While living in the Cotswolds I have been surrounded by remnants of the old Roman civilisation. Did you realise that there is at least one celebration in that civilisation that has been kept alive in the pages of the Bible?
People living in first century Rome were accustomed to seeing a great victory parade after a significant military campaign. A visit to the British Museum confirms that, even if you missed the real procession, you were familiar with its existence because the image was borne far and wide on Roman coins, statues, medallions, paintings and reliefs.
The image is of the Roman conqueror, amidst wafts of burning incense, leading his troops and captive princes, nobles, generals, and people in triumphal procession along the Appian Way, beside the Forum to the Capitoline hill and altar.
Rather surprisingly, Paul likens Christians, not to the soldiers of Christ, but to His conquered captives!
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ's triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume (2 Cor. 2:14).
It was not the sullen face of a conquered captive being lead to a probable execution, however, but for Paul there was a joy and exultation to be so privileged and honoured to have been made captive in Christ. Paul was shouting in triumph for his Conqueror and letting the proclamation of the saving message of his Saviour spread everywhere, like the incense that accompanied the Roman procession.
So let’s cut to the chase about what Paul is saying. He’s declaring that he was Christ’s enemy. His life was unholy and self-directed, alienated from Christ and hostile to everything He was and is. But here’s the enigma -- elsewhere Paul has told us that he lived a pure and virtuous life: as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault (Phil. 3:6). What on earth is going on?
Living a conscientious religious holy life, carefully and assiduously observing rituals and laws, is not what God wants from us. Simply, God wants our hearts and wills to be subject to the true King.
You may indeed have committed horrendous sins but when you gave your life over to our Saviour, you were forgiven and free. All the outward religious behaviour isn’t what made you forgiven and holy. You became holy and free only when you allowed yourself to be conquered by the love of Jesus.
Only then has all your resistance been broken, you have unconditionally surrendered, your weapons have been destroyed, you have been taken from familiar territory into the heavenly kingdom of your Saviour.
So now when you have succumbed to the power of Jesus you have become independent of everything and everybody, including yourself. You are truly free! All your former enslavements, addictions , fears, weaknesses and bowing to the opinions of others have been broken.
Here's the sobering truth. We are all playing a role in that victory procession. We have a choice, whether we realise it or not, to be willingly led by Christ or to be reluctantly dragged as an enemy of Christ waiting to hear the Conqueror say, And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me (Luke 19:27). Heavenly Father, thank You that no matter what I may have to face in life, that in Christ I am always led to victory. I pray that as I rest in Him, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, that I may always be led in triumph to Your praise and glory. May my life be a living sacrifice - a burnt offering that becomes as sweet-smelling perfume of the knowledge of Him in every place You may choose to send me. I pray this in Jesus' name and for His glory, AMEN.
All quotations are from the NLT.
Image downloaded from https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1805-0703-342 17.1.23
 https://dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com/2-corinthians-2-14 accessed 17.1.23