Tagged: Angel of the Lord in the New Testament

The angel of the LORD in the New Testament (conclusion)

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Galatians 4:14

Paul expresses deep concern for the Galatians, whom he fears are on the cusp of falling back into the false doctrine of salvation by works. He then reminds them how tenderly they cared for him when he fell ill, perhaps as a result of injuries from his stoning in Lystra (cf. Acts 14:19), malaria contracted in the lowlands of southern Asia Minor (cf. Acts 13:13-14), his divinely sent “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), or some other ailment.

Galatians 4:14 reads: “You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself” (emphasis added).

Paul is not equating an angel of God with Jesus. That is, he’s not using parallelism to say an angel and Jesus are the same person. Rather, he’s gratefully acknowledging the compassionate treatment the Galatians afforded him in his illness. They received Paul as God’s own messenger, worthy of the highest respect. Further, Paul commends them for bestowing on him the same treatment they would have afforded Jesus if he had come to them in the flesh.

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The angel of the LORD in the New Testament (continued)

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Acts 7:30-36

As Stephen continues his defense before the Sanhedrin, he recalls Exodus 3, where Moses encounters both Yahweh and the angel of the LORD in the burning bush:

After forty years had passed, an angel [the angel of the LORD] appeared to him [Moses] in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came: I am the God of your ancestors ​— ​the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.

The Lord said to him: Take off the sandals from your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt. 

This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, Who appointed you a ruler and a judge? ​— ​this one God sent as a ruler and a deliverer through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.

Acts 7:30-36; cf. Exod. 3:2-15

As we explored earlier, Moses’ experience at the burning bush involves both the LORD and the angel of the LORD, each of whom claims the divine name. Stephen’s purpose in directing the members of the Sanhedrin back to Exodus 3 is to show them that just as the Israelites rebelled against Yahweh’s chosen leader (Moses) in ancient times, they are repeating the error by rejecting Yahweh himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – the very one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.

The angel of the LORD is unlike any other messenger, since the essence of Yahweh dwells in him. Thus, the angel anticipates an Israelite belief in a Godhead – the view that God comprises more than one person, each of whom is identified as the presence of Yahweh. That’s why Jewish theologians prior to the New Testament era, observing texts like Exodus 3, developed a theology of two Yahwehs – one visible and the other invisible – or two powers in heaven.

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