Closing thoughts on the Angel of the LORD

Throughout this study, we have surveyed dozens of appearances, as well as possible appearances, of the angel of the LORD in Scripture. And we’ve tried to show how the person and work of this divine messenger foreshadow the coming Messiah. In short, we have labeled these appearances Christophanies, or appearances of the preincarnate Christ. 

But you may wonder: If the angel of the LORD really is Jesus, why doesn’t the Bible just say so? We clearly see God the Father at work in the Old Testament. And the Holy Spirit is personally active in creation and human history throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as well. So why are the alleged manifestations of the preincarnate Christ shrouded in mystery?

The short answer is: To keep Satan in the dark with respect to the triune God’s work of redemption. While there are some four hundred prophecies, appearances, or foreshadowings of Christ in the Old Testament, each one serves as a tiny piece of a very complex puzzle.

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Article XV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: The Christian and the social order

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The Bible instructs Christians to value our neighbors, society, and nation. This means taking an active role in the laws, customs, and moral fabric of our society.

Article XV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”

Human beings cannot be made right with God through political processes, social programs, or religious affiliations. Only the transforming grace of Jesus Christ, the power of the gospel message, and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit are able to breathe new life into the spiritually dead and make them adopted children of God the Father.

Even so, the Bible instructs Christians to value our neighbors, society, and nation. As the apostle Paul writes, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). This means taking an active role in the laws, customs, and moral fabric of our society. 

As followers of Jesus, we begin by confessing that we are redeemed sinners who have not yet been fully conformed to the image of Christ. Put more plainly, we are far from perfect. Further, we live in a sinful and fallen world that groans beneath the weight of sin and waits eagerly for the return of Jesus to set things right (see Rom. 8:18-23). 

Jesus prayed, not that we would be removed from this world, but that the Father would protect us from the evil one, sanctify us in truth, and send us into the world to be salt and light (John 17:15-19; cf. Matt. 5:13-16). While we lack the power to create new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13), we are given the privilege of bearing testimony of the one who, one day, makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).

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Why Jesus is not an angel

The Epistle to the Hebrews clearly distinguishes between Jesus and created spirit beings – or angels, as we commonly use the term. Jesus cannot be an angel in this respect (although he is the “angel,” or messenger, of the Lord in his preincarnate existence) because he is superior to angels. Hebrews 1 argues that no angel could ever qualify to be the Son of God. Consider the epistle’s first four verses:

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs. 

Heb. 1:1-4

Note several statements in these verses that demonstrate the superiority of Christ over angels. First, Jesus is God’s unique Son – the uncreated Creator who stands above other sons of God such as heavenly creatures, the Israelites, and followers of Jesus whom the Father adopts as his children. 

Second, the Father has appointed Jesus heir of all things – a promise never given to created spirit beings but offered to Christians, who are coheirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). 

Third, Jesus is the agent of creation – the one through whom God made the universe. Nothing exists apart from him (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17). No angel may make this claim. When the writer of Hebrews says God made the universe “through him,” he does not mean Jesus is a secondary cause of creation; rather, Jesus is the agent through whom the triune God made everything. 

The word translated “universe” is aionas, which means more than the material world (kosmos). It may be rendered “ages,” and it means Jesus is responsible for the existence of time, space, energy, matter – and even the unseen spiritual realm. 

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Article XIV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Cooperation

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Southern Baptists realize the limitations of their own local-church resources and understand that joining hands with other like-minded churches enables them to accomplish more together than they ever could alone.

Article XIV of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”

Southern Baptists cling tenaciously to the doctrines of the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. At the same time, they embrace the Baptist distinctive of voluntary cooperation. As Herschel Hobbs puts it, “Baptists are an independent but cooperating people.” 

Members of local Southern Baptist churches work together for the sake of the gospel in their communities. They also realize the limitations of their resources and understand that joining hands with other like-minded churches enables them to accomplish more together than they ever could alone.

This idea of voluntary cooperation is rooted both in Scripture and Baptist tradition. Perhaps the earliest New Testament example is the Jerusalem council in A.D. 49, which was convened to address doctrinal purity (Acts 15; Gal. 2). Representatives of the churches in Antioch and Jerusalem met voluntarily to discuss the Judaizer controversy. They respected each other’s autonomy while reaching an agreement that preserved both unity in fellowship and the doctrinal conviction of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Another example is the apostle Paul’s plea to the churches of Macedonia and Greece to gather funds for the relief of suffering Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8-9). This was a voluntary offering. And though the Macedonians themselves faced economic distress, they “begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4).

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Now available: The Return of Jesus

News from High Street Press

The Missouri Baptist Convention, through its High Street Press imprint, has released a new resource for personal or group study titled What Every Christian Should Know about the Return of Jesus.

The 500-page softcover book focuses on truths about Christ’s second coming that are plainly stated in Scripture, yet often overlooked when followers of Jesus prefer to debate the chronological minutiae of the last days. 

While the order of events surrounding Christ’s return is of great interest to all followers of Jesus, “the devil is in the details of the second coming,” writes the book’s author, Rob Phillips, who serves as director of Ministry Support and Apologetics for the MBC.

Put another way, Christians often devote so much attention to these details, they forget the many beliefs the body of Christ shares in common about the return of Jesus. And that’s good enough for Satan.

It’s common ground Phillips seeks to regain in this book. With the non-negotiables of Christ’s imminent return in view, Christians are better prepared. And they’re better equipped to share the good news that the returning Jesus came the first time to secure our salvation.

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