Captive and Captivating.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
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. – 2 Corinthians 2:14 NLT
In spite of Paul’s strained relationship with the believers in Corinth because of his loving honesty with them, he still finds it possible to break into a burst of praise. Things might not have been going quite like Paul had expected or desired, but he never failed to see God’s hand in it all. A big reason for his perspective was how he viewed himself in relationship with God. He saw himself as God’s captive. He even described himself as walking in a victory procession behind God Himself. What Paul is describing was an all-too familiar scene for many of those in his audience. They had either seen one of these victory parades or perhaps even marched in one. It was a common practice during wars for the winning side to take their opponents captive and then bring them home as slaves, where they were paraded before the people as the conquering general rode triumphantly at the head of the procession. That is the imagery that Paul uses here. He saw himself as a slave of God, He had been conquered by God and taken captive by Jesus Christ. He was now a slave of Christ and even referred to himself as such in his letter to the believers in Rome. “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News” (Romans 1:1 NLT). Rather than walking around in dejection and dismay at having been “captured” by Christ, Paul is ecstatic. He is thrilled to belong to Christ and to have God rule over His life. It was as if God, the conquering ruler, was watching his Son, the victorious general, parading His captives before Him. Christ’s victory over sin and death in the lives of men brought glory to God and, ultimately, freedom for those whom He had conquered. Now Paul was spreading the good news of Jesus Christ around the world. And he viewed his efforts as a “Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15 NLT). But Paul knew that his efforts on behalf of Christ elicited two vastly different responses from those he encountered. To some, it was “a dreadful smell of death and doom” (2 Corinthians 2:16 NLT). His words and the message of Jesus Christ that he shared were an annoyance to many. They failed to comprehend the truth of his words and the freedom to be found in a relationship with Christ. But to those who had heard Paul’s message of good news and responded, it was a “live-giving perfume” – like a pungent, medicinal herb used to treat a potentially deadly wound or illness. The gospel is attractive to some and repugnant to others.
And Paul knew that there were those in the Corinthian church who despised him. They found him repulsive and repugnant. They didn’t like him or his message. But Paul assured them that he was not in it for profit. He was not in it for popularity. “We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us” (2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT). Paul was obligated to speak the truth in love. He was a captive of God and a slave of Jesus Christ. He could do nothing else but obey the will of his Lord and Master. But he did so willingly and gladly. He did so, even in the face of opposition. He did so, in spite of physical violence. He did so, regardless off what men may say about him or do to him. Paul knew that his life was a testimony of God’s power and grace. As he walked in step behind Christ in His victory parade, he was a living example of the power of the cross to defeat sin and save sinners. Paul wrote about this very thing to his young disciple, Timothy. “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ – and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:15-17 NLT).
Paul knew his place. He understand his past. But he relished his position as a slave of Jesus Christ. He would gladly serve His Lord and Master, obediently and willingly. “But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23 NLT).
Father, I am in that same processional, walking along side Paul and all the others Your Son has taken captive as a result of His victory over sin and death. We no longer belong to this world. We are no longer Your enemies, but we are Your friends, sons, daughters, and willing servants. Our lives are a testimony of Your grace and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. My life belongs to You. I am here to serve You and to work for Your Kingdom. My life no longer belongs to me, but to You. Your Son purchased me with His own life. Give me the perspective that Paul had. Help me to see myself as Your willing, humble servant, every day of my life. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men