Divine Spectacles - How Angels See Christians - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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The daily activities of the sinful, but regenerated, soul is a spiritual wonder to behold. The spiritually elevated human psyche observed in its war between good and evil, between righteousness and wickedness, gains careful scrutiny, not only of the angels but of the Lord God Himself. The Lord’s angels inquire into such things as these – all that attends the redemption by God through Jesus Christ for sinful men. (“which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:12) The spiritual eyes of angelic ministers spy into our lives as immaterial voyeurs longing to understand what a mysterious action and providence it is for the Word to become flesh, dwell among men, and save sinners by His blood. On the other hand, the All-knowing God of the universe, in His omniscience, not only peers through the keyhole of our lives making note of every action (whether good or evil) done under the sun, but unlike the angels, the Lord also plunges into the hearts of men. He looks into the secret chambers of the mind where glorious thoughts of Christ are born by the Holy Spirit, and unspeakable evils are spawned by the evidences of remaining sin still struggling against holy operations.
Those redeemed by the Only Begotten Son have certain fruits evidenced about them. The fruit of the Spirit ought to be an ever-increasing reality in the daily lives of honorable vessels in the hands of the Potter. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and temperance are all qualities which should be of hearty engagement in the affections of the Christian. (Galatians 5:22-23) The motions of the Spirit of God prompt the obedient son or daughter to heed the commands of Christ which are not burdensome, and thus exemplify this godly fruit. (1 John 5:2, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”) They strive for perfection though the lingering affects of their depraved nature fight vehemently to strike down every holy action. (Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”)
What then is the spectacle which the angels observe in the life of the Christian? No doubt, the experience of the angelic host is mixed when they observe the lives of God’s people. They view both the good and bad actions of the Christian. Are they happy to see the saint growing in grace and holiness of Christ? Most assuredly. As the saint grows in grace those invisible spirits who minister to us here rejoice in the sanctification Christ’s Spirit works among us – they praise the Most Holy as He continues to glorify Himself through His people. (Psalm 148:2) To watch the successful motions of the Spirit of God pour greater amounts of grace into the soul must be exciting indeed. Though it be conjecture, as the angels rejoice when God saves a sinner (Luke 15:10), would they not rejoice when God causes them to become more and more holy? I believe they would. Any providence which demonstrates the glory of Christ would bring the angels a great amount of joy. They know the unveiled glory of the creator. (Isaiah 6:1ff) When this glory is further displayed, they cannot help but rejoice, and are intensely curious about such things. (cf. 1 Peter 1:12)
And what of the Lord Himself? Does God rejoice in the further sanctification of the regenerate sinner? This must be more precisely explained. God rejoices, ultimately, only in Himself. (Matthew 17:5; 9:17) This cannot be disputed. Since God is perfect, He loves Himself infinitely. Self-love for human beings is exceedingly sinful because they should love what is perfect – which is God – not what is sinful, which is themselves. (Rom. 8:28; 1 John 5:2; Rom. 3:23) There is no other perfect being which should be ultimately loved but God. When God loves Himself it is not sin. When humans love themselves it is vanity and wickedness. Human beings should only love God with their whole being, not themselves. (Mark 12:30) When God loves Himself it is the right thing to do. If God did not love Himself perfectly He would not be God. (Isaiah 43:7) He must do this; it is essential for Him to do this because He must love what is perfect, which is Himself. (Matthew 5:48) He loves everything He accomplishes, everything He wills, everything He decrees. (Isaiah 44:28; 46:9-10) Thus, the question is reiterated, “Does God rejoice in the further sanctification of the regenerate sinner?” God does rejoice in the further sanctification of the sinner because of two main factors: 1) He is the One who is accomplishing the sanctifying process, and 2) He sees more of Christ in the sinner, that which He wills to impart.
First, God rejoices in the sinner’s sanctification because it is something effected by His perfect will and design. (Isaiah 43:7; 1 Peter 1:2; Heb. 13:12; 10:10; 2 Thess. 2:13) Any action of the Godhead, for any reason, is an action which God must infinitely love because He accomplishes it perfectly. Since God necessarily loves that which is infinitely perfect, His being, essence, and actions must be eternally rejoiced over. Thus, God, in the eternal contemplation of the His glorious perfections, is the “eternally blissful” God of the Ages. (1 Timothy 1:11) This is not vain, nor sin, but of righteous necessity for God to possess such a disposition. Thus, the actions of God in the sanctification of the believer is that which He rejoices over with an abundance of joy. Secondly, whenever the real sanctification of the Spirit upon the soul of a regenerate sinner takes place, Jesus Christ is seen more clearly. It is the presence of the image of Christ in the sinner which God rejoices over – not the sinner himself. The good and faithful servant is a good and faithful servant because Christ resides in him. Take Christ out of the sinner and what is left? A regenerated heart? Would that be all? No, there would be the remnants of sinful desires and passions going unchecked. A regenerated heart does not make Christians more holy. Rather, the regenerate heart allows the sinner to walk down the road of holiness as motivated by the Spirit. It is likened to holding a pen in your hand. The pen does not write the letter, you write the letter. It makes little difference how long the pen resides in your shirt pocket. To write a letter you must utilize the pen in the act of writing. The same can be said of a regenerate heart. It does not make the sinner holy, but enables the possibility of righteous conduct. Thus, if Christ is removed from the sinner, and the impressions of His image is stripped from the soul, there is nothing left for God to glory in or rejoice over. God rejoices in His “elect Servant in whom His soul delights.” If Christ is seen, then God will glory in the image of His Son in the Christian. (Romans 8:29)
The idea that God rejoices in Christ and not in us, perse, is not an attractive theological point. We, as sinful human beings would much rather think of our situation as if we were the grandchild and God as our Grandfather. We present our scribbled pictures made with crayons, quite messy, out of the coloring lines, and with the wrong colors, to our Grandfather who takes the messy picture and approves of it, telling us, his favorite grandchild, that it is a job well done, though it would by no means hang in the Louver. But this illustration is wanting. I would further it by saying this: instead of God as the Grandfather who is pleased with a messy crayon drawing, rather, he is pleased with the crayon marks themselves. These crayon marks – the scribbled lines – are the impressions of Christ’s image seared into us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God is pleased with Christ in us rather than just with us and our work. If God was pleased with us and our work without Christ, then He would, of necessity, be pleased with something other than Himself – namely, the fallen works of wicked sinners. This cannot be.
There is another side to be observed in all of this. Are the angels ever ashamed of the actions of the Christian? It is a most unfortunate to say, yes. Not only do they see the righteous deeds of the Spirit shining through us, but they also witness the horrors of our wicked actions. Upon every incident as a Christian backslides, the angels wince in a holy disgust and holy anger at the deed. (1 Chronicles 21:12; Psalm 35:6; Isaiah 37:36; Acts 12:23) And if the angels are so disgusted in this, then what does the holy One Himself think? (Psalm 5:5) The actions of the redeemed elect, when they sin willfully before the face of God, are committing worse evils than when the devil himself sins. Why? For when the Christian sins, he sins against the body and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devils do not do this. As Christians we should be ready to say to Christ, “Be not ashamed to be my God.” Do we make God ashamed? When we sin, we bring shame to Christ and His cross; and this before the world, before the demons, before the angels, and worse of all, before the Lord of Glory. We are, before all beings, divine spectacles.
We are commissioned by God to live righteously; but how shall we live righteously? How shall we fight the good fight? How shall we bring honor to Christ instead of shame? There are a number of texts which speak to this end, but I am partial to Hebrews 12:4, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” The word “resisted” is the Greek word antikathistemi (an-tee-kath-is’-tay-mee) which means “to place in opposition, to dispose troops, set an army in line of battle and to stand against, or resist.” The warrior Christian sets himself to battle the forces of darkness, and the weakness of his own flesh, even unto blood. This means that the warrior is ready to die in battle, and goes into battle knowing he may be mortally wounded. This warrior spirit is coupled with a determination to antagonizomai (an-tag-o-nid’-zom-ahee) or “struggle and fight” against hamartia (ham-ar-tee’-ah) – sin. This is collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many. Whether wickedness comes from without or within, it must be stopped at all costs.
We are those who must take up the divine sword of the Spirit and perform as gladiators fighting in the arena of the world, desiring to bleed the enemy dry. We must become bloodthirsty. We must become those warrior champions who fight so long and so hard that our sword sticks to our hand from relentless hours of ferocious battle. (2 Samuel 23:10) As Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, so we should be ready to slay ten-thousand enemies to honor the God we profess. Let it not be said that Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands, but that we have killed an innumerable host of sinful thoughts and actions without number, and mortified a million more. We should become so prominent, so known for this, as the apostle was (Acts 19:15), that we would not act disgraceful as divine spectacles, but honored as divine spectacles. It ought never to be said that God is ashamed of us, but that Satan and the forces of wickedness are afraid of us. Rather than entertaining sin, we ought to “expose the evil deeds of darkness…”
Do we have the enemy’s blood stained on our hands and sword? Or is it that the enemy has violently attacked us in so many ways that our clothes are drenched with our own blood from the multiple wounds we have obtained from enemy attack? Is the spiritual coliseum of heaven cheering us on to victory, or are we being “jeered” and “heckled?” What kind of divine spectacle have we become?