Of Angels and Devils

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.”  So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”  And he led them to Samaria.
After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father?  Shall I kill them?”
“Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”  So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

  • 2 Kings 6:15-23

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

  • Psalms 8:5-8

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

  • 1 Timothy 4:1-2

“Whatever, therefore, is said as to the ministry of angels, let us employ the purpose of removing all distrust, and strengthening our 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.  …
“The tendency of all that Scripture teaches concerning devils is to put us on our guard against their wiles and machinations, that we may provide ourselves with weapons strong enough to drive away the most formidable foes.”

  • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge)

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. …
“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar.”

  • C. S. Lewis, preface to The Screwtape Letters

I do not know if you are shocked, but I am shocked, a little bit, in quoting from Calvin’s Institutes and Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in the same post.  They do not seem to be at the same level, but there is great wisdom even when an author uses his impish sense of humor regarding a serious topic.

The first Scripture is one of my favorites, but it is probably the one so easily dismissed by too many Christians.  Or is it that I forget it too often?

We forget that God sends His messengers to look over us and in ways, protect us.  It is not that God is limited and cannot do it Himself, but the angels are still there.  Might it be a comfort in times of loneliness, despair, stress, fear, or whatever other ailment to know that there are so much more of us than there are of them?  Believe it.  They are there.

Yet, just as C. S. Lewis speaks of devils, having an inordinate fascination with angels detracts from our focus on God.  The angels are simply the messengers from God.  God must still be the focal point of our worship and praise.  One sure way to figure out whether an appearance in the Old Testament is a Christophany or simply an angel is that the angels will protest to not worship them, they are just messengers.  That, and the usual tag line, “Fear not!”  Not all the time, but several of the times when angels appeared.

And as for the devils?  I have heard pastors preach sermons on the impotence of Satan and his demons.  They have no power.  All they can do is tempt.  They cannot harm us.  In a situation where there are people making sacrifices to the Devil on all sides and making incantations, casting spells, and such, that sermon can be comforting.  But can the devils cause trouble?  Yes, they can.

The 1 Timothy 4 quote is a little more scary.  There has already been heresies that trickle into the church doctrine.  Some of these wrong interpretations of Scripture can cause foundations of the church to crack.  As Paul said to Timothy, they can lead people away from a true faith.  Those abound in many denominations, possibly too many to list here, and I am only aware of some.

But then there are other rules, in the polity of the church, that get changed and the reason for the change gets lost, leading to sloppiness in the conduct of worship.  Since the following example does not affect “salvation,” I will mention one such rule change.  When I grew up in the Presbyterian church, only elders could serve communion, the Last Supper.  But then, some churches were so small and the number of elders so limited, that they often postponed communion when an elder was sick.  Thus, the denomination changed the rule so that the deacons could assist, if needed.  Then, some large churches with ample supply of elders, got the idea that elders were too “important” to get their hands dirty handing out bread and juice, so the deacons, being the service-minded leaders, did it all.  Other churches had a permanent mixture of elders and deacons.  This shows that the elders should have never been elected elders.  They do not understand their role, to be a master, you must be a servant to all – and your service is not simply being large and in charge.  A rule change to help the small churches promoted laziness, hubris, and inflated egos among the church leadership in larger churches, at least some.  Although I had my differences with the ruling body of the church when I was serving, I always considered serving communion to be one of the few honors and essential obligations of that leadership position.  I never shirked the responsibility and often volunteered when someone was a no-show.

Now, apply that seemingly harmless change to the bedrock foundation of what we believe, just a simple word or phrase in a creed that is often recited, and you will take few generations before you are no longer a church that worships the true God.  That is what Paul was telling Timothy.

But even in such innocuous ways, a “demon” can make small, seemingly insignificant, changes in our method of worship and in what we believe.  The church focuses on whether to conduct same-sex marriages and what their stance is on abortion, but in the meantime, the demons have chipped away at various church tenets.  The tenets may still exist, but they may not be taught.  Then in each successive generation, the foundation of the church becomes weaker.

Are we already to the point where we cannot defend the Bible against the secular world’s attacks?  Far too many church members, including some true believers, have doubts or simply disbelieve the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  But those chapters are crucial in understanding why the rest of the story is even important.  There are those who support pro-choice, as if killing babies is no big thing.  There are those who do not think repentance is necessary.  There are even church members that vaguely believe in a God, but distrust whether Jesus ever existed.  There are those who think an emotional experience at a church summer camp fifty years ago gets them into Heaven, although their lives have never changed since and they have no personal relationship with a guy who they cannot physically see.  And far too many churches are worried about making every sinner a member of the church instead of witnessing to that sinner and leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Once a member, why should they care about changing their lives?

Yes, Satan and his devils can only tempt, but they are alive and well in every aspect of our lives, and the temptations look so enticing.

And one of Satan’s favorite temptations is to drive from our minds the knowledge that we have more angels with us than he has devils against us, and the angels are more powerful as well.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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