This entry is part 35 of 90 in the series: Troublesome texts
- Genesis 1:26 – Why a plural name for God?
- Genesis 3 – traditional and revisionist readings
- Genesis 5 – the ages of the antedeluvians
- Genesis 6:1f – ‘The sons of God’
- Genesis 6-8 – A worldwide flood?
- Genesis 12:3 – ‘I will bless those who bless you’
- Genesis 22 – “Abraham, kill your son”
- Exodus – Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?
- Exodus 12:37 – How many Israelites left Egypt?
- Joshua 6 – the fall of Jericho
- Joshua 10 – Joshua’s ‘long day’
- Judges 19:11-28 – The priest and the concubine
- 2 Sam 24:1, 1 Chron 21:1 – Who incited David?
- 1 Kings 20:30 – ‘The wall collapsed on 27,000 of them’
- Psalm 105:15 – ‘Touch not my anointed’
- Psalm 137:8f – ‘Happy is he who dashes your infants against the rocks’
- Isaiah 7:14/Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive”
- Daniel 7:13 – ‘Coming with the clouds of heaven’
- Jonah – history or fiction?
- Mt 1:1-17 and Lk 3:23-38 – the genealogies of Jesus
- Matthew 2:1 – ‘Magi from the east’
- Matthew 2:2 – The star of Bethlehem
- Matthew 2:8f – Can God speak through astrology?
- Matthew 2:23 – ‘Jesus would be called a Nazarene’
- Matthew 5:21f – Did Jesus reject the Old Testament?
- Matthew 7:16,20 – ‘You will recognise them by their fruit’
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:3 – Who asked Jesus to help?
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:7 – son? servant? male lover?
- Matthew 8:28 – Gadara or Gerasa?
- Matthew 10:23 – ‘Before the Son of Man comes’
- Matthew 11:12 – Forceful entry, or violent opposition, to the kingdom?
- Matthew 12:40 – Three days and three nights
- The Parable of the Sower – return from exile?
- Mt 15:21-28/Mk 7:24-30 – Jesus and the Canaanite woman
- Matthew 18:10 – What about ‘guardian angels’?
- Matthew 18:20 – ‘Where two or three are gathered…’
- Matthew 16:18 – Peter the rock?
- Matthew 21:7 – One animal or two?
- Matthew 24:34 – This generation will not pass away?
- Matthew 25:40 – ‘These brothers of mine’
- Matthew 27:46/Mark 15:34 – Jesus’ cry of dereliction
- Matthew 27:52f – Many bodies raised?
- Mark 1:41 – ‘Compassion’, or ‘anger/indignation’?
- Mark 2:25f – ‘When Abiathar was high priest’
- Mark 4:31 – ‘The smallest of all the seeds’?
- Mark 6:45 – ‘To Bethsaida’
- Mark 12:41-44/Luke 21:1-4 – ‘The widow’s mite’
- Luke 2:1f – Quirinius and ‘the first registration’
- Luke 2:7 – ‘No room at the inn’
- Luke 2:8 – Shepherds: a despised class?
- Luke 4:16-19 – An incomplete quotation?
- Luke 7:2 – ‘Highly valued servant’ or ‘gay lover’?
- John 1:1 – ‘The Word was God’
- John 2:6 – symbol or history?
- John 2:12 – Did Mary bear other children?
- When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
- John 3:16f – What is meant by ‘the world’?
- John 4:44 – ‘His own country’
- John 7:53-8:11 – The woman caught in adultery
- John 14:6 – “No one comes to the Father except through me”
- John 14:12 – ‘Greater deeds’
- John 20:21 – “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
- Acts 5:1-11 – Ananias and Sapphira
- Romans 1:5 – ‘The obedience of faith’
- Romans 1:18 – Wrath: personal or impersonal?
- Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16 – faith in, or faithfulness of Christ?
- Romans 5:18 – ‘Life for all?’
- Rom 7:24 – Who is the ‘wretched man’?
- Romans 11:26a – ‘And so all Israel will be saved’
- 1 Corinthians 14:34 – ‘Women should be silent in the churches’
- 1 Corinthians 15:29 – ‘Baptized for the dead’
- 1 Corinthians 15:44 – ‘Raised a spiritual body’
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 – ‘God made Christ to be sin for us’
- Galatians 3:17 – How much later?
- Galatians 3:28 – ‘Neither male nor female’
- Galatians 6:2 – ‘The law of Christ’
- Galatians 6:16 – The Israel of God
- Ephesians 1:10 – ‘The fullness of the times’
- Ephesians 5:23- ‘The head of a wife is her husband’
- Colossians 1:19f – Universal reconciliation?
- 1 Thessalonians 2:14f – ‘The Jews, who killed Jesus’
- 1 Timothy 2:4 – ‘God wants all people to be saved’
- 1 Timothy 2:15 – ‘Saved through child-bearing’
- 1 Timothy 4:10 – ‘The Saviour of all people’
- Hebrews 6:4-6 – Who are these people?
- Hebrews 12:1 – Who are these witnesses?
- 1 Peter 3:18-20 – Christ and the spirits in prison
- 2 Peter 3:9 – ‘The Lord wishes all to come to repentance’
- Jude 7 – ‘Unnatural desire’
- Revelation 14:11 – ‘No rest day or night’
Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
John G. Paton, a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, experienced the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons’ out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. They thanked God for delivering them. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, ‘Who were all those men you had with you there?’ The missionary answered, ‘There were no men there; just my wife and I’ The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard-hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Paton realize that God had sent his angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation.
This account is one of a number that can be cited both from within and outside of Scripture to support the belief that God sometimes sends angels to protect people.
On the question of guardian angels, some relevant passages are:-
Gen 48:15f – the parallelism here indicates that this Angel was equal with God. There are good reasons for thinking that this ‘Angel of the Lord’ was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ himself.
Psa 91:11 ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways’ – There is nothing here about a permanently-assigned angel.
Mt 18:10 “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” – The context indicates that Jesus is speaking of childlike believers, rather than of children per se. Angels certainly minister to believers, though not on a permanently-assigned one-to-one basis. It is certainly a wonderful to know that the same angels who minister to us also have access to the throne of God in heaven.
Ac 12:6-15 When people think that they have seen Peter’s ‘angel’ there is no indication that the writer (Luke) endorses this or regards it as other than superstitious.
See also Ps 34:7; 91:11-12; Dan 6:22; Acts 12:15, Heb 1:14.
Some of the earlier Christian thinkers, such as Basil the Great, Origen, Chrysostom, Aquinas, held a belief in guardian angels – that is, belief that each person is permanently assigned a good angel whose role is to protect that person from harm. Roman Catholicism generally teaches the same.
For example, Basil wrote: ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’
Calvin, followed by most protestants, denied that there is any clear support for this belief in Scripture: ‘Whether or not each believer has a single angel assigned to him for his defence, I dare not positively affirm.’
France observes that angels are found in Dan 10 and Dan 12:1 as the representatives of nations, and in Rev 1:20 are representatives of the churches. So ‘here even individuals have their heavenly representatives.’
Hendriksen, however, is more doubtful, noting that, ‘Passages to which an appeal has been made do not really confirm the theory. So, for example, Gen. 48:16 does not refer to a created angel (see the context, verse 15). Dan. 3:28 must be explained in the light of 3:25. As far as text and context are concerned this “angel” or “son of the gods” who had been sent for the protection and encouragement of Daniel’s friends remains a sublime mystery, and for that very reason can render no service in defense of the above-mentioned theory. The “angel” who was with Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 6:22) is said to have been God’s angel (an angel sent by God), not Daniel’s in the sense of being an angel who remained with and took care of the prophet at all times. And as to Acts 12:15, the apostles’ outcry—“It is his angel”—at the appearance of Peter, who had been imprisoned and securely guarded, but now suddenly stood before them no longer bound, must probably be ascribed to overwhelming amazement coupled with a measure of superstitious fear. In Heb. 1:14 the service which angels render to God’s children is ascribed in very general terms. Not a word is said about each believer having his own guardian angel.’
One implication of the mistaken belief in guardian angels is that it encourages the idea that we can develop relationships with angels. So, Eileen Elias Freeman says, ‘Angels want to be our friends. They are companions on the journey of life on this planet, ancient fellow travelers, whose love and light and wisdom can enrich our lives immeasurably.’ And Terry Lynn Taylor says, ‘I’m suggesting that you become best friends with your guardian angel! Pretend you have an invisible best friend who witnesses everything you experience and with whom you can share insights.’ But such a belief in an imaginary friend, while normal in small children, is false and misleading in adults. Moreover, since most people have never had any contact with an angel, the techniques used to bring them into contact with their ‘guardian angels’ are very dubious, and may involve forms of occultism. The beliefs and practices of Doreen Virtue, whose books include “Healing with the Angels,” “Divine Guidance,” “Angel Therapy,” and “Archangels & Ascended Masters”, look very much like spiritualism.
Another implication of belief in guardian angels is that it sets up a false expectation of constant protection. This can lead either to rashness, or to disappointment or even irrational guilt if accidental injury occurs.
We can thank God, then, for the ministry of angels. But we believe that the idea that each person has one or more guardian angels permanently assigned to them is fanciful and unwarranted from Scripture.