Hello Readers! Welcome back to Renaissance Woman as, this week, I continue taking a look at Paul’s exuberant cry; “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” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NIV). In last week’s post, I considered what Paul might be picturing here, assuming he had in mind a Roman Triumph. This week, I want to consider why he was so joyful at the thought of being led a captive in Christ’s Triumphal Procession.
Before I get to that, there are a few more aspects of the Roman Triumph I have to bear in mind. One is, after Rome ceased to be a Republic and became an Empire ruled over by Emperors, the Triumphs were reserved for Emperors alone. I also bear in mind that the Emperors were called by the full title “Saviour of the World”. The problems this caused for Christians within the Roman world is a fascinating subject but one I’ll have to leave for another time. I mention it because it is Jesus Christ who alone deserves to bear the title “Saviour of the World” and it is He who is honored in this procession. We then, are led captive in the procession of the One who is the True King of the Universe and Saviour of the World.
There is one more aspect of Roman Triumphs I took a look at during this study and that is The Ovation. The Ovation was a lesser form of Triumph during which the general being honored rode on horseback. When I read that, I pictured The Horseman described in Revelation 19: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on Him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses” (Verses 11 & 14, NKJV). Here too, there is a procession but there are none led as captives. Here, the Followers of Jesus are depicted as a mighty army.
Considering what Paul says about us being led as captives and then the picture of the army in Revelation, can both be true of us as believers? I think so, especially when I consider the promises found in scripture. Consider, for instance 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (NKJV). Consider also 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV). The words that hold my attention are “being transformed” and “become”. There are so many other verses that speak of renewing, being made, being transformed: the conviction I am left with is one of process. We do not become like Jesus overnight. There is a process and, to use Paul’s words, it begins by being led captive by God.
But what a strange captivity! As I meditated on this, I was reminded of the young men led into captivity when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem. They were captives, certainly, but were brought to Babylon and trained in the literature, laws, and culture of Babylon. They were sent to university, in other words. It is here I see some similarities to our captivity in Christ as our Christian life is not one of servitude but one of being taught of the Lord by His Spirit. Our captivity has one major difference from those young men in Babylon as our captivity is not forced on us but rather one we choose. We are not drug through the streets in chains but drawn after Him with gentle cords and bands of love (Hosea 11:4, NKJV). His goodness leads us to metanoia (I never get tired quoting that!), our eyes are opened to the reality of Jesus, and we surrender our lives to Him. It is a captivity we continue to choose every time we pray “Thy Will Be Done.” It is a captivity we choose every time we take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.
Here is also our warfare and it takes place on the battlefield of our mind. However, just as our captivity is a strange captivity, so is our warfare. It’s backwards because our General is already victorious. He does not fight battles in order to become so. He is the one who, through His death, resurrection, and ascension, utterly crushed the head of the serpent and destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Yet this victory must be worked out in us because there are strongholds, arguments, and high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Foremost among these is that great lie that was spoken in the Garden of Eden: you shall be as God. I did not realize when, in the awe and wonder of seeing who Jesus is I wanted nothing more than He should come and live in me, that war was being declared. My Self was already crowned ruler of my life. Self was my center and it believed it could be God apart from Him. It resisted the rule of Jesus and battles ensued.
I think the best description of this warfare is in Romans 7: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice….Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Verses 15-19, 24-25a, NKJV)
Paul goes on to say in Chapter Eight that, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Verse 37, NKJV). This is true in Jesus right now and this is how I conduct my warfare. I do not engage in battle at all but declare the battle is won. Jesus Christ is victor now and unto the Ages of Ages. I take up my cross daily realizing that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and there is nothing I will face that is too much for Him. I listen for His voice and choose to be obedient to it, no matter how difficult doing so might be. I surrender myself and go where He bids me go and stay where and when He bids me stay.
Thanks be to God who always leads us as captives in Christ’s Triumphal Procession! It can be painful because, as the captives in those Roman Triumphs of old, we know we will be jeered at by the spectators. But, we also know He is using us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. We can go forward lifting our hearts in songs of praise knowing our lives are hid in His. We rejoice that the enmity of our carnal minds is defeated because the Spirit of the Living God lives in us. We think it not strange that fiery trials come upon us because we know that when His glory is revealed, we will also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4: 12-13). Indeed, we already rejoice because we know that, while we do not yet know what we shall be, we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We shout for joy because, even as we are led captives, we are the Children of God!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!
NIV Journal The Word Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973/2016
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee, 1979/1982
Dando-Collins, Stephen, Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 2010, Pages 81-83
Guhl, E. & W. Koner, The Romans: Life and Customs, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Pages 290-295
Matyszak, Philip, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, Thames and Hudson, London, UK, 2009, Page 183