Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
2 Corinthians 2:12-13
After Paul advocated forgiveness for the person or persons who caused all of the trouble in Corinth, he went on in this letter to tell about what he was up to after he left that city. It would seem that he travelled to Troas, expecting Titus to meet him there. Apparently, Titus wasn’t there, even so God opened a door for the gospel in that location, and a number of people accepted His grace upon hearing the gospel from Paul. Yet Paul didn’t stay long in that city, he was very grieved by what had taken place back in Corinth, and at the absence of Titus, and continued on to Macedonia.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17
What an unusual way to describe it! Paul breaks into a thanksgiving to God in 2:14 which follows the same structure that he will use in chapter 15 to describe the activity of his ministry, for indeed, this is the introduction to a new section of the letter that continues through 7:14 which is a defense of his apostolic ministry that is seemingly given as a response to his attackers in Corinth.
For many of us, his use of the word “aroma” seems oddly placed in these verses in describing the spread of the knowledge of Christ. That is, until we remind ourselves that “aroma” is used multiple times in the Old Testament to describe sacrifices that are pleasing to God. To put it directly, Paul is describing his work in spreading the gospel as a sacrifice pleasing to God. The spread of the gospel brings life to many, for they respond to the gospel by accepting God’s grace, but it brings death to others who reject God’s offer of grace through faith in Christ. Please note carefully that each made their own choice either to accept or reject Christ, and the blessing or burden of the result of their decision is entirely of their own doing.
Finally, notice that Paul hits his opponents rather hard as he ends the chapter: Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God (2:17). I’d say that is a bit of an indictment, but it’s only the first as he defends his ministry as an apostle, as we will see.