Flatly put, sin stinks. Sin stinks in the physical world via the death that it brings. The corruption and decay of dead and dying things is never far away. Miss a shower or forget to brush your teeth and a pungent reminder of the effects of sin will not be far behind.
In the spiritual realm, sin stinks even worse. To a holy God who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, the effects in the realm of smell are likewise potent. Thus we find much Bible terminology about how the burnt offerings of the Old Testament – and even the death of Christ in Ephesians 5:2 – were a “sweet savour” before the Lord. One might be hard pressed to find how the smell of sizzling meat and burning bones and hair could be “sweet” to God. However, when we remember that what pleased God was not the carbon in the air, but the fact that sin was being atoned for, then it all makes sense.
As one continues through the pages of scripture, the role of incense, perfume and ointments in both the tabernacle and temple are noted. Our sacrifices today (praise, giving, etc.) are likewise spoken of in similar terms as smelling good to God. Paul said in Phil. 4:18 that the offering he had received of the church were, “things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”
Another aspect of this truth can be seen is in our prayers which can be compared to pleasant smelling incense. Compare Revelation 5:8 and Psalm 141:1-2.
The King – holy, sinless God in the person of Jesus Christ – is therefore said to smell good in passages such as Song of Solomon 1:3 – “ “Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth….” The application for us is that when we spend time with our Lord, his smell or savour will “rub off.”
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (II Cor. 2:14-16)