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1. The Son Superior to Angels

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13But to which of the angels said he at any times, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

14. Are they not all, etc. That the comparison might appear more clearly, he now mentions what the condition of angels is. For calling them spirits, he denotes their eminence; for in this respect they are superior to corporal creatures. But the office (λειτουργία) which he immediately mentions reduces them to their own rank, as it is that which is the reverse of dominion; and this he still more distinctly states, when he says, that they are sent to minister. The first word means the same, as though ale had said, that they were officials; but to minister imports what is more humble and abject. 2727     There is no doubt a distinction between the two words here used, but not exactly that which is intimated; the first, λειτουργικὰ refers to an official appointment; and the other, διακονίαν, to the work which was to be done. Angels are said to be officially appointed, and they are thus appointed for the purpose of doing service to the heirs of salvation; “Are they not all ministrant (or ministerial) spirits, sent forth for service, on account διὰ of those who are to inherit salvation?” Then they are spirits, having a special office allotted them, being sent forth to do service in behalf of those who are heirs of salvation. It hence appears that they have a special appointment for this purpose See Acts 5:19, and 12:7. — Ed. The service which God allots to angels is indeed honorable; but the very fact that they serve, shows that they are far inferior to Christ, who is the Lord of all.

If any one objects and says, that Christ is also called in many places both a servant and a minister, not only to God, but also to men, the reply may be readily given; his being a servant was not owing to his nature, but to a voluntary humility, as Paul testifies, (Philippians 2:7;) and at the same time his sovereignty remained to his nature; but angels, on the other hand, were created for this end, — that they might serve, and to minister is what belongs to their condition. The difference then is great; for what is natural to them is, as it were, adventitious or accidental to Christ, because he took our flesh; and what necessarily belongs to them, he of his own accord undertook. Besides, Christ is a minister in such a way, that though he is in our flesh nothing is diminished from the majesty of his dominion. 2828     See Appendix E.

From this passage the faithful receive no small consolation; for they hear that celestial hosts are assigned to them as ministers, in order to secure their salvation. It is indeed no common pledge of God’s love towards us, that they are continually engaged in our behalf. Hence also proceeds a singular confirmation to our faith, that our salvation being defended by such guardians, is beyond the reach of danger. Well then has God provided for our infirmities by giving us such assistants to oppose Satan, and to put forth their power in every way to defend us!

But this benefit he grants especially to his chosen people; hence that angels may minister to us, we must be the members of Christ. Yet some testimonies of Scripture may on the other hand be adduced, to show that angels are sometimes sent forth for the sake of the reprobate; for mention is made by Daniel of the angels of the Persians and the Greeks. (Daniel 10:20.) But to this I answer, that they were in such a way assisted by angels, that the Lord might thus promote the salvation of his own people; for their success and their victories had always a reference to the benefit of the Church. This is certain, that as we have been banished by sin from God’s kingdom, we can have no communion with angels except through the reconciliation made by Christ; and this we may see by the ladder shown in a vision to the patriarch Jacob.


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