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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Put on the Fragrance of Christ
Text:LD 12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2010-07-18
Added:2010-09-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:  Psalm 92: 1, 4

Sing:  Hymn 1B

Read: Exodus 30: 22-33; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Sing: Psalm 84: 1, 2, 4

Text: Lord's Day 12

Sing: Psalm 23: 1, 3

Sing: Hymn 36: 1, 3, 4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters,
 
The leader of the federal Liberal party, Michael Ignatieff, said about Prime Minister Stephen Harper: "You know you smell the whiff of sulfur coming off the guy." It is a symbolic way of saying that there is a noxious smell about the Prime Minister and that he is either the devil himself or very closely associated with him. It was not a nice thing to say. It was an insult and quite disrespectful of the Prime Minister. No one wants others to associate them with the devil or to think of them as having an odious smell about them.
 
That is especially the case when you are a Christian. Christians must have a very succinct and pleasant odour about them. And that is what Paul is talking about in his second letter to the Corinthians in the passage that we read. Christians must have the fragrance of Christ. How do you receive such a fragrance? That is also the theme for this afternoon's sermon, namely that we must:
 
Put on the Fragrance of Christ. We do that:
1. As prophet;
2. As priest;
3. As king.
 
The catechism teaches us that the word Christ means anointed. In the Hebrew language the word Messiah is used. As we read in Exodus 30, anointing was a very important ritual. The Lord very specifically prescribed how to perform that ritual. The anointing oil had to be prepared in accordance with a very specific formula. And it was to be used extensively in the tabernacle and later on in the Temple. Everything that was used in the Temple had to be anointed with that specific oil, including the Ark and the various altars and wash basins, and all the utensils.
 
Why was that oil used? What was the purpose of it? Well, note well that throughout the passage in Exodus 30 the fragrance of the various elements is specifically mentioned. It says there that they had to use fragrant cinnamon and fragrant cane, and that everything had to be a fragrant blend. Also that it had to be the work of a perfumer. And so, the oil was used in order to spread a specific aromatic scent. It was used to make everything smell nice.
 
But not only did all those physical elements need to be anointed, but especially Aaron the high priest and his sons, and later on their descendents as well. They also had to have that very special smell about them. No one else was allowed to use that specific anointing oil for purposes other than the Temple and the Temple servants of the Lord. The Temple of the Lord, and everyone serving in there had to have that very specific and pleasant odour about them. That specific odour would symbolize the smell of God.
 
This anointing with fragrant oil highlights the fact that this world smells of sin and death. It smells of decay and rottenness. The disobedience of man has poisoned the atmosphere here on this earth. The smell of the Temple had to symbolize the fact that with God you can breathe fresh and sweet air. In the Temple of God you don't have to hold your nose, for that is where the stench of your sins are done away with. That is where they are removed. The anointing oil used in the Temple symbolized the fact that God would take away our sins and everything to do with sin. He would take away the curse of sin, which is death. 
 
Various kinds of oils were used extensively in those days. They were used especially in order to refresh you. They did not have an abundance of water as we do today. And so, they did not wash themselves as frequently as we do today. In order to cover up their own smell, they would use aromatic oils. It was refreshing, and made you feel like a new person. It was the next best thing to taking a shower or a bath.
 
And so the anointing oil also symbolized the fact that the Lord God would renew all things; that he would cleanse you from your sins. In John 15:3 the Lord Jesus says to his disciples that they are already clean because of the word that he has spoken to them. The Word and the Spirit are closely associated with one another. Both the Spirit and the Word cleanse you.
 
That is why also the prophets had to be anointed with special anointing oil. For their words had to be pure; holy. They had to speak God's Word and therefore their tongues had to be purified by the Spirit of God. They had to have the smell of God on them. They were empowered by God to declare his will to his people. They would herald his impending judgment. That is what Elijah did, for example, to King Ahab. That is also what all the other prophets did, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They spoke of God's wrath to come for all those who did not have the smell of God on them.
 
Prophets received dreams and visions and even performed miracles. Again, Elijah is a prime example of this. They also acted as intermediaries between God and his people. They gave advice and encouragement and were leaders of the people. Prophets also advocated repentance so that the people would be restored in God's sight. They also appointed kings and other leaders.
 
They did this all in the name of God and so that the people could have a peaceful life, so that they could have the smell of God on them as well. Everything they did and said was done in the name of God. If the people listened to those prophets they would have joyful and fulfilled lives. They would have God's fragrance on them. If not, they would have the smell of decay and death.
 
The prophets' activities were designed to ensure that God's people themselves would have a pleasant aroma. For the prophets taught people to live more and more in dedication to the Lord God, the Almighty Creator. In this way they were also to be attractive to the other nations around them, so that they would also want to dwell in such a pleasant atmosphere. They should be able to smell that when you belong to God's people you have room to breathe and to live. Room to be the best you can be without fear and without anxieties. For that was the lot of the heathens. They lived in the stifling atmosphere of their idols.
 
And indeed, it sometimes happened that others were attracted to them. Think of the Queen of Sheba.
 
However, more often than not a putrid air emanated from Israel. That is because they did not listen to the prophets sent by God. Most of them didn't like their message and wanted to do their own thing. That created a vacuum for the advent of false prophets. These false prophets exploited the people and their gullibility. These prophets served only to lead people astray. Their message did not originate with God but with themselves. They only brought a message that was popular. They spoke because they wanted to be admired and to be revered. They were also after financial rewards. And so these prophets wallowed in the stench of sin. And they spread that odious smell around, among the people. Their noxious stench was actually attractive to many, many people. For the people who have their minds set on earthly pleasures are drawn to the smell of the world. They like the smell of money better than they like the smell of God.
 
This could have been the end of God's people. God could have left his people in the stench of their own sin and in the stink of death. But that did not happen. He sent his Son. He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to carry out his task as prophet. Scripture was fulfilled in him. That is also what he told the people in his own hometown of Nazareth when he read to them from the prophecy of Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19). He said "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
 
The Lord Jesus Christ is the true prophet sent by God. That is why he was also known as the Word that became flesh. The catechism puts it very beautifully. It says that he was anointed to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption. It was his primary purpose to tell all those who would listen that we have been set free from sin and the devil. That he has overcome the stink of death. That he is the only one who can give you room to breathe.
 
Life has to do with breath. In the Greek and the Hebrew language the same word that is used for the Spirit is also used for breath. And breath is also another word for soul. When you have breath in you, you have life in you. And when you have the Holy Spirit in you, then you have eternal life within you. Then you can live forever. For through the Holy Spirit you are given eternal life. That is the urgent message of our chief Prophet and Teacher the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
We are closely related to that prophet. For the Scriptures teach us that Christ is the head and that we are the body. And so the Lord Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit as our head, but that anointing oil also spread down over his body, just like it says in Psalm 133 about the precious oil that was poured on the head of Aaron and ran down his beard and upon the collar of his robes.
 
We as the body share in his anointing. We share in his anointing because we are a member of Christ by faith. Note well that the catechism uses the present tense. It is not something for the future. No, you are a prophet now. The catechism also does not give any conditions by which we would qualify. The only condition mentioned is the exercise of faith. But even faith is a gift of God. Sharing in Christ's anointing is the work of the Holy Spirit 100%. That is a great comfort for we are sinful people.
 
For we're not very good prophets, are we? Sometimes the language that comes out of our mouths stinks. Then it is wonderful to know that the Holy Spirit purifies our tongues. For the Holy Spirit imparts to us the work of Christ. The language that came out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ was absolutely pure and without sin. He never once misspoke. He never once flew off the handle. He never once used his tongue to promote his own selfish interests. He used his words always in the service of God the Father and his children.
 
You see, that is also what you and I have to do. And by and large we try to do that, don't we? We are keenly aware that we are Christians, and that others look at us and the way that we conduct ourselves. We try not to be like the people of the world who use unwholesome language. Just think about the language that is used in the modern media. It is difficult nowadays to find a good TV program or movie where the actors do not use filthy and degrading language. We also hear unwholesome talk from many of the people with whom we come into daily contact. It's disturbing. And it is very important that we do not join them by using the same language, or by allowing such language to be used in our presence. It is wrong to use the F-word for example, or to use God's name in vain, or to tell filthy jokes, or by gossiping about or slandering others. That is unbecoming of a Christian. A Christian does not do that. He uses his tongue to promote God's cause. When we open our mouths, others must see that we are different from them. We have to come with the aroma of Christ.
 
Let me ask you, do you have the smell of God on you? Do you use your tongue to promote God's cause, and do you use wholesome language?
 
Boys and girls, this also applies to you. I hope you're listening. You too have to watch the things you say. Not to give your father or mother a big mouth, or to say bad things about other people, about your friends. The Lord listens to every word you say. Do you know why that is so important? It is important because you too have been anointed to be a prophet of God, because you are a Christian. And therefore you don't use a stinky language. Yech.
 
2. The catechism also teaches us about the anointment of priests. You know what a priest does, don't you? A priest was appointed by God to make the people realize that they are sinners, and that they deserve to die because of their sin. And that is why a priest made sacrifices. That is to say, he had to kill animals in the Temple. These slaughtered animals symbolized the fact that we deserve to die. The animal took our place, for the Lord God is merciful and he does not want us to have to die. But he does want us to be aware that we deserve to die because of our sins. And so, such an animal was only a symbol. It wasn't the real thing.
 
That is where the Lord Jesus Christ comes in. He is the high priest. And he did not come with an animal to be slaughtered before God as a symbol of the sin of God's people. No, he offered himself up as a sacrifice. The catechism says that by the one sacrifice of his body he has redeemed us. That means that he has set us free, that he has delivered us from slavery to sin, and from sin itself, even from the devil. He gives us room to breathe. For he died in our place.
 
The catechism also says that he continually intercedes for us before the Father. In other words he has taken up our cause. He defends us before the Father so that we do not stand condemned before him. That was also the task of a priest. A priest in the Temple also burned incense. Incense also had a peculiar pleasant smell. And that incense represented the prayers that were sent up on behalf of the people because of their sins. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, is the perfect high priest for He intercedes personally for us. He prays for us. He wants us not to be condemned.
 
And now the catechism says that we also are ordained as priests. And so what is now our task? We do not have temples anymore. We come together in a church. In a church building we do not make sacrifices. There is not an altar in front of the church. That is because Christ is the unique sacrifice that never has to be repeated. All the Old Testament laws pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Once the Lord Jesus Christ offered himself on the cross, sacrifices were no longer necessary. Animals no longer had to be killed.
 
And yet, the catechism says that we also have to present ourselves as living sacrifices. What does that mean? Well, it does not mean that we have to die. No, it means that we have to present ourselves as sacrifices of thankfulness to him. In other words we have to show in the way that we live how thankful we are for what the Lord Jesus Christ has done. As it says in Matthew 11:29, we must take up the yoke of Christ. And he tells us that that is not a burden, for his yoke is light. And what is that yoke? It is to dedicate ourselves totally to the Lord Jesus. To live for him, for he is the only one worth living for. He is the one who gives us eternal life. And when you dedicate yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, then he will give you peace.
 
A priest served in the Temple to make people aware of their sins. And therefore that is also what we have to do as priests. We have to have and create an awareness of sins. That is the only way that you can have true peace. For when you're aware of your sins then you realize what you have been saved from: eternal death. It is only with such awareness that we can be thankful. We can be thankful for what God has done through his Son Jesus Christ.
 
How now do you show your thankfulness? Well, you do that by dedicating yourself and everything that you have to the Lord God. You and I have to put everything that we have at God's disposal. All our possessions: our homes, our families, our toys, even our very lives. We have to put it all at God's disposal. You children have to learn that at a very young age. Everything you have, even your toys, belongs to God and he allows you to use them.
 
How do you think you are doing in that regard? Do you have the smell of God on you also as priest? Do others notice a different air about you? Are you a breath of fresh air in the midst of this stinky world? In the midst of a world full of lies and dishonesty and self-service and greed.
 
No doubt you will agree that we can always do better, can't we? How? How can we improve? Well, do you know what else a priest does? A priest also prays. He asks God for strength and wisdom. In his prayer he goes to the altar of incense, which in the New Testament is Christ. He is our intercessor. In other words he is the one who pleads our cause before the Father. Through him our prayer will reach the throne of mercy. It is through Christ that we may be absolutely assured that our prayers are heard.
 
And so, we have to pray. We have to lead prayerful lives. We have to pray that we do not become too attached to this earthly life, but that we seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God the Father. Those who seek after earthly things have a certain odious smell about them; the smell of decay, just like the earthly possessions they seek after. But what we have here on this earth will pass away.
 
3. And yet, God does give us many things here on earth to enjoy. He blesses us materially. But he wants us to be good stewards of all that he has given us. He gives us the responsibility to rule over what he has given us. And that is our role as kings. We have been anointed as kings. Kings, and also queens, reign. The great King is the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are vice regents. He gives us property over which we have to rule. He gives us earthly possessions: money, a house, a car. He also gives many of us children. And we have to rule over these possessions in the way that the great King has taught us in his word.
 
As kings we also have to fight against our enemies. The great enemy of ours is the devil. We may not serve him. We also have to fight against sin. That is a daily struggle. We have to realize our own sins, and our own weaknesses, and fight against our inclination to do wrong. We have to fight against the sins of the flesh. And therefore we have to make sure that we do not get addicted to noxious substances, such as alcohol, or to drugs, or to become addicted to gambling, or to other things that will harm your own health or your relationship with others, and especially your relationship with the Lord.
 
Don't think, however, that being a Christian is something that you have to do; that you have to accomplish something in order to become a Christian. For we have to separate the office from the person. The Heidelberg catechism explains who the Lord Jesus Christ is by explaining to us what his names stand for. Jesus means Saviour. That is what he is and what he does. He is also prophet, priest, and king. Those are his various offices. They explain the tasks that he has to perform.
 
Think about the Prime Minister of this country. His name is Stephen Harper. But his office is Prime Minister. And therefore when you speak about the Prime Minister you do so out of respect, not first of all because of his person, but because of his office. That is why Mr. Ignatieff was so wrong in saying what he did. He did not just dishonour the person, but the office of the person. And that is why, when you speak ill of a certain office bearer, an elder or a deacon or the minister, you had better be very careful. You have to be careful by realizing whom he represents. He represents the great King, high priest, and prophet. You may not attack him in his office.
 
But when we speak about Christ, then we do not speak about his office, but about who he is. He is Christ, that is to say, he is the anointed one. It is not a name by which to call him, but a name by which to confess who he is. It is very important that we understand that. When the Lord Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16:15 who they say that he is, then Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." He was right. That is who he is. But that is not his office.
 
You see, that is also what you are. You and I are Christians. That means that we are anointed ones. That also means that we have the smell of God on us; that we had better not make ourselves odious by wanting to remain in our sins. It means that we have to repent from our sins, and ask for the renewal of the Holy Spirit. But now because you are a Christian you have to conduct yourself also as a Christian in the office that God has placed you, in the office of prophet, priest and king.
 
It is comforting to know that we do this as Christians, as something that we already are. For that means that no one and nothing can remove us from our thrones. It means that even though we are very poor in the way that we conduct ourselves in our offices, that nevertheless God will treat us as his children for we have the name of Christ. Of course, we must want to have the smell of Christ on us. We must want to be Christians as well. If we do not want to be Christians and live like Christians, then God will also reject us. For then we deny what we are.
 
But as long as you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and love him for who he is and for what he has done, then we do not have to be afraid of anything. Then the Lord will supply you with everything you need in order to fight the good fight of faith. And then God's wonderful fragrance will remain on us. Then we will not have the smell of death, but the fragrance of life, eternal life with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the anointed one. Amen



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.edmontonimmanuel.ca

(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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