It certainly would be comforting during periods when we are facing serious difficulties to believe that we have a guardian angel to guide and/or protect us, but is there a biblical basis for such a belief? Let’s consider several scripture passages that may support the existence of guardian angels.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless indicated otherwise. When words in a quoted scripture passage are shown in bold print, the emphasis is our own.]
1. In Psalm 34:7, the psalmist states, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
With regard to this verse of scripture, the following comments from Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible state that “the angel of the Lord” does not refer to any particular angel and explain that angels not only protect “the people of God,” but also assist them in various other ways:
The angel of the Lord – The angel whom the Lord sends, or who comes, at his command, for the purpose of protecting the people of God. This does not refer to any particular angel as one who was specifically called “the angel of the Lord,” but it may refer to any one of the angels whom the Lord may commission for this purpose; and the phrase is equivalent to saying that “angels” encompass and protect the friends of God. The word “angel” properly means a “messenger,” and then is applied to those holy beings around the throne of God who are sent forth as his “messengers” to mankind; who are appointed to communicate his will, to execute his commands; or to protect his people. . . . Since the word has a general signification, and would denote in itself merely a messenger, the qualification is added here that it is an “angel of the Lord” that is referred to, and that becomes a protector of the people of God.
And delivereth them – Rescues them from danger. The psalmist evidently has his own case in view, and the general remark here is founded on his own experience. He attributes his safety from danger at the time to which he is referring, not to his own art or skill; not to the valor of his own arm, or to the prowess of his followers, but, to the goodness of God in sending an angel, or a company of angels, to rescue him; and hence, he infers that what was true of himself would be true of others. . . .
Nothing is more clearly or constantly asserted than that the angels are employed in defending the people of God; in leading and guiding them; in comforting them under trial, and sustaining them in death. . . . It may be added that no one can prove that what is here stated by the psalmist may not be literally true at the present time. . . .
Also with regard to Psalm 34:7, the following excerpts fromJohn Calvin’s Commentaries on the Bible declare that God uses “innumerable legions of angels” to protect and defend each of “the servants of God”:
David here discourses in general of God’s fatherly favor towards all the godly; and as the life of man is exposed to innumerable dangers, he at the same time teaches us that God is able to deliver them. . . . David therefore affirms that the servants of God are protected and defended by angels.
The design of the Psalmist is to show that although the faithful are exposed to many dangers, yet they may rest assured that God will be the faithful guardian of their life. But in order to confirm them the more in this hope, he adds at the same time, and not without reason, that those whom God would preserve in safety he defends by the power and ministration of angels. The power of God alone would indeed be sufficient of itself to perform this; but in mercy to our infirmity he vouchsafes to employ angels as his ministers. It serves not a little for the confirmation of our faith to know that God has innumerable legions of angels who are always ready for his service as often as he is pleased to aid us. . . .
Moreover, what the Psalmist here says of one angel in the singular number, ought to be applied to all the other angels: for they are distinguished by the general appellation of “ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be the heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14), and the Scriptures in other places teach us that whenever it pleases God, and whenever he knows it to be for their benefit, many angels are appointed to take care of each of his people (2 Kings 6:15; Psalms 91:11; Luke 16:22). The amount then of what has been said is, that however great the number of our enemies and the dangers by which we are surrounded may be, yet the angels of God, armed with invincible power, constantly watch over us, and array themselves on every side to aid and deliver us from all evil.
In reference to the same verse of scripture, The Pulpit Commentaries provides the following explanation as to why it is logical to believe that the “angel of the Lord” refers to angels in general rather than just to a single angel:
According to some commentators . . ., the expression, “angel of the Lord,” is here used as a collective, and means the angels generally. . . . But others deny that “the angel of the Lord” has ever a collective sense, and think a single personality must necessarily be intended. . . . When pressed to say how this one angel can “encamp round” a number of persons, they reply that, of course, he has his subordinates with him—a “spangled host,” that “keep watch in squadrons bright;” and that he is said to do what they do, which is no doubt quite in accordance with ordinary modes of speech. Thus, however, the two expositions become nearly identical, since, according to both, it is the angelic host which “encamps around” the faithful.
2. The psalmist declares in Psalm 91:10-11, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He [God] shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”
In assessing this scripture passage, Calvin again asserts that God protects each of His people not with a single guardian angel, but instead with a host of angels, provided that His people are not acting presumptuously or contrary to God’s will. Calvin says,
For he has given his angels charge concerning thee. This is added by the Psalmist expressly with the view of obviating any fears which might arise from our infirmity; so that we cannot fail to be struck with the benignant condescension of God in thus not only forgiving our diffidence, but proposing the means by which it may be best removed. . . . If we tremble to think of his majesty, he presents himself to us under the lowly figure of the hen: if we are terrified at the power of our enemies, and the multitude of dangers by which we are beset, he reminds us of his own invincible power, which extinguishes every opposing force. When even all these attempts to encourage us have been tried, and he finds that we still linger and hesitate to approach him, or cast ourselves upon his sole and exclusive protection, he next makes mention of the angels, and proffers them as guardians of our safety.
As an additional illustration of his indulgent mercy and compassion for our weakness, he represents those whom he has ready for our defense as being a numerous host; he does not assign one solitary angel to each saint, but commissions the whole armies of heaven to keep watch over every individual believer. It is the individual believer whom the Psalmist addresses, as we read also Psalms 34:7 — that “angels encamp round about them that fear him.” We may learn from this that there is no truth in the idea that each saint has his own peculiar guardian angel; and it is of no little consequence to consider, that as our enemies are numerous, so also are the friends to whom our defense is intrusted.
It were something, no doubt, to know that even one angel was set over us with this commission, but it adds weight to the promise when we are informed that the charge of our safety is committed to a numerous host. . . . Nor is this inconsistent with passages of Scripture, which seem to speak as if a distinct angel were assigned to each individual.
It is evident that God employs his angels in different ways, setting one angel over several whole nations, and again several angels over one man. There is no necessity that we should be nice and scrupulous in inquiring into the exact manner in which they minister together for our safety; it is enough that, knowing from the authority of an apostle the fact of their being appointed ministers to us, we should rest satisfied of their being always intent upon their commission.
The Psalmist adds, all your ways in the plural number, to convey to us more distinctly that wherever we go we may expect that the angels shall always extend their guardianship to us. The course of our life is subject to many windings and changes, and who can tell all the storms by which we are liable to be tossed? It was necessary, therefore, to know that the angels preside over all our particular actions and purposes, and thus to be assured of their safe-conduct in whatever quarter we might be called to move.
This expression, however, your ways, was, in all likelihood, intended to enjoin upon us a due consideration and modesty, to warn us against tempting God by any rash step, and admonish us to confine ourselves within the bounds of our proper calling. For should we commit ourselves recklessly, and attempt things which the promise of God does not warrant us to undertake, aspiring at what is presumptuous, and opposed to the Divine will, we are not to expect that the angels will become ministers and helps to our temerity. Satan would appear to have craftily omitted this clause when he tempted Christ rashly to throw himself down from the temple.
With regard to the same scripture passage, the following comments in John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible are not clear as to whether or not each of God’s people is protected by multiple angels, although the comments do support the concept of guardian angels:
For he shall give his angels charge over thee: Created spirits, so called, made by the Lord, and are at his command; who are ministering spirits to his people, who encamp about them, and are concerned in the preservation of them; they being committed to their care and charge by him who is Lord of heaven and earth: Satan applied this passage to Christ (Matthew 4:6), nor did our Lord object to the application of it; and it can hardly be thought that he would have ventured to have done it, had he been aware that a misapplication might be objected. . . .
3. In Matthew 18:10, Jesus Christ states, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
In reference to this verse of scripture, the following comments by Barnes state that rather than each person having a guardian angel, angels in general are the guardians of each of God’s followers (i.e., Christians):
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. … – That is, one who has become like a little child, or a Christian. [Note: Several of the commentaries that follow indicate that the term “little ones” refers to young children, to weak Christians, or to the poor in spirit.]
For I say unto you … – Jesus then proceeds to state the reason why we should not despise his feeblest and obscurest follower. That reason is drawn from the care which God exercises over them. The first instance of that care is, that “in heaven their angels do always behold his face.” He does not mean, I suppose, to state that every good man has his guardian angel, as many of the Jews believed; but that the angels were, in general, the guards of his followers, and aided them and watched over them.
The following comments by Calvin about Matthew 18:10 further discredit the belief that each believer (i.e., every Christian) has his (or her) own guardian angel, rather than many angels to guard them:
Beware of despising one of these little ones: God embraces with wonderful love the little ones. . . . He proves this love from the fact, that angels, who are ministers of their salvation, enjoy intimately the presence of God. Yet I do not think that he intended merely to show what honor God confers on them by appointing angels to be their guardians, but likewise to threaten those who despise them; as if he had said, that it is no light matter to despise those who have angels for their companions and friends, to take vengeance in their behalf.
The interpretation given to this passage by some commentators, as if God assigned to each believer his own angel, does not rest on solid grounds. For the words of Christ do not mean that a single angel is continually occupied with this or the other person; and such an idea is inconsistent with the whole doctrine of Scripture, which declares that the angels encamp around (Psalms 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful. Away, then, with the fanciful notion of a good and evil angel, and let us rest satisfied with holding that the care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require.
David Guzik’s Commentary on the Bible takes a viewpoint that is similar to most of those we have already discussed. Guzik notes that the reference to angels in Matthew 18:10 “is often taken as a reference to ‘guardian angels.’ We certainly do have angels watching over us and ministering to us (Hebrews 1:14), but there is no need to limit it to only one specific ‘guardian angel.’”
Likewise, with regard to the same scripture verse, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible supports the belief in guardian angels, but not necessarily one particular guardian angel for each saint (i.e., every Christian). Henry says,
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. . . . We may understand it literally of little children of them Christ was speaking, Matthew 18:2, 4. . . . Or, figuratively true but weak believers are these little ones, who in their outward condition, or the frame of their spirits, are like little children, the lambs of Christ’s flock.
Some have imagined that every particular saint has a guardian angel but why should we suppose this, when we are sure that every particular saint, when there is occasion, has a guard of angels? This is particularly applied here to the little ones, because they are most despised and most exposed. They have but little that they can call their own, but they can look by faith on the heavenly hosts, and call them theirs.
Also, Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible expresses the view that Matthew 18:10 does not support the belief in a specific guardian angel for each person. Poole asserts,
Here is no ground in this text for their notion, who fancy that every particular child of God hath his proper angel to attend him. Our Saviour doth not say their several and respective angels, but their angels; and if all the angels be ministering spirits, for the good of God’s elect, Hebrews 1:14, I see no great reason to contend for a particular angel for every individual amongst them. But be that as it will, the opinion hath no patronage from this text.
The following comments by Gill question whether Matthew 18:10 supports the belief that “every good man” has a specific angel that serves as a guardian for him, and Gill does not indicate if any angels might perform this function:
Some have thought from hence, that every good man has his peculiar angel that waits upon him, and cares for him; but this does not necessarily follow from, these words, only that they all have an interest in angels, and in their good services. This seems indeed to have been a notion that prevailed among the Jews, not only that there were angels which presided over particular nations, but who also had the care of particular persons. . . .
Unlike the previous commentaries, the following interpretation of Matthew 18:10 by Adam Clarke Commentary asserts that every person has a specific guardian angel:
Our Lord here not only alludes to, but, in my opinion, establishes the notion received by almost all nations, viz. That every person has a guardian angel; and that these have always access to God, to receive orders relative to the management of their charge.
Similarly, the following comments by The Pulpit Commentaries take the position that Matthew 18:10 indicates that there is a specific guardian angel for each “little one”:
The Lord gives two proofs of the high consideration due to his little ones. The first proof is that which follows; the second is given in Matthew 18:11-14. Their angels. . . . especially appointed to watch and protect them – their guardian angels. This doctrine . . . that each soul has assigned to it by God a special angel is grounded on this, and supported by many other passages of Scripture (comp. Hebrews 1:14; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:11; Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10).
Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible apparently takes a view of Matthew 18:10 that is contrary to all those we have mentioned previously. Pett evidently does not support the belief that this verse of scripture supports the concept of angels being guardians, but instead seems to take the position that angels just represent believers (i.e., God’s people) in the presence of God. Pett states,
Little ones [are those] who believe in Him [i.e., Christ], whether little in stature or little in outward importance, or little because of their humility, are not to be despised, for they are so important that they are represented by angels before the face of His Father in Heaven. This is not a doctrine of guardian angels as such, but an indication that believers are important enough to be represented by angels before the very face of God (compare also Hebrews 1:14). Every believer can know that his name is written in Heaven, and that someone represents him in the very presence of God, and constantly reminds God of his need, because he is so important to God. Compare the twenty four elders in Revelation 4-5 whose duty it is to perform such a function.
Note the link between this verse, earlier verses in 3-5 and Matthew 18:14 in the reference to ‘little ones’. The theme is continual throughout. These little ones are the poor in spirit to whom belong the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 5:3), in which they find true greatness (Matthew 18:4). They are the true heavenly people. They are as important to Jesus as Himself (Matthew 18:5). They are those who believe in Him and are thus under His care and protection (Matthew 18:6). They are those who have been truly forgiven (Matthew 18:21-35).
4. In Hebrews 1:14, the writer asks the following rhetorical question regarding angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”
Barnes provides the following perspectives as to the types of ministry of angels to Christians that are mentioned in other Bible scriptures and are applicable to understanding the significance of this verse:
Even the most exalted angel is employed in the comparatively humble office of a ministering spirit appointed to aid the heirs of salvation. . . . A “ministering” spirit is one that is employed to execute the will of God. . . . They are employed to render “aid” or “assistance” to others – to wit, to Christians.
In regard to the ways in which angels become ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, the Scriptures have not fully informed us, but facts are mentioned which will furnish some light on this inquiry. The following methods of angelic interposition in behalf of man are noted in the Scriptures:
(1) They feel a deep interest in man. . . .
(2) They feel a special interest in all that relates to the redemption of man. . . .
(3) They appear for the defense and protection of the people of God. . . .
(4) [They] are sent to give us strength to resist temptation. . .
(5) They support us in affliction. . . .
(6) They attend dying saints, and conduct them to glory. . . .
In addressing Hebrews 1:14, Calvin has a less specific perspective regarding the roles of angels, stating,
From this passage the faithful receive no small consolation; for they hear that celestial hosts are assigned to them as ministers, in order to secure their salvation. It is indeed no common pledge of God’s love towards us, that they are continually engaged in our behalf. Hence also proceeds a singular confirmation to our faith, that our salvation being defended by such guardians, is beyond the reach of danger. Well then has God provided for our infirmities by giving us such assistants to oppose Satan, and to put forth their power in every way to defend us!
The following comments by Clarke with regard to the same verse of scripture take the position that specific information regarding the roles of angels in helping those who have trusted in Jesus Christ is “impossible to state”:
All the angels, even those of the highest order, are employed by their Creator to serve those who believe in Christ Jesus. What these services are, and how performed, it would be impossible to state. . . . They are, no doubt, constantly employed in averting evil and procuring good.
In contrast, Gill refers to a number of types of ministry by angels that may be inferred in Hebrews 1:14. According to Gill,
[M]inistering spirits [are] servants to God, to Christ, and to his people. . . .
[They are] sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation… – [T]he persons they minister to, and for, are those, who shall be the heirs of salvation. . . . [A]nd the ministry of angels to, and for them, lies in things temporal and spiritual, or what concern both their bodies and their souls; in things temporal, in which they have often been assisting, as in providing food for their bodies, in curing their diseases, in directing and preserving them in journeys, in saving and delivering them from outward calamities, in restraining things hurtful from hurting them, and in destroying their enemies; in things spiritual, as in making known the mind and will of God to them, in comforting them, and suggesting good things to them, and in helping and assisting them against Satan’s temptations; and they are present with their departing souls at death, and carry them to heaven, and will gather the elect together at the last day.
Henry mentions several additional perspectives as to the responsibilities of angels with regard to the same verse of scripture, as follows:
What has God said to the angels? He never said to them, as he said to Christ, Sit you at my right hand but he has said of them here that they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. . . . The angels are sent forth for this end – to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation. . . . They are heirs because they are children of God. . . . [T]he angels are sent forth to minister for them. Thus they have done in attending and acting at the giving forth of the law, in fighting the battles of the saints, in destroying their enemies. They still minister for them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies. . . .
Also in regard to Hebrews 1:14, The Pulpit Commentaries simply says angels “are ministering spirits, literally, ‘liturgical spirits,’” and adds, “These liturgical spirits are sent forth on errands of helpfulness to God’s people on earth in their times of emergency.”
Most of the Bible commentaries we have reviewed take the position that God helps those who have trusted in Him (generally, Christians) through more than one angel, but some commentaries express the belief that God helps such people through a specific angel or through various individual angels. Furthermore, the Bible commentaries have different opinions regarding the nature and extent of such help.
In light of the foregoing considerations, we conclude that every Christian — and perhaps every child who is too young to understand their need to trust in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation – has at least one guardian angel, although not necessarily the same angel(s) on an ongoing basis (i.e., different angels may be involved, depending on the time and the circumstances).
As for the nature and extent of the guardianship by angels, it is virtually impossible to draw a definite conclusion, not only because of the differences in the perspectives provided by Bible commentaries, but also because of the differences in actual life experiences (e.g., every year, even though many Christians and young children seem to have been miraculously protected from severe harm or even death, many others are killed in accidents or otherwise, or they suffer from severe physical, mental, and/or financial adversities).
[Note: As the writer of this article, I attest that God has guided me and protected me from serious injury or even death on many occasions. Whether or not He has used any angels to do so, I cannot say. Regardless, I am very thankful for His care.]