II Corinthians 2:12-17

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Text: II Corinthians 2:12-17



Sometimes we lose sight of some very important facts. Have you ever heard someone say that he can't see the forest because the trees are in the way? Sometimes also, although we remember that we are in a spiritual battle, we forget that the battle is not ours; it is the Lord's, and He simply isn't going to lose it. He may not triumph in a way we had expected, but He will triumph.

Paul was in a difficult situation for him. He had written his first letter to the church at Corinth, and after he sent it, certain difficulties arose in the church at Corinth. He made a hurried trip from Ephesus to Corinth which is described as a sorrowful or painful visit. He then sent Titus to Corinth along with a stern letter to correct certain abuses and to encourage the believers there to complete their contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem.

Paul had been waiting for Titus' return. He left Ephesus and went to Troas where he expected Titus to meet him. When he did not find Titus in Troas, he departed hurriedly to Macedonia where Titus met Paul. While in the midst of rehearsing this historical situation him gets off the track in II Corinthians 2:14 and does not return to it until 7:5 during which he tells us a great deal about his ministry as an apostle. From what he tells us, we learn a great deal about what our ministries should be like.

In II Corinthians 2:12-17 we see how God used Paul and how he can use us also.

Paul found an open door in Troas to preach the gospel (2:12); but in spite of this, when he had no rest because he was not able to locate Titus, he left Troas and went into Macedonia (2:13). Paul is thankful that it is God Who always leads believers in triumph and makes known the pleasant aroma of His knowledge everywhere Paul goes (2:14). Paul is a pleasant aroma of Christ to God in everyone, whether saved or lost (2:15). To those who refuse the gospel, Paul is the aroma of death and to those who believe the gospel, the aroma of life (2:16). In spite of its responsibility, Paul recognizes that he is sufficient for this task of presenting the gospel because he does not corrupt the Word of God as others do; instead, he sincerely proclaims the message which comes from God. In God's sight, he proclaims the gospel in the name of Christ and all that this name represents (2:17).


1. Paul found an open door in Troas to preach the gospel - 2:12

II Corinthians 2:12 12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord.

Verses 12 and 13 indicate that, even though Paul had come to Troas to preach the gospel and had an open door to continue there, he was so concerned about Titus and the news he would bring from Corinth regarding how the Corinthians had received his stern letter and how they were doing spiritually, that he left Troas and went to Macedonia to look for him.

Furthermore indicates a continuation of the thought with a slight change of direction in the sense of now.

When I came to Troas is after he left Ephesus. Troas is a city and region in the northwest corner of Asia Minor, near the site of ancient Troy. It is mentioned in Acts 16:8 , 11, Acts 20:6 , and II Timothy 4:13 .

Troas is the place where in Acts 16 Paul received the Macedonian vision on his second missionary journey and from which he sailed to Samothracia on his way to Philippi.

Acts 16:8-11 - (8) And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

(9) And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

(10) And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

(11) Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis.

Troas is also the place where Paul stayed for seven days after sailing from Philippi with the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem and the place where Eutychus was raised from the dead.

Acts 20:4-12 - (4) And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.

(5) These going before tarried for us at Troas.

(6) And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.

(7) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

(8) And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

(9) And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

(10) And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

(11) When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

(12) And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Troas is also mentioned in II Timothy where Paul, who was in prison in Rome awaiting execution, was urging Timothy to do his best to come before winter and to bring some things from Troas which he needed.

II Timothy 4:13 - The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

None of these references matches up with Paul's statements in II Corinthians 2:12 . It apparently refers to another time he was in Troas. In Acts 16 Titus was not with Paul, and Acts 20 and II Timothy 4 occur after Paul wrote II Corinthians.

When I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel is literally for the gospel of Christ or unto the gospel of Christ.

And a door was opened unto me suggests that an opportunity to preach the gospel was made available to Paul.

Of the Lord is by the Lord and means that the Lord opened this door for Paul. The Lord refers to Christ in Paul's writings.

2. Paul had no peace in staying in Troas and departed for Macedonia - 2:13

II Corinthians 2:13 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.

According to verse 13, in spite of being in Troas with an open door to proclaim the gospel, Paul was so bothered by not finding Titus there that he left and went into Macedonia where cities such as Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica were located. Paul was anxiously awaiting Titus' return from Corinth where he had delivered Paul's stern letter mentioned in 2:3-9, and Paul wanted so badly to know how the Corinthian believers had received his letter that he left an open door for proclaiming the gospel in Troas (while the door was still open) to go to Macedonia to meet Titus.

I had no rest suggests I had no relaxation (or relief). He was upset or bothered by the situation.

In my spirit suggests in Paul's inner being.

Because I found has been translated in a way which indicates the reason or cause of Paul's leaving Troas to find Titus. It may instead be understood as indicating time in the sense of when I found.

Because (or when) I found not Titus suggests that Paul had thoroughly searched for Titus but did not find, discover, or come upon him.

Titus is described as my brother, which suggests Paul's fellow believer rather than Paul's sibling. Paul was a Jew; but Titus, one of Paul's trusted co-workers, was a Gentile.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to I had not rest in my spirit.

Taking my leave of them refers to Paul's leaving the believers in Troas.

I went from thence is I went out from there or I went away from there, i.e. from Troas.

Into Macedonia indicates where Paul went. No one knows how long Paul had waited in Troas before heading to Macedonia, but it was long enough to realize that he had an open door there. Paul wrote II Corinthians while in Macedonia. His comments regarding Titus and Macedonia are broken off at the end of verse 13 and not resumed until 7:5.

II Corinthians 7:5-13 - (5) For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

(6) Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

(7) And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.

(8) For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

(9) Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

(10) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

(11) For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

(12) Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.

(13) Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.


II Corinthians 2:14 a - Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. . . .

Now introduces a continuation of Paul's thought with a slight change of direction.

Thanks be unto God expresses Paul's gratitude or gratefulness for all that God the Father has done for him and through him. Paul is wishing that thanks be given unto God, i.e. to God the Father.

Which . . . causeth us to triumph . . . and . . . maketh manifest, where us is Paul, is Who causes us to triumph (or leads us in triumph) and (Who) makes manifest. The verb translated causeth us to triumph is picturing a triumphant Roman general leading through the streets of Rome the captives he and his troops had captured in war so that the people could see how well he had done.

In this context, the implication is that God is leading Paul wherever he goes and that God directed Paul when he changed his mind and did not go to Corinth.

Paul's life and ministry have been on display since the day of his salvation. The same is true of all other believers as well.

Always suggests at all times. The tense of causeth . . . to triumph, when coupled with always, indicates that this is something which is ongoing and without exception.

Causes us to triumph in Christ suggests in the person of Christ or in union with Christ and implies in Paul's life and service rendered to Christ as a Christian. One is reminded that according to Galatians 2:20 , Christ lives in Paul.

Galatians 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.


II Corinthians 2:14 b - . . . and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

Not only does God lead us in triumph in Christ, but He also maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

The picture is that of the incense bearers who went along with the triumphal procession, spreading the savor of incense.

In his commentary on II Corinthians, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes has written,

"It was . . . customary for the triumphal processions of Paul's day to be accompanied by the release of sweet odours from the burning of spices in the streets. So, too, the knowledge of Christ, whom to know is life eternal, is manifested like a pervading fragrance through the Apostle wherever he is led. It is important to notice that the operation is wholly of God: it is God who leads His servant in triumph, and it is God who manifests the savour of the knowledge of Christ; Paul is nothing but the vessel or the instrument through which the fragrance is released."

Who maketh manifest is the One Who makes known (i.e. discloses or shows); and its tense indicates that its action is ongoing.

What He makes known is the savour (i.e. fragrance or odor) of his knowledge.

Here it is the particular savor of his (i.e. Christ's) knowledge. This means that He (i.e. God the Father) makes known the knowledge of Him, (i.e. of Christ) and refers to the content of what is known about Him.

The savor of His knowledge is also made known by us when we proclaim the Gospel.

By us, where us refers to Paul, is through us. It pictures God as the Direct Agent Who makes known the knowledge of Christ and Paul as the intermediate agent or channel through which God the Father makes known the knowledge of Christ.

In every place suggests in every inhabited place, i.e. wherever Paul goes.


II Corinthians 2:15 a - For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved. . . .

Verse 15 provides the reason Paul makes known the savor of Christ's knowledge in every place.

For is the word ordinarily translated because and should be understood in this sense here as well.

We refers to Paul, and are introduces a description of what Paul is like in his ministry.

Unto God is understood in the sense of in God the Father's nostrils or as far as God the Father is concerned. It indicates God's opinion of the matter, and His opinion is the only opinion which matters.

Paul is a sweet savour, i.e. a fragrance or an aroma. The word translated savour in this verse is a synonym of the word translated savour in verse 14. However, it is not just any aroma because sweet savour is limited by of Christ, which means that Christ is the sweet savour, fragrance, or aroma God the Father smells. It means that it pleases God the Father.

In them that are saved is in the ones who are being saved and speaks of the process which began when they first trusted Christ as Savior and which will be completed with their glorification at the rapture. Paul is a pleasant aroma of Christ to God the Father in them that have placed their faith in Christ as their own personal Savior.


II Corinthians 2:15 b - For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ . . . in them that perish.

And introduces a second group in whom Paul is a sweet savor of Christ to God: in them that perish, i.e. in the ones who are perishing as a result of their rejection of the gospel message proclaimed by Paul. These persons may still have opportunity to be saved before they die in their sins and spend eternity in the lake of fire. It pleases God that the gospel is preached, whether by Paul or by others, even if the message is rejected by some. They have at least had an opportunity to be saved.

In them that are saved, and in them that perish means in everyone to whom the gospel is proclaimed, whether they are in the process of being saved or in the process of perishing.


II Corinthians 2:16-17 - 16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 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.

Verse 16 amplifies Paul's statement in verse 15 about Paul's being a sweet savour of God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.

To the one is actually plural in the Greek text and refers to them that perish. It is understood in the sense of to these and is in contrast to and to the other in the next phrase, which is understood in the sense of to those.

To these who are perishing, we are (i.e. Paul is) the savour of death unto death.

Here it is a savor, fragrance, or odor of death, which suggests that the person is spiritually dead.

Unto death suggests that these persons are about to die in their sins without receiving Christ as their personal Savior and eventually experience the second death when they are cast into the lake of fire. Before they hear the gospel, they are already spiritually dead; and when they reject the gospel, they take another step in the wrong direction, i.e. toward the lake of fire.

And introduces a statement in mild contrast to to the one in the previous phrase. It is understood in the sense of but on the other hand.

To the other is to those and refers to them that are saved in verse 15.

We are, meaning I Paul am, is understood from the previous phrase and must be supplied in the mind of the reader.

The savour is the same word translated savour in the previous phrase meaning savor, fragrance, or odor. This time, however, it is a savor of life unto life, where life is the term used consistently for eternal life. Life unto life implies that they received eternal life when Paul proclaimed the gospel to them, which will eventually result in the completion of their salvation and their spending eternity in heaven with their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. What is true of Paul is also true of other believers.

Paul concludes verse 16 with the question, And who is sufficient for these things?

Although the immediate answer would seem to be that no one is sufficient for these things, the real answer to this question is, We are! because Paul's sufficiency was of God. Verse 17 makes it apparent that others were proclaiming their own sufficiency, but Paul was speaking in sincerity in the very presence of God Who was the source of his information.

Furthermore, Christ was speaking through him.

In addition, Paul states in II Corinthians 3:5 , Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. In contrast to some proclaiming their own sufficiency, Paul acknowledges that he has no sufficiency in himself to be the savor of death unto death and the savor of life unto life, but he is sufficient in God to do these things.

Sufficient suggests fit, appropriate, competent, qualified, or able, with the connotation of worthy or good enough.

For these things suggests for being a sweet savor of Christ to God in those who are being saved as well as in those who are perishing.

II Corinthians 2:17 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.

In verse 17 Paul explains why he asked the question in verse 16, Who is sufficient for these things? Others were evidently proclaiming their own sufficiency.

For is used here to show the cause or reason Paul wrote this and is understood in the sense of because. Its use implies that Paul is sufficient for these things, not only because of what he does not do, but also because what he does do: he does not corrupt the word of God but with a pure motive speaks a message which finds its source in God the Father and which Christ actually speaks through him in the very presence of God the Father.

We are, where we is Paul, is used to describe something which is true of Paul; and not negates it. It thus indicates what Paul is not like.

As many is literally like the many and is understood in the sense of the most, the majority, or the majority of people. These are the ones Paul refers to later in this epistle as false apostles.

From what follows in chapter 3 these persons appear to have been Judaizers who came along after Paul and contradicted things he said and added keeping the law as a necessity for salvation.

Which corrupt is used to describe something Paul is not doing and is understood in the sense of, We are not corrupting (or adulterating) the Word of God as the many (are).

What some are corrupting, but which Paul is not corrupting, is the word of God, literally the Word of the God, i.e. of God the Father. He is the only God there is. It includes, but is not limited to, the message of salvation.

But introduces a statement in strong contrast to we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God.

As introduces the perspective from which Paul's role in proclaiming the Word of God is to be viewed.

Of sincerity is out of sincerity (or out of purity of motive). Paul had no hidden agenda in his proclamation of the gospel. He shared the gospel in order that people might be saved. By contrast, those who corrupt or adulterate the word of God do so with impure motives.

A second but is used for even more emphasis. Once again as introduces the perspective from which Paul's role in proclaiming the Word of God is to be viewed.

Of God indicates that God the Father Himself is the source of Paul's message. His statement implies that those who corrupt the Word of God do not find the source of their message in God; rather, their message is found in Satan who always attempts to corrupt the Word of God as he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In the sight of God indicates that Paul's proclamation of the gospel is before (or in the very presence of) God. God the Father has observed Paul's preaching and is his witness that he has not corrupted or adulterated the Word of God in any way. It also implies that God is a witness that these who have corrupted or adulterated the Word of God have done so in the sight of (i.e. before or in the very presence of) God. He knows all about their false teaching and wrong motives.

Speak we, where we is Paul, is we are speaking; and its tense describes what Paul is doing habitually or repeatedly. Speak we is understood in the sense of we are asserting (i.e. we are proclaiming, we are uttering, or we are expressing); and the content of what we are speaking is understood to be the Word of God.

In Christ suggests in the person of Christ and means that Christ is speaking through Paul. Galatians 2:20 indicates that Christ is living in Paul. It says,

Galatians 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.


If we willingly allow the Lord Jesus Christ to lead us in procession as His willing slaves, if we will proclaim the gospel message faithfully, without adulterating it, God will use us in His service just as He did the Apostle Paul.