************ Sermon on Ephesians 5:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 24, 2005
Ephesians 4:29 - 5:2
"Christ: A Fragrant Offering"
You know as well as I do that there are good smells and bad smells. There used to be a commercial bakery on Road 80 right across from Vince's business. My stomach would growl every time I went by and smelled the baking bread. When I smell a pie or cookies being baked at home I can hardly wait for the timer to go off. A couple of weeks ago we were cooking tri-tip on the grill; even though it was 3 hours before dinner time the smell made me ravenous. Ruth and I used to live in a pulp-and-paper town. Every morning and evening our bedroom smelled like rotten eggs. As a boy in church I was sometimes surrounded by women whose fragrance was so strong it smelled like they took a bath in perfume. The peppermints they gave me even tasted like their perfume – since then I have not really cared for peppermint. And, I am not even going to talk about Easter lilies.
In our text, Paul talks about a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." God is pictured as enjoying the fragrant aroma wafting up to Him. Smells are important to God. Lives dedicated to Him are pictured as a fragrant offering but sin and disobedience are odious and offensive to the Lord. And, have you ever realized that 2 of the 3 precious gifts given to the Christ-child – frankincense and myrrh – were given for their fragrant smell?
This morning, as you know, we are celebrating the Lord's Supper. At the heart of the Lord's Supper likes the words of our text:
(Eph 5:2) ... Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.In the Lord's Supper we are reminded that Christ is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
I Christ Loved and Gave Himself Up
A "Christ loved us," says Paul in our text. In the Greek the word for love is "agape." The use of agape is very significant because the Greek language has four different words for love that Paul could have used: stergo, eros, philia, and agape.
"Stergo" is a caring love. It is the feeling of affection we have toward familiar people and things.
"Eros" is a getting love. It has to do with sexual desire and satisfaction. Eros exists because it sees something desirable in the other person that it wants to possess.
"Philia" is a sharing love. It is the love between friends. It is based on common interests, attractions, and a close sharing of many things.
"Agape" is a giving love. It is a love that seeks the other person's good. It is a love that makes sacrifices for the sake of the other person. It is a love that gives without asking for anything in return.
Agape is the only word the New Testament uses to describe the love of God for men. And, agape is the word used by Paul in our text when he tells us about Christ's love.
Christ's love for us is an agape love. He showed that love on the cross and in the grave. There, He freely gave of Himself for our sakes. There, He sought our good rather than His own good. There, He made sacrifices on our behalf. There, He gave without asking or seeking anything in return.
B Paul also says that Christ "gave himself up for us." In the Greek language this phrase is used a number of times. It describes how Jesus was given over to the chief priests and elders of the people to be tried and falsely charged before the Sanhedrin (Mt 26:16,24). It describes how the Sanhedrin handed Jesus over to Pilate (Mt 27:2). It describes how Pilate handed Jesus over to the will of the people (Lk 23:25). And, it describes how Jesus was handed over to the soldiers to be crucified (Mt 27:26).
Christ "gave himself up." The cross and the grave were not an accident as far as Christ was concerned. Jesus' life was not taken from Him. Death was not something given to Jesus against His will. Jesus "gave himself up." It was His decision, His plan, His will. It was His sacrifice and not a sacrifice forced upon Him. Jesus deliberately chose, as Isaiah puts it, to be "led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Is 53:7). He didn't try to escape. He didn't try to pull away and hide. He was "obedient to death – even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). He willingly drank from the Lord's cup of wrath (Mt 26:42).
As you eat and drink keep in mind that Christ showed agape love and that He willingly gave Himself up.
II Fragrant Offering and Sacrifice
A Christ's love and Christ's giving is described by our text "as a fragrant offering and sacrifice."
You might wonder if there is a difference between offering and sacrifice. In the Old Testament a sacrifice was something bloody – a goat, a sheep, a lamb, a bull – that was burnt upon the altar. An offering, on the other hand, was something unbloody – olive oil, a sheaf of grain, a cluster of grapes, a bushel of wheat – that came from the fields or the trees.
Christ is both "offering and sacrifice." He represents the totality of Israel's giving to the Lord. In fact, Israel's giving to the Lord finds its fulfillment in Christ. But, unlike the giving of Israel, Jesus' giving is not begrudging; it is generous; it is from the heart.
Christ gave Himself as both "offering and sacrifice." This means he is both the offerer and the offering; He is both the sacrificer and the sacrifice; He is both the priest and the victim. How awesome that He gave Himself in this way.
Topic: SacrificesLike Jesus, those brave villagers gave up themselves as an offering and sacrifice.
The story is told of a Polish village during World War II that hid and protected some Jews. The Gestapo surrounded the village and forced all the people into the village square. The officer in charge of the operation drew a line in the dirt and demanded that all the Jews be pushed across the line or else everyone would be shot. The people gazed uncomfortably at each other. None wanted to betray the Jews in their midst. Knowing the dilemma the villagers were in the Jews stepped across the line voluntarily. Suddenly one of the villagers made up his mind: he stepped across the line too. One of his neighbors followed him. Then another. Soon all of the village had stepped across the line and stood there with the Jews. All of them were shot.
C Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a "fragrant" offering and sacrifice.
The Old Testament sacrifices were spoken of as a "pleasing aroma" to God. This means they were accepted by Him (cf Gen 8:21; Ex 29:18,25,41; Num 15,28,29). Christ's sacrifice was also a pleasing aroma to the Lord. To God, the sacrifice of Christ is an especially fragrant aroma, more pleasing than the smell of cooking tri-tip or baking bread to you and me.
What makes Christ's sacrifice so acceptable and pleasing to God? What in Christ's sacrifice made it fragrant to God? We would be drawing the wrong conclusion if we said God was a blood-thirsty tyrant Who received pleasure from the spilling of Christ's blood. Christ, after all, is the only-begotten Son, the one and only Son, Whom the Father loves. And, no father, especially not our loving Father in heaven, takes pleasure in the death of his son.
What, then, made Christ's sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God? What made Christ's sacrifice a pleasing aroma to the Father? What in Christ's sacrifice made it fragrant to God? God took pleasure in Christ's sacrifice for the same reason He takes pleasure in our offerings and sacrifices: namely, that it is offered in a spirit of agape love. Christ's offering and sacrifice was fragrant to God because Christ, out of agape love, gave Himself up for us. Christ willingly suffered and died on our behalf. It was the spirit in which Christ gave Himself that made His sacrifice fragrant and pleasing to God.
As you eat and drink keep in mind that Christ's offering and sacrifice was fragrant, a pleasing aroma, to God.
III For Us and To God
A Notice, "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." Christ's agape love and Christ's sacrificial death was for us. Again, we turn to what God said through the prophet Isaiah:
(Is 53:5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Christ's love was for us. Christ gave Himself up for us. His fragrant offering and sacrifice was for us.
For us. What thrilling words. What beautiful words. Because this means forgiveness, this means salvation, this means redemption, this means new life, this means washing and cleansing, this means eternal life, this means the covering of our sin. It means all of this if we ask God to forgive us because of Christ's sacrifice. I received a beautiful illustration of this from a friend:
One rainy afternoon I was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick. Suddenly, my daughter, Aspen, spoke up from her relaxed position in her seat. "Dad, I'm thinking of something." This announcement usually meant she had been pondering some fact for a while, and was now ready to expound all that her six-year-old mind had discovered. I was eager to hear. "What are you thinking?" I asked. "The rain" she began, "is like sin, and the windshield wipers are like God wiping our sins away." After the chill bumps raced up my arms I was able to respond. "That's really good, Aspen." Then my curiosity broke in. How far would this little girl take this revelation? So I asked... "Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming? What does that tell you?" Aspen didn't hesitate one moment with her answer: "We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us."Because of Christ's fragrant offering God keeps forgiving us our sin.
Christ's love was for us. Christ gave Himself up for us. His fragrant offering and sacrifice was for us. Not for the world. Not for unbelievers. Not for pagans. Not for Muslims and Hindus and Jews and anyone else who does not repent and believe. It is for us who believe, for us who have asked for forgiveness in Jesus' name. How glorious. How wonderful.
As you eat and drink keep in mind that Christ's offering and sacrifice was for you and everyone else who believes and that it means the forgiveness of your sin.
B Lastly, I want you to notice that "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Christ's fragrant offering and sacrifice was for us and to God. There is a theory that Christ's sacrifice was directed to the devil, that He paid a ransom to Satan, that He appeased the Son of Darkness. Our text tells us this was not the case. Rather, Christ's death was an offering to God on our behalf.
Christ's fragrant offering and sacrifice does something to God. It removes His terrible wrath against our sin. It satisfies the demands of God's justice.
We need to realize the seriousness of sin. We need to realize God is terribly angry with our sin – both the sin we are born with as well as the sin we actually commit.
God's anger against our sin was removed only when Jesus, out of agape love, gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
As you eat and drink keep in mind that Christ's offering and sacrifice was for us and to God.
Today, as we eat and drink at the Lord's Supper let us remember and believe the words of our text:
(Eph 5:2) Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page