Last week I was over at a friends house and was asked about incense. I can’t remember the precise question, but I do remember my off the cuff answer: if Jesus was ok with receiving frankincense and myrrh as a birthday gift then I am ok with it too.

More that ok with it in fact, because I just restocked with some frankincense incense sticks today. Not sure if you have ever tried this but I like to burn frankincense as I meditate and pray, as an affirmation of Jesus as messiah. I also like the aroma.

Thinking of this reminds me of an Old Testament incense recipe:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. (Exodus 30:34-37)

A bit too Old Testament you think? Well here is something newer.

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8:1-4)

There, so angels do it too 🙂

28 thoughts on “Is incense ok for Christians?

  1. If you have some respiratory conditions and some types of complex neurological conditions you should not inhale the smoke of incense.
    Can I add the caveat I am sure God does not mind incense but human beings being frail can react badly to the stuff. We are also meant to think of our weaker brothers so in a group setting it is best to check everyone is happy before igniting.

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  2. I am conscious of respiratory conditions and generally use essential oil burners in preferrence to incense sticks in larger group settings. This is more of a private worship practice I am referring to here.

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  3. Actually, your comments remind me of an worship malfunction down in Melbourne many years back. My wife and I were visiting my Nan, who attended a high church anglican service in the inner city. The minister used so much incense in the censer, in such a confined space, that my wife had to bail from the service half way through, coughing and spluttering through all the smoke. Funny in retrospect but not at the time. Excellent lesson in what NOT to do.

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  4. Amen my friends.. i am a BORN AGAIN BELIEVER AND I PONDERED THIS WUESTION ON WETHER TO USE INCENSE OR NOT.. AFTER STUDYING THE SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES, I CHOSE TO BURN INCENSE DURING TIMES OF PRAYER AND READING THE WORD AT FIRST, THEN THE LORD REMINDED ME THAT I AM TO KEEP A PRAYER ON MY LIPS AT ALL TIMES.. AND SO I BURN IT PRETTY MUCH ALL THE TIME, INCLUDING NATIVE AMERICAN SWEET GRASS.. I AM CONSCIOUS OF THE FACT THAT SOME OF THESE THINGS WERE USED IN PEGAN WORSHIP AS WELL, AND I CANNOT BE SURE OF THE PURPOSE SOME OF THE VERY ITEMS I PURCHASED TO USE HAD BEEN SAID A PRAYER OVER OR SOME INVOCATION BEFORE MY HAVING OWNED THEM, SO I ANOINTED EVERYTHING WITH OIL AND PRAYED AND SANCTIFIED THE ITEMS BEFORE EVER USING THEM.. I PRAYED, LORD JUST AS I AM RENEWED FOR YOUR PURPOSE, I PRAY THAT THESE THINGS ALSO BE SANCTIFIED AND ANOINTED FOR YOUR PURPOSE, TO BRING YOU GLORY AND HONOR IN JESUS NAME… LET OUR LIVES BE AS SWEET INCENSE BEFORE GOD.. UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT COVENANT IT IS THE HEART OF MAN AS IN CURCUMCISION THAT MAKES A MAN HOLY AND NOT THE OUTER WRAPPINGS AND THE, WHAT I CALL WINDOW DRESSING… SO I BURN INCENSE CONTINUALLY AND AS SMELL THE AROMA, IT KEEPS ME CONSTANTLY REMINDED OF MY OBEDIENT DEDICATION TO THE LORD AND MY PERSONAL COVENANT AND COMMITTMENT TO HIM.. PEACE!

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  5. It is not OK for a Christian to burn incense. The burning of incense in the Old Testament was done specifically in one place and only by the chosen priests, the descendants of Aaron. King Uzziah once tried to burn incense to God and was struck with leprosy, as it was a sin for anyone other than the descendants of Aaron to burn incense (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Israel often disobeyed God by burning incense places other than the temple and to other gods. But, by doing so, they made God angry. See 1 Kings 13:1-2; 2 Kings 16:3-4;

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  6. John, if I were Jewish I would agree with you, but as a Christian I think it is essential to start with the New Testament when wrestling with issues of doctrine and lifestyle.
    In this regard I think there are some important points to take note of. Firstly, on the issue of place, Jesus said, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem … a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4) Thus, under the new covenant the old restrictions regarding place no longer apply; what matters now is how we are orientated Spiritually, not geographically.
    Secondly, on the issue of priests, Peter said to the church “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2) Thus, under the new covenant, we have the pristhood of all believers; the body of Christ as a whole exercises a priestly function.
    Finally, since it is Christmas, I should point out that the gifts of frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus were, in effect, gifts of incense. There is no suggestion in the New Testament that this act of worship was received with anything but pleasing to God.

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  7. Just thought some readers may be interested to know the following information about Frankinsence. In the past, I have sometimes used the oil for “anointing” purposes when praying for people (with their permission). Same with Myrrh.
    Frankincense: from the Hebrew word “levõnâh” meaning “whiteness”. To obtain frankincense, an incision is made through the bark of certain Boswellia Balsam trees deep into the trunk, and a strip of bark peeled off. As the whitish juice exudes, it hardens in the atmosphere and is gathered after about 3 months exposure in the summer. When sold, the frankincense is in the form of “tears” (irregular lumps), and was used as a perfume or medicine. In the Hebrew tradition, it was used as an ingredient for the Most Holy Place and exclusively reserved for this particular use.

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  8. greetings all. Just wanted to comment that I am an Orthodox Christian and we burn incense at almost every service. What I love about it is that everytime I smell incence it reminds me to pray and also church. It also is in line with both old and new Testament symols.
    God Bless

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  9. A QUESTION OF BURNING INCENSE – IS IT A SIN ?
    The correlation between burning incense and the prayers of a believer are clear. Our prayers are like the incense that rises into the nostrils of the Lord G_d. Everything in the Tabernacle of Moses that are physical have a spiritual correlation.
    So now we have the New Covenant of Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah and we ask , is it permitted to burn incense? To find the answer we need to be honest with ourselves and ask a couple of important questions.
    1>
    Are you burning incense in order to make your prayers more powerful because you believe they will have a greater impact on G_d ?
    If the answer to this is “yes” , then it is a sin. The prayers from your lips are adequate enough because they come form the heart.
    2>
    Do you wish to burn incense because it was done in the Tabernacle of Moses and you wish to imulate this ?
    If the answer to this is “yes” , then it is a sin. Remember – burning the incense in the Tabernacle was a shadow of the our ability to pray from our hearts.
    Why would you turn back to something that was inferior when we now have something that is better. We have the law of Moses written on our “hearts” . Yeshua Messiah has written the Law of love on our hearts
    CONCLUSION
    Burning incense when we pray is in itself NOT a sin. If it is burnt to simply enhance the ambient atmosphere and meditative state of prayer.
    This IS permissible !
    But it becomes a sin when we become legalistic and begin to believe that unless we burn innocence we can not come before G_d. By doing so we turn it into a “tradition” that has no scriptural authority under the New Covenant of Yeshua.
    So yes, burn incense but beware of the pitfalls.

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  10. I wouldn't have put it quite the same way, but I would say our positions are in general agreement, in so far as what you seem to be speaking of is the difference between works and grace.

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  11. MS and all,
    I burn incense at my Episcopal worship with the blessing of the priest.
    One frankincense stick because I believe God likes it.
    I’ve positioned myself with only those who also enjoy the fragrance.
    Indiana David

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  12. Here is my thought… it says that we shouldn’t make the same incense in the verse… also… we are God’s priests now… so maybe it is okay? but personally… I wouldn’t… I think as a Christian that my prayers are risen to God and I don’t need anything else… also I personally am not sure and it is such a strong word that I wouldn’t do it unless I know, that I know that I know. Just too close to pagan activities and I wouldn’t want to get tangled up with a ritual ..as people for some reason in general seem to gravitate to those things.. plus to be honest.. I still feel that the wording is so strong I would want to make a clear distinction and not to be murky about this issue.. when in doubt leave it out.

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  13. Just a note… I wish I would have stated this above.. the priest were NOT to make the incense for themselves… so I just think after rethinking the above comment.. that we shouldn’t make the incense at all.

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  14. Well, possibly we should refrain from using that particular recipe (although I can see a possible counter argument based on the priesthood of believers) but that is more of a side issue. The primary point I am making is that using incense cannot be “intrincially” bad as in Exodus 30:34-37 we have an instance where its use is not only permitted by God but actually commanded by God. To suggest that all incense other than this receipe is Pagan … well … can you cite an example from the scriptures? That would justify a general prohibition? Because I can’t. There mere fact that Pagans use it too isn’t enough, as Pagans used prayer too. Since essential oils are God created I see no reason why we can’t use them as a worship aid, like we use music, if we receive them with thanksgiving.

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  15. Well, i agree with MrMaxTruth.. If people believe that incense makes the prayers powerful.. It is a sin. The aroma of the incense is great when we are praying. But be careful the consciousness, the belief, and traditions. Thats the key.

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  16. I think if we want to be legalistic,anointing oil would also be prohibited. Every person must hear from God concerning this issue 1Cor 10:31; Col 3:17. Jesus celebrated the feasts, He did not come to destroy the law. If anyone feels guilty about burning incense or eating meet or any other issue that is not directly stated clearly in the Bible, prayer is essential. Each individual must have peace between themselves and God regarding this issue (Romans 14:23).

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  17. Well, I don’t think Jesus or the apostles called us to be legalistic. Besides, I think the essential oil and incense conversation needs to be broader than temple tradition, encompassing the other ways essential oils come up in scripture. For instance, oil was used on the body (Matthew 6:17 and Luke 7:46), in lamps (Matthew 25:3), for healing wounds (Luke 10:34) and in healing prayers (James 5:14). That last is particularly pertinent.

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  18. well i agree with Debbie, and after referring to Isaiah 65 vs 3&7 and 66 vs 3 aswell as consulting with my pastor its clear God is not in total agreement at all. A righteous and fervent prayer prevaileth much.

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