CHRIST A SWEET SMELLING SAVOUR UNTO GOD ON HIS PEOPLE’S BEHALF
God is holy and therefore He will not look upon sin. God is just and therefore He judges sin wherever it is found. But God is love as well: God delighteth in mercy, and therefore infinite wisdom devised a way whereby justice might be satisfied and mercy left free to flow out to guilty sinners. This way was the way of substitution, the just suffering for the unjust. The Son of God himself was the one selected to be the substitute, for none other would suffice. Through Nahum, the question had been asked, “Who can stand before his indignation”? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?” (1:6).
This question received its answer in the adorable person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He alone could “stand”. One only could bear the curse and yet rise a victor above it. One only could endure all the avenging wrath and yet magnify the law and make it honourable. One only could suffer his heel to be bruised by Satan and yet in that bruising destroy him that had the power of death. God laid hold upon one that was “mighty” (Ps. 89:19). One who was no less than the Fellow of Jehovah, the radiance of His glory, the exact impress of His person. Thus we see that boundless love, inflexible justice and omnipotent power all combined to make possible the salvation of those who believe.
At the cross all our iniquities were laid upon Christ and therefore did divine judgment fall upon Him. There was no way of transferring sin without also transferring its penalty. Both sin and its punishment were transferred to the Lord Jesus. On the cross Christ was making propitiation, and propitiation is solely Godwards. It was a question of meeting the claims of God’s holiness; it was a matter of satisfying the demands of His justice.
Not only was Christ’s blood shed for us, but it was also shed for God: He “hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2). Thus it was foreshadowed on the memorable night of the Passover in Egypt: the lamb’s blood must be where God’s eye could see it – “When I see the blood, I will pass over you!”
Ephesians 5:2 speaks in the language of this particular type: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”
“Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning, and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even.” Speaking after the manner of men, it was as though God would keep before Him a constant reminder of the devotedness of His blessed Son. Therefore a “lamb.” rather than a bullock or ram (which prefigured Christ more in His strength and sufficiency) was appointed—suitably expressing His gentleness, and yieldedness to the will of God. And, too, that which was ever to be kept before His people also was, that which would set forth the Godward aspect of Christ’s work. Though the Lord Jesus came here to atone for the sins of His people, it was only because it was the Father’s will for Him so to do: cf. Hebrews 10:7 with 10:10.
“Inasmuch as the offering before us was perpetual, God laid a foundation thereby on which Israel could stand and be accepted in all its fragrance and savor. It thus becomes no mean type of the position of the believer, revealing the ground of his acceptance in the Beloved; for just as the sweet savor of the continual burnt-offering ever ascended to God on behalf of Israel, so Christ in all His acceptability is ever before His eyes on behalf of His own. We can therefore say, ‘As He is, so are we in this world’ (1 John 4:17), for we are in the Divine presence in all the savor of His sacrifice, and in all the acceptance of His Person” (Ed. Dennett).