Hebrews 1:14
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Are they not all ministering spirits?—In this verse and the preceding is repeated the contrast of Hebrews 1:7-9, in reversed order. The words “ministering spirits” at once recall the “ministers” and “winds” (expressed in Greek and Hebrew by the same word as “spirits”) spoken of in Hebrews 1:7. In the LXX. this word “minister” is usually applied to those who stood before God in His earthly sanctuary: so here it is fitly used of the nobler offices of the unseen world. To the English reader it may seem that those who in Hebrews 1:7 are God’s ministers are here represented as servants of man. It is not really so, for the words properly mean, . . . sent forth (that is, continually sent forth) to do service (to God), for the sake of them who are to inherit salvation. “Inherit” is a prelude of Hebrews 2:10. The last word, “salvation,” expresses the divine purpose indicated by all the prophecies that have passed under review. The chapter has been occupied with promises of the Christ: the last word brings before us Jesus, the Saviour.

1:4-14 Many Jews had a superstitious or idolatrous respect for angels, because they had received the law and other tidings of the Divine will by their ministry. They looked upon them as mediators between God and men, and some went so far as to pay them a kind of religious homage or worship. Thus it was necessary that the apostle should insist, not only on Christ's being the Creator of all things, and therefore of angels themselves, but as being the risen and exalted Messiah in human nature, to whom angels, authorities, and powers are made subject. To prove this, several passages are brought from the Old Testament. On comparing what God there says of the angels, with what he says to Christ, the inferiority of the angels to Christ plainly appears. Here is the office of the angels; they are God's ministers or servants, to do his pleasure. But, how much greater things are said of Christ by the Father! And let us own and honour him as God; for if he had not been God, he had never done the Mediator's work, and had never worn the Mediator's crown. It is declared how Christ was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was confirmed in it: he has the name Messiah from his being anointed. Only as Man he has his fellows, and as anointed with the Holy Spirit; but he is above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were employed in the service of God on earth. Another passage of Scripture, Ps 102:25-27, is recited, in which the Almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared, both in creating the world and in changing it. Christ will fold up this world as a garment, not to be abused any longer, not to be used as it has been. As a sovereign, when his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when he has laid aside the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be still the same. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Let the thoughts of this make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world. The Saviour has done much to make all men his friends, yet he has enemies. But they shall be made his footstool, by humble submission, or by utter destruction. Christ shall go on conquering and to conquer. The most exalted angels are but ministering spirits, mere servants of Christ, to execute his commands. The saints, at present, are heirs, not yet come into possession. The angels minister to them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, instructing and comforting their souls, under Christ and the Holy Ghost. Angels shall gather all the saints together at the last day, when all whose hearts and hopes are set upon perishing treasures and fading glories, will be driven from Christ's presence into everlasting misery.Are they not all - There is not one of them that is elevated to the high rank of the Redeemer. Even the most exalted angel is employed in the comparatively humble office of a ministering spirit appointed to aid the heirs of salvation. "Ministering spirits." A "ministering" spirit is one that is employed to execute the will of God. The proper meaning of the word here - λειτουργικὰ leitourgika - (whence our word "liturgy") is, "pertaining to public service," or "the service of the people" (λαός laos}}; and is applied particularly to those who were engaged in the public service of the temple. They were those who rendered aid to others; who were helpers, or servants. Such is the meaning as used here. They are employed to render "aid" or "assistance" to others - to wit, to Christians. "Sent forth." Appointed by God for this. They are "sent;" are under his control; are in a subordinate capacity.

Thus, Gabriel was sent forth to convey an important message to Daniel; Daniel 9:21-23. "To minister." For the help or succour of such. They come to render them assistance - and, if employed in this humble office, how much inferior to the dignity of the Son of God - the Creator and Ruler of the worlds! "Who shall be heirs of salvation." To the saints; to Christians. They are called "heirs of salvation" because they are adopted into the family of God, and are treated as his sons; see notes on Romans 8:14-17. The main point here is, that the angels are employed in a much more humble capacity than the Son of God; and, therefore, that he sustains a far more elevated rank. But while the apostle has proved that, he has incidentally stated an exceedingly interesting and important doctrine, that the angels are employed to further the salvation of the people of God, and to aid them in their journey to heaven.

In this doctrine there is nothing absurd. It is no more improbable that angels should be employed to aid man, than that one man should aid another; certainly not as improbable as that the Son of God should come down "not to be ministered unto but to minister," Matthew 20:28, and that he performed on earth the office of a servant; John 13:1-15. Indeed it is a great principle of the divine administration that one class of God's creatures are to minister to others; that one is to aid another to assist him in trouble, to provide for him when poor, and to counsel him in perplexity. We are constantly deriving benefit from others, and are dependent on their counsel and help. Thus, God has appointed parents to aid their children; neighbors to aid their neighbors: the rich to aid the poor; and all over the world the principle is seen, that one is to derive benefit from the aid of others. Why may not the angels be employed in this service?

They are pure, benevolent, powerful; and as man was ruined in the fall by the temptation offered by one of an angelic, though fallen nature, why should not others of angelic, unfallen holiness come to assist in repairing the evils which their fallen, guilty brethren have inflicted on the race? To me there seems to be a beautiful propriety in bringing "aid" from another race, as "ruin" came from another race; and that as those endowed with angelic might, though with fiendish malignity, ruined man, those with angelic might, but heavenly benevolence, should aid in his recovery and salvation. Further, it is, from the necessity of the case, a great principle, that the weak shall be aided by the strong; the ignorant by the enlightened; the impure by the pure; the tempted by those who have not fallen by temptation. All over the world we see this in operation; and it constitutes the beauty of the moral arrangements on the earth; and why shall not this be extended to the inhabitants of other abodes? Why shall not angels, with their superior intelligence, benevolence, and power, come in to perfect this system, and show how much adapted it is to glorify God? In regard to the ways in which angels become ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, the Scriptures have not fully informed us, but facts are mentioned which will furnish some light on this inquiry. What they do now may be learned from the Scripture account of what they have done - as it seems to be a fair principle of interpretation that they are engaged in substantially the same employment in which they have ever been. The following methods of angelic interposition in behalf of man are noted in the Scriptures:

(1) They feel a deep interest in man. Thus, the Saviour says, "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth;" Luke 15:10. Thus also he says, when speaking of the "little ones" that compose his church, "in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven;" Matthew 18:10.

(2) they feel a special interest in all that relates to the redemption of man. Thus, Peter says of the things pertaining to redemption, "which things the angels desire to look into;" 1 Peter 1:12. In accordance with this they are represented as praising God over the fields of Bethlehem, where the shepherds were to whom it was announced that a Saviour was born Luke 2:13; an angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah Luke 1:26; an angel declared to the shepherds that He was born Luke 2:10; the angels came and ministered to Him in His temptation Matthew 4:11; an angel strengthened Him in the garden of Gethsemane Luke 22:43; angels were present in the sepulchre where the Lord Jesus had been laid, to announce His resurrection to His disciples John 20:12; and they reappeared to his disciples on Mount Olivet to assure them that he would return and receive his people to him self, Acts 1:10.

(3) they appear for the defense and protection of the people of God. Thus it is said Psalm 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." Thus, two angels came to hasten Lot from the cities of the plain, and to rescue him from the impending destruction; Genesis 19:1, Genesis 19:15. Thus, an angel opened the prison doors of the apostles, and delivered them when they had been confined by the Jews; Acts 5:19. Thus, the angel of the Lord delivered Peter from prison when he had been confined by Herod; Acts 12:7-8.

(4) angels are sent to give us strength to resist temptation. Aid was thus furnished to the Redeemer in the garden of Gethsemane, when there "appeared an angel from heaven strengthening him;" Luke 22:43. The great trial there seems to have been somehow connected with temptation; some influence of the power of darkness, or of the Prince of evil; Luke 22:53; compare John 14:30. In this aid which they rendered to the tempted Redeemer, and in the assistance which they render to us when tempted, there is a special fitness and propriety. Man was at first tempted by a fallen angel. No small part - if not all the temptations in the world - are under the direction now of fallen angels. They roam at large "seeking whom they may devour;" 1 Peter 5:8. The temptations which occur in life, the numerous allurements which beset our path, all have the marks of being under the control of dark and malignant spirits. What, therefore, can be more appropriate than for the pure angels of God to interpose and aid man against the skill and wiles of their fallen and malignant fellow-spirits? Fallen angelic power and skill - power and skill far above the capability and the strength of man - are employed to ruin us, and how desirable is it for like power and skill, under the guidance of benevolence, to come in to aid us!

(5) they support us in affliction. Thus, an angel brought a cheering message to Daniel; the angels were present to give comfort to the disciples of the Saviour when he had been taken from them by death, and when he ascended to heaven. Why may it not be so now, that important consolations, in some way, are imparted to us by angelic influence? And,

(6) they attend dying saints, and conduct them to glory. Thus, the Saviour says of Lazarus that when he died he was "carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom;" Luke 16:22. Is there any impropriety in supposing that the same thing may be done still? Assuredly, if anywhere heavenly aid is needed, it is when the spirit leaves the body. If anywhere a guide is needed, it is when the ransomed soul goes up the unknown path to God. And if angels are employed on any messages of mercy to mankind, it is proper that it should be when life is closing, and the spirit is about to ascend to heaven. Should it be said that they are invisible, and that it is difficult to conceive how we can be aided by beings whom we never see, I answer, I know that they are unseen. They no longer appear as they once did to be the visible protectors and defenders of the people of God. But no small part of the aid which we receive from others comes from sources unseen by us. We owe more to unseen benefactors than to those whom we see, and the most grateful of all aid, perhaps, is what is furnished by a hand which we do not see, and from quarters which we cannot trace. How many an orphan is benefited by some unseen and unknown benefactor! So it may be a part of the great arrangements of Divine Providence that many of the most needed and acceptable interpositions for our welfare should come to us from invisible sources, and be conveyed to us from God by unseen hands.

Remarks

1. The Christian religion has a claim on the attention of man. God has spoken to us in the Gospel by his Son; Hebrews 1:1-2. This fact constitutes a claim on us to attend to what is spoken in the New Testament. When God sent prophets to address people, endowing them with more than human wisdom and eloquence, and commanding them to deliver solemn messages to mankind, that was a reason why people should hear. But how much more important is the message which is brought by his own Son! How much more exalted the Messenger! How much higher his claim to our attention and regard! compare Matthew 21:37. Yet it is lamentable to reflect how few attended to him when he lived on the earth, and how few comparatively regard him now. The great mass of people feel no interest in the fact that the Son of God has come and spoken to the human race. Few take the pains to read what he said, though all the records of the discourses of the Saviour could be read in a few hours.

A newspaper is read; a poem; a novel; a play; a history of battles and sieges; but the New Testament is neglected, and there are thousands even in Christian lands who have not even read through the Sermon on the Mount! Few also listen to the truths which the Redeemer taught when they are proclaimed in the sanctuary. Multitudes never go to the place where the gospel is preached; multitudes when there are engaged in thinking of other things, or are wholly inattentive to the truths which are proclaimed. Such a reception has the Son of God met with in our world! The most wonderful of all events is, that he should have come from heaven to be the teacher of mankind; next to that, the most wonderful event is that, when he has come, people feel no interest in the fact, and refuse to listen to what he says of the unseen and eternal world. What a man will say about the possibility of making a fortune by some wild speculation will be listened to with the deepest interest; but what the Redeemer says about the "certainty" of heaven and eternal riches there, excites no emotion: what one from the dead might say about the unseen world would excite the profoundest attention; what he has said who has always dwelt in the unseen world, and who knows all that has occurred there, and all that is yet to occur, awakens no interest, and excites no inquiry. Such is man. The visit, too, of an illustrious stranger - like Lafayette to America - will rouse a nation, and spread enthusiasm everywhere; the visit of the Son of God to the earth on a great errand of mercy is regarded as an event of no importance, and excites no interest in the great mass of human hearts.

2. Christ is divine. In the view of the writer of this Epistle he was undoubtedly regarded as equal with God. This is so clear that it seems wonderful that it should ever have been called in question. He who made the worlds; who is to be worshipped by the angels; who is addressed as God; who is said to have laid the foundation of the earth, and to have made the heavens, and to be unchanged when all these things shall pass away, must be divine. These are the attributes of God, and belong to him alone. These things could not be spoken of a man, an angel, an archangel. It is impossible to conceive that attributes like these could belong to a creature. If they could, then all our notions of what constitutes the distinction between God and his creatures are confounded, and we can have no intelligible idea of God.

continued...

14. ministering spirits—referring to Heb 1:7, "spirits … ministers." They are incorporeal spirits, as God is, but ministering to Him as inferiors.

sent forth—present participle: "being sent forth" continually, as their regular service in all ages.

to minister—Greek, "unto (that is, 'for') ministry."

for them—Greek, "on account of the." Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of "those who are about to inherit salvation" (so the Greek): the elect, who believe, or shall believe, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good (Ro 8:28). Angels' ministrations are not properly rendered to men, since the latter have no power of commanding them, though their ministrations to God are often directed to the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They "all," how ever various their ranks, "minister"; He is ministered to. They "stand" (Lu 1:19) before God, or are "sent forth" to execute the divine commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He "sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3, 13). He rules; they serve.

Are they not all ministering spirits? The apostle here proves, that angels are but ministers to the great gospel Minister, and to the members of his body the church, and so must be meaner than him for state, nature, and name. This negative interrogation is a vehement assertion. The nature, dignity, and office of angels were well known to these Hebrews out of the Old Testament, and which he repeats: they were for nature spirits, intellectual, active, incorporeal, and incorruptible creatures; yet though so excellent, were still creatures; whereas Christ was an uncreated Spirit, and they were but servants to him their Lord; and though there be degrees and orders among them from the archangel to the lowest angel, they are every one of them single, and all of them together, servants to Christ, and so they own themselves to be, Revelation 19:10 22:9.

Sent forth to minister for them; and so they move all at his order, and go and come at his command. Their employment directed by him; he sends them forth to deliver his errands, Acts 5:19, and Acts 12:7,11, to reveal his will to them, Revelation 1:1 Psalm 103:21, &c. All the parts of ministry to which he appointeth them, they cheerfully, swiftly, and effectually perform.

Who shall be heirs of salvation; such as God hath chosen and called to be children to himself and joint-heirs with his only Son, as have a right to, are fitting for, and shall be at last possessed of, eternal glory; these angels are to serve and help them on for to attain it, they themselves being elect, in and by Christ unto this end, 1 Timothy 5:21 2 Timothy 2:10. All which demonstrate him to be a more excellent person, and to have a more excellent name, than they. Are they not all ministering spirits,.... Servants to God, to Christ, and to his people, and therefore must be inferior to the Son of God. The phrase is Rabbinical; frequent mention is made in Jewish writings (a) of , "the angels of ministry", or "the ministering angels"; this is their common appellation with the Jews; and the apostle writing to such, uses a like phrase, well known to them, and appeals to them, if the angels were not such spirits.

Sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation? the persons they minister to, and for, are those, who shall be the heirs of salvation; that is, of eternal glory, which will be possessed by the saints, as an inheritance: hence it belongs to children, being bequeathed to them by their Father, and comes to them through the death of Christ, of which the Spirit is the earnest; and this shows that it is not of works, and that it is of an eternal duration, and takes in all kind of happiness: and of this the saints are heirs now; and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "who are heirs of salvation"; nor should it be rendered, "who shall be heirs", but rather, "who shall inherit salvation"; for this character respects not their heirship, but their actual inheriting of salvation: and the ministry of angels to, and for them, lies in things temporal and spiritual, or what concern both their bodies and their souls; in things temporal, in which they have often been assisting, as in providing food for their bodies, in curing their diseases, in directing and preserving them in journeys, in saving and delivering them from outward calamities, in restraining things hurtful from hurting them, and in destroying their enemies; in things spiritual, as in making known the mind and will of God to them, in comforting them, and suggesting good things to them, and in helping and assisting them against Satan's temptations; and they are present with their departing souls at death, and carry them to heaven, and will gather the elect together at the last day. And they are "sent forth" to minister to them in such a way; they are sent forth by Christ, the Lord and Creator of them, who therefore must be superior to them; they do not take this office upon themselves, though, being put into they faithfully and diligently execute it, according to the will of Christ: and this shows the care of Christ over his people, and his kindness to them, and the great honour he puts upon them, to appoint such to minister to them; and since they are of so much use and service, they ought to be respected and esteemed, though not worshipped.

(a) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 12. 2. & 14. 1, 2. & 16. 1. Taanith, fol. 11. 1. & Megilia, fol. 15. 2. & in Zohar passim.

Are they not all {x} ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

(x) By that name by which we commonly call princes messengers, he here calls the spirits.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 1:14. Confirmation of the πρὸς τίνα δὲ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἴρηκέν ποτε, showing the inconceivableness of such a thing by a reference to the nature of the angels, and with this the termination of the present train of thought.

The emphasis rests upon πάντες and λειτουργικά: are not all (alike, whether they belong to a lower or higher class of angels) ministering spirits [spirits in waiting]? πνεύματα here in a different sense from Hebrews 1:7.

εἰς διακονίαν] for service, sc. which they render to God, not to the men who shall inherit the σωτηρία; otherwise, in place of διὰ τοὺς μέλλοντας, the dative τοῖς μέλλουσι κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν (1 Corinthians 16:15) or the genitive τῶν μελλόντων κ.τ.λ. would have been placed.

The participle present ἀποστελλόμενα brings out the permanent, habitual character of the action expressed by the verb.

διὰ τοὺς κ.τ.λ.] for the sake of those who shall inherit (everlasting) salvation (this is intended by σωτηρίαν, although without the article, see Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 114; not: deliverance from peril, as Michaelis, Schleusner, Böhme, Kuinoel assume), i.e. in order, by means of the offices in which they are employed by God, to bring it in for the same.14. ministering spirits, sent forth to minister] Here as elsewhere the A. V. obliterates distinctions, which it so often arbitrarily creates out of mere love for variety in other places. The word “ministering” (leitourgika) implies sacred (“liturgic”) service (Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:21); the word “ministry” (diakonian) implies service to God on behalf of men. It should be rendered “ministrant spirits sent forth for service.”

“How oft do they their silver bowers leave

And come to succour us who succour want,

How oft do they with golden pinions cleave

The flitting skies like flying pursuivant,

Against foul fiends to aid us militant!

They for us fight, they watch and duly ward

And their bright squadrons round about us plant,

And all for love and nothing for reward.

Oh! why should heavenly God for men have such regard.”

Spenser.

for them who shall be heirs of salvation] Literally, “for the sake of those who are about to inherit salvation.” The salvation is both the state of salvation here, and its full fruition hereafter. When we are “justified by God’s grace” we are “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). Spenser widens the mission of the Angels when he speaks of

“Highest God, who loves His creatures so

That blessed Angels He sends to and fro

To serve to wicked men—to serve His deadliest foe.”

For Scriptural instances of the service of Angels “to them that fear God” see Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Genesis 19:15; Daniel 6:22; Acts 12:7.

sent forth] Lit., “being sent forth.” The ministry of Angels is regarded as still continuing.

heirs of salvation] The writer recurs to this great word “salvation” in Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 2:10.Hebrews 1:14. Πάντες, all) although distinguished into various orders by various names, implying even some dominion: Ephesians 1:21.—λειτουργικὰἀποστελλόμενα, who minister—who are sent) They minister before God [are employed in praises.—V. g.]; are sent, viz. abroad, to men [in order that they may execute the commandments of GOD concerning other created things.—V. g.] Both are opposed to sitting at the right hand. Comp. Luke 1:19.—τοὺς μέλλοντας κληρονομεῖν, those who shall receive the inheritance of) i.e. the elect, and them who believe or who are about to believe. A sweet periphrasis.—σωτηρίαν, salvation) from so many and so great dangers.

—————Verse 14. - Are they not all, etc.? A final expression, adduced in contrast, of the position and office of the angels, as seen above. The A.V. suggests the idea, not conveyed by the Greek, of guardian angels. The more correct translation is, Are they not all ministering (λειτουργικὰ) spirits, for service (εἰς διακονίαν) sent forth, on account of those who are to (διὰ τοὺς μέλλοντας) inherit salvation? The allusion is generally to their office of subordinate ministration in furtherance of the Divine purposes of human salvation; the continuance of such office being denoted by the present participle, αποστελλόμενα.



Ministering spirits (λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα)

Summing up the function of the angels as compared with Christ. Christ's is the highest dignity. He is co-ruler with God. The angels are servants appointed for service to God for the sake of (διὰ) the heirs of redemption. Λειτουργικὰ ministering, N.T.o. See on ministers, Hebrews 1:7.

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