Wednesday, March 3, 2004
As the second in our Lenten series of sermons on topics that you have requested, tonight we’re going to take a look at angels. Maybe you want to know how the spiritual and invisible world works. Maybe you’ve liked the TV show “Touched by an Angel.” Maybe you’ve read about people’s encounters with angels. Maybe you have a guardian angel pin on your sweater. To understand angels, we will have to find out what they are, what their role is, and what do they have to do with us.
Now in trying to study for this sermon, I took a look at the explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism, and there’s just barely two pages of information. I went to the slightly larger A Summary of Christian Doctrine, an introductory book about Lutheranism. Even there, only about 3 pages on angels.
Figuring I needed to find out more, I went on the Internet and found two angel experts. Diana Cooper teaches workshops about angels. Dr. Doreen Virture, (and yes, her real last name is Virtue), is a psychologist and a leader in the world angel movement. Dr. Virtue has been featured on many national TV shows. Both of these women travel the world teaching about angels. I figured I had found the experts to guide us in learning about angels.
So what is the role that angels play in our spiritual life? Diana Cooper gives us the answer.
“It really does not matter whether you pray directly to God for help or talk to your angels. Your angel is the intermediary between you and God, who deals with your requests anyway. However it is really wonderful to have a personal relationship with your angel and it helps to know their name. A name has a vibration and calling your angel by its name helps you to feel closer. An angel’s name can be anything from a down to earth, Fred to an exotic sounding, Francescina.”(1)
According to her Website, Diana Cooper knows a lot about angels, but I quickly realized this was not someone who was teaching what Scripture says. I mean, it doesn’t matter whether you pray to God or angels? That doesn’t sound right. And while it sounds fun to know my guardian angel’s name, I’m not so sure about this stuff about a name having a vibration. Here is this well-known angel expert, someone that is known for teaching about angels, but is she teaching the truth according to God’s Word?
I went back to the Bible. In fact, I’ll admit that I started with looking up some of those verses listed in those few pages in the Small Catechism and A Summary of Christian Doctrine. I first looked at Colossians chapter 2. Here Paul says, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” (2:18-19).
Here we start to see where Diana Cooper went against Scripture. To say that it doesn’t matter whether we talk to God or angels is to put angels as equals with God, raising angels to the level of God, making angels deserving of worship. Cooper talks a lot about what she has seen and what it leads her to believe about angels, but these notions don’t come from Scripture. There’s nothing in Scripture about us trying to learn the names of angels. If they didn’t reveal their names in Scripture, the Bible doesn’t tell us how to figure out their names. When I started looking more closely at this angel expert’s teachings, it was clear. She wasn’t connected to Christ.
And perhaps that is our first and most important thing for us to remember about angels: if someone is teaching about angels or tells us something about angels, it must match what we know from Scripture, it must be connected with Scripture. And while Scripture acknowledges that angels are spiritual beings, created by God, and that the good angels are God’s messengers and servants sent to protect and help His people, nowhere does Scripture say we should worship angels or even focus on them.
When Paul says don’t get caught up with those who worship angels, he says that those who do have lost their connection to the Head, their connection to Christ. And it is the connection to Christ which gives us salvation. Angels cannot save us from our sins; salvation comes through Christ alone. Remain connected to Christ. If you have put too much focus on angels, if you have found yourself being led astray by teachers like Diana Cooper, then turn back to Christ alone. For in Christ, even our sins of putting angels on level with God, or even above God, the sin of idolatry, even that sin finds forgiveness in Jesus.
But let’s go on. The other angel expert, Dr. Doreen Virtue, has a page of frequently asked questions where she answers the question we’re asking now.
Q: Why would we pray to angels? Aren’t we supposed to pray to God? Are you worshiping angels?
Dr. Virtue’s answer? Sounds good when she starts, but keep listening.
A: The angels don’t want us to worship them or make them into "gods." They want all glory to go to God. So, we don’t pray to angels. We only request their help, and have conversations with them.
Angels are a gift from God, and our Creator intends for us to benefit from His gift to us. So there is nothing wrong with engaging in conversations with angels. (2)
Dr. Virtue says that we shouldn’t worship angels or make them into gods, which is great, that’s what we just heard Scripture say. Dr. Virtue says that angels “want all glory to go to God.” Yes, yes, that’s what God’s Word tells us. The angels are sent to do God’s work in the world, sent to bring glory to God Himself. In fact, this is exactly what we learn in the book of Revelation, chapter 22, where St. John says,
“The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But the angel said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (22:6,8-9)
The angels do not want to be worshipped; they want us to worship God alone.
So Dr. Virtue sounds like she agrees with Scripture; don’t worship angels. But then she says, “So we don’t pray to angels. We only request their help, and have conversations with them.” Now I’m confused. I define prayer as a request for help, as a conversation with God. Dr. Virtue says we’re not supposed to pray to angels, but I’m not sure how that is different from requesting help and having conversations.
In fact, it sounds like we’re back to the problem we had with Diana Cooper: encouraging a connection with angels that is more important than a connection with God. Jesus says that we only need to pray in His Name, and the Father will hear our requests. Jesus doesn’t ever teach us to pray to angels or that we need angels to act as an intermediary. We don’t need to ask the angels to go talk to God for us. We can talk directly to God through Jesus.
So again, while we might be interested in learning more about angels, in rejoicing that God sends them as His servants, we can never let our interest in angels lead us to lose our connection to Christ. Christ is our salvation.
Perhaps you have gotten interested in angels, because you’ve felt like you’ve needed more, more to get you through each day, more to give you hope and strength to face the difficulties in your life. Those are real needs. It is hard to be confident in an unpredictable world. It is hard to keep going when you’re grieving or scared or troubled or sad.
But God points us to Christ, not the angels, when we need strength and hope. Tonight I point you to Christ for comfort and peace. Dr. Virtue or Diana Cooper would say that there is an untapped resource in angels, a resource we just need to discover in order to have the help we need. But why do we need to focus on angels? Why do we need to discover angels in order to get more help? We have Christ, and as Paul says in Colossians chapter 2, “In Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Christ is fully divine, fully God. “And you have been given the fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
Whatever help we need is at the command of Christ. He is over all things. He commands the angels to watch over you. When you are connected to Christ, you are connected fully to God. Don’t let angel teachers trick you; you aren’t lacking anything if you don’t know the name of your guardian angel. You know the Name of the Savior of the world, the Savior that devotes Himself to you. You know Christ, and there is nothing else that you need for strength, help, comfort, peace, or forgiveness.
If you have been trusting an angel pin or statue, if you have said things like, “I know I’m safe; I’ve got my guardian angel pin on today,” then throw out the angel stuff. Throw out the books or jewelry or pictures or figurines. Angels aren’t meant to be worshipped. We’re not meant to call on angels in prayer. Do not let a curiosity about angels take you away from knowing that you have the fullness of Christ, the fullness of God’s love and grace and mercy all through Christ alone.
But what about people who have seen angels? What if you feel like you’ve encountered an angel? Well, Dr. Virtue had an experience of an angel saving her from an attack by two carjackers. I can’t deny that experience. But her experience turned her attention fully on communicating with angels and designing a combination of psychology and spirituality called Angel Therapy. I can’t deny Dr. Virtue’s experience of an angel protecting her, but I have to question where she has placed her attention, her hope, her trust.
In that same way, I can’t deny your experience if you feel that you’ve seen an angel. I can’t deny that experience, but what does God’s Word tell us about our reaction to an angel’s protection or presence?
Listen to the reaction of King Darius, King of Persia, who threw Daniel the prophet into the lion’s den. From the 6th chapter of Daniel, we read:
“At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’
“Daniel answered, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.’
“The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”
Now Darius wasn’t a believer in God, so when he hears that an angel protected Daniel in the lion’s den, Darius could’ve easily worshipped the angel. But Darius issues a decree that says people should respect and worship God, the One who sent the angel.
“King Darius said: ‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. ‘For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:19-23,25-27)”
This is how we are to react if we believe an angel has been in our presence. The experience turns our worship to God. While we may rejoice in the work of the angel, as certainly Daniel did when the angel closed the mouths of the lions, our worship and respect and love and hope always remains with the One who sends the angels, with God Himself.
So don’t bother looking for Diana Cooper and Dr. Doreen Virtue if you want to learn about angels. They do not teach the truth according to Jesus Christ. They would lead you to believe that you are incomplete without a knowledge of angels.
But you are complete in Christ. You have the fullness of God in Jesus, the fullness of His salvation, which brings hope and peace and comfort.
1 From an online article, “Your Guardian Angel,” by Diana Cooper. http://www.dianacooper.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=138&Itemid=19
2 Dr. Doreen Virtue, http://www.angeltherapy.com/faq.htm