The Good Exhortation

The Good Exhortation

After all these years of giving exhortations I’ve finally come up with a good one. Well, really, the only reason it is a good one is because it is full of good Greek words like euodia, eusebia, eulogeo and eucharisteo. You’ll notice that all these words start with the sound “yoo”, the letters “eu”. The Greek language has several of these prefixes that when added to a normal word change it, amplify it and give it a deeper meaning. Adding the letters “eu” to the front of a word gives the added meaning of being “good” or “well”.

We are going to discuss what I found to be four very interesting examples of this.

  1. Euodia comes from the word odia which means odor. Euodia therefore means good odor, sweet savour, nice smell.
  2. Eusebeia has as a root the word ‘seb’ which means reverence, fear or worship. Adding the ‘eu’ gives it the meaning of right worship which in our Bibles is most often translated as “godliness”.
  3. Eulogeo derives from the Greek word ‘logos’. You may recognize that word. It means ‘word’. So eulogeo means good words. Its where the English word eulogy comes from but in our Bibles it is translated most often as “blessed”.
  4. Finally, the word eucharisteo, builds on the word ‘charis’ which means grace. Eucharisteo literally means “good grace” but in the sense means “thanks”.


Let’s start with our first word euodia which means good odor.

Just recently I went to go buy some perfume for my wife as a birthday present. Naturally, as a father of three girls I took them along as my smelling companions. It is really amazing to consider how much energy goes into producing these little bottles of very expensive fragrances. One after another, they would spray a little bit on a card so you could smell it. In between you’re given a can of coffee beans to whiff so you can cleanse your palette. Perfume is big business.

Our ability to smell is, of course, a God given sense. It is just as much a miracle of wonder as seeing or hearing. In some ways though we could totally live without being able to smell. For dogs it is their main sense while for us it is not. But think about how much smell affects you.

You can probably remember the time you walked into something that smelled so wretched it made you gag. Is it any accident that sewage and death are probably the worst smells of all? In fact, the only time eudia’s root word “odzo” is used is about the dead Lazarus when his sister Martha says, “Lord, by this time he stinketh” (John 11:39).

On the other hand, our good memories our often associated and triggered by an enjoyable scent. There is that smell of coffee brewing, or bacon wafting up to your awakening nostrils. I love the coffee isle at grocery stores. The smell of cherry blossoms on a warm spring day. How about that smell of a familiar perfume of a loved one which fills the imagery of the Song of Solomon?

The smell of something can have a very powerful affect to trigger memories. Maybe this is why, in the service of the tabernacle, God chose to have the incense and anointing oils dedicated only to this service. It says in Exodus 30:37-38,

“And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:37-38)

As the children of Israel were then involved with the tabernacle, any whiff of this scent would be pleasing and distinctive of God. It would instill a pleasing desire for the courts of the Lord.

Here’s a question for you. Does God smell? We think of him seeing and of hearing but does he smell? Yes, he does. The first mention of this is in Genesis 8:21,

“And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:20-21)

This may be an anthropomorphic term, meaning that it is an attribute of man assigned to God to provide a rich imagery. Our sense of smell either gives us disgust or pleasantness. This is the real meaning behind this term but it is interesting to ponder why God chooses to say it this way. It is a very powerful sense and we all understand it instantly.

The phrase “a sweet smelling savour unto the LORD” is used constantly throughout the Law of Moses describing mainly the burnt sacrifices. For instance, Numbers 28, describes how the Israelites were to offer daily burnt offerings, morning and evening. In verse 6 it says,

“It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD.” (Numbers 28:6)

So in the courts of the tabernacle there was also the smell of the sacrifices. Now it would be ludicrous to say that God likes the smell of a good BBQ. The Lord smelling that sacrifice and being pleased with it is emblematic of his acceptance of the offerors heart. Psalm 51:16-17 gives us a good example of what was really important about the burnt offerings.

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17)

Therefore, this is why God says in Amos 5:21,

“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21 cp. Lev. 26:31)

When God considers you, what does he smell? Are we a “sweet savour”?[1] We are to be a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1). Our whole lives are to be a sweet aroma ascending to God. Christ is our primary example of what this means. Paul to the Ephesians said,

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Christ’s pleasing sacrifice to God has showed us the way in how to walk in love. There’s a good practical example in Philippians 4:18 where Paul uses the same language.

“But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

Our spiritual sacrifices to God can be done in many ways. Maybe it’s through charity and giving. As a sweet perfume fills a room so our godliness should diffuse to others. But probably one of the greatest sweet smells is the knowledge of God’s word through our preaching. This is the main point of Paul in 2 Cor. 2:14-17,

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.” (2 Cor. 2:14-17 NLT)

Here, Paul diverges from the language of sacrifice, to an analogy of a Roman military victory parade. This time though it is Christ as triumphant, leading a band of captives. Apparently, in these military processions there were garlands and incense. To those captives who submitted and became obedient the scent was of life, a sweet savour. To those who rebelled and disobeyed the smell in the procession was of doom, the stench of death.

In the KJV at verse 14 it says “maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” The NLT said, “Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.” Paul saw the knowledge that he was spreading through preaching as a wonderful fragrance. That’s really the way we should view our preaching.


This brings us to our second good word: eusebeia. The daughter of John Thomas was named Eusebia so expectant parents take note of an interesting name. It comes from a root “seb” meaning “worship” as in the sense of awe, reverence and fear. This root word as it is used in the New Testament has no particular specialness to it. However, when you attach the prefix “eu” to mean well worship or good reverence it overflows with importance for our discipleship.

Every translation uses the word “godliness” for eusebeia although it is hard to find a good English equivalent for this word. It is a rich word in the Greek language and not just in the Bible. Plutarch (a Greek historian who lived in NT times) said that eusebia is the balance between atheism (atheotes) and superstition (deisidaimonia).

“Eusebia is the right attitude to God and to things divine, the attitude which does not eliminate God altogether, and which does not degenerate into futile superstition, the attitude which gives God the place he ought to occupy in life, thought and devotion.”[2]

This attitude is a devotion to God which is active. One commentator defined it as “the practice of the presence of God”. I like that. Are you “practicing the presence of God?

It is an exercise of discipline that focuses upon God. It is that development of God-centeredness in every aspect of our lives. It is that ability to have motives that are truly for God and not for ourselves. I find it really hard to sometimes sit back and discern my motive of whether I am doing this for myself, my reputation, or for God and his glory.

This motivation is what separates the godly person from the moral person, or the benevolent person or the zealous person. It is possible to be a believer and not have godliness. You may be very talented and personable, or very busy in the Lord’s work, active in the ecclesia and mission work, but still not have eusebeia. Why? Because you are not devoted to God. You may be devoted to a vision, or to a ministry, or to your own reputation, but not to God. Unfortunately, too often our motives are self-centered rather than God-centered.[3]

With that understanding the English translation of eusebeia as godliness may be apt.

As I said earlier, it’s not easy. Changing our whole outlook is hard. Paul said to Timothy,

“… exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

The word exercise in the Greek is “gumnasia” where we get our word gymnasium. It really has the idea of exercise. Godliness is something we have to work at. It is a long process of developing of our minds into that way of thinking that puts God above all things and always there in all our thoughts and actions. As Paul says there is great profit in that for this life and the one to come.

Peter also puts “life” and “godliness” together when he says,

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (2 Peter 1:3)

He then lists “godliness” among those qualities that we are to diligent add to our lives.  This is not a list of qualities like ascending a ladder or stacking building blocks.  You do not do one and then leave it for the next.  Rather these qualities are a tree with a trunk of faith, roots deep down in Christ (Eph. 3:17; Col. 2:7), and branches that represent these qualities, all growing and increasing together and the end is the fruit of the Spirit, that is, love (Gal. 5:22ff).  Peter brings this out in verse 8 by saying, "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither barren nor unfruitful".

What is the most important concept then in developing eusebeia? If it is an attitude, then what is at the heart of it? After considering this question and choosing the hymns for the exhortation I came across hymn 153 verse 2 which expresses it beautifully.

“Help us to bow with reverent awe

And yet to praise with grateful love;

To fear, with all our hearts, Thy law,

And yet Thy tender mercy prove.”

That is wonderful. Godliness is that balance between the fear and love of God. God says he is a God of mercy and truth, goodness and severity. Our godliness is our response to his qualities in that we stand in awe of his truth and so grateful for his mercy.

The godly person always approaches God with reverence, awe and fear. We do not approach him casually. First and foremost, we must always see him in infinite majesty, high and lifted up. The Creator of the entire Universe. Transcendent in glory. The interesting thing is that when we appreciate this then our love for God increases. We then stand in awe and wonder at his great love towards us in giving his only begotten Son to die that we might have eternal life.  Then, amazingly, as our deeper perception of God’s love grows so we also increase in reverence in awe. It’s like a snowball effect.

Psalm 130:3-4 puts this beautifully.

“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

Isn’t that interesting that we are forgiven not that we might love God (as true as that is) but to fear him. I’m surprised by those word but there it is, the foundation of eusibeia. It is the abiding sense of the awesomeness of God mixed with the deep appreciation of his love. The one feeding on the other.

Eulogeo and Eucharisteo

We have now considered two words. Eodia meaning sweet savour and eusebeia meaning godliness.

Our final two good Greek words bring our minds to the memorials before us. They are found together in Matthew 26:26-27,

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;”

The word blessed is the Greek word “eulogeo”. It comes from the word “logos”. It is therefore literally a “good word”, that is, a blessing. During these last hours before his crucifixion every act was heightened, every word was significant. When he took up the bread, looked at it and blessed it, what did he say? What was he thinking? When he blessed it he recognized the goodness in what was represented here. It was the right thing to do. He brake it and gave it to the disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

He then takes up the cup and gives thanks. This is the word “eucharisteo” (eucharist). It comes from the word “charis” meaning “grace”. Isn’t that interesting? He is gracious for God’s grace. Facing certain death, he is thankful for all it means.

These words are closely related and used interchangeably but I want you to ponder them as you come before the bread and wine. Consider how good and wonderful is the plan and grace of God. As you do this consider the great and almighty God who has loved you and given his son so that you might have life. Develop your eusebeia, your godliness and your life will become a euodia unto God, a sweet smelling savour.


[1] The stinky idiom (Gen. 34:30; Ex. 5:21; 1 Sam. 13:4; 2 Sam. 10:6)

[2] William Barclay, New Testament Words, pg. 107.

[3] See Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness