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The Great Conflict of Missions

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Who do you think you Are? or

Paul’s Perspective on the Missionary or

Understanding our Place within God’s Task.

2 Cor 2:12-17




Context of 2 Corinthians


§         Second Missionary Journey

o       Acts 18-(After his southward swing through Macedonia when he was jailed in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica and Berea, and confronted with idolatry in Athens.) He comes to Corinth

o       Paul works as a tent-maker with Aquilla and Priscilla

o       Preaches in synagogues every Sabbath

o       Crispus, the synagogue ruler is converted with his whole household.

o       Many other Corinthians believe and are baptized


o       Paul stays in Corinth for 1.5 years

o       Leaves Corinth, travels back to his sending church in Antioch via Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem.


§         Third Missionary Journey

o       Eventually comes to Ephesus

§         (Coincidently, Apollos had just left Ephesus to go to Corinth)

o       Stays 2.5 years in Ephesus

o       Apparently received a delegation and/or information from Corinth and in response writes an initial letter prohibiting association with those who profess to be believers, yet practice immorality. (1 Cor 5:9-13)

o       Apparently, receives another report about factions in the church, further immorality, abuse of spiritual gifts, and doctrinal errors.

o       Writes 1 Corinthians (AD 55) and sends it to Corinth with Timothy (1 Cor 4:17).

§         He gives instruction and admonition in this letter, but also tells them that he is coming to see them (1 Cor 4:19).

o       Apparently, after the letter is received, the situation gets worse. We know this because Paul…

o       …made the “painful visit” of which he refers in 2 Cor 2:1.

o       The church had been infiltrated with false apostles who had letters of recommendation (2 Cor 3:1-3, 2 Cor 11:13-15).

o       Goes back to Ephesus (maybe to let time heal all wounds) and writes the sever letter of 2 Cor 2:3,4

§         Wrote to test them to know if they were obedient (or a true church) and to condemn the wrongdoers (or the false apostles). (2 Cor 2:9; 7:8-12).

o       This was sent with Titus. (He was obviously waiting for Titus to return from Corinth with news of their response to the severe letter.

o       Titus gets things straightened out and stays for a while to organize the collection for the saints.

o       While he waits for the response, Paul has trouble in Ephesus

§         2 Cor 1:8-10 Paul describes it as “affliction” and being “utterly burdened beyond their strength” that they “despaired of life itself”. They had received the “sentence of death.”

§         Acts 19:21-41- The riot over Artemis of the Ephesian incited by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen that made idols for the people’s worship.

o       He decides to go to Macedonia (which would necessitate departing from Troas [2 Cor 2:12]).

§         Planned to meet with Titus on his way back to tell Paul about the Corinthian’s response to the severe letter.

§         Does not meet Titus there in Troas

o       Goes to Macedonia, encounters persecution there as well

§         2 Cor 7:5- even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

o       Titus meets up with Paul and gives him the comforting news of the Corinthian’s repentance. This caused Paul much joy.

o       Paul writes and sends 2 Corinthians to let them know of his joy, to prepare them for a visit, to encourage them to give to the relief effort for the saints, and to once again set himself apart from the false apostles. (Acts 20)

§         So in 2 Cor 2:12 when Paul says, “I came to Troas for the gospel I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus,” he may be speaking of the persecution that he had left behind, but he was certainly referring to trouble he felt over the sin of the Corinthians and their yet to be known response to Paul’s severe letter. He wanted to see his brother and receive word of the Corinthians response.

Possible intro dealing with ways people deal with self-identity and the answers they formulate depending how the question is asked.


§         Get in touch with your feminine side- Feminists

§         Find your inner child- Irresponsible adults

§         Find the caveman within you- “Man Church” movement


  • May I ask who’s calling
  • “And you are”
  • May I tell him who’s here to see him


  • How dare you
  • You aren’t on a level to say that to me or act that way toward me

Paul is takes a few chapters to once again offer validation of his ministry. There had been the “Super-Apostles” in Corinth who came with letters of recommendation and charged Paul with being weak and a poor speaker. While the Corinthians had responded well to Titus’ message, the false apostles were still there. Paul uses this section to offer up his reasons for being a true apostle.

  • What is this life we are living? What have we gotten ourselves into and why do we stay in it? “What are you doing over there?”
  • Paul answers this question of himself, then turns it on us and then gives the right answer.
    • In so doing, he reveals much of the state of his heart, his view of himself, and his perspective on the role and task of a missionary.
  • Sets the Context
    • Came to Troas
    • Door open for ministry
    • Had no relief
    • Couldn’t find Titus
    • Left for Macedonia

  • Who does Paul think he is here?


    • He is a burdened man
      • The fact that he was in Troas testifies to this. His heart had been so burdened by the strain on his relationship with the Corinthians that he could not stand to stay in Ephesus any longer. He began the search for Titus.
      • “I found no rest in my Spirit”
        • Word has the idea of someone going from one level of imprisonment to a lesser level of imprisonment
          • Contrast Peter’s situation in Acts 12 to Paul’s Situation in Acts 28
            • Acts 12:6 Peter was sleeping between two guards, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison
            • Acts 28:16 And when we came to Rome Paul was allowed to stay by himself with the soldier that guarded him.
        • Paul was not saying that he couldn’t find complete relief, he was saying that he couldn’t even find the level of relief that would come from being on house arrest.
      • This shows the depth of his burden and restlessness

    • He was a conflicted man.
      • Even thought there was a door opened in the Lord...I departed from them and went to Macedonia * Tough question…should he have left Troas and the opportunities for ministry there in order to go to Macedonia?
        • I don’t think we can answer that.
        • It seems that even Paul did not have a clear cut answer to this question.
        • 2 Cor 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within
          • While some of Paul’s afflictions pointed two the situation he found in Macedonia, it is not hard to imagine that he is referring, at least in part, to the conflict over leaving Troas for Macedonia
      • Personal Application: It is easy to identify with this conflict. We have opportunities for ministry everywhere we turn. We make decisions every day about continuing certain ministry efforts and/or ending others. What about the stresses of life and the desire to walk away from it and the justification we might use on either side of the decision? It is about as clear of an answer for us as it was for Paul. Was it right for him…is it right for us? I don’t know. Thank God for the cross.


  • But thanks be to God
    • What just happened between verses 13 and 14? * Paul was just completely restless and walking away from a clearly opened door for ministry…now he is thanking God.
    • The key is 2 Cor 7: 6, 7
      • But God who comforts the downcast, comforted us with the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of you longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
    • So Paul found Titus on his travels into Macedonia and heard the report of their repentance and loyalty to Paul.
      • This is his cause for thanks.
    • But he wants them to see that he doesn’t lord it over them. He wants them to know (as is one of his reasons for writing 2 Cor) his heart for them as he is coming to see them.
    • It is not Paul’s intention to come to Corinth with an “HA! I told you so” kind of attitude.
    • So how does he show his heart and his attitude toward the Corinthians?

  • With two very interesting pictures of himself (or of missionaries, or of believers in general)
  • Before the eyes of the world
    • Who always leads in triumphal procession
      • The greek word is thriambeuo from which we get the Latin, triumphus, and the English, triumphant.
      • There are a few traditional interpretations of this word.
        • God leads us in triumph as if we are conquerors
          • This is the KJV and is wrong
          • This view has been discarded for many years now…take that KJV only crowd!
        • God leads us into a victory celebration as his soldiers
          • Also not a good interpretation due to the fact that there is no use of this word having this meaning in any other contemporary greek writings of the day
        • God leads us into a victory celebration as his captives
          • YES
          • Seneca is the only other greek writer of Paul’s day that uses this word and he uses it in this way
          • Col 2:15 he disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, triumphing over them.
            • Here Paul uses the same word (the only other time it is used in the Bible) to clearly describe a defeated foe
      • What is the imagery?
        • See Plutarch’s Aemellius Paulus
        • Paul is saying that he is coming to the Corinthians as a captive of the conquering king.
        • A key quality in this procession of captives was that they were the objects of great shame and scorn.
        • Does this fit with how Paul views himself and how he presents himself to the Corinthians?
          • 1 Cor 4:12 We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things
          • 2 Cor 4:7-12 we are afflicted...perplexed… persecuted…and struck down
          • 2 Cor 11:23-27 various ways in which Paul has suffered for the gospel
        • The answer is a resounding yes.
        • What about the idea that Paul is saying he is a captive as if he were an enemy of God? Does this fit?
          • Acts
            • Paul as enemy
              • Acts 9:1; 22:4; 26:9
            • Paul as conquered
              • Acts 26:14; Rom 6:3, 6
            • Paul as servant
              • Rom 6:18, 22
        • What about the Col passage? Is Paul to be lumped into the same category as Satan?
          • There are 2 words in the Cor passage that set apart Paul’s experience and relationship as a captive with that of Satan’s
            • In Christ
          • Paul is a captive in Christ.
          • At the same time that he is a captive and thus an object of scorn before the world, he stands as one who is always in Christ.
      • So Paul is perfectly content to be seen by the world as on object of scorn and shame because he knows he is in Christ.
        • Remember part of a theology of suffering is that when we suffer we can most closely identify with Christ who suffered and was shamed for us.
        • The use of the cross and its subsequent imagery within the early church was not decorative as it so often is today.
        • The way of the cross was a way of shame
          • Heb 12:2 tells us that Christ saw the shame of the cross, yet endured it…even despised it…for the sake of the joy set before him
          • Paul could walk the way of shame before the world because in so doing, he identified with his savior and subsequent joy.
  • Before God
    • V 14 Paul continues with this imagery as he describes the incense of the king and his followers blowing through the ranks of the captives. Everyone knew the smell of royal incense. It was through these captives that the aroma of the knowledge of God was being spread
    • V 15 Paul makes a subtle shift that has powerful implications
      • Now WE are the aroma of Christ
      • The aroma of the knowledge of God has been spread through us so much that we have taken on the very identity of that aroma. We are so marked by the spreading of the knowledge of him it is as if we ourselves have become that spreading knowledge, but again, with a slight variation.
    • What is the imagery?
      • Sacrifice- The word Paul uses in V 15 for “aroma” in the ESV is different than the word he uses for “fragrance” in VV 14 and 16.
        • Aroma- euodia- sweet smelling savor
        • Fragrance- osmay- pleasant or offensive smell
      • Paul uses euodia to describe Jesus in Eph 5:2
        • …as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
        • Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is pleasing to God in the same way OT sacrifices were pleasing.
        • Gen 8:20,21- Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man…”
      • Christ’s work on the cross, while seen as shameful to the world, was pleasing to God. It was a sweet smelling sacrifice to God.
        • Can you imagine at that moment when, as Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 of his prophecy, it pleased the Father to crush his son he looked down…smelled the sweet aroma of his son’s act of obedience and sacrifice, and said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever smelled.”
      • To get the meaning right here we must look at the prepositions Paul uses.
        • We are the aroma OF Christ TO God AMONG those who are being saved and those who are perishing
        • As we fulfill the role of the body of Christ, his church continues to be the sweet smelling aroma that he was as he did his work on the cross
        • We are this aroma to God…just as Christ was.
          • We must remember that we are to be concerned first and foremost with how God views us.
          • 1 Cor 4:4- It is the Lord who judges me
        • But we are among the world- both those who are being saved and those who are perishing
        • V 16 tells us that to one group, this fragrance is one from death to death and to the other group it is a fragrance from life to life.
          • Same aroma to God…differing effect on man
      • Personal Application- We walk through this life and spread the knowledge of God through our lives and Gospel proclamation. As we do so faithfully, we are always a pleasing aroma to God. But we can be sure that as we spread this aroma through the world…as we ourselves are spread through the world…that some will love the aroma and some will think it a stench.
        • Streets of Cairo and their various smells serve as a good illustration here.
        • Overall smells of perfumes and incenses here can also be used as illustration. Someone obviously likes the smell of the perfumes, but to others they are too strong and even offensive.
      • Why are there such differing responses?
        • Testimony- Why was it that one day I thought the message my roommates shared with me was unpalatable, offensive, yes, even a stench, and then the next day it was the sweetest smelling aroma I have ever encountered?
        • I don’t know
      • Personal Application #2- We have two guarantees.
        • 1- We will be rejected as those who are perishing hear our message and go from one degree of death to the next
        • 2- Some will receive and think this message to be life itself
        • So what do we do?
          • We continue to share. We continue to go. We continue to spread the knowledge of God everywhere and in all places.
          • For our primary concern is not who receives and who rejects. Our primary concern is that we are the aroma of Christ to God.


  • Paul draws this section to a close by asking the Corinthians a question.
  • This question is intended to once again show Paul’s heart and establish his view of himself to the Corinthians as he is planning a visit to them.


    • Who is sufficient for these things?
      • The greek puts the emphasis on “these things” referring to the fact that we carry with us matters of life and death.
      • These are truly weighty matters
      • Who is enough?
    • In one sense, no one.
    • In another sense, not many.
    • V 17 Paul says we are not like so many, peddlers of God’s word.
      • Peddlers- this word a very negative connotation during this time. It spoke of a wine merchant who in order to sell the newer, harsher tasting wine, would mix in just enough of the aged good wine to pass it off at a higher price. Or it was used of a fruit vendor who would place perfect looking fruit on the top of a basket while the bruised and damaged fruit was underneath. He could sell his goods at a higher cost since the whole basket looked good. The purchaser would get the fruit home and realize that they were tricked into paying for something they didn’t get.
      • What does Paul mean? We know that the message of the cross is going to be rejected by many. Does this mean we ought to soften it or “dress it up” to make it more palatable?
      • Paul reminds us that we are not to act in this way. Who is sufficient? Not one who will change the message of life and death.
    • But as men of sincerity
      • Sincerity- heliokrinay- sun tested.
        • When you want to see every detail…good and bad you hold an object up to the light, or in that day, in the open sunlight. Then everything is seen
        • We are to be those who do not hide the truth (as a peddler would) but we are to be reveal all things about this message. Even if people reject, they should still be able to say, “They lived what they said. They didn’t mince words. Etc.”
    • Who then is sufficient?
      • Those who are
        • From God
        • Before God
        • In Christ
    • And what are the “sufficient ones” to do?
      • Speak
    • After all of the imagery and explanation and understanding of who we are before the world and before God, with all of the responsibility that comes by being the aroma of Christ to God, with the knowledge that we stand before God and are sent by God and are in Christ and thus competent for the task, we simply speak.
      • The last word in greek here is laleow…speak.
    • God has ordained that through those whom he has sent, those who are in Christ, those who are but shamed captives before the world, the knowledge of him shall go forth.
    • Why?
      • 1 Cor 2:4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.



The people erected scaffoldings in the theatres for equestrian contests, which they call circuses, and round the forum, occupied the other parts of the city which afforded a view of the procession, and witnessed the spectacle arrayed in white garments. Every temple was open and filled with garlands and incense, while numerous servitors and lictors restrained the thronging and scurrying crowds and kept the streets open and clear. Three days were assigned for the triumphal procession. The first barely sufficed for the exhibition of the captured statues, paintings, and colossal figures, which were carried on two hundred and fifty chariots. On the second, the finest and richest of the Macedonian arms were borne along on many waggons.

. . . After the waggons laden with armour there followed three thousand men carrying coined silver in seven hundred and fifty vessels, each of which contained three talents and was borne by four men. . . .


"On the third day, as soon as it was morning, trumpeters led the way, sounding out no marching or processional strain, but such a one as the Romans use to rouse themselves to battle. After these there were led along a hundred and twenty stall-fed oxen with gilded horns, bedecked with fillets and garlands. Those who led these victims to the sacrifice were young men wearing aprons with handsome borders, and boys attended them carrying gold and silver vessels of libation. Next, after these, came the carriers of the coined gold. . . . After these followed the bearers of the consecrated bowl . . . and then those who displayed all the gold plate of Perseus's table. These were followed by the chariot of Perseus, which bore his arms, and his diadem lying upon his arms. Then, at a little interval, came the children of the king, led along as slaves, and with them a throng of foster-parents, teachers, and tutors, all in tears, stretching out their own hands to the spectators and teaching the children to beg and supplicate. There were two boys and one girl, and they were not very conscious of the magnitude of their evils because of their tender age; wherefore they evoked even more pity in view of the time when their unconsciousness would cease, so that Perseus walked along almost unheeded, while the Romans, moved by compassion, kept their eyes upon the children, and many of them shed tears, and for all of them the pleasure of the spectacle was mingled with pain, until the children had passed by.

"Behind the children and their train of attendants walked Perseus himself, clad in a dark robe and wearing the high boots of his country, but the magnitude of his evils made him resemble one who is utterly dumbfounded and bewildered. He, too, was followed by a company of friends and intimates, whose faces were heavy with grief. . . . "Next in order to those were carried wreaths of gold, four hundred in number, which the cities had sent with their embassies to Aemilius as prizes for his victory. Next, mounted on a chariot of magnificent adornment, came Aemilius himself, a man worthy to be looked upon even without such marks of power, wearing a purple robe interwoven with gold, and holding in his right hand a spray of laurel. The whole army also carried sprays of laurel, following the chariot of their general by companies and divisions, and singing, some of them divers songs intermingled with jesting, as the ancient custom was, and other paeans of victory and hymns in praise of the achievements of Aemilius, who was gazed upon and admired by all, and envied by no one that was good" (trans, by B. Perrin in Loeb ed. Lives VI, 441-47). Return to outline

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