Last night at the central meeting of the Christian Union we looked at 1 Timothy 3:16 –
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.
These lines are in couplets that are paired together, so the question we were looking at last night was: what does it mean to pair the way that Christ is preached with how Christ is seen by the angels?
Apparently, Francis Schaeffer, when running a series of talks explaining the gospel, would start with a talk about angels. His reason for this choice, he said, was that in beginning with angels there could be no confusion that what Christians believe is fundamentally supernatural.
What we believe most definitely is supernatural. We do not believe that Christ was merely human, but divine. And we do not believe that salvation is anything other than a supernatural gift to us. Thinking about and acknowledging the existence of angels is just part of the acknowledgement that we believe in a supernatural reality that changes our understanding of natural reality.
This presence of the supernatural is precisely one of the reasons that it is difficult to reconcile an understanding of Jesus as either a teacher or moral example with the gospel accounts.
The gospels record a series of events marked out by angelic presence: in fact, the road from Bethlehem to Calvary is trafficked by angels.
When Jesus is born, there are angels. When Herod threatens to kill Jesus, it is an angel that warns Joseph. When Jesus faces temptation in the desert, it is angels that minister to him afterwards. When Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is comforted and strengthened by an angel. When he is betrayed and arrested, Jesus speaks confidently that angels would attend to him if he asked. When Jesus is resurrected, it is an angel that rolls away the tomb, and it is an angel that announces the resurrection of Christ.
If you are reading this as someone as yet unsure what to make of Jesus, I would encourage you to read the gospel accounts. Read them open to the possibility of a reality that is far beyond what you know, and read them open to the possibility that it could change your own reality and what you know to be possible.
And if you worship Jesus as Lord, be encouraged that you worship alongside angels, and preach Jesus to others by telling them about Jesus as the angels know him to be.
They know him to be our Saviour.
Start with the angels.