Matthew 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 single verse of the Scripture has been divorced from the remaining 31, 101 verses of it, and made to teach what they want it to teach. But like other verses of the Scripture, no private interpretation may be fixed upon it, for no portion of the scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Pet 1:20). All parts of the Scripture must be reconciled to teach the uniform truth of the whole.
Many hold that there is such a thing as a guardian angel assigned specifically to every little child, to watch over and care for them throughout the time of their infancy, until they have reached what they call the age of accountability. Others hold that the guardian angel continues his mission over them until they grow old and die.
As to the specific work of the guardian angel, and why he is assigned to every child, opinions vary. Some maintain that he is sent to protect them from accidents and death in their infancy; others teach that a guardian angel is sent to labour with the child, to help him in his struggle against sin, and to ensure he is not lost forever. But what saith the Scripture?
Christians are plain men who build their beliefs and practises upon the plain declarations of Scripture. They do not found their beliefs upon conjectures, assumptions, or inferences. They do not follow popular opinions, fables, superstitions, or even their emotion. What then, is there a plain passage of Scripture declaring the ministry of angles, and the person to whom they are assigned? Yes!
Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Let the idea of a guardian angel for every infant be exploded forever! Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. The heirs of salvation are the elect of Christ, being those chosen to salvation and eternal life before the foundation of the world (John 15:16; Acts 13:48; Eph 1:3-4; 2 Thesis 2:13). The elect, therefore, are the grand objects of angelic concerns and undertakings. They are those to whom the special privilege of angelic undertaking concerns, according to the plain declaration from the passage in Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews. When they can prove from Scripture that every little infant is a heir of salvation, we shall buy their doctrine of a guardian angel for every child; but until then, we shall set forth the truth we are convinced of.
“But,” it may be asked, “why then did Christ say that every little child has an angel that always beholds the face of His father in heaven.” We answer, First, Christ never said that every little child has angels that behold the face of his Father in heaven. He said that, we should take heed, that we do not despise one of these little ones – referring to those that believe in him, because in heaven their angels behold the face of his Father. The little ones referred to are his disciples, and all who have believed in him for salvation. Proof of this is to be found in the 6th verse of the same chapter, which is the context from whence the proper interpretation of the whole may be derived.
Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The warning was not against offending little children. Of course, no man ought to, for they also have their inalienable rights, both as creatures of God, and as citizens of a nation; but there were another special group of people against whom we must be careful not to offend nor despise, for the punishment that will be meted out to those that offend and despise them will be far worse that anything the imagination of man can conceive of; and these special group of people were the believers – those little ones which have believed in his name for salvation. And though, despite this awful warnings, they have been often despised, offended, persecuted, burnt at stake and thrown to beasts, yet their redeemer is strong, and shall thoroughly plead their case.
It ought not confuse anyone that believers in Christ should be called little ones, for such epithet and appellation perfectly befits them in a world where their numbers are few, and their persons mostly feeble. They are little, in number, compared to the many which despise and often offend and persecute them. They are little ones, compared to the mighty ones and earthly monarchs that daily make unjust laws to oppress them.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many mighty, are called:
But God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
It was in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, that they stripped themselves of all pride in their own good works, renounced not only their sins but also their personal righteousness, and were humbled with that form of humility peculiar to a child; wherefore, the appellation, little ones, is a metonymic expression to show the manner in which they have received the kingdom of God:
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Moreover, it is as little ones that we must give them a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple:
Matthew 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
We may further prove that the epithet, little ones, perfectly fits the believers, when we consider that Christ refers to the whole multitude of them as little flock:
Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Before we say more, we want to notice few things from the portion of Scripture from Hebrews to which we have already made reference.
Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Notice that it says that the angels are sent forth to minister for, not to; but for – for – for them who shall be heirs of salvation. Here, the word, for, is a preposition indicating that the angels are acting in the favour of, and on the side of, the heirs of salvation, which are the elect. And by proper rule of grammar, if the angles of God be ministering spirits for, in favour of, and on the side of, the elect, it necessary follows that they are ministering spirits sent forth to minister against, in the disfavour of, and are not on the side of, the reprobate, whether he be an infant of days, a neonate, a toddler, a teenager, or an adult. We shall bring forth our strong reasons for the latter and for the former.
For the latter, that the angels of God are ministering spirits sent forth to minister against them who are not heirs of salvation, we shall make good from the inspired Scripture, of the numerous instances of God sending out his angels to destroy his enemies, including children and infants, who were not heirs of salvation.
The first mention of angels is in Genesis 3, after the fall of man. No sooner had God cursed them and driven them from the Garden, his angels in flaming fire ministered against our first parents, to keep them out of the reach of the tree of life.
Genesis 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
These were no guardian angels! When God sent Man out of the Garden of Delight (for so Eden signified), he did not assign to him a guardian angel, for man deserved none. What right had they to a guardian angel? Or how congruous would it be that God’s angels should still act in the favour of those who have rebelled from his government, and chosen to themselves the way which seemed right in their sight? Therefore, the first intervention of angels in the affairs of man, was not to minister for him, but against him. If our first parents, Adam and Eve, had guardian angels, where is the proof of it?
We see angels again in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; there, not as guarding angels specifically assigned to any infant or adult, but as God’s messengers assigned against them, to accomplish the wrath of God upon the citizens of these wicked nations, and to bring about a complete overthrow.
Genesis 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even …
Did every single child in Sodom have a guardian angel for their welfare and protection? That, indeed, is a thing that cannot be proved by Scripture. Anyone who sets himself to prove such gratifying doctrine must go outside the bounds of Holy Scripture to fetch his proof.
Further in the Scripture, we find an angel of God interposed between the children of Israel and the Egyptians before the Red Sea. To the latter he was no guardian angel, but an adversary, frustrating their motion by a cloud and darkness to keep them from the children of God; but to the other he did minister light by night, making their journey and deliverance unhindered.
Exodus 14:19-20 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
It cannot be proved any way, from any genuine source, that the Egyptians had a guardian angel ministering in any way, for them; not a single soul, infant or adult, had an interest in the service and ministrations of these holy creatures who excel in strength to do the will of their Maker. All which further serves to prove that “they are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them which shall be heirs of salvation.
In the case of Balaam, a prophet who had several intercourse with God, for we often read of such expressions as, “And God came unto Balaam, And God said unto Balaam, And God met Balaam, And the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth”; but in as much as he was set up as an object of God’s wrath, we do not find him with any guardian angel, whether in his infancy or adulthood; but all that we have recorded of him in relation to an angel, was that the angel of the LORD stood against him as an adversary, and sought to slay and waste him.
Numbers 22:22, 32, 33
And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.
Are we to believe that this angel, which now stands as an adversary against Balaam, was at one time in Balaam’s infancy, his guardian angel? Or could it be believed that, due to his impenitence and insubordination, his guardian angel has given way for this second angel to now oppose and seek to slay him? This is essential what the fable of guardian angels means.
On and on we could go, to furnish from the scriptures, that there are no guardian angels for any man, but that there are ministering spirits sent forth to minister exclusively for the heirs of salvation (Heb 1:14). Time would fail us to make mention further instances in Scripture; of an angel slaying 185, 000 in the camp of the Assyrians (Isa 37:36); of Herod the King smitten by an angel for not giving God the glory (Acts 12:23), and many others.
We now come to prove by instances in the Scripture, that the angels are God’s “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
First, Abraham, who was an heir of salvation by sovereign grace, for him angels did minister on several occasions, as in the case of his pregnant maid, Hagar, who was fleeing away from home with Abraham’s son in her womb. Had not the angel of God interposed her flight, she would have fled away with Abraham’s son, Ishmael, and possibly to return no more.
Genesis 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
We are aware of the fact that in this instance, the angel ministered, not to Abraham, but to Hagar. She it was that encountered the angel in the wilderness, and heard his voice. But in all these, who can deny that the angel was only ministering for, and in the favour of, and on the side of, the Patriarch, Abraham. The favour of the angelic ministry belongs not to the persons they minister to, but to the persons they minister for; and this is the sense of the words of the apostle Paul in Hebrews 1:14, that they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for – for – for them who shall be heirs of salvation. So while the angel ministered to Hagar in the wilderness, he was only ministering for, and in the favour of, the Patriarch Abraham, which favour culminated in the preservation of his first son, Ishmael. An angel may minister to one not an heir of salvation, as in the case of the Egyptians by the Red Sea, where he ministered darkness to them to frustrate their endeavours (Exo 14:19-20); and in the case of the Assyrians, where he ministered death to 185,000 of their host (Isa 37:36). Wherefore, this angel was no guardian angel for Ishmael nor Hagar.
Jacob had many ministrations of these kind for his good all through the days of his pilgrimage on earth. They ascended and descended in a continual service for him, according as it seemed good in the sight of God who sent them (Gen 28:12); they spoke to him in dreams and gave him counsel and direction, according to that dispensation of time wherein they lived before the Scripture was delivered to the saints for their direction (Gen 31:11); they met him in a host, and ministered for him before his meeting with Esau, who had nurtured nothing but wrath and revenge in his heart against the Patriarch (Gen 32:1).
The inspired record is complete for us in its record of the history of the lives of Esau and Jacob, but of the former, we have no record of a single angelic ministration or service for him, but of the latter, the Scripture abounds with many testimonies of them. Wherefore? We would be at a loss to answer, had not the Lord told us in plain terms, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom 9:13).
Read of these ministering spirits sent forth to minister for Gideon in his conquest of the Midianites (Judg 6:11-12); for Elijah (1 King 19:5-7); the Apostles (Acts 5:19); Cornelius (Acts 10:3); Peter (Acts 12:7), and many other heirs of salvation. This, we believe, will suffice for a proof that the doctrine of each single individual having a guardian angel is nothing but a Jeudo-Pagan fable, to be rejected by all who have been taught of the Lord in his word.
Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
In addition to what we already established out of the numerous instances in the Scripture, of angels appearing to minister personally and exclusively for the heirs of salvation, we provide another plain passage of Scripture similar to what we have in Hebrews 1:14, though this time, from the Old Testament Scripture, in Psalm 34:7.
Psalms 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him – here we have an absolute description of the characters who are objects of angelic service and ministry – they are “them that fear him” – a perfect description to be found only in “them who shall be heirs of salvation“!
The Jew, therefore, if he be true to the Old Testament Scripture as his rule of judgement, has no right to believe in the notion of every single individual having a guardian angel, for out of his Old Testament Scripture he would read it stated plainly, that they encamp around them that fear the Lord; and the Christian, if in addition to the Old, he takes the New Testament for his guide, he shall find that the notion of every infant or adult having a guardian angel is repugnant to the faith he professes.
Another passage which the advocates of this theory often bring forward to sustain their fable, is Acts 12:15.
Acts 12:15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
They argue that the early Christians must have believed in the doctrine of a guardian angel, for else, how can we explain their unanimous conclusion that the person knocking on the door of the house wherein they assembled to pray for Peter was not Peter himself, but his angel.
Now, let it be observed keenly that, though, the disciples exclaimed that it was Peter’s angel which stood at the door, they never said it was his guardian angel. Peter’s angel, and Peter’s guardian angel, are two different things. Somehow, to strengthen their course, they have added the word “guardian” and made it read “Peter’s guardian angel.”
Others who believe in the apparition of ghosts, fetch the story from this passage, and make it read, “Peter’s ghosts”; and they teach that the disciples believed that Peter was dead, and his ghost has now come to show himself to them. Alas! Alas! We may say with Mary Magdalene, that they have taken away our Lord, and we wot not where they have laid him.
By Peter’s angel, we may understand that the disciples meant an angel God has sent to rescue Peter, in answer to their earnest prayer on his behalf; and consequently, that this angel has now come to give them words of comfort concerning Peter’s deliverance. This will be very easy for us to understand as soon as we understand that they were gathered together for the singular purpose of praying for Peter’s deliverance. This may be hard to receive, but why may not these hereticks (of ghost apparition and guardian angels), argue that Peter’s angel literally means an angel created by Peter, since the possessive pronoun (his angel) might as well mean an angel created by Peter.
But, whatever the expression (Peter’s angel) might mean, or in whatever sense the early Christians understood it, or whatever was the original intent of those perplexed disciples that uttered those words, we dare not frame a doctrine from such instances, the chief reason being that such utterances were not intended to convey any true doctrine!
Take for example the utterance of our Lord’s disciples when they saw their Lord walking on the water, and coming to them in the storm, they exclaimed, “It is a spirit.”
Matthew 14:26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
Can we now take their perplexed and confused utterance, and frame a doctrine from it, whereas we know that it was not a spirit, but the Man Christ Jesus, who was walking on the water to them.
In Matthew 14, the disciples said it was a spirit that came walking on the water, whereas it was not a spirit, but the Man Christ Jesus in flesh and blood; and in Acts 12, the disciples excaimed that it was Peter’s guardian angel (to use the words of these dreamers) which stood at the door, whereas it was not Peter’s guardian angel, but Peter himself! All this serves to prove that any doctrine built on the perplexed words of these fear-stricken disciples must be as false as the words themselves.
The disciples said it was Peter’s angel which stood at the door, and they were wrong; and those who teach a guardian angel from these words are also wrong and false. When they opened the door and saw that it was indeed Peter, they were convinced of their error; and when these dreamers shall open the Scripture with a prayerful and humbled heart, they shall be likewise convinced of their errors. That the Lord will accomplish this work in their life, is our humble petition to him; and the very reason why we have undertaken to lay open their folly, lest others be taken in as well.