A Fragrance of Christ to God

Under the Law of Moses, burnt offerings were an integral part of Israel’s worship of God.  In thirty-seven different commandments of the Law, God required Israel to offer various burnt sacrifices as a "soothing aroma to the LORD.”  This did not mean that God especially enjoyed the smell of burning flesh, grain, fruit, or other objects of sacrifice, but rather it was that He was pleased with such sacrificial offerings.  These aromas were soothing to Him in that they appeased Him and quieted His wrath that was provoked by sin.  The soothing effect of each burnt offering was temporary and limited, so these sacrifices had to be offered continually and often.

Those burnt offerings have now ceased under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.  It was "impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4), but Christ’s sacrifice of His own blood was able to do what all of the burnt offerings under Moses’ Law could never do.  Jesus offered Himself "once for all” (Heb. 9:12, 26-28; 10:10-14) to take away the guilt of sin forever.  With His blood, Jesus ratified a New Covenant that invalided the Old Covenant and ended the need for any further burnt offerings (Heb. 8:13; 9:13-28).  Christ’s single blood sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to fully appease the justice of God forever and bring forgiveness and salvation to all men.

Nevertheless, God still expects a "soothing aroma” of sacrifices from His people in Christ.  However, the sacrifices of Christians are not burnt offerings like those in the Law of Moses, but instead they are spiritual in nature.  Indeed, they are the words and deeds of Christians that spread the knowledge of Jesus and bring glory to God throughout the world.  Consider the words of the apostle Paul in 2Corinthians 2:14-16:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.

It is the knowledge of Jesus Christ that is now the "sweet aroma” to God, for it is through the gospel of Christ that sins are forgiven and souls are saved.  God is pleased (soothed) by faith (Heb. 11:6), and faith comes by hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17).  Therefore, Christians must spread the knowledge of Christ through the preaching and practice of the gospel in order to offer a soothing aroma to God.

Through Christians, this "sweet aroma” is to be wafting among all men.  In the ancient world, the scents of burnt offerings were heavy in the cities where such sacrifices were made, whether they were the sacrifices to God made at the temple in Jerusalem or the sacrifices to idols made in the cities of the Gentiles.  People in those cities were well-acquainted with the aroma of burnt offerings.  Today, the "fragrance of Christ to God” is to be similarly well-known "among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”  Among those who are being saved, our "fragrance of Christ” brings "an aroma from life to life” of the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus.  Among those who are perishing, our fragrance brings "an aroma from death to death” of hopeless condemnation for those who refuse to obey the gospel of Jesus (2Thess. 1:8-9).  Among all men, the gospel of Christ is to be an ever-present, inescapable fragrance because of the tireless efforts of Christians to teach and live by the gospel.

Therefore, let us make our offerings before God in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2).  God calls us to walk in the likeness of Christ’s sacrifice not in death, but in life.  We are to "present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).  Our lives are to be living testimonies of Christ in word and in deed.  "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).  In this way, we may be "a fragrance of Christ to God” that is soothing to our heavenly Father.

Stacey E. Durham


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