“Illustrious and Noble Examples” of God’s Sovereign Care

“Illustrious and Noble Examples” of God’s Sovereign Care

When God sends the angels, they serve and minister in his name. So, this does beg the question, “In what ways do they serve God?” Calvin gives his answer by discussing three aspects of the angels’ service on behalf of the believers. These three aspects of the angels’ service, according to Calvin, are how they function as messengers, protectors, and helpers.

The Angels’ Function and Purpose

As Calvin continues to write about angels in his Institutes, he moves from their origins to their functions. Calvin spends ample time warning his reader not to move into speculation but to be guided by the Word of God regarding the angels’ occupations.[1] Following his warning, Calvin opens his comments on the angels’ functions by stating,

“One reads here and there in Scripture that angels are celestial spirits whose ministry and service God uses to carry out all things he has decreed.”[2]

This quote is a foundational summary statement. As the hosts of angels move about God’s created order, their entire purpose is to minister as servants of the Lord. Calvin even says that it is through the angels that the Lord “wonderfully sets forth and declares the power and strength of his hand.”[3] Their function and purpose, in many ways, mirror the divinity of the Almighty to his children.[4]

Many theologians join Calvin at this point to specify what the Bible teaches about the angels’ works amongst creation. First, though, before mentioning any specifications, it is good to dwell for a moment on the fact that they are servants to the Almighty.

The Puritan John Owen is beneficial at this point. While writing about the angels’ service, Owen points back to the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the reign of the Lord, the Ancient of Days.[5] In this vision, Daniel, the faithful servant of the Lord, sees many thrones surrounding one centralized throne, and there amid the thrones, the Ancient of Days took his seat. This seated One is the Lord, for Daniel sees the pure white garments visualizing his holiness and the fiery flames of his throne illustrating his awesomeness. Furthermore, around the throne stands “a thousand thousands…and ten thousand times ten thousand” of the heavenly hosts.[6] It is this standing posture of the angels which Owen dwells. The angels’ standing posture shows their readiness to serve the Lord and perform his will. This scene is breathtaking. The hosts of angels are standing as a mighty army ready to obey every command of their Master. Together they are prepared to serve the Lord.

Owen likens this mighty scene in Daniel 7 to the Old Testament priests and Levites. Owen writes, “God chose the priests and Levites to stand and minister in the LORD’s name.”[7] In the name of God, this standing and ministering is the service of the angels, ready to do his will at a moment’s notice. From this standing posture, they wait in gladness and expectation to minister to God’s people on behalf of God himself. Owen continues, stating that the angels are standing endlessly before the throne of heaven, and God continually sends them out.[8]

As we see throughout the scriptures, sometimes God sends out many angels, like the hosts who proclaim the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the field,[9] and sometimes it is one, like the angel sent to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac on the mountain.[10] No matter the number of angels God sends, he always sends out a sufficient number for the work he has them to do.[11] When God sends, the angels go in humble obedience, for they are servants of the Master.

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