Trials and Triumph in Christ

Pastor Tom Ascol continues his series on 2 Corinthians with his message entitled “Trials and Triumph in Christ,” based on 2 Corinthians 2:12-17. In this passage Paul makes the point that faithful gospel ministers are invaluable in helping people know and follow Christ. Further, and since this is so, Satan’s strategy is to undermine those ministers and convince believers they have little need for the ministry of the church.

Faithfulness in ministry is not easy. For all Christians faithfulness brings both trials and triumphs. In our passage today Paul responds to untoward charges against him from some in the Corinthian church. He had to spend time explaining his travels to and reasoning with those who should have been exhibiting trust and confidence in Paul. Surely this was an emotionally trying time for Paul, as his own spiritual children challenged him. Yet, as hurt as he may have been, Paul serves as an example for us; despite the upset he continues ministering. Furthermore, as Paul noted, all his plans and activities were subject to the Lord’s direction and will rather than that of individuals in Corinth. The Corinthians ought to have known the faithful changing of one’s plan in response to the Spirit’s leading should be the norm not the exception. The Corinthians needed to understand it was God directing Paul. Yet notwithstanding the trials, faithful ministry always has its triumphs.

A faithful ministry is God directed. Paul’s ministry was such and in v. 14 he rejoices that “Christ always leads in triumphal procession,” a glorious display of power and might. Paul’s point is that the faithful, those “in Christ,” should already consider themselves as in that triumphal procession! While this faithful ministry is triumphant it is always characterized by the spread of the Gospel of Christ. The fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is to be through us everywhere we go. Christians are called to make their Savior and Master known throughout the world. The gospel fragrance or aroma (v. 15) is not only Godward but also toward humankind. The gospel presents hope to believers and a warning and a call to nonbelievers.

Realistically, this call has a dividing effect. People are either being saved or perishing. The triumphal procession and its aroma smelled of joy to the victors but smelled of death to the defeated. Of course, it is only Jesus Christ who gives this victory. All individuals must ask themselves if they have come to the Lord, the Savior whose victory was won on the Cross of Calvary, for victory or are they headed for eternal defeat having ignored the calls of Christ.

Finally, a faithful Christian ministry depends on God, not on man. It is God who commissions ministers and ministries; ministries are carried out with a consciousness of stewardship to God; ministers “in Christ” speak for God; all of which make the minister different from religious hucksters. They are people of sincerity, a sincerity to which believers are called, faithfully dealing with matters of eternity.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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