************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 12B ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 8, 2019
Belgic Confession Article 12B
2 Kings 6:8-23
"The Creation of Angels"
Angels are real. Just ask Elisha and his servant. Or, ask Abraham, Moses, Daniel, and Peter. They all saw angels. Or, ask Paul. He wished condemnation upon any angel who would preach a gospel other than the one true gospel (Gal 1:8). And, Paul warned the Colossian Christians about the worship of angels (Col 2:18).
Article 12 of the Belgic Confession of Faith deals with the doctrine of creation. It is easy to forget that God's creation activity includes not only what is visible but also what is invisible: angels, spirits, rulers, authorities, dominions, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Yet, did you notice that more of the article deals with angels than with the questions and issues surrounding creation? Furthermore, we also notice that more is said about evil angels than good angels. In this respect, the Confession is but a product of the time in which it was written.
During the middle ages the Christian church was preoccupied with the hidden and mysterious realm of the spirits. People were repeatedly admonished to flee the devil and his helpers, while they were assured there were good angels who continually surround the godly with their protecting power. Obviously, the church was guilty of twisting certain biblical doctrines.
Luther, the father of the Reformation, had a lot to say on the spirit-world. When a house caught fire, Luther blamed the spreading flames more to the little devils who blew upon them than to the wind. The story is told of the time Luther got mad at the Devil and threw a bottle of ink at him. Calvin was more sober, and warned us not to speak or think about subjects beyond the information given us in the Bible.
The Bible teaches us, and in this article we confess, that the spiritual world exists for two reasons: one, for our comfort; two, for our admonition.
I The Spiritual World Exists for our Comfort
A Elisha's servant was afraid. When he got up one morning he saw the terrible Syrian weapons and chariots of war surrounding the city they lived in. The chariots were frightening instruments of death, especially with knife blades on their wheels; Syrian war chariots were the equivalent of what tanks are today. Elisha's servant knew they were after his master, so he was afraid. Then Elisha prayed and the servant's eyes were opened. What did he see? He saw a host of angels, chariots, and the soldiers of God. He learned that God's army is stronger that the devil's forces.
B When it comes to angels, we do not want to go overboard like the church of the Middle Ages. Yet, it is comforting and useful to see what the Bible teaches about angels.
I did a search this week on the subject of angels. I came across thirteen New Testament truths about angels:
1. Children/little ones have personal angels.
2. Angels do not marry.
3. Angels rejoice over every sinner who repents.
4. The devil can transform himself into an angel of light.
5. God makes His angels flames of fire.
6. Some angels sinned and were cast down into chains of darkness.
7. Some sinful angels are reserved until the judgement of the great Day!
8. The Lord rebukes the fallen angels.
9. Jesus sent the Revelation to John by angels.
10. There was a war in heaven and the devil and his demons lost.
11. Angels are created spirits. This means they do not have bodies, but are spiritual beings, just as our souls are spiritual and invisible.
12. Angels are living, acting beings. They can think. They have wills. They communicate. We see all of this when we look at Satan in Genesis 3. He is a thinking, talking, knowing, willing being.
13. The word "angel" comes from the Greek word for messenger. So, many times we see them as God's messengers. Think of the Christmas stories and the angels who talked to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The Lord created the angels to serve Him. He uses them to carry out His plans and decisions. This does not mean the Lord needs angels; the Lord needs nothing and no one because the Lord is complete in Himself. Article 12 says,
He has also created the angels good,
that they might be his messengers
and serve the elect.
C Is all this really true? Are there still angels today? The message of the Bible is that angels still exist today. After Easter's resurrection they did not die or de-mobilize as often happens to an army after a war is over. They are still present, although we cannot see them. Now that we have the complete Bible, it usually is not necessary for us to see them, but they are present.
Angels still exist today. I see two wrong responses to their existence. First, some object that belief in angels is old-fashioned, a relic of the medieval world, a belief that comes from pre-scientific times. So they dismiss the stories of angels to the same level as stories about fairies, elves, and aliens. This is nothing new. Already in Jesus' day people did not believe in angels. The end of Article 12 mentions "the error of the Sadducees." The Sadducees were the liberal Jews of their day. They rejected everything that was non-material. They denied that man has a soul, argued against the physical resurrection of the body from the dead, and taught that angels don't exist. The Lord Jesus sternly rebuked them, saying, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Mt 22:29). Today, too, there are many who ridicule the whole idea of angels. There are even seminary professors teaching seminary students that the whole doctrine of angels is a strange carry-over from old Jewish mythology. It seems so enlightened and so scientific to question or reject the reality of souls and angels, but how pitiful it is when people do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
Second, we also encounter the New Age notion of spirits that can be channeled. I remember the time Shirley MacLaine was being interviewed on TV. Weird. Maybe weirder than weird. She believes in reincarnation, mysticism, and channeling. MacLaine has claimed that, in a previous life in Atlantis, she was the brother to a 35,000-year-old spirit named Ramtha. As I said, weird.
In spite of all this, we must maintain there are angels and devils. Do you believe this? Do you take the Word of God at face value? Do you believe, for instance, what is said about Satan in Genesis 3? Do you accept what Paul says in Ephesians 6 that our struggle is with rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms? Because of them, do you know how necessary it is to have the full armor of God? And, are you comforted to know God's powers are infinitely greater than all the powers of darkness combined?
I need to mention what is said about angels in Hebrews 1:
(Heb 1:14) Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?The phrase "sent to serve" is in the present tense. It is an ongoing action, not just something done in the past. What comfort and joy there is in that phrase "sent to serve." They are, as it were, the hands and eyes of God. It is for our comfort that they are sent. This does not take away anything from God's glorious omnipotence and omnipresence and omniscience. When the devils make our hearts heavy, when our soul is weighted down by temptation, it is the angels who are used by God to restore joy. Sometimes it is done through the direct application of Scripture, sometimes it is by way of a kind word from a friend or loved one, or sometimes it can be through the words of a song. Seeing this is so, it is important to let yourself do angels' work. Speaking a kind word, making a visit, sending a card, giving a smile or an encouraging word -- in all of this we can be tools in the hands of the angels. Angels were created for our comfort. We need not fear this world with devils filled. For, as Elisha said, "those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Angels are so willing to help; they rejoice over the salvation of just one sinner. And when that sinner dies, in his or her final moments the angels hover around and gently carry their soul to heaven.
II The Spiritual World Exists for our Admonition
A We read further in Article 12 some sad news about the angels of God:
Some of them have fallen
from the excellence in which God created them
into eternal perdition;
and the others have persisted and remained
in their original state,
by the grace of God.
Satan was created, as were all the angels, for the purpose of serving and glorifying God. However, instead of serving God and praising Him forever, Satan desired to rule over heaven and earth in the place of God. He wanted supreme authority. Isaiah records his five "I wills":
I will ascend to heaven;And then there is what is written by Ezekiel:
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.
(Ezek 28:13-17) You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. (14) You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. (15) You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. (16) Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned ... (17) Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.Pride. Wanting to take God's place. Wanting to be God. That's what we see. Then what happened?
Under the leadership of Satan a revolt took place and, based upon Revelation 12:4, it seems one third of the angels sided with Satan. Listen to what Revelation says happened:
(Rev 12:7-9) And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (8) But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. (9) The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.Isaiah and Ezekiel and the Confession describes the end result this way:
(Isa 14:12,15) How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! (15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.
(Ezek 28:16,17) So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones ... So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
(Article 12) So then, by their own wickedness they are condemned to everlasting damnation, daily awaiting their torments.
We may never know how the fall was possible in the perfect creation made by God. But one thing we do know is that the Lord made no mistakes in His creation; there were no production flaws. Some angels, however, did not remain steadfast, and they became devils. They are real; they are not just figments of our imagination to explain original sin.
B If we seriously believe in the existence of devils, we cannot be careless. We must realize this mighty enemy is all around us. Knowing this for what it is, we must cry out to God, "Deliver us from evil, protect us, set us free, and let Your kingdom come!" If we don't do that often enough, it is because we do not see the reality of the threat. We must be mobilized to fight this world with devils filled.
The devils are everywhere; Satan's aggression is brutal, and too often we give up. If it were not for the forces of God, we would be completely overrun. The enmity of these devils is well explained by our confession:
The devils and evil spirits are so corruptThey enjoy evil. The name Satan says it all because the name means opposer, adversary, accuser. The devil destroys and opposes whatever is good and wholesome and pure and holy.
that they are enemies of God
and of everything good.
They lie in wait for the church
and every member of it like thieves,
with all their power,
to destroy and spoil everything
by their deceptions.
The devils are everywhere. And, we see their work, don't we? Today, there is wholesale rejection of any and all moral standards, all mention of God is removed from schools and public institutions, and the Christian world-view is mocked in public. The devil is at war and he seems to be winning. Although we know he will not win, we need to be on guard for the sake of our children and grandchildren, for the sake of our society, for the sake of our very own salvation. This evil spiritual world is real and don't you ever deny it.
C We end with the last sentence of Article 12 where the Confession mentions the Manicheans. They are followers of Mani, a man who lived in Persia during the third century. Mani taught that devils were not created; they always existed; their existence is independent of God. Mani further taught that they were always bad.
Think about the results of such teaching. First, there is life outside of God. Second, it is natural, even normal, for some creatures to sin. Third, Satan is God's equal and also God's opposite. Fourth, the outcome of the battle between them is still in doubt. What does Scripture say? The opposite. Satan is a creature. He is not almighty, he is not everywhere present, he is not all-knowing. He is under the control of God. He is fallen. Jesus has overcome him. In Jesus, being united to Jesus, we also have overcome the evil one.
Angels and devils are real. We don't think often about them. We don't talk much about them. But to believe the Bible is to believe in the existence of these powerful spiritual beings. Someday, all the devils will be forever locked away in the pit of destruction and with them will go all those who do not take refuge in Christ. Those who do seek refuge in Jesus, however, will enter into glory where no evil spirit will ever enter again. There the perfect praises of God will resound forevermore.
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