Thursday, February 19, 2009
I0219-Angels and Demons 1.14.3ff
This post is part of our group read of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.
Scattered Observations concerning the Doctrine of Angels and Demons:
"This branch of doctrine is very necessary for the refutation of numerous errors."
Hmm, I really concur in this statement. And am thankful for the scriptural instruction concerning angels and demons which follow.
Concerning this subject Calvin gives a warning similar to many others which consists in two rules:
1) not to speak, think, long to know what is not revealed.
2) When reading scripture look for edification not curiosity.
I found the discussion of Dionysus to be quite illuminating. Giving the following statement -
"Wherefore, if we would be duly wise, we must renounce those vain babblings of idle men, concerning the nature, ranks, and number of angels, without any authority from the Word of God."
Calvin then uses Dionysus as an example. "When you read the work of Dionysus, you would think that the man had come down from heaven."
Have you been exposed to such men? They have such an ability to really cause one to fear not to listen to their incredible insight. Fear that here in this man's teaching and experience is an opportunity one dare not pass up. BUT HALT, and praise God with all you have that he has provided such a testimony from PAUL, a divinely inspired testimony, the testimony of one who was made an apostle by JESUS CHRIST.
2Co 12:3-4 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Col 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Matthew Poole writes on Col 2:18:
and therefore they would pay a religious homage to angels, as of a middle nature between God and them, presuming they would mediate for them: an instance to express all that invented worship, which, how specious soever it may seem to be, hath no warrant from Christ, who alone can procure acceptance of our persons and services. He expects that his disciples should assert his rights, and the liberty with which he hath made them free, against the traditions of self-willed men, and no more to solemnize for worship, than teach for doctrines, the traditions of men, Mat 15:2,6,9. We must not, under any pretext of humility, presume to know what belongs to our duty and God’s service better than Christ doth, showing us that he alone is the true and living way, and we may come boldly by him, Mat 11:28 Joh 14:1,6 Eph 3:12 Heb 4:16 Heb 10:19,20. And therefore the adoring and invocating of angels as heavenly courtiers, whatever the papists out of a show of humility do argue, is not after Christ, but against him.
So then the next time someone comes to you with doctrines of angels and demons that go beyond the revelation of Holy Scripture, doctrines that offer to show you the secrets of how to win over an angel to do your bidding, that describe the angelic government and organization with the knowledge of one who has been privy to their secret meetings, remember that God has given us a witness that even though there was a man caught up into paradise yet the things he heard were 'unspeakable words', 'not lawful...to utter'.
Seek rather such teaching designed "not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience."
1.14.5 The nature, offices, and various names of angels.
Hosts: They are called hosts (Luke 2:13), because they surround their Prince as his court...
Great in Number: "thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him," (Dan. 7: 10.)"
Dominions, Powers, Governments: "his government of the world is exercised and administered by them." (Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21; I Cor. 15:24.)
1.14.6 Angels are ministers of God's bounty toward us:
They watch for our safety psa 90:11-12
They undertake our defense.
Angels ministered to Christ (Matt. 4:11); (Luke 22:43); (Acts 1:10)
(Gen. 16:9), II Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36; (Judg. 2:1; 6:11; 13:3-20);
1.14.7 On Guardian Angels
"If any one does not think it enough to know that all the orders of the heavenly host are perpetually watching for his safety, I do not see what he could gain by knowing that he has one angel as a special guardian. Those, again, who limit the care which God takes of each of us to a single angel, do great injury to themselves and to all the members of the Church, as if there were no value in those promises of auxiliary troops, who on every side encircling and defending us, embolden us to fight more manfully."
1.14.8 Dogmatizing on the Ranks and Numbers of Angels
"Farther than this, in regard both to the ranks and numbers of angels, let us class them among those mysterious subjects, the full revelation of which is deferred to the last day, and accordingly refrain from inquiring too curiously, or talking presumptuously."
1.14.9 Concerning Angels, there is one Truth we should certainly Hold to:
"Angels are ministering spirits." Heb 1:14
There are thousands and legions of angels.
Bear up the faithful in their hands.
Carrying their souls to rest
Beholding the face of their Father
The law was enacted in the hands of angels.
The elect will be like angels.
Christ will return with the holy angels.
ANGELS are Real.
Souls of believers together with holy angels in heaven.
Angels of children are said to behold the face of God.
Defend us by their protection.
Rejoice in our salvation.
Admire the manifold grace of God in the Church.
Are under Christ.
Various verses: Luk 15:10; Psa 19:11; Matt 4:6; Luk 4:10; Luk 4:16; Luke 4:22; Matt 18:10; Acts 7:55; Gal 3:19; Matt 22:30; Matt 24:36; Eph 3:10; 1Pet 1:12; Heb 1:6; Psa 97:7
1.14.10 The heathen error of placing angels on the throne of God refuted.
Regarding the superstition of surpplanting Christ with angels in his offices, among the corruptions which we now oppose, there is scarcely any one of greater antiquity.
1.14.11 Why does God employ angels instead of acting directly?
Not because he must, not of necessity: "Therefore, when he employs them it is as a help to our weakness, that nothing may be wanting to elevate our hopes or strengthen our confidence. It ought, indeed, to be sufficient for us that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see ourselves beset by so many perils, so many injuries, so many kinds of enemies, such is our frailty and effeminacy, that we might at times be filled with alarm, or driven to despair, did not the Lord proclaim his gracious presence by some means in accordance with our feeble capacities. For this reason, he not only promises to take care of us, but assures us that he has numberless attendants, to whom he has committed the charge of our safety, that whatever dangers may impend, so long as we are encircled by their protection and guardianship, we are placed beyond all hazard of evil."
I found this paragraph above especially encouraging, and I think a precious comfort I had not too much considered before. What a gracious God. So Calvin adds the example of Elisha:
2Ki 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
1.14.12 Use of the Doctrine of Angels
Employ it to strengthen your confidence in God.
"Since the Lord has provided us with such protection, let us not be terrified at the multitude of our enemies as if they could prevail notwithstanding of his aid, but let us adopt the sentiment of Elisha, that more are for us than against us (II Kings 6:16) "
DOCTRINE regarding DEMONS:
1.14.13 We are warned in scripture so as to be put on guard.
"For when Satan is called the god (II Cor. 4:4) and ruler of this world (John 12:31), the strong man armed (Luke 11:21; cf Matt 12:29), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the roaring lion (I Peter 5:8), the object of all these descriptions is to make us more cautious and vigilant, and more prepared for the contest."
1.14.14 To excite our feelings the more strongly to our duty -- we learn we have not one or two enemies but a great HOST of them.
Christ is our head -- but the scriptures teach that the demons also have a prince by stating:
Mat 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
1.14.15 The devil is our adversary and the adversary of our God.
Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
1.14.16 The devil is not wicked FROM CREATION but from depravation.
Even this day I had a conversation with a brother similar to this, as we discussed how it is that the devil is wicked - since God made him. Did God make him wicked?
Calvin draws from Joh 8:44 to show: "... although the expressions are brief and not very explicit, they are amply sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from every calumny."
(calumny -a false and malicious statement designed to injure the reputation of someone or something:)
Do not ascribe wickedness to God. "Do not ascribe to God what is foreign to his nature."
When Satan lies, "he speaketh of his own" why? "because he abode not in truth." This very phrase teaches us that he once was in the truth. He did not continue to abide in it. He does not speak of God when he lies but he speaks of his own because he did not continue in truth. He speaks of "his own." that is not of God. Satan alone bears the responsibility.
Satan is the Father of Lies, "by calling him the father of lies, he puts it out of his power to charge God with the depravity of which he was himself the cause."
But what else can we know about the fall of Satan and his Angels? Where can we ascertain these secrets? Calvin responds:
The Holy Spirit could not deign to feed curiosity with idle, unprofitable histories. We see it was the Lord's purpose to deliver nothing in his sacred oracles which we might not learn for edification. Therefore, instead of dwelling on superfluous matters, let it be sufficient for us briefly to hold, with regard to the nature of devils, that at their first creation they were the angels of God, but by revolting they both ruined themselves, and became the instruments of perdition to others. As it was useful to know this much, it is clearly taught by Peter and Jude; "God," they say, "spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgement," (II Pet. 2:4; Jude ver. 6.) And Paul, by speaking of the elect angels (I Tim. 5:21), obviously draws a tacit contrast between them and reprobate angels.
1.14.17 We learn an IMPORTANT FACT - Satan cannot possibly do anything against the will and consent of God.
SATAN is Under the Power of God.
Satan resists God. ... he eagerly, and of set purpose opposes God,...But as God holds him bound and fettered by the curb of his power, he executes those things only for which permission has been given him, and thus, however unwilling, obeys his Creator, being forced, whenever he is required, to do Him service.
1.14.18 SO GOD employs unclean spirits in exercising believers by warring against them, assailing them with wiles...disturbing, alarming, and occassionaly wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them.
But the wicked they hold in thralldom, exercise dominion over their minds and bodies, and employ them as bond-slaves in all kinds of iniquity.
Neither give place to the devil. Eph 4:27
Your adversary the devil...resist stedfast in the faith. 1Pet 5:8
Paul acknowledges this contest... A messenger of Satan... 2Cor 12:7
1.14.19 As Angels are real so also are DEMONS real.
Many scriptures speak to this, "neither few nor obscure."
Children of God contrasted with Children of the devil. 1John 3:8
Michael the archangel contending with the devil. JUDE 1:9
These demons will be punished. Matt 8:29; Matt 25:41; 2PET 2:4
"How absurd the expressions, that devils are doomed to eternal punishment, that fire is prepared for them, that they are even now excruciated and tormented by the glory of Christ, if there were truly no devils at all?"
Conclusion: there is so much confusion today concerning both Angels and Demons. On the one hand there are those that ascribe too much to both. Taking eyes off Christ and looking for angels to do what properly belongs to Him. Plus giving the adoration, prayers and worship that is God's alone to angels - what grievous horrific abomination. And then seeing a demon under every rock, not recognizing that if you belong to Christ he has delivered you. Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. Perhaps seeing some kind of dualism as though the devil were an equal and opposite of God himself. Blaming your problems not on your own sin, your own lack of faith in Christ and obedience to his word, but rather saying, "I know I'm saved but now I need to be delivered from these demons plaguing me." or "I'm only a victim here of a demonic influence - I can't love my wife properly until I get rid of this demon." Belittling the work of Christ in salvation making it only a little thing compared to what a deliverance minister can do, men greatly error. Some teaching that your real problem lies in some demon hanging onto you because of the sin of your great-great-grandmother. Repent for her sin and loose the bonds of which that demon holds you - these destroy the simplicity that is in Christ.
One the other hand some deny the existence of angels and demons altogether. Not knowing or believing the scripture they greatly dishonour God.
Calvin well spoke when he said we must consider the biblical truths concerning demons and angels in order to refute numerous errors.