Thoughts on Present Day Triumphalism, II Corinthians 2:14
First: September 5, 2016,
Second: August 9, 2018
There is a place for “triumphalism” in our present Christian experience.
I say this with full awareness of the appropriate objections to the kind of “triumphalism” that exists in some contemporary Christian thought and teaching. There are some who want to preach, teach and live as if they had already experienced the full fruits of the Resurrection of Jesus. The fact is that at present we have only what might be called a “down-payment” on the fruits of the Resurrection at work in our lives (Ephesians 1:13-14) . The full fruits await the second coming of Christ, an event of unsurpassable glory that will fill our lives to overflowing with full Resurrection Joy, Triumphalism.
It is nevertheless true, however, that the powerful work of the Resurrection is so surely at work in our sinful hearts even today that we should not entirely eliminate the use of the idea of “triumphalism” from our present experience. Paul is using it right here in II Corinthians 2:14, this remarkably encouraging passage which surely has the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus in view and is applying these grand redemptive events to the congregation in Corinth. It is the Rsen and Ascended Christ who is leading Paul’s Corinthian brothers and sisters in “triumphal procession” this very day, and Paul is urging them to enter into this spirit of triumph in Christ.
It is important to notice that this “triumphalism” is a theme that Paul sustains quite clearly from this 2:14 text through the end of chapter 4. Exultant phrases abound. The “surpassing glory” (3:10) of his ministering Christ to the world was not “fading away” but is “the glory of that which lasts” (3:11). Then in 3:18 as part of that highly privileged number who “are being transformed into his (Christ’s) likeness with ever increasing glory.”
There is more than a breath of triumphalism in such language. This is not a triumphalism that fails to take into account the ongoing tribulation that we all suffer in this age. Along with the rest of us, Paul is suffering profound pain and sorrow throughout his time here on earth. But I think we are going too far when we eliminate all triumphalist language from our present experience.