Why Not Angels?July 8th, 2012 by Anthony Bosman
Jesus is glorious. At His birth, He was announced by singing angels. Again at His ascension, angels testified to men regarding Him. (Luke 2:14, Acts 1:10)
Enter my question: Why don’t angels still sing to men of Him? That is, why is the work of telling the world of Jesus left to people and not masses of angels? Wouldn’t their testimony be more compelling?
As I read through the book of Acts, the story of the early Christian church, this question nags at me more.
Consider this encounter.
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)
Keep reading, and you’ll discover that Philip obeys and encounters an Ethiopian man who he is able to tell about Jesus. But, couldn’t the angel of the Lord have spoken to the Ethiopian directly instead of sending Philip?
Another story is even more frustrating. It’s about Cornelius, a gentile who was following God to the best knowledge that he had (Acts 10:1-2). This time an angel does appear directly to him. But note what the angel tells Cornelius:
“Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:4-6)
Cornelius needed to hear the story of Jesus and learn of forgiveness and repentance, but the angel doesn’t tell it to him. Instead he connects him with Peter so Peter can tell the story. Why?
Growing up, I thought evangelism was informational. That Christianity was about broadcasting the Jesus story on the most channels to the largest audience. Indeed, the teachings of Jesus affirm that we should put unrestrained energy into spreading the gospel to all people groups. But if the only focus of evangelism is to spread a story, then shouldn’t heaven have filled the skies with angels announcing it at full volume?
Our stories in Acts suggest that there is another component to evangelism. Consider the case of Cornelius. Why did the angel call out Peter by name? It’s not just because Cornelius needed to hear the story and Peter was one of many who knew it. Rather, I suggest it is because Peter needed to tell it to Cornelius. It’s a story about Peter just as much as it is about Cornelius.
You see, Peter struggled in his relations with the gentiles (cf. Galatians 2:11-13). Throughout the encounter with Cornelius, we see him grappling with the fact that God has called him to share the message with non-Jews. Moreover, to do it over a meal, as friends. Yet he obeys.
Peter sharing with Cornelius is not just an opportunity for Cornelius to learn about Jesus, but it is also a chance for Peter to discover God’s impartial love for Jew and Gentile.
A favorite book, The Desire of Ages, explains,
“God could have reached his object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work. In order to enter in His joy–the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice,–we must participate in His labors for their redemption.” (p.142)
Jesus ached with compassion when He saw the lost. He cried over the unbelief of Jerusalem. He rejoiced over the simplest faith.
Peter was learning this love for the gentile. Who is God teaching us to love this way?