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The Roman army was the most effective fighting force of its time. Soldiers were disciplined and trained like no other opposing army.
They had the best weapons and tactics of war. Only a very few countries were able to resist their power.
When they were victorious in a campaign, they returned to Rome in a triumphal procession. Generals led the way, dressed in strikingly handsome attire. They were followed in rank by the conquering soldiers under their command.
Spoils of war were paraded on carts before a cheering crowd. Last of all were the prisoners, who were shackled, beaten, and destined to be executed in the amphitheater.
The crowds cascaded rose petals over the procession. The roses celebrated the victory, but also covered up the stench that came from the conquered army.
Corinth was a new Roman colony that was populated by former soldiers. They knew the intimate details of battle and of victory parades.
Jesus’ Victory Parade
Before Paul became a prisoner FOR Christ, he was a prisoner OF Christ. The grace of Jesus Christ conquered Paul’s heart. From that day on, Paul was tied to Jesus in an unwavering love relationship.
With the image of a victory parade Paul described being totally connected (shackled) to Jesus through love.
— 2 Cor. 2.14 – But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
Jesus is the conquering “general,” who leads his prisoners not to their death, but to abundant life.
The systems of the world fight against God to obtain freedom from his control.
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.” (Psalm 2.2-3).
When Paul spoke of his relationship to Jesus, he often used a term that described a voluntary servant. He was willing to live under Jesus’ yoke, because he knew through his own experience the truth of Jesus’ words.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11.28-30).
It is ironic that all of our efforts to be free from God’s control enslave us to a life of hardship, guilt, and continual drama.
When we become voluntary servants of Jesus, the burden is lifted. We learn from him how to live and discover the abundant life that we have always sought.
— 2 Cor. 2.15-16 – For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
Everyone who understands the wisdom and beauty of Jesus’ invitation to come and follow him, will rejoice over other people who voluntarily serve Jesus. They will immediately understand the “life” that is part of such a choice.
The crowd who joins the “rulers” of the earth in opposition to God’s rule do not understand how anyone can give up their freedom of choice to follow God. Such surrender looks like death to them.
Paul clearly understood these two opposing ways of looking at self-surrender to God.
He said, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18).
A Living Sacrifice
If Jesus has conquered our self-centered hearts through love, it is natural to surrender our willfulness to his gracious control. Paul wrote this to the church in Rome.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1).
Rather than fighting against God’s rule in our lives, we surrender our lives as a “living sacrifice” out of love to him.
One clever preacher once said, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps trying to crawl off the altar.”
How true. We never reach a stage when we don’t need to come to Jesus and learn from him. As we keep on coming, he will enable us to continue surrendering to his guidance and direction.
Paul used the image of the triumphal procession to set the stage for the defense of his ministry.
He defended himself, because the truth of a person’s message is validated by the character of the messenger.
Paul could say to his opponents, “I walk as a prisoner in Jesus’ victory parade, because he has conquered me through abundant grace and love.”
This is the way he put it to the church, “For the love of Christ urges us on . . .” (2 Corinthians 5.14). The root meaning of the Greek word for “urge,” is “prisoner” or “constrained.”
The love of Christ made Paul his prisoner, and constrained and urged on his actions. This was Paul’s defense against opponents who had come to Corinth.
He described the situation like this: “For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence” (2 Corinthians 2.17).
First century peddlers who sold wine often diluted it with water to they could make a bigger profit. “Huckster” may be a more appropriate term for what they were doing.
Paul was a surrendered, voluntary servant of Jesus. He willingly accepted Jesus’ yoke and his every decision was based on the love of Jesus that urged him on.
His words were sincere and truthful. His message could be trusted as someone who had been sent from God.
There are several different Bible verses in this article that arrive at the same point. The best life possible is the one that is lived as a voluntary servant of Jesus.
May his love conquer us and rule our lives. May he be the One who directs who we are and what we do.
May We Pray For You?
Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team that is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.