12 When I went to Troas to preach the good news about Christ, I found that the Lord had already prepared the way. 13But I was worried when I didn't find my friend Titus there. So I left the other followers and went on to Macedonia.
14I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. 15-16In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death.
No one really has what it takes to do this work. 17A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God's message. But we are God's sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness.
God's New Agreement
1Are we once again bragging about ourselves? Do we need letters to you or from you to tell others about us? Some people do need letters telling about them. 2But you are our letter, and you are in our hearts for everyone to read and understand. 3 You are like a letter written by Christ and delivered by us. But you are not written with pen and ink or on tablets made of stone. You are written in our hearts by the Spirit of the living God.
4We are sure about all this. Christ makes us sure in the very presence of God. 5We don't have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all we do. 6 He makes us worthy to be the servants of his new agreement that comes from the Holy Spirit and not from a written Law. After all, the Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life.
After facing death in Asia, Paul traveled to Troas and then to Macedonia to proclaim the good news. We are reminded that travel was difficult in the first century notwithstanding the network of roads built by the Romans. Paul’s words reveal his commitment to his colleagues. He was unable to rest because of his concern for Titus. Paul carried multiple burdens of leadership.
Paul’s confidence as a Christian leader rested on the fruits or impact of his ministry. He does not need to carry external letters of reference. The transformation of the Corinthian Christians attests to the work of the Spirit through his ministry. He goes on to offer three meaningful analogies of his work as a missionary pastor.
First, Paul presents the image of a Roman triumphal procession in which the emperor led the victory parade that included defeated prisoners. Incense was burned and fragrances blown into the air. Paul views his ministry, with all its sacrifices and hardships, as God’s triumphal procession bringing salvation to the world.
Second, Paul rejects any suggestion that he was like a first century merchant. Such people had a bad reputation for using false weights and diluting products such as wine. Paul has acted sincerely as a person sent from God. He is not in ministry for financial gain.
The third image is drawn from the Hebrew prophets’ longing for a new agreement or covenant written on the heart. (Two key references are Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-28.) The written code of the law, the old agreement, had not produced people that were faithful, grateful, and obedient. Through Christ, the promise of the Spirit’s renewal is fulfilled in the hearts and lives of believers. Paul and his colleagues are servants of this new covenant or agreement.
God and Father, I ask you to speak into my heart through your Spirit so that I may be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Help me this day to be a faithful servant of the new agreement. In Jesus’ name. Amen.