Fragrant Sacrifices And Offerings Through Death And Resurrection

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our Epistle lesson from today says that you and I are to be imitators of God.  It states that we are to walk in love and to walk as children of the light.  Furthermore, Paul in his letter to Romans states that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for this is our spiritual worship.  In other words, as Christians we are to be fragrant ‘sacrifices and offerings’ in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

There is a problem with all of this though, for “we understand that none of our labor is acceptable to God.  We understand that none of our carnal, fleshly work is acceptable in the Lord’s sight.  All our works are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6) although some men may be very pleased and impressed with our achievements.  None of our carnal works rise to the Lord Jesus as fragrant offerings or are acceptable to our Father in heaven as pleasing sacrifices.  Our God sees all our work as filthy rages, not one worthy of meriting any attention from Him.”[1]  Our works are too polluted, too muddy, and too muted.   

The reason why this is the way that it is, is due to the reality of our fallen condition.  Otherwise stated, we have this terrible stain of sin upon us that corrupts our thoughts, words, and deeds.  We are knocked off center.  We are twisted from the fall into sin.  This impacts all aspects of our life, which means that all of our works, no matter how pure and noble, are blemished.  These good works are more often than not, done with selfish reason or impure motives.  They are not done out of the context of truly fearing, trusting, and loving God.  They are not done out of the context of purely loving our neighbor, but are done to serve the unholy trinity of ‘me, myself, and I.’ 

So because of this terrible stain of sin, does this mean that none of the sacrifices and offerings of mankind reach the Lord as acceptable and well-pleasing to Him?  For example, were not all the Old Testament sacrifices a sweet-smelling and well-pleasing to the Lord?  Yes, the Old Testament sacrifices and offerings were, but not for the reasons we might think.  You see, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were pleasing to God not because of the intrinsic value of the sacrifice or because of the worth of the work done in the sacrifices.  Rather, they were well-pleasing because these ‘sacrifices and offerings’ were foreshadowed and encircled the one true sacrifice to come, Jesus Christ’s  death, burial, and resurrection.  Otherwise stated, none of our works derived by our own doings or out of our own name reach God as sweet-smelling sacrifices and offerings.  This was the case in the Old Testament times and is the case today.[2]

Simply put, it is this way because the “’world of God’ and the ‘world of man’ have been separated (Gen. 3:22)”[3] due to sin.  A great chasm was created due to sin.  Thus, there is no possible way to properly devote and present something to the Lord from the world of man.  Our sacrifices and offerings cannot cross the great divide.  Even if our works and doings could cross into the world of God, there is no passport for our sacrifices into the realm of God, for they are tainted and stained.  Works, sacrifices, and offerings that are tarnished by sin will not and cannot be admitted before the Lord as fragrant offerings.

“The only way to devote and give something to God has been to remove it from man’s world: to kill it and/or, in some cases, to burn it.”[4]  This means that for us to present ourselves before the Lord and to walk in the light and to be children of the light and to offer up sacrifices to the Lord, we must be put to death.  There must be an end to us and our ways. 

But how on earth are we to be put to death?

Blessed Saints, you are put to death in your baptisms.  Through baptism you are joined to Christ and the fruits of His death.  Yes, your baptism joins you to Christ, putting your old Adam to death and bringing about a new man. Surely, your sin puts you in the grave, but your baptism joins you to Jesus’ grave, a grave of death, resurrection, and new life. 

This baptism matters for it is the means by which you are daily joined to Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection; a death, burial, and resurrection which are a wonderful fragrant offering and a gracious sacrifice on your behalf.  Yes, Jesus is “the perfect fragrant sacrifice and offering, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world in whose book the names of all who live and die and rise by faith in Christ Jesus have been written (Revelation 13:8).  And not only are [your] names written in the book of the Lamb and in the heart of the Father, but [your] works of faith, good works prepared beforehand in which [you] walk, rise to the throne of our Father as fragrant sacrifices and offerings.”[5] 

Baptized Saints, you walk in the light and are imitators of God because the Holy One has invaded this world—invaded you—and drowned you in the waters of baptism, bringing forth a new creation.  Yes, you are purified in baptism and live in repentance, daily being forgiven and standing before God as a living, holy, well-pleasing sacrifice to Him.[6]  The re-creating sanctifying Spirit of God has come to you making you alive.  Daily holiness invades you by the Word and Sacraments, with the power of God—power that affects your posture and attitudes.  Daily you are cleansed being returned to the waters of your baptism.  Daily your works and doings are cleansed as well for Christ sake.  Thus, be confident that God accepts Jesus Christ as an acceptable offering in your stead. 

Because of Jesus this means that as “water-baptized, blood-covered, Holy Spirit-filled, consecrated, and anointed”[7] saints, your lives and jobs and vocations and works and doings and thoughts and words are fragrant sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. 

Even though you continually see yourself as a sinner, and even thought the old Adam clings to you until the day you die, and even though in the eyes of the law and the world you are considered a sinner, do not forget the reality that you are at the same time completely a saint in the eyes of God on account of Christ.  The good news of the Gospel is that you are completely and totally righteous in the eyes of the Lord. 

Because Jesus is an acceptable sacrifice and offering—for you, every act proceeding from faith, every work that has been prepared in advance for you to walk in, and every word spoken in faith is made holy because of Jesus and rises up to the Father as a sweet-smelling savor and sacrificial offering. 

So dear Baptized Saints, walk in love, be imitators of God, present yourselves as living sacrifices, and serve your neighbor, for you have died and been buried and resurrected in Jesus through baptism.  This is not of your own doing, but it is the Holy Spirit through the Gospel working to create in you a life of worship.  Rest in the one who is for you, knowing that through the Word and Sacraments He has declared you righteous for Christ’s sake and made all your movement and life in Him a fragrant offering in the nostrils of our loving God and Father.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Fragrant Offerings and Sacrifices: 2014 LWML Sunday Sermon. (11 October 2014).

[2] Martin Luther. Third Sunday in Lent Sermon by Dr. Martin Luther.

[3] Jonathan F. Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: An Interpretation of Romans Second Edition (Published in Canada: 2012), 515.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Fragrant Offerings and Sacrifices: 2014 LWML Sunday Sermon. 

[6] Jonathan F. Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: An Interpretation of Romans Second Edition, 517.

[7] Fragrant Offerings and Sacrifices: 2014 LWML Sunday Sermon. 

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