Angels: God's Ministering Spirits

As I considered which of the numerous texts found in the Bible about the activity of angels, I have to admit I felt somewhat overwhelmed. It was not simply the sheer number, but the challenge of organizing it in such a way as to be memorable and helpful to my hearers. As I reviewed them once again, it struck me that the most helpful was also the shortest. Just one verse from the book of Hebrews. Here it is:
Hebrews 1:14 ESV
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
What is so helpful about this verse? It is the word “ministering”. The Greek word our English bibles translated as “ministering” is a word usually associated with priestly ministry. Not only this, but in the Old Testament, when it speaks of angels being “ministers”, just as in the Greek, the Hebrew word is associated with priestly ministry. I took a second look at the other passages and discovered that the things angels do are many of the things priests do. From this, I was able to reduce a long list of activities under two major headings:
Angels Minister Before God
Angels Minister For God
First of all, angels, just like priests, minister before God:

Angels Minister Before God

The primary duty of all priests is the worship of God.

Before God Worshiping

This comes as no surprise to most of us, because both in Scripture and in popular culture, angels are associated with the worship of God. Although this is a widely known fact, it is rarely appreciated.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” and it answers, “To enjoy glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The same can be said of angels. According to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might” (Deut 6:5, Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, Lk 10:27”.
The fact that when it comes to angels, it is not their worship of God, but their other activities that capture the popular imagination, is a commentary of how little we value God and His worship. As we prepare ourselves for partaking of the Lord’s Supper this morning, this should cause us to appreciate what Christ did for us upon the cross more.
One of the passages I looked at in regard to angelic worship was Psalm 103. It reads:
Psalm 103:20–22 ESV
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
As I read this passage, did you notice that it is only those angels who are obedient to God’s Word who are called to worship God? The fallen, rebellious angels are excluded. Angels remind us that without holiness, no one can see God. This is why Christ died for us—to make us holy, in order that we might have communion with Him and His Father!
Another thing we see angels doing before God is advising Him as members of His Divine Council. Angels are...

Before God Advising

Several places in the Old Testament speak of God’s Divine Council. One of the more well known is found in 1 Kings 22:19-23:
1 Kings 22:19–23 ESV
And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”
As I reflect upon this passage, the thing that strikes me most is God’s loving condescending on behalf of angels and men. God has no need for angels or for human beings. He did not need the angels’ advice on how to entice Ahab. The text clearly says God approved of the winning suggestion because He knew it would succeed. God does not need our worship, our prayers, our faithfulness or anything else we do. Not need, but love motivates God. In love, God gives angels and humans the privilege of serving Him.
This passage also touches on the issue of human and angelic responsibility as it relates to the sovereignty of God. Human reason will always fail us in trying to understand how our actions have significance and why we are held accountable for them in light of God’s sovereignty. Scripture does not give us an explanation; it only gives us the truth. Our responsibility to believe, not to understand!
This leads to the final thing I want to speak of this morning that angels do before God. Angels are...

Before God Reporting

In numerous passages such as Zechariah 1, we read of angels “patrolling the earth” and then giving a report to God before His throne and council. This is part of their governing function we spoke of last week. They are in effect, God’s highway patrolmen. In the last point, I said our actions have consequences and we are held responsible for them. What are the angels reporting to God about us this morning? When we come to that confusing and controversial passage in 1 Corinthians 11:
1 Corinthians 11:10 ESV
That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
I believe that the fact that angels are watching what we do and reporting to God has a large part to do with why Paul mentions angels in this passage. I do believe there are other reasons Paul mentions angels, but this is definitely one of them.
The fact that they are sent out, brings us to the second main point:

Angels Minister For God

As I stated last week, the word “angel” in both Greek and Hebrew means “messenger”; not simply in the sense of one who is sent with a message, but one who is sent on a mission. One of the interesting things about the passage from Psalm 103, which I read earlier has to do with the word “stood”. In the ancient world, to stand before a king was to be in a posture of readiness to serve. The angels who “stand” before the Lord are like horses at the starting gate. God only has to speak His Word and they are off on their mission!
What type of missions does God give to angels? The one we are most familiar with is to deliver an actual message.

Ministers of God’s Word

Angels play a prominent role in the story of Jesus’ birth. In the Gospels, angels delivering messages to Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men. Angels also played prominent roles as heralds of the resurrection and forty days later of the ascension. These angelic messages speak to the significance of Jesus’ redemptive work. It should not surprise us that we are also told that it was angels who delivered to Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). The Exodus and the giving of the Law, was the great redemptive event of the Old Covenant and these events pointed to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan in Christ Jesus.
As we consider that angels are messengers, I want to remind you that we are messengers as well. We too, have been commissioned by God to bring the message about Jesus to the world. In the institution of the Lord’s Supper, recorded for us in 1 Corinthians 11, we read these words:
1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Like the hosts of heaven, we too stand in the presence the Lord Jesus Christ, are you just as eager and willing, as they are to deliver this message?
If not, consider this:

Ministers of God’s Justice

Angels are God’s warrior agents in the service of Yahweh against the wicked whom Yahweh has targeted for judgement. This was clearly seen in 1 Kings 22, the passage concerning Ahab we read from earlier. God’s angels actively worked to bring about his downfall. However, it is not just Ahab, throughout Scripture we see angels being God’s agent of judgement against rulers and nations. In the book of Revelation, we see the culmination of this angelic work.
In my introduction, I said the word “service” is closely associated with priestly service. Perhaps you might be thinking a nothing could be farther from priestly service than taking up the sword of God’s judgement. If this is what you are thinking, you are mistaken; as Israel was going wild in an orgy of idolatrous worship, we read this:
Exodus 32:25–29 ESV
And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ ” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
As warriors, angels are also sent out by God to protect His people. In the book of 2 Kings, we find an interesting story in which the king of Syria had surrounded at night the city in order to kill the prophet Elisha. In the morning, when Elisha’s servant awoke, he saw the vast army and was frightened. Here is what Elisha said to his servant:
2 Kings 6:16–17 ESV
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Brothers and sisters, as powerful and numerous as the enemies of Christ’s church may seem, “those who are with us are more than those who are with them”!
This bring me to the final ministry of angels I want to speak on this morning:

Ministers to God’s People

We don’t think of angels as loving us very frequently, if a all; but does not Jesus teach us that there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15:7). As “messengers” one of the missions God sends angels on it to care for and protect one of God’s people. In Matthew’s gospel, we find a verse that has been greatly misunderstood:
Matthew 18:10 ESV
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
The doctrine of Guardian Angels is based from this verse. “Little ones” refers not to “children”, but to Christ’s followers. It is commonly assumed that everyone has a guardian angel, but this is not so, only Christians do. Moreover, as Christian, you may have more than one!
This teaching of Jesus touches on all the previous points in its application. These angels that are around us right now are before the face of God worshiping, advising and reporting. They have been sent from God as warriors to both guard and judge. We live in such a trivial society, but there is nothing trivial about angels!
As we participate in what we call “Communion”, let us remember that our communion is not only with Christ and His church, but also with His heavenly host!
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more