A prominent Reformed theologian is highlighting the role that angels play in the life of believing Christians, arguing against the idea that every Christian has only one guardian angel assigned to him or her.
Writing at Desiring God Tuesday, John Piper noted that when the gospel of Matthew speaks of "these little ones," Jesus is referring to His disciples.
Matthew 18:10 reads: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven?"
"Their angels" may refer to "a specific angel assigned to each disciple," Piper speculated, referencing the passage in Acts 12 where Peter is let out of jail and the Church believed it was his angel at the door and not him.
"That may or may not imply that all believers have an angel assigned to them. It may only imply that in that situation God had commissioned an angel to use Peter's voice (Acts 12:14), and perhaps awaken even more urgent prayer for him," Piper said.
But if one considers Matthew 18:10, he continued, Christians have multiple angels stationed about them.
"The word 'their' certainly implies that these angels have a special personal role to play in relation to Jesus's disciples. But the plural 'angels' may simply mean that all believers have numerous angels assigned to serve them, not just one," Piper said.
Protestant reformer John Calvin also believed that the words of Christ in that passage "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 (Psalm 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful."
"[T]he care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require," Calvin wrote in a commentary on the harmony of the gospels.
Piper added, "[E]everything angels do, everywhere in the world, at all times, is for the good of Christians. An angel who does something by God's assignment anywhere in the world is fulfilling the promise that God will work all things for the good of all Christians — everywhere. This is a sweeping and stunning promise. All angels serve for the good of all Christians all the time."