2 Corinthians 2:16

16 To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?

2 Corinthians 2:16 Meaning and Commentary

2 Corinthians 2:16

To the one we are the savour of death unto death
Who are for death, or appointed to it; see ( Jeremiah 43:11 ) . What the apostle says of the Gospel, and Gospel ministers, the Jews his countrymen used frequently to say of the law, and to which he seems to refer;

``saith Rabba F6, to them that go on the right hand of it, (the law,) it is (yyxd amo) , "the savour of life"; but to them that go on the left hand of it, it is (atwmd amo) , "the savour of death".''

Again F7,

``everyone that studies in the law for the sake of it, to him it becomes (Myyx Mo) , "the savour of life", according to ( Proverbs 3:18 ) ( 8:35 ) , but everyone that studies in the law, not for the sake of it, to him it becomes (twmh Mo) , "the savour of death";''

once more F8,

``if a man is worthy or righteous, to him the law becomes (Myyx Mo) , "the savour of life"; but if he is not righteous, it becomes to him (htym Mo) , "the savour of death":''

and this they not only say of the written law, but also of their oral law F9, and are not contented with those general descriptions of persons to whom the law is so, but particularly mention the Gentiles;

``the words of the law (say they F11) are (Myyx Mo) , "the savour of life", to the Israelites; and (twmh Mo) , "the savour of death", to the nations of the world:''

that the law should be the savour of death, since it is the ministration of it, and cannot give life, see ( Galatians 3:21 ) , is no wonder; but that the Gospel and the ministers of that, should be the savour of death unto death, may seem strange, but so it is. These preach up salvation by the death of Christ, and so are the sweet savour of the death of Christ; but this being despised and rejected by the sons of men, is "unto the death", and issues in the eternal death of the despisers and rejecters of it; likewise this doctrine preached by them, strikes with death all a man's wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, and declares that life and salvation are only by Christ and his righteousness; and besides, is attended with persecution and death, and therefore is foolishness to them that perish; and so becomes "the savour of death unto death"; a savour, but not a sweet savour, nor the sweet savour of Christ; a sweet savour indeed to God, whose justice, holiness, power, and wisdom, are displayed in the death and righteous destruction of sinners, but not to them:

to the other, the savour of life unto life;
those who are ordained to eternal life. The Gospel preached by Christ's faithful ministers is the means of quickening souls, and giving them "spiritual life"; and of supporting and maintaining that life, and of nourishing them up unto "eternal life"; and so becomes "the savour of life" spiritual, "unto life" eternal. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and so the Ethiopic version, read both clauses, "from death to death, and from life to life"; with which compare ( Romans 1:17 ) ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 ) , and then the meaning may be, either as Grotius observes, that the ill report of the Gospel from men dead in sin, brings death to those who give credit to it; and the good report of it from God, the author of life, to which may be added from ministers, who are alive in a spiritual sense, is the means of life to others: or they are the means of adding death to death, death eternal, to death spiritual, or moral; death for sin, to death in sin, the Gospel being despised; and of increasing spiritual life, the comforts of it; and of adding eternal life to spiritual life: upon the whole of which, the apostle makes this exclamation,

and who is sufficient for these things;
the meaning of which is either, who is able to search and find out the reason of this different influence of the Gospel ministry upon the souls of men? no man can do it; it must be ascribed to the sovereign will and pleasure of God, who hides the Gospel from some, and reveals it to others; or who is sufficient for the preaching of the Gospel? no man is sufficient of himself, very insufficient in the best sense, and none so but by the grace of God, and gifts of his Spirit; or who is sufficient to give success to the Gospel when preached? none can do this; Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone that gives the increase.


F6 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2.
F7 Taanith, fol. 7. 1.
F8 Yoma, fol 72. 2.
F9 Zohar in Gen. fol. 19. 3.
F11 Vajikra Rabba, fol. 147. 1. Debarim Rabba, fol. 233. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 9. 4.

2 Corinthians 2:16 In-Context

14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ, and spreads through us in every place the scent of knowing Him.
15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?
17 For we are not like the many who make a trade in God's message [for profit], but as those with sincerity, we speak in Christ, as from God and before God.
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