God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:12 The Scriptures and the Angels
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 23, 2022
12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, when they wrote about these things.
In this verse, the present preaching of ministers of the gospels is given its place alongside the Scriptures as the gospel for God’s people. Not that ministers are blessed with divine inspiration, but their preaching carries the inspired words to the people of God.
Moses knew that his words were for everyone listening to him, and for all the generations that would come after: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The Scriptures show this to be true with prophet after prophet, although proof passages from among some of the shorter prophets (Jonah, Haggai, Obadiah) and certain poetic books (Song of Solomon, Lamentations) are not to be found (nor are they expected in every single case).
These are the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.
The Holy Spirit proclaims that the complete content of the Bible is the full message of salvation. This is especially true of the gospel, but the whole of the Scriptures is God’s revealed word to mankind, “the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the gospel to you.” The source of the Bible is “the Holy Spirit,” who sent it to man from heaven.
Among Christians today, there is a vast difference in what role the Scriptures play as an authoritative document. Mainline Protestants talk about the Bible as their only source of doctrine, but it’s immediately clear that they mean that the Bible plays second fiddle to reason. The claim one hears is that God reveals nothing to man that is unreasonable. To this, we ask: What is more unreasonable than the salvation of mankind through the blood of the Son of God? We also notice that whenever there is more than one source of authority for a church, the source that is not the Bible becomes more important. In the house of the human heart, reason must not be the mistress of the house, but the handmaid.
Among denominations like Roman Catholicism, the ultimate source of doctrine is the Pope. Second comes tradition (from which they arrived at purgatory, indulgences, and prayers to the saints). Third is the body of Church Councils in the past, by which various decrees have become sources of doctrine. Fourth (and last, according to their own clergy) comes the Bible. In many churches within that fellowship, reading the Bible is thoroughly discouraged.
We Confessional Lutherans hold the Bible as the only source of authority. When I refer to the creeds or the Lutheran Confessions, it is because they concisely state a doctrine that is laid out in the Scriptures. When I refer to the Apocrypha or to the Apostolic Fathers, it is not to discover a doctrine, but mainly to notice the meaning of an otherwise rare word, and secondly because they sometimes restate a Biblical truth in a memorable way. We also describe the Bible as “the Norming Norm” (Latin norma normans), the source from which all doctrine is drawn. The Confessions and creeds are “the normed norm,” (norma normata), a restatement of what is already there in the Scriptures and governed entirely by the Scriptures.
This is an excellent moment to take time to observe some properties of the Scriptures.
1, Its authority. The message of the Bible (every syllable and the content of its message) is the Word of God. It creates its own organ (or instrument) of perception, which is faith. By doing so, the Scripture itself bears witness to its divine authority. In other words, by creating faith in the hearer, Holy Scripture shows that it has the external witness of the Holy Spirit: God smiles upon, approves of, and sends his Word to mankind. “These are the Scriptures,” Jesus said, “that testify about me” (John 5:39).
2, Its inerrancy and truth. The Bible is truth, and it presents only divine truth. There are no myths, fables, errors, or “antiquated ideas” that need to be removed. Since the Bible was given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, no human has the right to decide what things in the Bible are true and what things might not be true. Jesus said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), and he prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). This truth is not affected or diminished when human minds misunderstand it or reject it (Romans 3:3-4). As one teacher said to me: “The Bible is true whether you want it to be or not.”
3, Its efficacy. The word of God has the power to accomplish God’s purpose. Scripture is the ordinary means by which God operates on the minds and hearts of those who properly read and hear it. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). The Scriptures are able to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” and this is true even “from infancy” (2 Timothy 3:15).
4, Its sufficiency. The Bible is “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:17), and is sufficient to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The rich man, agonizing in hell over the unbelief of his brothers, was told that they have “Moses and the Prophets” (Luke 16:29) and therefore a miracle for them was unnecessary.
5, Its clarity (perspicuity). The doctrines, teachings, commandments, mandates and especially the gospel of the Bible is written with such clarity that any mind of average and even below-average human intelligence can understand the meaning and apply it to his heart. The Bible is therefore called “a light” (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; 2 Peter 1:19). It makes wise the simple (Psalm 19:7), and can be learned even by children (2 Timothy 3:15).
Even the angels long to look carefully into these things.
Following these important truths about Scripture, Peter also shows us that God’s entire revealed will is in the Scriptures, His hidden will, the things he does not tell us, cannot be found out by human means of any kind. Therefore we do not go looking for the hidden will of God. It is not available to us. To quote Paul Simon, “The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.” But better to quote Luther: “Apart from God’s word and work one should not look for him. These theologians (his opponents) have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and should like to have this rule adhered to after my death” (LW 54:35).
The angels in heaven do not have a special insight into spiritual matters that mankind lacks. Rather, they are messengers and ministering spirits who serve God and carry out his will in the unseen world around mankind. When the angels are given a special message or revelation by God, it is for them to deliver to man. As for profound or even simple spiritual matters? The angels do not have a special “Angel Bible” for their edification. They have the same Scriptures mankind has been given, although at times God comforts them about the terrible messages they must carry (Zechariah 1:13). Therefore we learn certain things about the angels from this passage:
- They are delighted when they themselves are sent with one of God’s gospel messages for man. We see this when the angel at the tomb exclaims (almost laughs), “He is risen from the dead—and I have told you!” (Matthew 28:7).
- They listen to the proclaimed Scriptures, and are sometimes troubled by them as man is. As we have seen, they are concerned for the men they are charged to protect, when they carry a message of law or an act of destruction (Zechariah 1:12, 5:3).
- Therefore it follows that they are edified whenever mankind makes a discovery about God’s will from God’s word, such as we do in sermons and in Bible study.
- Therefore it also follows that the holy angels are offended when certain men and women abuse or try to abolish the Holy Scriptures, or preach false doctrine, such as when the Jews of Jerusalem were coaxed by their leaders into saying, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). This is also shown by the angels sent by God into Sodom to report to him, “to see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached God” (Genesis 18:21).
- The memories of the angels are excellent and virtually perfect in ways we cannot imagine. Therefore the angels are aware when a minister or teacher might make an inaccurate reference, such as if I were to say that the Wise Men visited Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem when in fact the Wise Men came later, when Jesus had been moved by Mary and Joseph to a house in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:11). The angels would not be offended by such an error, but would understand a good heart had made a human slip. The angels must be able to tolerate much error in mankind, but fortunately God looks not at our terrible imperfections, but at the heart that trusts in his forgiveness (1 Samuel 16:7)
- The angels are not careless about the details of God’s plan of salvation. They desire eagerly to look into these things. The word Peter uses for their desire is epithymeo (ἐπιθυμέω), which is used to translate “covet” in the Law of Moses (Exodus 20:17; Micah 2:2; Romans 7:7, 13:9) but in another context can be a godly act (1 Timothy 3:1). The same word is used in both a sinful and a godly sense in Paul’s statement: “The sinful nature desires (ἐπιθυμέω) what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit (supply “desires” ἐπιθυμέω) what is contrary to the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:17). Since the good angels are confirmed in their holiness, their desires all conform to God’s holy will (his revealed will), but that is not to say that such a desire does not still burn intensely within them. Remember that Jesus also said, “I have eagerly desired (ἐπιθυμέω) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
The Holy Scriptures are there for us to learn everything that God reveals about himself. If, in a lifetime, I have not yet even fully and perfectly comprehended the Lord’s Prayer, then I know that I have much prayer and study still to carry out. A whole lifetime. God grant that you will continue to be edified by the holy word of God.
Pastor Timothy Smith