In what way are angels ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14)?
Hebrews 1:14 describes angels as "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation." In the Greek language, the word for "ministering" is referring to serving others. This verse references angels serving those who "inherit salvation," meaning believers in Jesus Christ as Lord. So, what we can gather from this verse is that angels are spiritual beings, and a role of some of them is to minister to or serve believers.
Hebrews 1 contrasts the work of angels with the work of Jesus, showing that He is superior to angels. Jesus is superior to the angels, so as "ministering spirits," angels work for God to serve Him and the believers. There are a few key ways that angels serve believers, which we see examples of in the Bible:
1. Being sent by God as an answer to prayer
Sometimes God commissions angels to provide an answer to prayer. We see this happen in the Bible when Peter was locked up in prison after James was executed (Acts 12). While Peter was chained between two guards, "earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church" (Acts 12:5). "And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, 'Get up quickly.' And the chains fell off his hands" (Acts 12:7). The angel who freed Peter came as an answer to the prayers of the church. God can still use angels to answer our prayers, even if we do not see an actual angel. Note that our prayers are made directly to God (Hebrews 4:14–16) and never to angels. God may choose to use an angel to answer our prayers, but our trust is in Him and His means of answering, not the form the answer may take.
Angels are also ministering spirits in that they are sometimes sent for the specific purpose of encouraging believers. During a severe storm at sea, an angel came to encourage Paul (Acts 27:23–24). Angels came to encourage Jesus after He had endured forty days and forty nights of temptation in the desert and also when He was in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43).
The third way angels are ministering spirits is in their provision of protection for believers. They protect believers based on God's commands: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11). The prophet Elisha was surrounded by an army of angels who protected him from the Syrians in 2 Kings 6. When Daniel was in the lions' den, it was an angel who protected him and "shut the lions' mouths" (Daniel 6:22).
Because of all the services angels do for believers, some people believe in "guardian angels," or, personal angels who are assigned to each believer. While this is not an impossibility by any means, there is also nothing in the Bible describing personal guardian angels.
We can certainly be grateful to God for ministering angels, but we must not worship them. Humans and angels alike are all subject to God and worship Him as Lord. The apostle John tried to worship an angel in the book of Revelation, and the angel rebuked him: "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God" (Revelation 22:9).
It's important to keep in mind that while angels do minister to believers, they are not acting of their own accord but are sent by God. He is the omniscient and omnipresent one who can command the angels to do His work (Psalm 148:5). God alone is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory for the answers to prayers, encouragement, protection, and services that angels provide.
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