Monday, 3 October 2016
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:2
In order to be imitators of God, as the previous verse demands, we are to walk in holiness and to accomplish those things which were given to us to heed in the previous chapter. But in addition to that, we are to “walk in love.” Love is the tie which binds all of those other aspects of our walk together. This is seen in Jesus’ words of John 13:34, 35 –
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But this love is defined in a special way by Paul now with the words, “as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.” Jesus didn’t just command us to love, but to do so with a type of love which is self-sacrificing. He made this known to us explicitly in John 15:12, 13 –
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
We are to follow in His self-sacrificing love. This does not mean that we all have to literally die for our friends, but that our sacrifices are such that we would be willing to die for them. In Christ’s death, Paul next brings in the Old Testament system of sacrifices and offerings to show us that what was in the Old only prefigured the greater and more perfect work of Christ. He says that Christ gave Himself for us “as an offering and a sacrifice to God.”
The offering was His life, lived under the law and in fulfillment of the law, which was given to God on our behalf. He fulfilled the law perfectly and completely without ever failing in any precept. The sacrifice was then His death in satisfaction of the law. This is referred to in Hebrews. Chapter 10 of Hebrews explains it quite well –
Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’” Hebrews 10:5-7
The sacrifices and offerings of the Old Testament were mandated under the law, and yet they are not what the Lord desired. Instead, they only pointed to the life of Christ. This is seen in the words, “a body you have prepared for Me.” These words of Hebrews 10 were written by David in Psalm 40:6-8, and they show us that David understood the temporary, transitory, and prophetic nature of the law’s sacrificial system. In Christ, they find their fulfillment. In His death then, there is “a sweet smelling aroma.”
This term goes back to the sacrificial system which is detailed in the Old Testament, especially in Exodus and Leviticus. When a sacrifice was made as a burnt offering or a sin offering, the portion that was burnt on the altar before the Lord was deemed as “a sweet smelling aroma.” These offerings were given in anticipation of the cross of Christ. It was His cross which is the true and complete “sweet smelling aroma” to God. Through Him, full and complete restoration to God is made for the people of the world. Through His cross, we are made acceptable to God once again.
This perfect offering is what we are to emulate. As Christ walked, so are we to walk. And His perfect sacrifice, based on His perfect life, is what we are also to emulate. In our walk, we are to be willing to offer ourselves to God and in the service of others in love.
Life application: It is a very high calling to which we have been called. Are we willing to put aside our petty differences and hold our fellow Christians in high esteem as we have been asked? Are we willing to expend ourselves, serving others even as Christ served us? Let us remember these words and think on them as we interact with other believers.
Lord God Almighty, you have asked us to walk in love, as Christ also has loved us. He gave Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God. Can we honestly say that we are willing to do the same for our fellow brothers? Help us to be obedient to You in this, and to put others ahead of ourselves. Help us to be a sweet-smelling aroma to You by giving our lives as living sacrifices to You in this way. With this You will surely be pleased, and so may it be in our lives. Amen.