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Catechism Buzz: the greatness of their fall

10 May 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

There are a few things in the Bible which have always bothered me a bit. I might go so far as to say they struck me as unfair, at least from my finite, human perspective. One of those things is, as the Catechism puts it here, the willful and irrecoverable fall of some of the angels into sin and damnation. Frankly, I have always wondered just a bit why it is that I as a mere human have a chance to be redeemed, while these angels do not.

As my theological views have shifted, the question of fairness has drifted away from those who are punished to those who are saved. If God is just and holy, how is it that anyone is saved? And of course, God's answer is Jesus.

But my answer to my own question about angels is this: I can be thankful that, while I was God's enemy, He took steps to save me. My salvation is all the more a miracle of grace when I know that these immortal beings, created by God as His messengers, described in the Scriptures as full of knowledge and glory, made the choice to reject God, and it was irrevocable, while my own sinful choices, daily compromises and rejections of God's truth, will not permanently separate me from my Savior, when I truly repent.

Hebrews 2:16 talks about Jesus our High Priest helping the offspring of Abraham, but not angels. So when I think about them, and the greatness of their fall, it is with both sadness for their loss and thankfulness for my gain, which is the surpassing greatness of Jesus my savior.