Do we have a Guardian Angel?
The concept of a ‘guardian angel’ is very popular amongst various religions today. But do they really exist from a scriptural perspective? There are a couple of instances within scripture which might hint at the idea of their existence.
The first appears in the book of Acts where Peter has just been delivered from prison by an angel. While he was being set free from prison by an angel, a number of the disciples were praying at the same time at Mary’s house i.e. John’s mother’s place. Peter arrived at the house and knocked on the door. Rhoda, a maid, came to the door. When she heard Peter’s voice, she was so overcome with joy she forgot to open the door. Instead, she rushed to the other disciples and told them Peter was at the door. They first said that she was out of her mind, ‘so much for their faith in God’! Then they said something very interesting, “it must be his angel” (Acts 12.15). What could they have meant by this? It could not mean his apparition or disembodied spirit as some suggest, since the text would state this. The words for apparition (phantasma) and spirit (pneuma) are different from angel (angelos) used here. This is supported by the incident where Jesus walks on the water and thedisciple’s at first mistake him to be a spirit (‘pneuma’ – Lk. 24.37). No! They definitely meant angel in this passage as Luke used the same term ‘angelos’ a few verses back in Acts 12.7 to refer to the angel who set Peter free. The problem, which arises when using this to build a doctrine for the existence of ‘Guardian Angels’, is that it might have simply been a belief that the disciples accepted at the time.
The most likely verse which hints at the possibility of guardian angels is found in the story when the disciples asked Jesus: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”. Jesus called a child to him and began to talk about children’s simple faith. Then, He changed tack and began to warn the disciples and other listeners not to harm children. Nearing the end of His discussion, He said, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18.10). The background of this idea is rooted in Jewish tradition where angels were believed to be assigned to individual people (see Gen. 48.16; Ps. 34.7, 91.11 and amongst other Jewish writings).
The problem is that by taking these, the only two accounts in the New Testament, and forming a substantial doctrine of angels, is beyond what I call good theological practice. We simply do not have enough information to say: “Yes, we have guardian angels.” However, we can be sure that angels are known to protect people, even if they are not assigned to one specific individual. As referenced above, Jacob mentioned how an angel delivered him from harm when he was giving a final blessing to his sons (Gen. 48.16). He was most likely remembering the time when he felt certain that his brother Esau was going to kill him. Other instances of protection can be found in Daniel 3.28 and 6.22. These two portions of scripture document the protection of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace and Daniel while in the lions’ den.