaching of the Gospel is not salutary to all; but on the contrary, let us reckon, that it is quite enough, if it advance the glory of God by bringing just condemnation upon the wicked. If, however, the heralds of the Gospel are in bad odor in the world, because their success does not in all respects come up to their desires, they have this choice consolation, that they waft to God the perfume of a sweet fragrance, and what is to the world an offensive smell, is a sweet odor to God and angels. 13
The term odor is very emphatic. "Such is the influence of the Gospel in both respects, that it either quickens or kills, not merely by its taste, but by its very smell. Whatever it may be, it is never preached in vain, but has invariably an effect, either for life, or for death." 14 But it is asked, how this accords with the nature of the Gospel, which we shall find him, a little afterwards, calling the ministry of life? (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The answer is easy: The Gospel is preached for salvation: this is what properly belongs to it; but believers alone are partakers of that salvation. In the mean time, its being an occasion of condemnation to unbelievers -- that arises from their own fault. Thus
Christ came not into the world to condemn the world,
for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23.) He is the light of the world, (John 8:12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John 9:39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. 15 (Isaiah 8:14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, 16 and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.
It is, indeed, certain from the corresponding clause, that Paul intended to express here -- corruption of doctrine -- not as though they had revolted from the truth, but because they presented it under disguise, and not in its genuine purity. For the doctrine of God is corrupted in two ways. It is corrupted in a direct way, when it is mixed up with falsehood and lies, so as to be no longer the pure and genuine doctrine of God, but is falsely commended under that title. It is corrupted indirectly, when, although retaining its purity, it is turned hither and thither to please men, and is disfigured by unseemly disguises, by way of hunting after favor. Thus there will be found some, in whose doctrine there will be no impiety detected, but as they hunt after the applauses of the world by making a display of their acuteness and eloquence, or are ambitious of some place, or gape for filthy lucre, (1 Timothy 3:8,) or are desirous by some means or other to rise, they, nevertheless, corrupt the doctrine itself by wrongfully abusing it, or making it subservient to their depraved inclinations. I am, therefore, inclined to retain the word adulterate, as it expresses better what ordinarily happens in the case of all that play with the sacred word of God, as with a ball, and transform it according to their own convenience. 22 For it must necessarily be, that they degenerate from the truth, and preach a sort of artificial and spurious Gospel.
1 "Car nous ne sommes point comme plusieurs, corrompans la parolle de Dieu: ains nous parlons comme en purete, et comme de par Dieu, deuant Dieu en Christ, ou, Car nous ne faisons pas traffique de la parolle de Dieu, comme font plusieurs, ains nous parlons touchant Christ, ou selon Christ, comme en integrite, et comme de par Dieu, deuant Dieu;" -- "For we are not as many, corrupting the word of God; but we speak, as in purity, and as from God, before God in Christ; or, For we do not make traffic of the word of God, as many do; but we speak concerning Christ, or according to Christ, as in integrity, and as from God, before God."
2 Elsner, when commenting on 1 Corinthains 16:9, "a great door and effectual is opened," after quoting a variety of passages from Latin and Greek authors, in which a corresponding metaphor is employed, observes that Rabbinical writers employ in the same sense the term
3 "Ne refusons point de nous employer en ce que nous pourrons seruir, quand nous voyons que Dieu nous y inuite si liberalement;" -- "Let us not refuse to employ ourselves in rendering what service we can, when we see that God invites us so kindly."
4 "Fust aimee de luy d'vne affection singuliere et speciale;" -- "Should be loved by him with a singular and special affection."
5 "L'ouuerture que Dieu auoit faite;" -- "The opening that God had made."
6 "Qui triomphe tousiours de nous;" -- "Who always triumpheth over us."
8 On such occasions the legati (lieutenants) of the general, and military tribunes, commonly rode by his side. (See Cic. Pis. 25.) -- Ed.
9 "A triumph among the Romans, to which the Apostle here alludes, was a public and solemn honor conferred by them on a victorious general, by allowing him a magnificent procession through the city. This was not granted by the senate unless the general had gained a very signal and decisive victory; conquered a province, etc... The people at Corinth were sufficiently acquainted with the nature of a triumph: about two hundred years before this, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Chalcis; and, by order of the senate, had a grand triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus." -- Dr. A. Clarke. -- Ed.
10 "C'est plustot au nom de Dieu, que en leur propre nom;" -- "It is in God's name, rather than in their own."
11 "La benediction de Dieu continue sur son ministere comme on l'y auoit apperceue au commencement;" -- "The blessing of God continues upon his ministry, as they had seen it do at the beginning."
12 "Elsner and many other commentators think, with sufficient reason, that there is here an allusion to the perfumes that were usually censed during the triumphal processions of Roman conquerors. Plutarch, on an occasion of this kind, describes the streets and temples as being
13 "'We are unto God a sweet savor (or odour, rather, as the word
14 "We are the savor of death unto death. It is probable that the language here used is borrowed from similar expressions which were common among the Jews. Thus in Debarim Rabba, section. 1. fol. 248, it is said, 'As the bee brings some honey to the owner, but stings others; so it is with the words of the law.' 'They (the words of the law) are a savor of life to Israel, but savor of death to the people of this world.' Thus in Taarieth, fol. 7:1, 'Whoever gives attention to the law on account of the law itself, to him it becomes an aromatic of life,
15 "De scandale et achoppement;" -- "Of offense and stumbling."
16 "Le propre et naturel office de l'Euangile;" -- "The proper and natural office of the Gospel."
17 Among these is Chrysostom, who, when commenting upon this passage, says:
18 "Loyale et fidele Apostre;" -- "A loyal and faithful Apostle."
19 "C'est vne vertu excellente, et bien clair semee;" -- "It is a distinguished excellence, and very thin sown."
20 "Erasme l'a traduit par vn autre mot Latin que moy, qui vient d'vn mot qui signifie tauernier;" -- "Erasmus has rendered it by a Latin word different from what I have used -- derived from a word that signifies a tavern -- keeper."
21 Raphelius adduces a passage from Herodotus, (lib. in. page 225,) in which, when speaking of Darius Hystaspes, who first exacted tribute from the Persians, he says that the Persians said, "
23 Thus in Acts 17:14, we read that the brethren sent away Paul to go (
25 The expression is rendered by Dr. Bloomfield, "In the name of Christ, as his legates." -- Ed.