by Robert C. Veil, Jr.
The one passage which allegedly gives scriptural support to the popular doctrine of “guardian angels” is Matthew 18:10: “See 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 who is in heaven.” From this one verse a great many theories have been constructed. Many people have come to believe that they have a personal, protective angel watching over them always. Others believe that such a “guardian angel” is assigned to every Christian throughout life.
Television programming has certainly furthered and embellished these ideas. At last count, some 51 different television shows featured plots involving angels. A number of popular shows presented some variation of the concept of guardian angels: Highway to Heaven, Touched by an Angel, Good Heavens, Heaven Help Us, Teen Angel, All Dogs go to Heaven, etc.
At the risk of being despised myself, I raise the question: Is that what this verse is really teaching? Does the Bible teach that children or other people have assigned angels who accompany them throughout daily life in a “guardian” or protective fashion? And that these angels are somehow directed from heaven to do special favors for “their” human?
There certainly is no doubt that angels do exist, that they are real, spiritual beings created by God. And, the Bible clearly teaches that they are sent forth to do service on behalf of Christians, (Heb. 1:14). In today’s sermon, we take a closer look at the nature and role of angels from a biblical perspective, and I encourage you to study this subject carefully with me.
But as to the popular doctrine of “guardian angels,” we find the scriptural support very lacking. In the passage in question, Matthew 18:10, Jesus appears to use the description, “little ones” to include all disciples, (see vs. 1-6). And the concept of “always beholding the face of” God suggests access, ability to help. Jack P. Lewis says, “To see the face–an expression borrowed from oriental courts for one who holds the highest place (1 Kg. 10:8; 2 Kg. 25:19; Esth. 1:14; Jer. 52:25)–designates one who is particularly close to God and should expect to be heard.” But the notion that one particular angel is assigned to personally monitor each disciple throughout life is a reach. Jesus may simply be emphasizing that God is intently concerned about the welfare of his children. This aligns basically with the Hebrew writer’s statement that God uses his angels to assist Christians generally, (Heb. 1:14).
Here are the renditions of this verse from some of the other Bible translations:
KJV: ..in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven
ASV: ..in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven
ESV: ..in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven
AMP: ..their angels in heaven [are in the presence of and] continually look upon the face of My Father who is in heaven
CSB: ..in heaven their angels continually view the face of my Father in heaven
CEV: ..their angels are always with my Father in heaven
PHILLIPS: ..they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.
LB: ..in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father
NASB: ..their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven
NIV: ..their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven
NKJV: ..in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven
NLT: ..in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father
RSV: ..in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven
YOUNG’S LITERAL: ..their messengers in the heavens do always behold the face of my Father who is in the heavens
You can see that the more literal translations leave this statement somewhat vague, as it evidently was in the original. It is dangerous to build speculative doctrines on a translator’s opinion of a difficult statement. We would be better taking all of God’s word on this matter as a whole, and leaving the teaching of the television shows in the realm of fiction. The point is, God cares very much about his people, and he is lovingly and constantly looking out for them.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.