by Roman Soumar
Member of Mt Airy church of Christ
"It’s interesting how a seemingly little and unimportant episode can etch itself into a memory. This happened a few years ago: my wife and I were in a Bible study with a friend of mine. The friend was just starting a series on the book of Acts, and were in chapter 1. When we went through the account of Jesus’s ascension, the friend asked who were the two men in white robes (Acts 1:10-11). This a passage I’ve read over quite a number of times before, and I immediately answered that the two men were the angels. My reply came out as swiftly and naturally as “two plus two equals four”.
“Did the passage actually say that they were angels, though?” my friend queried. I took a quick mental step back and looked at the familiar passage again. The passage did read “men in white robes”. This took a bite out my initial confidence. “Past precedent” was my reply. I alluded to Genesis 18 (when men - angels - visited Abraham and then proceeded to Sodom and Gomorrah) and Genesis 32 (Jacob wrestling with a man, who was likely an angel - Hosea 12:4) to support my statement. “So you’re assuming that the men in white robes were angels based on past examples” my friend summarized, and that was a fair summation.
We did not get into any further discussion about the possibilities of who the two men in white robes in Acts 1:10 may have been, but this simple discourse had left its mark on me. My problem was that I answered too quickly and completely glossed over the actual words in the Scripture, even though I just finished reading them. My answer was really based on an assumption (I would like to think a reasonable one, though), and I presented that assumption as a given. This kind of immediate jump to a conclusion is not good. Regardless of who the two men in white robes may actually have been (they could have well been angels - who knows?), the Scripture identifies them as “men”, and I completely blew over that.
This minor episode had stuck with me, and it reminds me of two things. First, an admonition in James 1:19 to be swift to hear and slow to speak. Think first. Then speak (maybe). In Matthew 12:36 Jesus teaches that “…on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”. That is a sobering prospect and a strong motivator for us to use our words carefully.
Second, a reminder not to become overconfident. Proverbs 16:18 admonishes us that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Paul also warns us: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” 1 Cor. 10:12. We are people, we all make mistakes. Even the experts are not immune to mistakes. We should always be aware of that, and be all the more diligent in our study of Scripture. This reminds me of an example of the Jews in Berea, who, having received Paul’s words, “examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
This minute episode that no one else would remember in a million years has served to remind me to keep a watchful eye on myself. It’s an encouragement to look deeper into the Scripture and not to gloss over seemingly minor things. Bible study requires an attention to detail. So let’s be smart and diligent in our work for the Lord!"