by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Incense in Scripture has a variety of rich and meaningful usages, particularly as related to the blood sacrifice. “And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: . . . And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee” (Exodus 30:1, 6). Without this incense, it was impossible to meet with God in this prescribed way. It was to be offered both morning and evening (vv. 7-8). Great care was to be taken in its preparation (vv. 34-36), and it was not to be used for any other purpose (vv. 37-38).
In the New Testament we find a totally different application of this principle. As in our text, we see that Jesus Christ Himself has become an offering and a “sweet-smelling savour” to God. His freely offering Himself is an example to us to live a life of sacrifice and love.
While He was the final sacrifice, we are to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). This may even take the form of material “things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
In the mind of God, our life of sacrifice is a sweet-smelling savor. “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Without our willing, living sacrifice, we cannot approach God, but with it, we are a “sweet savour of Christ.” JDM