Why God Didn’t Become An Angel
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
From the Bible: Philippians 2:5-7a; Genesis 1:26; Hebrews 1:14; 2:14-15
Phil. 2:5-7a Holman Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who,
existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as
something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied
Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
The staggering truth of Christmas is, God became a man, “assuming the form of a slave.” We could forcefully argue, when God chose to take on a nature other than His own, angels would have been much more prestigious, and thus the most likely candidates.
There were Old Testament precedents for this. God had used their nature, appearing on several occasions as an angel temporarily. The angel of the Lord was a recurring manifestation of the Second Person of the Trinity before Bethlehem.
Angels had other advantages. They outshine us. Humans obviously cannot match the angels’ grandeur. Their beauty is stunning compared to our dull countenance. Fire outshines flesh.
Angels outmaneuver us. They flit through space at warp speed, while we clumsily lumber from spot to spot.
Angels outclass us. The unfallen ones never sinned. Our response to God is an ongoing embarrassment. It would be easy to say God is too holy, and flesh too vile, for the two ever to merge.
Thus the question, when God decided to permanently take on a nature other than His own, why did He choose to become human? The question is made even more poignant by the fact many object to worshiping as God any fellow human, including Jesus. “God became a man” is a stumbling block to a majority of people.
At first glance, it does seem Jesus might have been better off to avoid human nature. Angels would have been thrilled to have Him in their ranks. Silver sandals, radiant robes, and glittering garments would have been offered Him in abundance. Gabriel would have gladly offered his wings, Michael his crown and sword.
Yet Jesus, God of very God, bypassed the nature of angels, and became a person, one of us. On the centennial of Robert Stephenson’s birth, a large parade was held at Newcastle. Many banners honored the distinguished engineer. The favorite sign was carried by a group of peasants from the small village where Stephenson was born. Their little banner bore the words, “He was one of us.”
If a parade marched to honor Jesus, angels could outshine, outmaneuver, and outclass us, but we could carry the banner, “He was one of us.” The brainteaser is, “Why a human?” Genesis 1:26 gives us a clue. “God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
Jesus became one of us partly because we have a trait never given to angels. They win the beauty and splendor contests, but we win a more valuable prize.
Angels outdo us, but do not outrank us in authority. God created people, not angels, to reign. Humans were made to rule. God gave dominion to nothing else, including angels, who can only serve. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).
Since angels can only serve, God could never permanently take on Himself their nature. God must ever have the opportunity to rule. Angels never were meant for sovereignty, thus God cannot permanently assume their nature.
Since people, not angels, were meant for dominion, God would find it easier to become a person than an angel. It is thus logical to believe God, in coming to Earth, would do so as a man. “God in flesh” is not as farfetched as many think.
What does this insightful truth mean for us? If Jesus became human because it provided Him the right to rule over the creation, then our response must be to yield to His sovereignty. We should submit and obey, for Jesus is King.
In Hebrews 2:14-15 we see a second reason why Jesus had to forego the radiant nature of angels. “Since the children have flesh and blood in common, He also shared in these, so that through death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”
Jesus could not rule in an angelic nature; He also could not die in it. Jesus took our body to pay the penalty for our sin. Substitution for guilty sinners sentenced to die could be accomplished only by the death of an innocent victim. Thus, God had to find a way to die.
The Divine Nature cannot die, angels cannot die, but humans can. Thus, Jesus had to become a man. It was the only nature in which He could not only rule, but also die, and His death was essential to destroy the power of the Devil.
He took our nature that He might take our death. There was no other way to display the defanging of death than by Jesus going into it, and then returning from it. His resurrection was essential to prove death’s power had been broken.
Satan is destroyed, not in the sense of being annihilated, but in the sense of having been crippled by Jesus. This was no small feat. Never underestimate the power of Satan. Our text says he holds the power of death. He originated it and brought it into our world. There would have been no death had there been no Devil. Jesus, in His death, destroyed the Devil by neutralizing his power.
Jesus came to free us from the slavish fear of death. We dread its mystery, the nagging fear of meeting God. We dread death’s loneliness; we have to leave one at a time. We dread its devastation. Death rips out a body’s inhabitant, flings it into another world, and leaves, in the place of a living soul, a lifeless corpse.
Satan desires everlasting gloom for us. He wants to be our tempter and tormentor. He wants people to share his woe. He wants companions in anguish.
To avoid thinking of death, we drown our thoughts in pleasure, work, and sin, as if ignoring it makes it go away. Emperor Sigismund, dying, commanded his servants not to name death in his hearing.
Roche Foucault, an atheist, suggested we deal with death by not thinking about it, “Let’s avert our eyes and fix them on some other object.” The ostrich mentality! “Stick your head in the sand; maybe death will go away.” It doesn’t go away. Its haunting sensations always remain.
Its omnipresent inevitability quails the courage of the most gallant. Death is the dragon’s yell which “affrights the echoes till they dare not reply” (Spurgeon).
By nature, people slavishly fear death, but do not have to retain this mental bondage. For God’s children, death has been rendered powerless.
Victory over the fear of death is available to every believer. Only unbelief can cause one to remain in slavish fear to death. Have faith, at Christmas we celebrate the fact a Hero came to us and dealt death a deathblow.
For believers, Death is no longer a king of terrors. It looks ominous, but is dying. Physical death was not abolished, we still die, but it has lost its sting.
Believer, be not afraid of dying. We should dread death no more than we dread sleep. Do not fear its mystery, God who waits on the other side is our Friend. Do not fear its loneliness, at the last we will sense Another at our side. Do not fear its devastation, death is the end of sin and suffering.
Death is so powerless that it will not even get to keep our lifeless corpses. Earth shall swallow our bodies, but someday they will burst forth as Jonah from the whale’s belly, or better yet, as Jesus from the tomb. The ground will yield its prey, and even the worm shall give back the flesh whereon it fed.
Our victory in Jesus is total and absolute. He broke death’s bonds, and wants to share His resurrection with us. He endured our death, and invites us to enjoy His life.
Death has lost its sting because God bypassed the nature of angels and became one of us. As the God-man, Jesus lived to reign, and died to deliver.