Here is my commentary on Ephesians 5:2. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site, http://www.new-life.org.au
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
We are to walk in love as Christ loved us. The Christian life is not a series of negatives which constrain our behaviour with boundaries of what we are not permitted to do.
The overarching command is to love God, to love our neighbours, even to love our enemies.
Paul encourages us here to make love such a part of our ethical system that it becomes the focus of our walk along the road of life. We are to walk in love footstep by footstep, day by day, loving those whom we meet.
When we practise love, what is a difficult concept at first becomes a part of our lives. This is not to suggest that love ever becomes mechanical, but the habit of concentrating on others becomes automatic.
This love again is God’s love, the love of Christ or agape love. Christ’s love is unfailing, eternal, and unchanging just as God is unfailing, eternal and unchanging.
In Christ we see how love is acted out at the human level. Christ gave Himself up for us .
Firstly Christ gave Himself up when He left the glorious throne in heaven and became a human being. He took on weakness and the various limitations of being in a body. He was subject to all the appetites of the flesh and also its demands.
Christ gave Himself up by subjecting Himself to the Jewish law, the law of Moses. He who was without sin still had to offer the various sacrifices that were ordained to reconcile sinful people to a holy God.
Christ gave Himself up by humbling Himself under the authority of religious and civil leaders. He was so much greater than they were, yet he obeyed them .
Finally, Christ gave Himself up at the cross. He was beaten, mocked, tortured, and nailed to a cross. Crucifixion was not only an intensely painful way to die, it was a shameful punishment. It was so shameful, in fact, that Roman citizens were not permitted to be crucified.
Christ gave up His divine right to be above such suffering. He gave up any human right to be vindicated and set free, despite the obviously fabricated charges brought against Him.
On the cross, Jesus bore the brunt of the Father’s wrath against sin. This was infinitely greater than the common suffering of all who were punished by crucifixion. The divine Son of God who had known an eternity of intimacy with the Father now found Himself forsaken by God.
Christ carried the burden of every sin committed, every offence against God’s righteousness, since the time of Adam, stretching to our own time and beyond. He suffered the eternity of Hell in six hours on the cross.
Christ gave Himself up to suffer on our behalf. He suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In His suffering He became a fragrant offering and a sacrifice.
In the Temple, and before that the Tabernacle, there was an altar where fragrant incense was offered continually to the Lord. The smoke from this incense was considered to be pleasing to the Lord.
So Paul tells us that Christ’s death on the cross was a fragrant offering, similar to the smell of incense wafting up to heaven.
Incense is not of itself pleasing to God. A stick of incense is just a stick. It is only when it is burnt that the incense is released. In a sense, the incense must die to release the fragrant offering that pleases the Lord.
In a similar way, the death of Christ released a fragrant offering to the Father. This offering was the reconciliation sinful humanity to the holy God. The achievement of that purpose, which stretched back even before creation, pleased God.
Christ’s death was more than a pleasant smell. It was a sacrifice. Sacrifices achieve various things in the Old Covenant, but the most important of them is atonement.
Atonement means that the death of an animal is accepted on my behalf as payment for my sin. I deserve to die for dishonouring God, but he chooses to accept an animal’s death instead.
The Old Testament describes very detailed procedures for the type of sacrifices required for various sins, as well as the method of slaughter for the animal.
The principle is simple- one sin equals one sacrifice.
Then on the Day of Atonement the sins of the whole nation were laid on the head of a goat which was driven into the wilderness.
Over and over, and in many different ways, the Lord impressed on his people the gravity of sin and their need to be made right with Him.
Now Jesus who is over and above any created being, has been offered as an atonement, the sacrifice, for our sin. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Every sin of every person who ever lived, and who will ever live, has been put to death with Christ on the cross.
He died so that we can live. Because of Christ’s sacrifice my sins are forgiven. I am justified and made holy so that I can enter the presence of God for ever.
We were headed for hell with no hope of rescue, but Christ died and set us on the pathway to Heaven, where we will live with God forever.
This is how much God loves us. He sent his one and only Son to be our sacrifice and our fragrant offering. Because God loves us so much, we two must walk in the love of Christ.
Key points in this verse:
- Walking in Christ’s love prevents us from viewing the Christian life as just a set of rules
- Love can become a way of life when we practise Christ’s love
- Christ gave Himself up for us in His birth, in His life, and above all in His death
- Christ’s death is a fragrant offering pleasing to the father
- Christ’s death is a sacrifice which atones or pays for our sins for eternity