Christianity and theology

Does Every Christian Have a Special Guardian Angel?

I guess you have heard of the notion of guardian angels before. Those who believe in guardian angels state that every Christian has an angel assigned to them by God to care and protect them. This belief is not recent. Church history shows that it dates back so many centuries ago. In fact, some early Church Fathers like Origen and Chrysostom in third and fourth centuries respectively believed and taught about guardian angels.

Those who advocate for the belief in guardian angels cite Matthew 18:10 and Acts 12:15 as their biblical basis. In the first verses of Matthew 18, Jesus speaks to his apostles about humbling themselves like children. Then he later says to them: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (10).

In the first verses of Acts 12 we find Jesus’ disciples praying in the house of Mary (the mother of John Mark) for Peter who has been put in prison by the Jewish religious and government leaders. However, when a girl reports to them that Peter is released from prison and is standing outside the house in which they were in, the disciples disbelieve her and say, “You are out of your mind.” But the girl insists but still they dismiss her and say, “It is his angel!” (15).

Now, do these verses teach that each Christian has a particular guardian angel? I do not believe so. In the case of Matthew 18:10, we should understand the “little ones” and “their angels” in a collective sense rather than individualistic sense. In other words, the verse states that angels who minister to these little ones and can also minister to every believer see the face of God the Father (not a particular angel of a particular little one sees the face of God the Father). In the case of Acts 12:15, we should understand it to mean that the believers thought that at this particular time God had sent this angel to probably encourage them and they referred to this angel as “Peter’s angel” implying an angel that was sent to them for the cause of Peter whom they were praying for.

It is important to guard against the belief of guardian angels because it can easily lead to the worship of angels which is prohibited in Scripture (Rev. 22:8, 9). Herman Bavinck observes, “The problem with the doctrine of guardian angels is that it leads to veneration and worship, a practice apparently referred to in Colossians 2:18.” If a believer is so occupied with the thoughts of a special angel who cares and protects them, they stand in danger of obliterating God in their minds as a sole sustainer and preserver of their lives and instead accredit this sustenance and preservation to an angel.

Having said this, it is important to point out that the Bible does teach that angels do minister to God’s people (but not a particular angel specifically for a particular Christian). Angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). So, God uses angels to help believers in various ways. For instance we read in Psalms 34:7 and 91:11 that they watch over believers. Angels also intervene is some special ways in some events of God’s people (Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 6:22; Acts 5:19). They also execute judgments against God’s enemies (Genesis 19:1, 13; 2 Kings 19:35; Matthew 13:41).

So, yes God uses his angels to help or minister to his people but God never sets aside or assign a particular angel to a particular Christian. This belief is hardly supported by Scripture and can easily lead to worship of angels which the Bible prohibits. I fully agree with the Belgic Confession Article 12 which clearly states: “He (God) also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect (all believers).”

I also agree with John Calvin when he writes:

“But whether individual angels have been assigned to individual believers for their protection, I dare not affirm with confidence… Indeed, those who confine to one angel the care that God takes of each one of us are doing a great injustice both to themselves and to all the members of the church; as if it were an idle promise that we should fight more valiantly with these hosts supporting and protecting us round about!”

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Sound Teaching

The Challenge for the Preacher

“When it comes to preaching the Word of God, a man will never follow the right course if he cannot forget self, and close his eyes to anything that might distract him in this world from acting according to God’s pure ways. Indeed, he will surely stray away from the path, first to one side, then to the other. Hence, God’s doctrines are often corrupted because those who ought to preach them are inclined to malevolent, or to seek the favour of their hearers. They may fear to incur bad feeling or to provoke anger against themselves.

Therefore, it is impossible for us to serve God in our natural state; we must be absolutely determined, with unshakeable constancy, to suffer for the doctrines that we preach, and not to let this cause us grief. We must fight under the ensign of our captain, Jesus Christ, knowing that we cannot share in the glory of his resurrection if we have not first suffered with him, following his example. All believers must certainly strengthen themselves to do these things. . .

. . .Those who are called by God to preach his Word must be resolved that they will not compromise, even if the whole world were to rise up against them. They must bear all conflicts, knowing that God will help them in their need and always grant them victory, provided they follow their vocation in purity and simplicity. The greatest insult and injury that we can give to God is in yielding to the desires of man, and twisting his Word both left and right. It is not only a question of abandoning our own ideas, but also of constantly upholding God’s truth, which is immutable; it must never be altered, however changeable and inconstant man may be.”

Taken from: John Calvin’s Sermons on Galatians. (Copied from Reformed Bibliophile, http://www.erictyoung.com ).

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Sound Teaching

All Scripture is All about Christ

I will tell you one thing that proves to a demonstration, that Christ is still precious to his people, and it is this:-send one of Christ’s people to hear the most noted preacher of the age, whoever that may be; he preaches a very learned sermon, very fine and magnificent, but there is not a word about Christ in that sermon.Suppose that to be the case, and the Christian man will go out and say, “I did not care a farthing for that man’s discourse.” Why? “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. I heard nothing about Christ.”

Send that man on the Sabbath morning to hear some hedge and ditch preacher, some one who cuts the king’s English about never so badly, but who preaches Jesus Christ-you will see the tears rolling down that man’s face, and when he comes out he will say, “I do not like that man’s bad grammar; I do not like the many mistakes he has made, but oh! it has done my heart good, for he spoke about Christ.” That, after all, is the main thing for the Christian; he wants to hear about his Lord, and if he hears him magnified he will overlook a hundred faults.

In fact, you will find that Christians are all agreed, that the best sermon is that which is fullest of Christ. They never like to hear a sermon unless there is something of Christ in it. A Welsh minister who was preaching last Sabbath at the chapel of my dear brother, Jonathan George, was saying, that Christ was the sum and substance of the gospel, and he broke out into this story:-

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis-Christ. And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.” Now since you say amen to that, and declare that what you want to hear is Jesus Christ, the text is proved-“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.”” 

Taken from the sermon on 1 Peter 2:7  by Charles H.  Spurgeon. Delivered on March 13, 1859.

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Christianity and theology

Jesus Christ is the Final Word

“In sum, great benefits come to God’s people if they are willing to take seriously the fact that the ‘final revelation’ has come in the Christ of Scriptures. Far from hindering enthusiasm and a sense of the immediacy of God’s presence in their midst, faith in the sufficiency of Scripture will move them to serve him with the full vigor of their beings. It must not be forgotten how the resurrected Christ stirred the hearts of his depressed disciples. The Gospel of Luke explains that Jesus enlivened his followers by opening to them the Scriptures. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Why? Why did the resurrected Christ speak to them in this way? Why did he not simply give them a new revelation?

The resurrected Jesus opened the scriptures to them because that would be the way by which spiritual life would be sustained for them from this point on. As a consequence of his opening the Scriptures, their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). The same principle has continued through all the ages. As the resurrected Christ through his Spirit opens the Scriptures to his people, their hearts have burned within them. Much greater than depending on the stimulus of new revelations of the Spirit is living out the sufficiency of the final word as it is found in the Christ of the Scriptures.

And why not both? Why not the illumination of Scripture coupled with new revelations of the Spirit? Simply because if you declare a need for both, you have implied the insufficiency of the one. You have placed yourself back in the framework of the old covenant, in a time when new revelations were required because of the incompleteness of the old. But Christ is the final word. No further word for the  redemption of men in the present age in needed. In Scripture is found all the truth that is needed for life and godliness.

May the Lord grant his church today a full unleashing of its potential that comes from the full knowledge of the truth as it is found in Jesus. For he is the final word.”

Taken from: “The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today” by Dr. O. Palmer Robertson.

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Sound Teaching

Enemies of the Cross

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on thosewho walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with the minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18).

Here we come to one of very sad and agonizing passages in the Bible. Apostle Paul gives us two groups of people found in Christianity.  First, they are those who like Paul imitate Christ. The apostle urges believers to follow the example of these people who have their eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.

Secondly, there is a group that Apostle Paul describes as enemies of the cross. Please note, these people are not outside Christianity. They are inside yet they are enemies of the cross. This is a very dangerous group of people because unlike those who are outside Christianity and openly oppose Christ, these people masquerade as Christians and pose like they are working for him yet the truth is otherwise.

The enemies of the cross have often been described as false teachers and false prophets. Now, it’s not funny to label anyone a false teacher or false prophet.  Personally, I hesitate to do so unless basing on the testimony of Scripture I clearly see that one is indeed a false prophet or false teacher since God’s Word assures us that “by their fruits, we shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).

In the above passage, Philippians 3:17, 18, the Scripture describes the destiny as well as three fruits of the enemies of the cross. If these fruits or any of these are present in someone who claims to be a Christian or Christ’s servant, I would not hesitate to say that they are a false teacher or an enemy of the cross. Let every man be a liar but God’s Word alone should declare who the enemies of the cross are.

First, in the passage we see that the end or destiny of the enemies of the cross is destruction.  Friends, this is not a simple matter. No one should treat this matter lightly because it has to do with the wrath of God. The end of all the enemies of the cross is destruction. I shudder at this statement. Who can stand the wrath of God? Recall how God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah and his sons and a few animals and birds (Genesis 7:1- 24). Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23, 23). “OK, that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.

Well, think about God’s wrath poured on Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). What about Herod who was struck down by an angel for robbing God of His glory (Acts 12:22, 23)? The New Testament goes further to describe the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the cross in the following way: “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This can’t be a light issue; however, that’s what Scripture says is the end of the enemies of the cross. It’s really scary!

Secondly, the enemies of the cross have their belly as their god. They always work hard for their physical satisfaction and not to please God. They use God’s name to acquire and satisfy their wants. When ‘preaching’ what is supreme on their mind is not “Thus says the Lord” rather what will I gain after ‘preaching’ this message. Will people like me more and give me more money and gifts?  They work for their belly and not for God.

Thirdly, the enemies of the cross take glory in their shame. The things that they ought to be ashamed of are the things that they enjoy to do.  Instead of being ashamed that often they make the Bible say what it never meant and mean what it never said, they boast of getting special revelations which no one else can see in the Scripture apart from themselves. Some of the things they claim that Bible says are very shameful indeed.

I once heard of a preacher who told people that God had ordered him to collect a certain amount of money from Christians failing which he will die. This preacher had no shame to say this. Really? Can God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ kill a preacher because he has failed to receive an offering of a certain amount?  The examples are many. You can also consider of preachers who hire bodyguards to protect them even as they stand on the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Surprised? It is happening. Bodyguards around the pulpit to protect a man or woman of God as he/she is ‘sharing God’s Word’. Shameful indeed!

Finally, the passage highlights that enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. “Forget about eternity, live your best life now for heaven is already here” is the mentality of the enemies of the cross. Now, if I can live my best life now here on earth, what will happen to me when I go to be with my Father in glory? At this point I would like to make this bold declaration: Anyone one who claims to serve Christ but doesn’t help God’s people prepare for eternity with Jesus fails in their task and this cap of the enemy of the cross fits them very well.

If truth be told, it is hard and painful to talk about these things. This is really a hard talk but we have to face it any way. The enemies of the cross really exist and by their fruits we know them.  The Bible reminds us not to follow or imitate them. Instead, we should join, imitate and keep our eyes on those who walk according to Christ and His Word. We thank God that by his grace we have such people who seek to honor and glorify Christ always and by the same grace we will follow them, will we not?

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Christianity and theology

Singing Scripture

Recently, I posted on this blog about God-centered songs.  I would like to share my experience a number of weeks ago when I attended a missions conference in Kasungu. There was one singing group, Joy to the World Choir, from Dzuwa Village in Lilongwe that really impressed me. All the songs the group sang at the conference were taken from the book of Psalms.  As a matter of fact, the group sang psalms.  It was reviving, and I, strongly, believe that God was glorified.

This is one of the ways in which we can achieve God-centered worship in our churches. When we sing Scripture, we sing God’s Word and God is, definitely, glorified. As I earlier indicated, songs should direct our focus on God and not an individual or anything.

As we wrap up this series of God-centered worship , I would like to implore all those who have been entrusted with the responsibility of leading worship in churches to strive, by Christ’s grace, for God-centered worship in all the areas of the church. This is what glorifies God and satisfies us as His children.  John Piper once put it, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The worship in our churches will never be satisfying until God is glorified by it.  Indeed, as the deer pants for the streams of water, so pant our souls for God to satisfy (Psalm 42)

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Christianity and theology

The Church Should Embrace Gays?

Recently, some people including some Christians have urged the Church in Malawi to embrace and tolerate gays. Even some church leaders have also added their voice to this call.  Of course, in most cases this call has remained hazy to me in the sense that these people have not come out very clear on what they really mean by ‘the Church should embrace and tolerate gays’. Do they mean that the Church should extend the love of Christ to gays or that the Church should condone homosexuality and lesbianism under its roof?

If by ‘embracing gays’ they mean the former, then I don’t have any problem with that. Actually, that’s what the Church is there for namely to love the sinner and lead them to Christ the Savior who alone is able save from sin. Christ already made this clear. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” he calls in Matthew 11:28. Christ also says “I have come to seek and save the lost.” So, if by saying that church should embrace gays they mean leading them to Christ the Savior then this is already the core objective of the Church.

However, if by ‘embracing and tolerating gays’ they mean that the Church should welcome gays as they are and let them continue to practice homosexuality and lesbianism in Church, then I have a big problem with that. In fact, it is not really about me having a big problem with it, but Scripture has a big problem with it. Throughout Scripture, we find that the Church ought to be a haven where a sinner can run to for salvation but not a roof under which sin flourishes. Some examples in scripture come to mind right now.

First, in John 8:1-11, we read a story of a woman caught in adultery. Some scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus the woman and asked Christ to affirm the punishment of death by stoning. However, Jesus wisely protected the woman and later told her to go and sin no more. This is what Scripture says: “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (10, 11).

Jesus did not only tell the woman to go but also ordered her to sin no more. I believe that this is what the Church should do.  The Church should not condemn gays just like Christ never condemned the woman caught in adultery; however, the Church should not just stop there. It should go further and help gays, thorough the saving power of Christ, to go and sin no more. The gays should also be willing to forsake their sin by the grace of Christ. If they, deliberately, refuse to go and sin no more, then they should not be in Church.

If one, willfully, refuses to allow Christ help them forsake their sin, then they should not be allowed in Church because to borrow the words of St. Augustine, “If Christ is not the Lord of all, He is not the Lord at all.”  You cannot say that Jesus is your Lord yet you, intentionally, refuse to obey him in some areas of your life.

Secondly, the word of God in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 warns the church of tolerating someone who says they are Christian but they openly and willfully live in sexual immorality. The Scripture goes further to tell us not to allow such people to come and fellowship in church. The word of God in this passage is very clear and it needs no further commentary.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of the brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 – Underlining added)

Thirdly, the word of God does not leave Christians in the dark in regard to how we should treat those who are living in sin like gays. It clearly tells us:

“But you beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh,” (Jude 20-23).

God tells us to continue building ourselves in our faith by his grace and mercy. He then tells us that we should have mercy on those who live in sin, in this case, gays. And while showing them mercy, we should hate their sin and not tolerate it.

Homosexuality or lesbianism just like any other sin breaks the heart of God.  God sent his beloved Son, Jesus Christ to the world to keep all the commandments of God on our behalf, pay the penalty of our sin on our behalf  and completely defeat and destroy sin so that when we believe in him we should no longer live under the slavery of sin.

Therefore, if the Church allows sin to flourish under its roof yet the head of the Church, Jesus Christ came to destroy sin then the work of Christ is rendered useless. In the process, the Church loses its saltines and light.  In the end, the Church is no longer a beacon of hope for those in darkness and are heavy laden with sin but just any other club where one can go and come back week after week while remaining enslaved to sin. That’s a pathetic ‘church’ which I pray that I should never belong to.

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