Calvin and the Angels

“Angels are deployed by God particularly for the rescue and protection of believers.  Calvin has no problem in admitting this, but he cautions against the danger of angels receiving so much attention that justice is not done to the fact that God is the one who saves.  The angels are given to us as servants and protectors, and they are keen on guarding over our lives because they know it is the task God has assigned to them.  Furthermore, they are consciously involved with events on earth and pleased about the salvation of the church.  Angels keep a watchful eye on every moment of our lives, but anyone who lives frivolously or walks down another path than the one which God wills need not expect help from them.  Yet this does not mean that Calvin likes the notion of individual persons having a guardian angel to watch over them; Calvin thinks this is too limited a picture of our angelic help.  God does not appoint one angel, says Calvin, but he orders a whole army of angels to watch over the salvation of every single believer.  The Bible says that angels (he draws attention to the plural form) encircle the believer.  This is indeed a consolation, for in like manner as we have countless enemies, we also have countless more guardians.  Calvin’s critics on this concept of a guardian angel therefore encounter both a biblical and a pastoral argument: why be satisfied with either none or perhaps only one angel when man needs much more help from God and he indeed receives it through this army of heavenly servants?  At the same time, though, Calvin points out that we should not try to investigate how precisely angels do their work.  It is sufficient to know that they are appointed to serve us.  Incidentally, Calvin points out that we are indebted to the work of Christ for the fact that they serve us, for because of the fall angels did not have anything to do with us, but it is Christ who reconciled the angels to us.”

Herman J. Selderhuis, Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms, 137-138

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

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