What Angels Learn At Church
November 27th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
WHAT ANGELS LEARN IN CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 11:10
11-27-83 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord no less bless the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. I have never prepared one as interesting to me as this message delivered this hour. It sounds somewhat facetious in its title, What Angels Learn in Church, but when we study the Word of God, it is a marvelous and wonderful revelation. I wish we had several hours. In fact, I do not think we have anything to do. Let’s just stay here several hours and listen. So let’s begin just right in the middle of it, and then listen attentively to the Word of the Lord.
What Angels Learn at Church: first, what they learn about us. First Corinthians 11:10, 1 Corinthians 11:10, "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels, because of the angels." They are here. They come to church. The eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians in its first part concerns how we ought to dress, the clothing we ought to wear; particularly how a woman ought to dress. And the apostle is saying that a woman who comes to church ought to dress appropriately, acceptably, modestly, because of the angels who are present. The very idea suggests so very much that followed in Scripture reveals so very much.
We are the only one in God’s creation who wear, who wears clothing. No other of God’s creation dresses, puts on raiment. Everything that God has created, everything lives in the body that it is born with, and it never clothes itself. The insects, the fish, the fowl, the birds, the animals, the beasts, the creeping things, all of them are clothed when they come into the world. They are clothed with an encrustation, or they have scales, or they have feathers, or they have a coat of hair; but the man is clothed, he wears garments, the only one of God’s creation who does.
The Bible says that we are created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], and God is clothed, always He is presented as being clothed. In Psalm 104, verse 2, He is described as being "clothed with the raiment, the garments of light." The Jews refer to that as the shekinah glory of God. "The Lord is clothed in raiment of light, of glory, of shekinah." God is clothed in glory. Our Lord Jesus Christ is always presented as clothed in shining, glorious garments of light. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, when the Lord was transfigured, that is, His deity shone through, His garments became white and glorious, like the sun. When the apostle Paul, when Saul of Tarsus met Him on the way to Damascus, he was blinded by the glory of the presence of the Lord [Acts 22:11]. In the first chapter of the Revelation, John fell at His feet as dead, this glorious One, the Lord Jesus Christ, in His garments of light and shekinah [Revelation :13-17].
The angels also are always presented to us in raiment of white and of glory. In Matthew 28, and in Luke 24, and in Mark 16, and in Acts chapter 1, the resurrection angels and the ascension angels are described, and they are clothed in long white garments, glistening and shining and bright. Lucifer, in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, Lucifer the great first, mighty angel, Lucifer is described as dressed in the burning, dazzling, splendid stones of fire. We are like God. We are clothed. And when God made us, our clothing was light. It was bright. It was holiness. It was purity. It was splendor. It was dazzling. The second chapter of the Book of Genesis says, "And they were naked, but not ashamed" [Genesis 2:25]. That is, they were clothed in holiness, in purity, in light, in glory. Their raiment was like that of the angels. Their raiment was like that of the Lord. Their raiment was like that of God. He created them in His image, and they were clothed in the light of glory.
In the next chapter in Genesis, in Genesis , when the Lord came to visit the two that He had made, they were ashamed and they hid themselves. And the Lord God said, "Adam, Adam, Adam, where art thou?" And Adam replied, "I am ashamed, and I have hid myself, for I am naked." And the Lord said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the forbidden tree? Have you lost your garment of glory?" [Genesis 3:8-11]. And the story thereafter is one in which all of us share. My eyes were opened, and I found myself a sinner, a transgressor, and I lost my garment of light and glory. And I am naked and ashamed. Every infidel and every unbeliever that lives is an illustration of the truth of the doctrine of God. We are transgressors, and sinners, and naked, and ashamed. All of us, there’s no exception to it.
I could not help, in a private conversation with Corrie ten Boom, I could not help but be deeply moved by something that she said happened in the Nazi concentration camp. She said, "The Nazi soldiers made us take off our clothing and parade naked in their presence." And she said, "I cannot describe the shame that I felt." You’re that way. If I were to ask any one of you, "Come up here and take off your clothing," you would be ashamed, naked. We lost our covering of light, and of glory, and of holiness, and of purity; we lost it.
Then what did God do? God made coats of skin: He slew an innocent animal, and took the skin and made a covering for the nakedness of the man and his wife [Genesis 3:21]. And that is the word for "atonement," kapher. Kapher is an ordinary Hebrew word for "covering," kapher, but it is also translated "atonement." Atonement is the covering of our nakedness, of our sin, of our transgression; washed in the blood, covered in the righteousness of our Lord.
I never thought of this until I prepared this sermon, never had entered my mind. So we dress ourselves because of the angels of God; we cover ourselves. We lost our garments of glory and light and purity, and we need a kapher, a covering, an atonement, a justification, a forgiveness.
Number two: what angels learn at church. In Ephesians 3, verses 9 and 10, Paul avows, "I have been called of God that by revelation through me might be made known the mystery of the church, that the Gentile should be in the same body with the elect people of God," verses 9 and 10, "That I might make all men see what is the fellowship of this mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God: To the intent that now unto the archais and exousiais in the heavenlies, might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." Now when I look at that, I can hardly believe it, though I read it here and have just read it. "To the intent that now those archais and exousiais," they are the ranks, the hierarchy of the angels of God in heaven, "that there might be made known unto them," the hierarchy of the angels of God in heaven, "the manifold wisdom of God by the church." Now here again I am amazed and dumbfounded and can hardly contain it. The manifold wisdom of God is displayed and made known to the angels of heaven by the church, in the church; what angels learn at church.
You think of that for a moment, and you will be as astonished as I am. The hierarchy of the angels of God, the innumerable multitude of the sons of glory, these are they that stand as it were in the sun. These are they who with undimmed eye look upon deity. These are they who veil their faces in the presence of the glory of the splendor of the omnipotent One; but it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that in their status and in their standing they learn the manifold of wisdom of God, though they stand in the presence of omniscience and omnipotence itself.
Look again, the passage you just read in Job, Job 38, verse 7, the passage says that these angels were present when God created the worlds, when He flung these constellations and planets and suns into space, when He lighted the stars with the flame of His deity. The Bible says the angels of God were there, and when they looked upon the glory of God’s creation, they shouted for joy! But it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that in all of the Lord’s creation, and the might and omnipotence of His displayed power, that in that the angels learned the manifold wisdom of God.
The angels were present in the garden of Eden, and they watched the Lord create the man and his fair consort. It was the greatest of all God’s creation; His omnipotent wisdom displayed. The man in his mind, and in his soul, and in his body, in all of the glory that pertains to this creation in the image of God; but it says nowhere that in Eden or in the creation of man did the angels learn the manifold wisdom of God. Nor does it ever say in the providences of history, in the passing of the generations of men and of life and of time, these mystic, wondrous wheels full of eyes that turn and burn in the presence of the Almighty, nowhere in the Bible does it say that in the generations of history and in the passing of time do the angels learn the manifold wisdom of God.
What the Bible says is that the angels learn the manifold wisdom of God in the church. There is more to be learned of God in the church than there is in all of God’s creation, than in all of God’s heaven of heavens, than in all of the generations of the years of the passing history; more to be seen of God, more to be learned of God, more to be introduced to the wisdom of God in the church than in all of God’s time and creation. Does it not amaze you that such a thing could be avowed here in the Bible? We learn of God, the manifold wisdom of God, in the church; and that’s where the angels learn it [Ephesians 3:9-10].
The great foundation stone of the church is omnipotent Lord God Jesus Himself, and He is building up a glorious temple; not one Grecian or one Gothic or one Romanesque, but one built after the pattern shown to Moses on the holy mount, made up of human souls and human lives. And it rises and rises and rises, and the pyramid is in Paradise; and some of the living saints of the temple of God are there, and some of them are here. We’re here, they’re there; but whether some there or some here, all of us belong to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, built upon the cornerstone and the foundation of our Lord. And that temple is indwelt by the Holy God Himself; the Spirit of the Lord is in it. The presence of Jesus is with us, and the holy angels sit at our feet and learn of the wisdom of God through us. It’s a conception of the church that’s almost beyond our thinking – to repeat the Scripture – that "To the angels might be made known the manifold wisdom of God by the church, in the church."
Now the third and the last: in the church the angels learn the glorious plan of redemption, of our deliverance and salvation. First Peter chapter 1, beginning at verse 9:
Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into, which things the angels desire to learn.
[1 Peter 1:9-12]
These things that are preached to us by our pastor and by the men of God in the church, these things that were prophesied by the prophets who did not understand what they were saying, as Daniel said, "I heard, but I did not understand" [Daniel 12:8], these things that the angels desire to look into are now made known and preached in the church.
Can you imagine, [if] there would be a door opened in heaven, how we would crowd to look through that door into heaven? "Look, there’s the great throne with a rainbow around. Look, there’s the tree of life. Look, there’s the river of life. Look, there are the golden streets, look." Oh dear! How we would crowd around a door if one were opened into heaven, and we could see. This says the reverse is true. A door is opened to this fallen earth, and the angels crowd to look into it, to see what is happening down here in this earth.
And the thing that they’re interested in is how does God redeem a fallen race, and at the same time keep Himself judicial, keep Himself honest, keep Himself true. How does God say, "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:20], but it doesn’t die? How does God say, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23], and we don’t die? How does God say, "If you break this commandment, if you break this law, thou shalt surely, surely, surely die," then we don’t die? If you had a parliament of all of the angels in glory, all of them, all of the celestial aerial spirits of heaven, if you had a parliament, and you laid before them how is it that God can be just and justify the sinner, how can God be true, and righteous, and forgive these that have transgressed His law? The parliament would end, saying, "We have no answer. How does God uphold His righteousness, and His holiness, and His purity, and His integrity, and at the same time let these sinners go? They do not die. They are forgiven. How does God do that?"
Well, the passage here in the Scripture that Peter writes, says, that the prophets prophesied of that salvation, but they couldn’t understand it. In one breath, they would speak of the sufferings, the atoning grace of our Lord, and the next breath they’d talk about the glory of our Savior. How could He be despised, and crucified, and beaten with stripes, and outcast, and at the same time be the Lord God omnipotent of the universe, how? The prophets couldn’t understand. And the angels looked at it, and they were nonplused; they couldn’t enter into the depth of the mystery of how God could forgive sinners, could save transgressors. And when the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s omnipotent Son, when the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, I would think that all the angels in glory said, "God is defeated. Satan has triumphed. God’s chosen people have slain their own Son." I would think every angel in heaven looked upon the death of Christ and concluded, "This is the ultimate and final defeat of God."
But the third day, the Lord rose with healing in His wings [Malachi 4:2]. Death slain by death; the dragon’s sting stung by the dragon; what we lost in Eden, we gained in the new Paradise. "As in Adam we all died, in the second Adam we are all made alive. By man came death; by Man came the resurrection from the dead" [1 Corinthians 15:21-22]. As sin entered by a man, salvation was brought to us by the Man Christ Jesus [Romans 5:12]. And as a woman was deceived in the transgression [1 Timothy 2:14], it was a woman God used to bring life and hope in a glorious Son to a fallen race [Luke 1:31]. And everything that we lost in Eden, we regained in the paradise God has reserved for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And that’s what the angels learned in church. And that’s why in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, it says that "when somebody is saved, the angels and those in the presence of the angels rejoice" [Luke 15:10]. It is a miracle. It is an intervention of God, the saving of the humblest soul.
The angels present. If a little child is moved and touched and comes to take a step toward God, as we call it, the angels are glad. They look upon it with rejoicing. Whether it be a king or a beggar, whether it be a prince or a pauper, whether it be a man who is preaching to the thousands, or whether it be a humble man who bows his head in a cottage in Bible reading and prayer, the angels look upon it with amazement, and glory, and delight. It’s the most marvelous thing in the world to the angels: somebody is saved, somebody comes to know the Lord, somebody accepts the grace and the love and the forgiveness of Jesus; and they are glad, and we are too. Nobody comes down one of these aisles or down one of these stairways, nobody, ever, but that the church rejoices in the great victory, a trophy of grace, laid at the feet of our wonderful Savior.
And that’s our invitation hymn, and that’s our appeal to you this day. "This is God’s day for me, and I’m coming. I’m accepting Jesus as my Savior. My heart has been opened heavenward and God-ward and I look up in loving faith, and gratitude, and thanksgiving, and glory to Him, and I’m coming," or "Pastor, this is my wife, and this is my family. We all are coming today." As the Spirit of the Lord presses the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. And may the angels who are present attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.