on 2-corinthians 2 :14
Now, thanks be unto God - His coming dispelled all my fears, and was the cause of the highest satisfaction to my mind; and filled my heart with gratitude to God, who is the Author of all good, and who always causes us to triumph in Christ; not only gives us the victory, but such a victory as involves the total ruin of our enemies; and gives us cause of triumphing in him, through whom we have obtained this victory.
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. On such occasions the general was usually clad in a rich purple robe, interwoven with figures of gold, setting forth the grandeur of his achievements; his buskins were beset with pearls, and he wore a crown, which at first was of laurel, but was afterwards of pure gold. In one hand he had a branch of laurel, the emblem of victory; and in the other, his truncheon. He was carried in a magnificent chariot, adorned with ivory and plates of gold, and usually drawn by two white horses. (Other animals were also used: when Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony, by lions; that of Heliogabalus, by tigers; and that of Aurelius, by deer.) His children either sat at his feet in the chariot, or rode on the chariot horses. To keep him humble amidst these great honors a slave stood at his back, casting out incessant railings, and reproaches; and carefully enumerating all his vices, etc. Musicians led up the procession, and played triumphal pieces in praise of the general; and these were followed by young men, who led the victims which were to be sacrificed on the occasion, with their horns gilded, and their heads and necks adorned with ribbons and garlands. Next followed carts loaded with the spoils taken from the enemy, with their horses, chariots, etc. These were followed by the kings, princes, or generals taken in the war, loaded with chains. Immediately after these came the triumphal chariot, before which, as it passed, the people strewed flowers, and shouted Io, triumphe!
The triumphal chariot was followed by the senate; and the procession was closed by the priests and their attendants, with the different sacrificial utensils, and a white ox, which was to be the chief victim. They then passed through the triumphal arch, along the via sacra to the capitol, where the victims were slain.
During this time all the temples were opened, and every altar smoked with offerings and incense.
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. St. Paul had now a triumph (but of a widely different kind) over the same people; his triumph was in Christ, and to Christ he gives all the glory; his sacrifice was that of thanksgiving to his Lord; and the incense offered on the occasion caused the savour of the knowledge of Christ to be manifested in every place. As the smoke of the victims and incense offered on such an occasion would fill the whole city with their perfume, so the odour of the name and doctrine of Christ filled the whole of Corinth and the neighboring regions; and the apostles appeared as triumphing in and through Christ, over devils, idols, superstition, ignorance, and vice, wherever they came.
on 2-corinthians 2 :14
Now thanks be unto God ... - There seem to have been several sources of Paul's joy on this occasion. The principal was, his constant and uniform success in endeavoring to advance the interests of the kingdom of the Redeemer. But in particular he rejoiced;
(1) Because Titus had come to him there, and had removed his distress; compare 2 Corinthians 2:13.
(2) because he learned from him that his efforts in regard to the church at Corinth had been successful, and that they had hearkened to his counsels in his first letter; and,
(3) Because he was favored with signal success in Macedonia. His being compelled, therefore, to remove from Troas and to go to Macedonia had been to him ultimately the cause of great joy and consolation. These instances of success Paul regarded as occasions of gratitude to God.
Which always causeth us - Whatever may be our efforts, and wherever we are. Whether it is in endeavoring to remove the errors and evils existing in a particular church, or whether it be in preaching the gospel in places where it has been unknown, still success crowns our efforts, and we have the constant evidence of divine approbation. This was Paul's consolation in the midst of his many trials; and it proves that, whatever may be the external circumstances of a minister, whether poverty, want, persecution, or distress, he will have abundant occasion to give thanks to God if his efforts as a minister are crowned with success.
To triumph in Christ. - To triumph through the aid of Christ, or in promoting the cause of Christ. Paul had no joy which was not connected with Christ, and he had no success which he did not trace to him. The word which is rendered here as "triumph" (θριαμβευοντι thriambeuonti from θριαμβέυω thriambeuō) occurs in no other place in the New Testament, except in Colossians 2:15. It is rendered there as "triumphing over them in it," that is, triumphing over the principalities and powers which he had spoiled, or plundered; and it there means that Christ led them in triumph after the manner of a conqueror. The word is used here in a causative sense - the sense of the Hebrew Hiphil conjugation. It properly refers to a triumph; or a triumphal procession. Originally the word θριαμβος thriambos meant a hymn which was sung in honor of Bacchus; then the tumultuous and noisy procession which constituted the worship of the god of wine; and then any procession of a similar kind. - Passow. It was particularly applied among both the Greeks and the Romans to a public and solemn honor conferred on a victorious general on a return from a successful war in which he was allowed a magnificent entrance into the capital.
In these triumphs, the victorious commander was usually preceded or attended by the spoils of war; by the most valuable and magnificent articles which he had captured; and by the princes, nobles, generals, or people whom he had subdued. The victor was drawn in a magnificent chariot, usually by two white horses. Other animals were sometimes used. "When Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony was drawn by lions; that of Heliogabalus pulled by tigers; and that of Aurelius drawn by deer" - Clark. The people of Corinth were not unacquainted with the nature of a triumph. About 147 years before Christ, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, and had destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Colchis, and by order of the Roman Senate was favored with a triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus. Tyndale renders this place: "Thanks be unto God which always giveth us the victory in Christ." Paul refers here to a victory which he had, and a triumph with which he was favored by the Redeemer. It was a victory over the enemies of the gospel; it was success in advancing the interests of the kingdom of Christ; and he rejoiced in that victory, and in that success, with more solid and substantial joy than a Roman victor ever felt on returning from his conquests over nations, even when attended with the richest spoils of victory, and by humbled princes and kings in chains, and when the assembled thousands shouted Io triumphe!
And maketh manifest - Makes known; spreads abroad - as a pleasant fragrance is diffused through the air.
The savor - (ὀσμὴν osmēn). The smell; the fragrance. The word in the New Testament is used to denote a pleasant or fragrant odor, as of incense, or aromatics; John 12:3 see Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18. There is an allusion here doubtless to the fact that in the triumphal processions fragrant odors were diffused around; flowers, diffusing a grateful smell, were scattered in the way; and on the altars of the gods incense was burned during the procession, and sacrifices offered, and the whole city was filled with the smoke of sacrifices, and with perfumes. So Paul speaks of knowledge - the knowledge of Christ. In his triumphings, the knowledge of the Redeemer was diffused abroad, like the odors which were diffused in the triumphal march of the conqueror. And that odor or savor was acceptable to God - as the fragrance of aromatics and of incense was pleasant in the triumphal procession of the returning victor. The phrase "makes manifest the savor of his knowledge," therefore, means, that the knowledge of Christ was diffused everywhere by Paul, as the grateful smell of aromatics was diffused all around the triumphing warrior and victor. The effect of Paul's conquests everywhere was to diffuse the knowledge of the Saviour - and this was acceptable and pleasant to God - though there might be many who would not avail themselves of it, and would perish; see 2 Corinthians 2:15.
on 2-corinthians 2 :14
2:14 To triumph, implies not only victory, but an open manifestation of it. And as in triumphal processions, especially in the east, incense and perfumes were burned near the conqueror, the apostle beautifully alludes to this circumstance in the following verse : as likewise to the different effects which strong perfumes have upon different persons; some of whom they revive, while they throw others into the most violent disorders.