The idea of the guardian angel.

Apart from other passages of Holy Writ which have been quoted in support of the idea of guardian angels and their intercessory prayers (Deut. 32:8, Daniel 10:13, 20, 12:1, Rev. 1:20, 2:1f.f., Job 33:23, Zech. 1:12, Luke 15:7, Rev. 18:3), the one place in Scripture which accords this conception most support is Matt. 18:10: “Take heed that we despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My father which is in heaven.” We read in Daniel 10:13, 20 and Dan. 12:1: “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. . . . Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. . . . And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” The most that can be gathered from these passages is that the great angel of the Lord, Michael, will fight for the people of God against the spiritual powers that oppose and would frustrate the cause of the Lord in the midst of the world. This, however, is surely not the same as the idea of a guardian angel for each child of God. It is indeed difficult to understand how Deut. 32:8 can be quoted in support of this conception. In Revelation 1:20 and Revelation 2:1 we read of the angels of the seven churches, and the reference is clearly to the ministers of these seven churches. The text which gives the conception of a guardian angel for every child of God most support is Matt. 18:10 where we read that the angels of “these little ones” always behold the fact of the Father which is in heaven.

Secondly, one cannot object as such against the idea of a guardian angel. First, what objection could there be, fundamentally, against the idea that each child of the Lord has his own guardian angel? Is it impossible that the Lord should lead and protect His people also through the instrumentality of a heavenly spirit? Secondly, what objection, fundamentally, could be lodged against the idea of intercessory prayers by the angels? Is it not true that they are vitally interested in and concerned about our salvation, and is it so strange that the angels then should pray unto the living God in our behalf? Do we not pray in behalf of one another to the living God? Do not the souls of those who have been slain cry day and night in behalf of the people of the (Lord who are yet in the midst of the world and must still continue in the fight of faith? Is it therefore so strange that these angels who are vitally interested in the cause of God and in the development and coming of His kingdom should pray unto the living God and remember us in their daily petitions? In fact, what else would we expect of them? Christ prays for us; we pray in behalf of one another; why, then, should not these heavenly spirits also pray for us?

Thirdly, the doctrine of a guardian angel and intercessory prayers by these heavenly spirits had the result that it speedily led to an honoring and worship of angels. Col. 2:8 surely implies such a worship of angels already in the time of the apostles. That text reads: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” In connection with Matt. 18:10: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven,” we would remark the following. On the one hand, we must in all honesty permit this text to speak to us, and this means that these angels are angels in the true, real sense of the word. Christ is not merely using figurative language here when He tells us that “their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven,” in order to emphasize the value of “these little ones” whom we might be inclined to despise, so that the words “as it were” must be read in and added to this text. Then it is not really true that these “little ones” have their angels in heaven and that these angels constantly behold the face of our heavenly Father; but Jesus merely uses this form of speech to emphasize that the people of God are more important than generally acknowledged. Neither must we understand by these angels the souls of departed saints who occupy a preeminent place in glory. This would not constitute an honest attempt to explain this particular word of God. Moreover, the main thrust of this particular passage is clear. Christ would emphasize that we must beware lest we, despising “these little ones” are despising those who are held in high esteem in heavenly glory. Hence, whatever may be the interpretation of this passage in Matt. 18:10, two things are certain: first, real angels are meant here, and they constantly behold the face of the Father which is in heaven. Besides, these angels are called in this text: their angels. And, in the second place, the Lord wishes to emphasize the truth that we must not despise “these little ones”, inasmuch as these “little ones” are held in high esteem in the heavenly glory. The Lord willing, we will continue with this passage in our following article, and also at that time conclude our discussion on these heavenly spirits.

We now continue with our discussion of Matt. 18:10: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father Which, is in heaven.” This text surely does not confirm the teaching that each child of God has his own particular guardian angel. Calvin, among others, in his interpretation of this text, emphatically denies this conclusion.

To be sure, the angels of God are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. And when we read in this text that they do always behold the face of the Father Which is in heaven, the implication surely is that they are ever ready to be sent forth by the heavenly Father for the protection of His children. But, this does not necessarily mean that each person therefore has his own particular guardian angel who has been commissioned by the Lord to watch over a particular child of God. It is known that the Roman Catholic Church advocates the calling upon the angels, calls such practices good and beneficial. However, this honoring (special) and worship of the angels was rejected unanimously by Lutherans and Reformed alike. Fact is, upon the basis of Holy Writ such adoration of angels is strictly forbidden, as in Matt. 4:10: “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve;” (see also Deut. 6:13, 10:20); Col. 2:18-19: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he that not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands have nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God”; Rev. 19:10, 22:9: “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. . . . Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the saying of this book: worship God.”

Their Significance For The Church.

It is, of course, true that the angels do not constitute an essential, indispensable element in the religious life of the Church of God. They are not the authors of our salvation, the ground of our confidence, the object of our worship and adoration; we do not exercise fellowship with them, but with the living God. God, of course, alone is worthy of all our praise and adoration.

This, however, does not necessarily mean that what the Scriptures reveal to us of the angels is devoid of all significance. First, we cannot deny the truth that it has pleased the Lord to use them as instruments in the development of His Church and covenant. Secondly, for this reason an angel cannot be the object of our worship and adoration. To be sure, we would show them respect of they were to appear unto us, and we would surely receive them as graciously as was the case at various times in, the development of God’s covenant as revealed in the Scriptures. However, such appearances no longer occur. And, thirdly, we can surely derive much spiritual strength and comfort from the revelation in Holy Writ in regard to the angels. It ought to be borne in mind by us that the conversion of one sinner causes the angels to rejoice, and they can also serve us as examples to spur us on in the doing of God’s precepts and commandments. We should bear in mind also that we are and ought to be one with them in life and striving, and in the expectation that one day we shall commune with them (Hebrews 12:22), and that we, with them, do and shall constitute one mighty chorus in the glorification of His Name, the Name of the alone adorable God. And it certainly should encourage and strengthen us that, in the spiritual battle of faith, we do not stand alone. God has revealed this doctrine unto us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and encourages us in our despair. We are united with a tremendous Cloud of witnesses. There is another world, better than this world, where God is served perfectly. That world must ever be before us and constitute for us the object of spiritual longing and homesickness. We shall become like unto them and also see the face of our Father Who is in heaven.