Are Angels for You?
Are angels for you? "Of course angels are for me," any Christian would say, but not so fast. Lots of people outside Christianity believe angels are for them. Are angels for everyone, and if not, then how do you know they are for you?
God's Law says angels aren't for you. The doubts you have about angels, the fact that you class them with childhood tales of the Tooth Fairy and make believe, the Law exposes as unbelief. Your having more faith in of airbags, burglar alarms, and smoke detectors than you do angels the Law says is sin. The First Alert smoke alarm company has better theology than you do. Years ago they ran a two page ad in Time magazine. On one page was a figurine labeled "guardian angel"; on the other was their smoke alarm labeled "assistant guardian angel."
God's Law says angels can't be for you if you don't believe in them or doubt their existence. Jesus, God the Son, believes in angels. He spoke of returning in glory with His angels. He said that angels went back and forth between heaven and earth on Him. He promised that the angels of the little ones always beheld His Father's face. To believe differently than Jesus does is a very serious sin.
Angels aren't for you, says the Law of God. The Law exposes as sin your thinking you know when, where and how angels should intervene. The high horse of pride is galloping away with you toward judgment when you think, "How come the angels didn't stop this or prevent that?" And your trump guard always has a child on it. You know there can't be guardian angels for little ones as Jesus says because they would've stopped this bad thing from happening. Unbelief has many faces and every one of them is smug.
The Law says angels aren't for you because you believe your struggle is against flesh and blood rather than evil angels. Could God have made it any clearer that you're wrong than Ephesians 6? He says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms?" Weren't you listening to the OT reading? The nation of Persia had its evil angel and God's people had their good angel and the archangel was sent to help him. Didn't you listen to the Epistle reading? Didn't you hear that the Devil and his angels have been thrown to the earth? And yet you think your battles are medical, financial, and personal. You aren't even on the right battlefield. How can angels be for you?
The Law says all day, everyday: "Angels aren't for you." The Gospel, on the other hand, says, "Angels are for you." 1 John says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil that is of evil angels, of demons. Notice how submissive the Bible shows the evil angels are to Jesus. They ran to Him begging not to be sent to hell by Him. No evil angel could resist the power of Jesus. With a word He commanded them, rebuked them, silenced them.
This, however, isn't the Gospel; this is Jesus' divine power over angels. The Gospel is that Jesus rescued you from sin, from death, and from the power of the Devil by being handed over to the evil angels in your place. The Devil and his angels had a right to your body and soul. The Law of God coupled with your sins gave them that right. The Law of God promised that anyone who sinned belonged to Death, and the Devil invoked that clause. The Devil could accuse you day and night before God in heaven because you are indeed guilty under the Law.
So what got the Devil and his angels thrown out of heaven? Jesus fulfilled God's Law in your place. He bore your sins in His own body. So great a burden were those sins to the Man Jesus that an angel had to be sent to Him in Gethsemane to strengthen Him. Do you get what that means? God the Father sent an angel to His Son so He could fully suffer all the pain, all the shame, all the wrath your sins deserve. This is like the warden sending the doctor to make the condemned man healthy enough to execute.
At any time Jesus could've backed out. He said at His arrest that He had over 50,000 angels at His disposal to save Him if he wanted to. He could have knocked the cup of God's wrath away from His lips but it would've spilled all over you. Know this: If the God-Man could barely drink it, you couldn't swallow a drop. But swallow all of it He did, and the angels sat with folded wings and bowed heads as the Creator died for His creatures.
The Gospel is that Jesus won the ministry of angels for sinners. Angels don't serve you because you don't sin but because Jesus didn't. They don't serve you because by being good or trying hard you convince them to help you. No, they serve you because Jesus atoned for, paid for your sins. The way heavenly angels get to earth to help you is Jesus says John 1. They aren't free roaming spirits doing whatever they please. They don't go at their own bidding or timing but at Jesus'. They don't go where they feel like, when it seems best to them, but where Jesus sends them.
The Gospel answer to where were the angels in my hour of need is, "Right where they were when Jesus was suffering, sighing, bleeding, and dying for your sins." As the choir sang, "Ye thronged to Calvary and pressed with sad desire that aweful sight to see the Lord of life expire. Even angels eyes slow tears did shed: ye mourned the Dead in sad surprise." If anything ever demanded the intervention of angels it was the brutal torture and killing of God the Son. Yet the Son didn't ask for them and the Father didn't send them, and you and I say, "Thanks be to God!" For if the angels had intervened there would be no hope, no forgiveness, no salvation. The fact that our rescue, our saving, our eternal joy comes from the angels not intervening tells us that even when the angels don't intervene our God and Savior are still at work for our good.
Yes, but what about the unbelief, the doubts that sometime flood my heart? What about when I pray for help all the while thinking the angels won't be sent? The Gospel says angels aren't destroyed by unbelief. They aren't "Puff the Magic Dragon." They don't silently slip into the haze when little Jackie Paper doesn't believe in them anymore. Acts 12 proves this. The church was gathered together earnestly praying for the release of Peter from prison. The Lord sends an angel to work this miracle. When Peter shows up at the church's door, the members praying are told Peter is outside. They mock the girl bringing the news saying, "Maybe it's his ghost." If angels are only sent if people believe enough, Peter wouldn't have been rescued. What determines if angels are sent is not what's going in your heart but what's going on in God's.
We know what is going on in God's heart by looking to Jesus. He who sees Him sees the Father says Jesus. The image of the glory of God is found in the face of Jesus, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus says Paul. Look at the nail holes in Jesus' hands. Look at His pierced feet. Look into His wounded side. Find anything but love, forgiveness, compassion, and help there? Do you think the One who wouldn't call for angels to rescue Himself in order to save you will now hesitate to call for angels if your salvation is at stake?
The Law always says, "Angels aren't for you." The Law sends a person to the hell of evil angels until the person dies, quits defending his sins, quits making excuses, quits promising to do better. The Gospels always says, "Angels are for you." The Gospel raises the dead, acquits the guilty who have no excuses, saves those who plead for mercy not make promises, and promises angels are for you, so use them.
Hebrews 1:14 says, "Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation." That's you. In Baptism, God gave you the Spirit of His Son making you an heir. Romans 8 says, "You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now since we are children, then we are heirsheirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." Though an heir to an earthly kingdom is but a child, the servants serve him as they do the king.
Okay, but where are these angelic servants to be found? They are found wherever Jesus is. Apart from Jesus angels are fallen; they are devils, and they aren't for you. Paul warns us that even Satan himself can appear as an angel of light, so we don't want to deal with angels apart from Jesus. We don't have to because we know right where Jesus promises to be.
Jesus is in Baptism. You're not just baptized into Jesus. Galatians 3 says that Baptism clothes you with Him. Jesus is in His forgiving Word. Whoever hears me absolve them hears Jesus' speaking to them. And of course Jesus is in Communion. It is His Body and Blood given and shed for sinners. Gathered around the Communion altar with us is not only "all the company of heaven" but angels and archangels.
Angels are for you wherever Jesus is. You will find holy angels as close as the waters of Holy Baptism on your skin. They are in your ears through Holy Absolution. And they go wherever Jesus goes. When you go away from Holy Communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus in you, you go away with His holy angels too. Does that mean you go away invincible? No, it means you go away with angels for you. Everything they do or don't do is so they can perform the last sacred duty Scripture says angels do for you: They carry your soul to heaven.
Each morning and night are catechism teaches us to pray, "Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me." We don't say this petition to remind our heavenly Father. He indeed sends angels without our prayer. We pray it so we might never forget that angels are for us! Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
St. Michael and All Angels (20080928)