"Now thanks be to God who always leads us
in triumph in Christ and through us diffuses
the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14
Previously, I had thought this verse was saying that God causes us to be triumphant. But literally the Greek phrase used there means "triumphs over us"(f) meaning that God triumphs over our lives by saving us and leading our redeemed lives about in victory throughout all the earth--wherever we go--demonstrating His ability to subdue and to save.
This whole passage is spoken in a militaristic sense.(f) When leaders would have victories, in that day and age, they would have incense bearers along the way home (the triumphal procession), and the fragrance would be about them--ushering them in to the city. It would be an evidence and boasting of their victory, power, and might. Along with their captives that they would be leading and triumphing over...
So our lives are that fragrance--that evidence--of God's power. Not only does he triumph over us, but we get to go in triumph with him. Not as slaves, but as sons and daughters, having been redeemed.
Paul was the writer here and he is the perfect example;(f) Paul was a persecutor of the church and accuser of God's people, sentencing Christians to death. But Jesus showed up and changed Paul's mind and his life. God was able to subdue Paul's wrath and self-righteousness and bring him under God's rule and authority. So Paul traveled throughout all the regions proclaiming Christ as the only way of salvation, being that example or trophy of God's power and effectiveness over the blindness and rebellion of man. Showing that God can save to the uttermost! The fragrance of Christ.
"Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us. His defeats of us are our only true victories"[ALFORD]. (f)
footnote: thoughts gleaned from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible