4th Sunday After Pentecost June 24, 2012
Acts 8:26; 1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 2:5
39, 360, 578, 499
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.
In the name of Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
Why did the Lord sent an angel into the desert to bring Philip to the Ethiopian Eunuch? Wouldn’t it have been better and quicker to send the angel directly to the Ethiopian? Angels are always in the presence of God. They know Him perfectly and they sing His praises with heavenly voices. And yet, Christ has not commanded the angels to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He has commanded you and me to proclaim the Gospel. Is our only qualification as witnesses and preachers of the Gospel that we have been commanded to do so, while the angels have not? I direct your attention to this question: “WHY YOU AND ME, AND NOT AN ANGEL?”
Surely it would have been easier for the angel than for Philip to cross the desert to the chariot of the Ethiopian. One would also think that an angel would not make the mistakes of a mortal missionary. Likewise, the holy angels could have handled the long hours of the Church of the Lutheran Confession [CLC] Convention last week, better than we mortals did.
We prayed for our brethren who met at Convention, representing the CLC congregations in the work we all share. We prayed that their discussions and decisions would further the kingdom of Christ. But we would not have had to make such prayers if every convention delegate had been a holy angel of God!
Of course, there were no angels speaking and voting at our CLC Convention this year. For if all the delegates had been angels, no one would have spoken out of turn on the convention floor. Human pride and impatience would never have shown themselves. None of the delegates or pastors would have needed to be encouraged to rededicate themselves to their work and calling in the Lord. For the angels in Heaven are perfect, and confirmed for eternity in perfect dedication to God who created them.
Even so, the angels were not commanded to go forth with the Gospel into all the world. It was not to the angels that the Gospel message was fully revealed, nor was it for them. Sure the angels are perfectly holy, while we are not. But this very weakness and imperfection makes us better suited to carry the message of salvation to our fellow sinners.
Are you surprised? Consider the words of Peter. In the verses before our text, the Apostle points out that all the grace that was yet to come to the New Testament church, and the eternal glory of our salvation at Christ’s coming, was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. We are told that these prophets “searched diligently” (1 Peter 1:10) to find the time of Christ’s coming into the flesh, and all the glory that would follow His sufferings, death, and resurrection. But what was revealed to them by God was for our benefit in the New Testament period (cf. 1 Peter 1:12)
For example, who was Isaiah “ministering” to when he wrote “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” (Isaiah 7:14)? He was writing to you and to me and to all people who live in the New Testament period. Likewise, Isaiah was serving New Testament people when he prophesied that Christ was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities…” (Isaiah 53). By these Old Testament prophecies we of the New Testament are able to see the faithfulness of God and identify Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. “Whatever was written before, was written for our learning,” Paul wrote, “that we through patience and comfort of the Holy Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Now Peter says at the end of v. 12 that all these are “things which angels desire to look into.” The angels are ministering spirits who live eternally before God in Heaven’s happiness. Yet they are ever desiring to stoop down and look into that which we have received through the blood of Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit! Isn’t that something to talk about? So glorious is the mystery of our salvation revealed to us in the Gospel that even the holy and blessed angels long for a better understanding of it and a glimpse into the blessed inheritance which belongs to the believing saints. The angels think we shall have it better than they, and we shall!
Now consider the Hebrews 2:5 text. Here we are told that the Lord has not put the new and glorious world to come under the rule of the angels. The whole second chapter of Hebrews proclaims the truth that because of the suffering and death of Christ for sinners, the “world to come” shall be ruled by the believing saints, who have been perfected in the resurrection. The angels cannot possibly experience the joy which belongs to you and me and to all those who shall rule with Christ in the world to come!
Neither are the Gospel’s blessings for the angels. Why have you and I been chosen to proclaim the message of the cross and the forgiveness of sins to our fellow Americans and to all the world when God might have commanded the holy angels to get the job done? Think of the cross—the cross on which our Savior died which has freed us for service to God.
The cross, on which the future of the entire world hangs with Jesus, did nothing for the angels. The eternal damnation that awaits all who reject the cross of Christ is not for the holy angels. The crown of life and incorruptible inheritance of Christ is laid up for us and all believers, not for the angels. The Scriptures declare that there is joy among the angels of Heaven over one sinner who repents of his sins and believes in Jesus. But that joy cannot compare to the joy of the repentant sinner himself who learns of his peace with God and the eternal life which is his by faith in Christ! I will tell you, as you may tell me today: “No holy angel knows my peace and my joy when I think of what Christ has done for me, and what He has prepared for me!”
And what about love for the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is divine love for sinners, divine grace toward the undeserving. What do the angels know from personal, heartfelt experience about our Savior’s boundless love and grace? Yet, those pastors, lay delegates, and many visitors who filled the Field House with the praises of their Savior in hymn after hymn, knew in their hearts the undeserved love and grace they have received in Christ Jesus. So do you all who sing His praises today!
Those who attended the Convention Communion service, offering thousands of dollars for the spread of the Gospel, knew that the riches of Heaven through Christ belong to them, not the angels! Whenever you approach the Communion table, think of the heavenly riches that are yours, not the angels. There were no visible angels at convention. But there were hundreds of forgiven sinners who rejoiced more than the angels over the free and undeserved life and eternal salvation they have been given.
I see no angels here in our church today. But I do see many Christians, who are also free, American citizens. You have not only the privilege of proclaiming the Word of salvation to your fellow Americans, but the freedom to do so. You are Americans, my friends, not by right, but by divine privilege. It is God who has placed you within the safe borders of this country. You are saints and citizens of the eternal kingdom of Heaven, not by right, but by divine privilege. Your Savior put you here to do a job that even the angels have not been commanded to do.
So what are you doing with your religious freedom in America? As surely as you rejoice in your heart that you are not condemned for your sins, but freely and mercifully forgiven, you will tell of Jesus. As surely as you rejoice in your heart that you will not die, but live forever in the resurrection, you will proclaim Christ’s resurrection from the dead. As surely as you are not poor, but rich because of the gift of Heaven, so surely you know why God has sent you and not an angel.
Our country’s greatest need is the Word of Grace. For this reason, our Christian Day School children pray three times a week: “God have mercy on our nation. Do not destroy us for our sins; but spread the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, Your Son!”
Our nation’s most important and influential citizens are not the angels, but those who share that the Gospel’s message with their countrymen. Use your religious freedom to proclaim freedom from sin, death and hell in the Lord Jesus Christ.
God help us all! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.