The message and its’ messenger defined:
1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
The relevancy of the message:
2 Cor 2:
14But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
The triumphal procession was a more or less a "parade", a roman custom of great pomp in which a conquering general, or leader would be honored. The procession would consist of the conquering army, musicians, booty and prisoners captured in battle. There would be flower and incense bearers as part of the pageantry, hence Paul's allusion to the "aroma" There is also the comparison of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem in which palm branches heralded His entry.
However the jews proved to be as fickle as the Romans and their "that was yesterday, what have you done for me today" attitude, for just a scant week later, they were calling for His crucifixion. Paul is also using this metaphor to show that there is an army of God being lead by the true conqueror, the King of kings, and those who are being lead by Him are the incense and flower bearers of the good news. Unfortunately for those on the wrong side of the "war", the aroma which announces this coming procession signifies the entry of death and defeat, while to those who hail the Lord, it is the aroma of life. Verse 17 is a sobering thought. How many "peddlers" are out there bearing artificial flowers and incense of their own making? (Exodus 30:34-38)
Later in this letter, Paul goes back to this example of the Gospel as bringing both death and life:
2 Cor 4:
1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The peddlers of God's word, utilize under-handed, cunning, and disgraceful methods, and tamper with, i.e. manipulate, the scriptures. They bring the message of “easy believism”, e.g. say the prayer and you are saved. Here Paul is using the metaphor of the "veil" (which refers to the veil Moses had to wear to shield the people from the "temporary" glory).
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Only Christ removes the veil which darkens men’s hearts. We see that just as the aroma of the Gospel is the stench of death to some, so it is also veiled to them, i.e. those who are dying. Their minds are blinded. The term “god of this world” is more accurately translated “god of this age” This is not necessarily a reference to Satan. Satan has never sent anyone to damnation.
John 3:16-21 makes it clear;
16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
It is man’s refusal to believe which condemns him. This unbelief stems from the fact that men love darkness more than the light, as they do not wish to have their sinful deeds exposed. This brings a clarity to John’s words in his first letter:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
All men sin, even the saints. The difference is the saints, who walk in the light, do not run from having their deeds exposed. Only they confess and repent. Only their sins are forgiven. Those who are born again, that is, those who turn to Christ, are those to whom the veil has been lifted. It is evident that the veil is not lifted for those who are dying, so the Gospel is not “relevant” to all men. If it indeed it is, then all men would believe as the Lord would have lifted the veil from before them. It is only relevant to those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. i.e. the regenerate, the living.
32b ................................ He is not God of the dead, but of the living."
Soli Deo Gloria!