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From Jim McGuiggan... The Nature of New Testament Obedience (2)

The Nature of New Testament Obedience (2)

Obedience is not simply a response to grace, it's part of the structure of a life lived in grace. Obedience is not an "add-on" it is life being lived. The moral shaping and expression of our lives in Christ is not independent of our life with him it is our life with him. It isn't the totality of our life, of course, but it is our life. How loving spouses respond to each other is not only "how" they live with one another, it's the living out of their life; it's their life showing itself.

When God gave redeemed Israel the Torah he wasn't simply laying down conditions for continued life with him, he was profiling the nature of life with him. Obedience was how they lived with and before him. It was never merely a matter of, "I did this for you so you must do this for me." An element of that is present in the grand sweep of the Torah. But in giving the Torah God was revealing himself and showing Israel what being alive with him consisted of. Life, Jesus once said, doesn't consist of what you possess. It's "made up of" holy mutual relations with God who alone has life.

What's true in the Older Testament is true in the New. Obedience is life lived out before God. There is no life without holy obedience. Obedience is a trustful confession that life with the holy Father has a fitting structure. Obedience is the glad recognition of the character of the one we have a life-giving relationship with. New Testament obedience and trust don't stand over against each other as if they were distinct they are aspects of each other.

New Testament obedience is the glad and concrete confession that life with God must be lived in the light. The day to day obedience that is moral uprightness is light bearing witness against the darkness; it is never merely "complying with God's commands." New Testament obedience is never merely "something you do to get into Christ so you can be free from sin." Paul does say in Romans 6:17-18 that in obeying from the heart the teaching to which they were given over ("paredothete") they were made free from sin. But he didn't think of obedience merely in terms of "a condition that must be met" if they were to get life. He saw obedience in all its richness. He saw it as a condition to be met, he saw it as the nature of life in Christ, he saw it as the proof of God's saving presence in their lives, and much more.

Paul certainly severs "works of the law" from salvation but he doesn't do that with obedience. That itself should tell us that "works of the law" and New Testament obedience are distinct. In a book that stresses grace Paul insists that moral obedience is inextricably connected with salvation and life, here and hereafter (see Romans 2:6-16 and 6:16). He insisted that salvation was a matter of God's grace and that humans didn't earn it by virtue of their virtue. One isn't saved because he's morally "good enough" or because his moral goodness outweighs his moral evil. Salvation and life with God is a gift, it always was a gift and can never be anything other than a gift.

It's one thing to reject a legalism that panders to human pride and self-sufficiency and it's another to confuse that with the clear New Testament teaching about obedience and its connection with salvation by grace.
Why does Paul connect obedience with salvation and life? It's a mistake to say we can't have life with God unless we're personally sinless but it's correct to say we can't have life with God while we remain impenitent and willingly hold God in contempt. God is light and cannot fellowship darkness. Life only exists in relationship with God so we can't have it if it's our heart's desire to remain "darkness". See Ephesians 4:17-24 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.

Properly understood, obedience is the heart's willing submission to God and in light of his character. It isn't the quantity of obedience that proves that submission. That is, the genuineness of the submission is not determined by "how many" good works we engage in. Nor is it the perfect quality of obedience that makes it acceptable to God. That is, we're not to ceaselessly analyse our obedience, questioning its motivation and spirit to see how pure and full it all is because we can be sure it's flawed in one way or another. When Paul says our obedience results in righteousness (Romans 6:16) he isn't speaking about Christ's sinless obedience and he certainly isn't speaking about our sinless obedience. God graciously receives even our flawed obedience (flawed because it comes from flawed people) as acceptable homage.

If it's not quantity or its quality what is it that makes our obedience the fitting link and response to life with God? What makes it acceptable homage to God? Our flawed obedience is acceptable to God because of Jesus Christ and our union with him. Faith in Jesus Christ makes it acceptable and it is never acceptable apart Christ. It is faith that recognises and confesses what "Jesus Christ" means. Obedience is not distinct from faith and it certainly not separable from faith. Obedience is not merely "keeping God's commands". It is faith making its presence visible and known. Without faith there is no "obedience" to God in Christ because New Testament obedience is the "obedience of faith" in Christ (Romans 1:5; 16:26). It isn't faith and obedience it is faith's obedience. Conceptually we can differentiate these two but in life under God they are not separable.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.

Guardian Angels by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=3576

Guardian Angels

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Though Scripture never uses the term “guardian angel,” millions of Bible believers through the centuries have professed their conviction in such a classification of angels. In the third century A.D., Origen wrote that “each one of us, even to the ‘least’ who are in the church of God” has “a good angel, an angel of the LORD, who guides, warns and governs” (p. 128). More than a century later, Jerome declared that “the worth of souls is so great that from birth each one has an angel assigned to him for his protection” (p. 209). Around that same time, Chrysostom, in his Homily on Colossians 1:15-18, remarked: “For each believer hath an Angel; since even from the beginning, every one of those that were approved had his Angel.... [T]here is a demon present also” (p. 273). In the centuries to follow, the Catholic Church popularized the concept of guardian angels even more. In 1615, for example, Pope Paul V officially added “Feast of the Guardian Angels” to the Roman calendar (“Feast...,” 2010). Later, “Guardian Angels” Catholic churches began to arise across America, from Rochester, New York to Chaska, Minnesota.

There is no doubt that millions of people around the world have been captivated by the thought of guardian angels. Though many people who identify themselves as Christians believe in the existence of this special class of angels, the only thing that ultimately matters about this subject or any other is, “What does God’s Word have to say on the matter?”

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Angel


The English word “angel” is translated from the Greek angelos and the Hebrew malawk, and literally means “messenger” (“Angel,” 1988). Sometimes in Scripture “angel” is used in reference to human messengers. For example, on one occasion the Old Testament prophet Haggai was called “the Lord’s malawk” (i.e., “messenger,” 1:13). On another occasion, when God spoke through the prophet Malachi, He prophesied of the coming of John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Christ, saying, “Behold, I send My messenger (Hebrew malawk), and he will prepare the way before Me” (3:1). Hundreds of years later, when the apostle Matthew recorded Jesus’ quotation of this scripture, he used the Greek term angelos (11:10). John the Baptizer was the angelos of God (i.e., not a heavenly being, but God’s human messenger).

Most of the time, however, the terms malawk and angelos refer to created (Psalm 148:2,5; Colossians 1:16), celestial beings who perform a variety of duties for the Creator of heaven and Earth. They are strong (Matthew 28:2), swift (Daniel 9:20-23), breathtaking (Daniel 8), ministering (Hebrews 1:14) messengers (Luke 1:26), who are concerned about the salvation of man (Luke 15:10). God’s faithful angels have done everything from ministering to the Son of God following His 40-day fast (Matthew 4:11) to contending with the devil (Jude 9), and they will play a major role at the end of time when Jesus returns to judge the world (Matthew 13:41; 25:31-32; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

Guardian Angel

Since the term “guardian” has as its most basic meaning “one that guards” (see “Guardian,” 2010), there is a sense in which the Bible speaks very clearly on the subject: God has used angelic beings to “guard” a variety of people and places in the past. As early as Genesis chapter three, after the fall of man, God “placed cherubim [“winged angelic beings”—see “Cherubim,” 1986] at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (3:24, emp. added). Approximately 2,000 years later, two angels struck blind a group of Sodomites and guarded Lot and his household from harm (Genesis 19:9-11). When Nebuchadnezzar cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the fiery furnace, “God sent His angel and delivered His servants” (Daniel 3:28), thus guarding the three Hebrews from the furnace’s consuming flames. During the reign of Darius the Mede, God sent His angel to guard Daniel in a den of lions (Daniel 6:21-22). Centuries later, after the establishment of the church, God sent an angel to release Peter from prison, guarding and guiding him safely out of the prison (Acts 12:1-10). Without a doubt, Almighty God has used His marvelous angelic creation in the past to serve as a kind of guardian for His people.

Consider, however, the way in which the term “guardian angel” is most often used in the 21st century. Merriam-Webster defines “guardian angel” as “an angel believed to have special care of a particular individual” (2010, emp. added). According to Encyclopedia.com, a “guardian angel” is “a spirit that is believed to watch over and protect a person or place” (2010, emp. added). Popularly speaking, if a person googles the phrase “My guardian angel saved/helped,” he will discover thousands of articles or posts where people avow that their personal guardian angels have saved them from certain death, or helped them escape some serious calamity.

Although religionists have defined guardian angels in a variety of ways in the past (cf. Origen, Jerome, Chrysostom), since Catholics claim these angels “are a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture” (see “Feast...,” 2010), it is appropriate to consider how they define these angels. According to AmericanCatholic.org, a guardian angel is “an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being” (“Feast...,” emp. added). In the 47th volume of the Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Pie-Raymond Regamey summarized Catholicism’s teachings on the matter, particularly regarding who has a guardian angel:

Whatever school of philosophy we may follow, an understanding of the work of the guardian angel...in its place in the whole order of creation, implies that every man has the benefit of his aid, not only the faithful, and has it from the first moment of independent life, from birth.... The worst sinners have this faithful and kindly friend (1960, 47:92-93).

GUARDING THE WICKED?

Although God certainly “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), no passage of Scripture teaches that every person who has ever lived, whether good or evil, had/has a guardian angel assigned to him from birth. No Bible verse suggests that every man, even “the worst sinners” (Regamey, p. 93), “has an angel assigned to him for his protection” (Jerome, p. 209) and “the benefit of his aid” (Regamey, p. 92). Are we to think that Pharaoh and Herod had guardian angels when they butchered myriads of innocent children (Exodus 1:15-22; Matthew 2:16-18)? [The Bible says nothing about giving any wicked Pharaoh a guardian angel, but God did harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12,34; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:8; cf. Butt and Miller) and send “angels of destruction” against him and his fellow Egyptians (Psalm 78:49, emp. added). Likewise, Scripture is silent regarding Herod’s protective angel. However, “an angel of the LORD” did warn Joseph in a dream, saying, “Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him” (Matthew 2:13).] And what about the wicked Jezebel, who “massacred the prophets of the LORD” (1 Kings 18:4), or the multi-million-man-murderer Hitler? Are we to think that God provided each of them with a special angel to “benefit” and “aid” him/her? The very thought is absurd, not to mention foreign to Scripture.

Are we to believe that God allows the wicked to have guardian angels, but He does not hear (to respond to) their prayers? Throughout the Old and New Testaments, Bible writers repeatedly stressed that rebellious, sinful individuals should not expect to have God answer their prayers in a positive way. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16, emp. added), because “the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12, emp. added; cf. Psalm 34:16; Proverbs 15:29). The psalmist testified: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (66:18). The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, emp. added). In light of the fact that God will not even hear (to respond to) the rebellious, how could one ever conclude that “the worst sinners” have a “faithful” guardian angel (Regamey, p. 93)?

MIRACLES AND GUARDIAN ANGELS

The Bible clearly teaches that God has worked all manner of miracles in the past, and has the potential to work them at any moment (e.g., at any second Jesus could miraculously “descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise”—1 Thessalonians 4:16). Wondrous miracles wrought by God and His messengers spatter the biblical text. God miraculously created the Universe and everything in it (Genesis 1). He sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians (Exodus 7-12), parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14), and caused water to come from a rock twice during Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 17; Numbers 20). In the days of Elijah and Elisha, as well as in the first century, God occasionally raised the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:8-37; Acts 20:7-12). During the time of Christ, God worked all manner of miracles, displaying His infinite power—over nature, disease, demon, and death. God also used angels occasionally in the past to work a variety of wonders: from striking Lot’s attackers with blindness to setting Peter free from prison (Genesis 19:9-11; Acts 12:7,10). Thus, every Bible-believing Christian must acknowledge that God has worked an array of miracles in the past, and has the power and potential to work them at any time. However, simply because God has the ability to work miracles at any moment, and simply because He has used angels to work a variety of miracles in the past, does not mean that He has chosen to work miraculously in this present age.

The fact of the matter is, the kinds of verifiable miracles recorded in Scripture are not occurring in this day and age. Neither man nor angel has been miraculously restoring shriveled hands in the midst of their enemies (Luke 6:6-10) or supernaturally reattaching severed ears (Luke 22:51). God has chosen to use neither preacher nor “guardian angel” to miraculously cure congenital blindness (John 9:1-7). What’s more, no one today is being raised from the dead (John 11:43). Once again, this is not a “God-power” issue; it is a “God-purpose” issue. God has chosen to cease working miracles (i.e., He has chosen to stop working outside His laws of nature) during this time period because the purpose of miracles has been fulfilled.

Unlike magicians, who perform amusing tricks for entertainment purposes, Scripture teaches that miracles happened in Bible times for a very specific purpose: to confirm the Word. Before the New Testament was written, when the apostles and prophets were preaching the Gospel, Mark 16:20 indicates that God worked with them by “confirming the word through the accompanying of signs.” The message that the first-century apostles and prophets preached could be shown to be true by the various miracles that God worked through them (Hebrews 2:3-4). When a God-inspired speaker stepped forward to declare God’s Word, God confirmed His Word by having the speaker perform a miracle to show that he was from God (cf. Exodus 5-12; Acts 8:5-12). The miracle showed the hearers that God was behind the speaker’s remarks. Miracles authenticated the spoken word as being God’s Word (cf. John 3:2). Like the essential scaffolding on the sides of incomplete apartment buildings, miracles were once necessary to “complete” (confirm) the revelations of God. However, as with the scaffolding that is needless (and, in fact, is very out of place) on a finished apartment building, once God’s Word was completely revealed and confirmed (cf. 2 Peter 1:3), miracles became unnecessary. [For a thorough study of God’s cessation of miracles in modern times, see Dave Miller’s 2003 article titled, “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation.”]

Although many guardian-angel advocates insist that their alleged angels have performed various miraculous feats, neither earthly reality nor the heavenly Scriptures confirm their stories. The kinds of verifiable miracles Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets, and even various angels have worked (e.g., Genesis 19:11; Daniel 3:19-29), are not being duplicated today. Furthermore, the Scriptures insist that those things that were incomplete and partial (miraculous gifts) would be replaced by the total and complete (i.e., the fully revealed Word of God; 1 Corinthians 13:8-10; James 1:25; see Miller, 2003).

ANGELS AND THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD

To say that God has not chosen to work miraculously today is not equivalent to denying God’s activity on Earth. From Genesis through Revelation, the Bible clearly teaches God works providentially (through natural means) in the lives of His people. The LORD was with Joseph during his enslavement in Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:2,3), his imprisonment (39:20,23), and his role as a powerful ruler in Egypt (45:5-9). Though it was Joseph’s brothers who had sold him into slavery and Pharaoh who had appointed him second in command of all of Egypt, Joseph understood that, ultimately, God was behind it all. By working providentially (within natural laws) in the life of Joseph, “God...made” him “lord of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:9, emp. added).

God’s providential care for His people did not stop with Joseph, Esther, or Elijah (1 Kings 18:41-46). God continues to care for (1 Peter 5:7), help (Hebrews 13:5-6; 1 Corinthians 10:13), and discipline His children (Hebrews 12:3-11). God answers the prayers of the humble-hearted, working providentially in the lives of His people (Matthew 6:25-33). As Paul proclaimed: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Simply because God is not working miraculously through man or angel to give sight to the blind, raise the dead, etc., does not mean that God is inactive in the affairs of mankind (see Jackson, n.d.).

God is not passively sitting on the sidelines while the wicked “god of this age” (i.e., Satan; 2 Corinthians 4:4) and his rebellious angels work “in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7,9). If “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), attempting to trick and deceive mankind (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:7), rest assured that God’s good angelic creation also plays an important role on Earth, even during this non-miraculous age. The New Testament does not specifically detail how God uses angels in His providential care of the world and His people, but one thing is certain: He does use them.

Not only are angels merely interested in the salvation of men (Luke 15:10) and involved in the spiritual realm transporting the souls of the dead into paradise (Luke 16:22), they also work in God’s overall providential care of His people as “ministering spirits.” In the context of exalting Christ above God’s angelic heavenly hosts, the writer of Hebrews rhetorically asked: “But to which of the angels has He ever said: ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (1:13-14, emp. added). Although far inferior to Christ, angels are special celestial beings whom God uses to “minister” (Greek diakonian) or “serve” (RSV, NIV) His people. What’s more, considering the present tense form of the participle “being sent forth,” God’s people have every reason to believe that God is continually sending out His angels “as human needs correspond to His divine will” (Jackson, 2000; Dods, 2002, 4:258). Even though no particulars are given in this passage, we can rightly conclude that God uses angels to positively affect the lives of His people. Angels are actively working as God’s ministering spirits. Still, there is no evidence in Scripture that each child of God, much less every heathen, has his or her own guardian angel, and especially not one who is performing miraculous feats on his or her behalf.

GUARDIAN ANGEL “PROOF TEXTS”

Psalm 34:7

In the midst of a beautiful passage of Scripture in which the psalmist repeatedly acknowledges and extols the LORD for His wondrous care, guidance, and protection, he testifies that “[t]he angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (34:7). Was the psalmist here referring to man’s guardian angel? Was he teaching the doctrine of guardian angels as modern religionists often define the term?

First of all, as is frequently the case in the Old Testament, the expression “the angel of the LORD ” in this passage likely refers to the preincarnate Christ (cf. Genesis 16:11-13; Judges 13:3-23; Exodus 23:20-21; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; see Myers, 1978, pp. 59-79; see also Quertermous, 2002, pp. 200-220). It is God, not created angelic beings (Psalm 34:7), Whom the Bible states time and again that man is to “fear” and worship (Psalm 33:18; 67:7; 85:9; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Thus, if it is the case that the eternal Word (John 1:1-5) is meant in this passage, then Psalm 34:7 obviously is not referring to one or more “guardian angels” (as the term is popularly defined in the 21st century). Today, Jesus certainly dwells with His church (Matthew 18:20; 28:20) and strengthens those who fear Him (Philippians 4:13), but He is not what most people are referring to when they speak of their “guardian angel.”

Second, even if “the angel of the LORD” in this passage does not refer to the preincarnate Christ (which is difficult to imagine given that man is to “fear Him”), “guardian angel” advocates still cannot find proof of their doctrine here. This verse does not teach that each person on the planet has an angel assigned to him to deliver him from harm. Rather, one angel (“the angel of the LORD”) looks after a plurality of God’s faithful children (as is evident by the use of the plural pronouns “those” and “them”).

Psalm 91:9-13

In Psalm 91, the inspired poet says of the one who puts his trust in God,

Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot (9-13).
This passage, which Satan once misapplied when tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11), certainly is encouraging to the faithful child of God. It describes in general terms God’s protection of His people under the Old Law; but it does not say that each child of God (and certainly not every person who has ever lived) has his own “guardian angel.” The psalmist noted that God would give a plurality of angels the responsibility of keeping one that trusts in him. During the age of miracles, this certainly could have included God using His angels to work various supernatural feats (e.g., striking the enemies of righteousness with blindness in Genesis 19:11). Though the age of genuine biblical miracles has ended (see Miller, 2003), this scripture can still be comforting to the Christian in the same manner in which Hebrews 1:14 is: God sends forth His angels to minister to the saints, providentially taking care of His people.

One other important detail to remember when reading the psalms (including especially Psalm 91) is the inspired penmen’s use of figures of speech, particularly hyperbolism. As in Psalm 58:3, where the psalmist intentionally exaggerated the wickedness of mankind by referring to them as going “astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies,” in Psalm 91, the writer hyperbolically stresses God’s protection of His people. Not that God is incapable of keeping his people from harm, but as Travis Quertermous noted, to press the psalmist’s reference to treading upon snakes and lions literally “would be an obvious absurdity, not to mention forcing a contradiction with other Bible passages wherein God’s faithful saints suffered great persecution. It must be remembered that the Psalms are poetry and thus abound with figurative language. It is a terrible exegetical blunder to unduly literalize it” (2002, p. 261).

Acts 12:15

After God sent an angel miraculously to release and guide him from prison, Peter traveled to the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, where “many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:11). When he arrived at the door of the gate and knocked, a girl named Rhoda “recognized Peter’s voice,” and “because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate” (12:14). What was the group’s response? They said to Rhoda, “You are beside yourself!” When she insisted, they said, “It is his angel” (12:15, emp. added).

Does this passage prove, as some believe, that “humans have guardian angels” (“Angels...,” n.d.)? As “[i]nteresting as this passage is,” Peter Davids rightly concluded, “it simply witnesses to the beliefs of the Christians in that house. The author of Acts reports rather than endorses their views” (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 527, emp. added). As Lenksi remarked, Luke, the inspired writer of Acts, “does not state a Scriptural doctrine but only the superstitious ideas of those who were alarmed by Rhoda’s report” (Lenski, 1943, p. 692). Even the scholarly J.W. McGarvey, who endorsed to some extent the idea of “guardian angels” (1875, p. 157), admitted in his commentary on Acts that those meeting at Mary’s house “undoubtedly had allusion to the popular superstition of their day, that a man’s guardian angel sometimes assumed his form” (1872, p. 139). [NOTE: It is also possible, as the studious Guy. N. Woods remarked, that those in Mary’s house, “[c]ertain...that he [Peter—EL] did not escape death at the hands of the murderous Herod...simply understood that his spirit, separated from his body” and “had come to them” (1991, 106[9]:18).]

An angel of God most certainly worked a great miracle in Judea on this occasion. For the second time, Luke records that an angel set Peter free from prison (cf. Acts 5:19). No Bible-believing Christian would ever deny such wondrous acts that God worked through His angelic creation, nor should any child of God ever deny that He is working providentially through them today (Hebrews 1:14). But, nothing in Acts 12 indicates that God has given each person (or even each Christian) a “guardian angel” to protect him from harm. Furthermore, a lesson can be learned from this text regarding Who should receive the glory for the extraordinary works God’s angels perform. When Peter finally spoke to those gathered at Mary’s house, he “declared to them how the LORD had brought him out of the prison” (Acts 12:17, emp. added). Notice that nothing is said here about Peter giving a discourse about a “guardian angel.” And he certainly did not rename Jesus’ church “the church of the Guardian Angels,” or insist on starting a yearly feast in honor of guardian angels (cf. Roman Catholic’s “Feast of the Guardian Angels”). Luke simply records that Peter wanted his brethren to know what “the LORD” had done. Given that even God’s good angelic creation will not accept worship from mankind, but insist that they are fellow servants (Revelation 19:10; 22:9), it is wise for Christians simply to acknowledge God for His wonderful care in our lives, even if such help is being carried out by His faithful angelic servants.

Matthew 18:10

More than any other passage of Scripture, guardian-angel advocates point to Matthew 18:10 as their “proof” of guardian angels. On page 88 of his otherwise helpful book, A Study of Angels (1978), Edward P. Myers succinctly stated: “Children have guardian angels.” He then referenced only “Matthew 18:10” as the Bible passage that supposedly proves the doctrine. Though Peter Davids questioned the doctrine and popular definition of guardian angels, he noted: “Matthew [18:10—EL] makes the only clear reference to ‘guardian’ angels” (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 527). And, according to AmericanCatholic.org, “Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief [of guardian angels—EL]” (“Feast...,” 2010).

So what exactly did Jesus say in Matthew 18:10? In the midst of warning His disciples not to offend “little ones who believe in Me” (18:1-9), Jesus taught them to “[t]ake heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (18:10, emp. added). Since Jesus spoke of “their angels,” allegedly He was implying that children (or “believers”—18:6) have “guardian angels.”

Matthew 18:10 certainly indicates that there is a special relationship between God’s heavenly host and “these little ones.” And, “[i]n some sense...the angels do belong to the ‘little ones’ under discussion” (Quertermous, 2002, p. 263). One needs to keep in mind, however, that angels were by no means the main emphasis of Jesus’ lesson. In context,

Jesus was speaking to those who were filled with ambition and desire for prominence which leads to a total disregard for children of the poor and deprived of society. Thus Christ’s intent was to let those of ambitious bent know that the high lofty angels of glory are always concerned with the welfare of the young children, as well as the humble hearted poor of society (Turner, 1989, p. 76, emp. added).

Certainly, if the angels of God are concerned about the welfare of children and the humble-hearted, as well as those who are young in the faith (cf. 18:6—“little ones who believe”), Jesus’ apostles needed to be as well (and less concerned about “who...is greatest in the kingdom of heaven”—18:1). This is the lesson to be learned from Matthew 18:1-14, and not the popular doctrine that each person has an angel on Earth guiding and guarding him from harm.

But, even if one were to ignore the overall context of Matthew 18 in an attempt to force the popular “guardian-angel” slant on verse 10, still the plural possessive pronoun “their” angels scarcely supports the idea that God assigns one angel for each and every child or believer on Earth. As R.C.H. Lenski noted, God “often assigns individual angels for special duties” (1943 p. 692; cf. Hebrews 1:14), but that does not mean that each person has his or her own angel. Furthermore, “It should be observed that these angels are in heaven, not upon earth providing human protection” constantly (Chouinard, 1997, p. 326, emp. added). If they are in heaven, they are not continuously guarding “their people” on Earth, as angels are not omnipresent, and must go from place to place (e.g., Daniel 9:20-23).

Finally, although AmericanCatholic.org insists that “Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief [of guardian angels—EL],” even they were forced to admit: “The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it” (“Feast...,” 2010). Such an admission speaks volumes about the soundness of the guardian-angel doctrine.

CONCLUSION

Rather than be infatuated with whether or not each person on Earth (or each Christian) has his or her own guardian angel; rather than conjure up all sorts of reasons why we might like the idea of a guardian angel; rather than celebrate a “Feast of the Guardian Angels” or call ourselves “Guardian Angels Churches,” etc., Christians simply need to accept by faith what the Bible unequivocally does say about these spiritual servants of God (Revelation 19:10): they are interested in our activities and well-being (Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 11:10), and are continually working on our behalf “as human needs correspond to His divine will” (Jackson, 2000).

Discovering that the Bible writers were silent regarding whether each human or believer has his or her own special guardian angel should not be a disheartening revelation. For, as Travis Quertermous concluded, the Bible “promises not the protection of a single angel, but many of them” (2002, p. 261, emp. added; cf. 2 Kings 6:16-17). Should it not be “much more comforting to know that God sends many angels to look out for me rather than just one when such is in harmony with His will (cf. Heb. 1:14)” (Quertermous, p. 261)?

Finally, although there certainly is a time and place to acknowledge and discuss the wonderful works that the angels of God are performing (keeping in mind that few particulars are given in Scripture), more than anything, God’s people need to focus and meditate on God’s greatness, and not the wonderful ways of God’s angelic creation. They exist in the spiritual realm because God made them (Psalm 148:1-5). They minister to us because God sends them (Hebrews 1:14). They will have a part in the Second Coming because God will bring them (Matthew 13:40-43,49-51; 25:31-32). As thankful as we should be for what angels have done throughout history for God’s people, we should be driven to our knees in thanksgiving for Who God is and what He has done and continues to do for His people.

REFERENCES

“Angel” (1988), The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

“Angels in the Bible” (no date), http://www.maryourmother.net/Angels.html.

Butt, Kyle and Dave Miller (2003), “Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2259.

“Cherubim” (1986), Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

Chouinard, Larry (1997), Matthew (Joplin, MO: College Press).

Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians, http://books.google.com/books?id=djswAAAAYAAJ& pg=PA273&lpg=PA273&dq=” each+believer+hath+an+Angel;+since+even+from”&source= bl&ots=kVE64upVV1&sig=ou5fktnwP5uSP9vWgyemHJkUuFY&hl= en&ei=bKnaTOTPG4Kr8AaB5PTaCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct= result&resnum=1&ved= 0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=”each believer hath an Angel; since even from”&f=false.

Dods, Marcus (2002), The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, ed. W.  Robertson Nicoll (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

“Feast of the Guardian Angels” (2010), http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1156.

“Guardian” (2010), Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guardian.

“Guardian Angel” (2010), Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-guardianangel.html.

“Guardian Angel” (2010), Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guardian%20angel.

Jackson, Wayne (no date), “A Study of the Providence of God,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/reprints/Study-of-Providence.pdf.

Jackson, Wayne (2000), “Do Angels Minister to Christians Today?” http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/172-do-angels-minister-to-christians-today.

Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, http://books.google.com/books?id=j0UmWBivNJgC&pg= PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=jerome+commentary+on+matthew&source= bl&ots=0vzUuT2HyM&sig=C5MgMyDyiXrLf7mTg2M1D8Oc1TI&hl= en&ei=d0rITKGsFsKBlAetnun3Ag&sa=X&oi=book_ result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CC8Q6AEwBQ#v= snippet&q=angel&f=false.

Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch (1996), Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press).

Lenski, R.C.H. (1943), The Interpretation of St. Matthew Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).

McGarvey, J.W. (1872), A Commentary on Acts of Apostles (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Press).

McGarvey, J.W. (1875), Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking and Holy Spirit Baptism—A Refutation,” Reason & Revelation, 23[3]:17-23, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.

Myers, Edward P. (1978), A Study of Angels (West Monroe, LA: Howard Book House).

Origen, Homilies on Numbers, http://books.google.com/books?id=P4pPyRXeWkUC&pg= PA94&dq=Origen+has+an+angel+by+his+side&hl= en&ei=0FXITN7oD4et8AaqkqiBBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum= 7&ved=0CE0Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=has%20an%20angel&f=false.

Quertermous, Travis (2002), The Hosts of Heaven: A Biblical Study of Angels (Henderson, TN: Hester Publications).

Regamey, Pie-Raymond (1960), What is an Angel? in Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism (New York: Hawthorn Books).

Turner, J.J. (1989), Systematic Theology (Montgomery, AL: Alabama Christian School of Religion).

Woods, Guy N. (1991), Firm Foundation, 106[9]:18-19, September.

From Mark Copeland... Served By Greatness, Serve To Be Great (Mark 10:41-45)

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

           Served By Greatness, Serve To Be Great (10:41-45)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous study, we saw where James and John made a request...
   a. For Jesus to do whatever they ask! - Mk 10:35
   b. In particular, the honor of sitting by Him in His glory (kingdom)
      - Mk 10:36-37; Mt 20:21

2. We saw where Jesus' response was two-fold...
   a. First, about drinking His cup and being baptized with His baptism
      - Mk 10:38-39
   b. Second, their request was not His to grant, but His Father's - Mk 10:40; Mt 20:23

3. This request in behalf of James and John...
   a. Displeased the other apostles - Mk 10:41
   b. Provided Jesus an opportunity to teach an important lesson - Mk 10:42-45
   c. I.e., to be great in the kingdom one must serve, even as the Son
      of Man came to serve

[This is a lesson every Christian needs to remember, yet it goes against
what the world would have us believe.  To encourage us in being willing
to serve, perhaps it would help to recall that we have been...]

I. WE HAVE BEEN SERVED BY GREATNESS

   A. SERVED BY JESUS...
      1. He came to serve, not to be served - Mk 10:45
      2. He served by giving His life a ransom, dying on the cross for
         our sins
      3. He serves even now, as our High Priest who intercedes for us
         - He 7:24-25

   B. SERVED BY THE PROPHETS...
      1. The prophets spent their lives in service for our benefit - 1Pe 1:10-12
      2. Thus we have been served by men like Moses, Samuel, David,
         Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and many other "heroes of faith"!

   C. SERVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT...
      1. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets - 1Pe 1:11
      2. He also inspired the apostles to reveal the gospel - 1Pe 1:12;
         Jn 16:13

   D. SERVED BY THE APOSTLES...
      1. They are the ones who preached the gospel to us - 1Pe 1:12
      2. Through them, we have come to believe in Jesus - cf. Jn 17:20
      3. Thus we have been served by men like Peter, James, John, and
         Paul, who suffered greatly in their ministry to us! - cf. 1Co 4:9-13; 2Co 11:24-29

   E. SERVED BY ANGELS...
      1. They had a keen interest in the things being revealed - 1Pe 1:12
      2. For they had a part in the process of revelation - cf. Dan 8,
         9; Lk 1:11-19,26-38
      3. Thus they too have ministered to us - cf. He 1:13-14

   F. SERVED BY OTHER CHRISTIANS...
      1. Someone taught us the gospel, others continue to teach us and
         our children
      2. Some made it possible for us to assemble, and each week clean
         up what we leave behind
      3. In times of sickness, many have prayed and rendered various
         forms of service

[With so many rendering so much service, it is easy to feel pampered.
Indeed, we have been "served by greatness"!  Do we take it for granted?
I hope not.  We can show our appreciation by emulating those who served
us...]

II. LET US SERVE TO BE GREAT

   A. SERVE IN EVANGELISM...
      1. Someone led you to Christ, can you not lead another to Him?
         - cf. Jn 1:35-46
      2. Begin by being hospitable, offering acts of kindness and
         service
      3. At the very least, invite to services, offer a Bible
         correspondence course
      4. Hone your skills in personal evangelism, seek to improve your
         ability to share the gospel

   B. SERVE IN EDIFICATION...
      1. Many have contributed to your spiritual growth, can you help
         others? - cf. Ep 4:16
      2. Begin by being present at every service, greeting every one
         present
      3. Take a special interest in those who are new, encourage them
      4. Offer to help teach our children, even if it only means to
         assist another teacher
      5. Volunteer whatever service you can render in the work and
         worship of the church

   C. SERVE IN BENEVOLENCE...
      1. Has anyone ever showed you kindness?  "Be kind to one another"
         - cf. Ep 4:32
      2. Visit the sick or elderly in hospitals, and at home
      3. Render service such as cleaning, transportation, errands, etc.
      4. Minister to the poor, hungry, or those otherwise in need

CONCLUSION

1. The important thing is that we be people of service...
   a. People who serve others, not just benefiting from the efforts of
      others
   b. People who are producers, not just consumers

2. Serving is not just the path to greatness in the kingdom, but also to
   true happiness:

   "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have
   done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not
   greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he
   who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you
   do them." - Jn 13:15-17

   "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you
   must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
   that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
                                                        - Ac 20:35

Shall we not follow both the example and teaching of Jesus, and live to
serve others...?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Gary... Bible Reading January 2



Bible Reading  

January 2

The World English Bible


Jan. 2
Genesis 2
Gen 2:1 The heavens and the earth were finished, and all their vast array.
Gen 2:2 On the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
Gen 2:3 God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work which he had created and made.
Gen 2:4 This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens.
Gen 2:5 No plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain on the earth. There was not a man to till the ground,
Gen 2:6 but a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole surface of the ground.
Gen 2:7 Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Gen 2:8 Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
Gen 2:9 Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Gen 2:10 A river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became four heads.
Gen 2:11 The name of the first is Pishon: this is the one which flows through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
Gen 2:12 and the gold of that land is good. There is aromatic resin and the onyx stone.
Gen 2:13 The name of the second river is Gihon: the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush.
Gen 2:14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel: this is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
Gen 2:15 Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Gen 2:16 Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it; for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die."
Gen 2:18 Yahweh God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
Gen 2:19 Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
Gen 2:20 The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper suitable for him.
Gen 2:21 Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall on the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.
Gen 2:22 He made the rib, which Yahweh God had taken from the man, into a woman, and brought her to the man.
Gen 2:23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She will be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
Gen 2:24 Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.
Gen 2:25 They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.




From Gary... My family


Nice photo!!!  Five generations at one time must be marvellous!!! When I saw this today, I couldn't help but notice it, because I just finished reading the first chapter of the book of Matthew. If you don't mind the begat's (rather- "became the father of") read on...

Matthew, Chapter 1
 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  2 Abraham became the father of Isaac. Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob became the father of Judah and his brothers.  3 Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron. Hezron became the father of Ram.  4 Ram became the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon. Nahshon became the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon became the father of Boaz by Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed by Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse.  6 Jesse became the father of King David. David became the father of Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.  7 Solomon became the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam became the father of Abijah. Abijah became the father of Asa.  8 Asa became the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat became the father of Joram. Joram became the father of Uzziah.  9 Uzziah became the father of Jotham. Jotham became the father of Ahaz. Ahaz became the father of Hezekiah.  10 Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh. Manasseh became the father of Amon. Amon became the father of Josiah.  11 Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the exile to Babylon.  12 After the exile to Babylon, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel became the father of Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel became the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim. Eliakim became the father of Azor.  14 Azor became the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim. Achim became the father of Eliud.  15 Eliud became the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan. Matthan became the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob became the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.  17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ, fourteen generations.
So, generations represent the passage of time and are in fact, themselves defined by the age in which they live. However, all this is much deeper than just a list of names. Like the picture- all of the people in the list were part of a family. And the genealogy of Jesus was a list of ongoing families.  Now, you and I may never be blessed to have five generations of our family alive at one time, but whatever we have, we should be thankful for it!!!

Christians are adopted into the family of God.  Therefore, this list is my list and someday I hope to meet every one of them. I wonder, will there be family photos in HEAVEN???