In Matthew 18:20 there is an oft-quoted verse “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst.”
But what does this mean? Is it, as is commonly alluded, a promise that Christ is also present when any two or more believers gather together? In other words a sort of instant mini-church? Conversely, is He not present when only one believer is there?
We hear this often when someone is praying and they will quote “when two or more are gathered, Christ is present.” As if Christ, now that two or more are praying together, just appeared.
Rick Warren, in his “The Purpose Driven Life” p 139 states “Every Christian needs to be involved in a small group…this is where real community takes place…think of your church as a ship, the small groups are the lifeboats attached to it. God has made an incredible promise about small groups of believers: ‘For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.'”
Really? Is this what the Bible is stating?
Well-intentioned, but not accurate.
Interestingly, this particular verse is at the end of a number of verses in Matthew which give guidance on church discipline in an effort to keep the church pure.
Sequentially, if you see a brother sinning, you are to go him or her alone. If they refuse you, you need to bring one or more witnesses to confront the sinning believer. The next stage is to bring it to the church and ultimately if the believer still refuses, the whole church is to shun them so as to keep the church pure while also encouraging the believer to come back into the fellowship of the church.
What a model of discipline and the world would be a better place if they emulated this concept.
In Matthew 18:19 and 20, which are parts of the same thought, the passage states “Again…if two of you agree…it shall be done…for where two or three have gathered…in My name, I am there in their midst.” The word “for” is a conjunction that connects the two verses.
Paul in his message to the Corinthians, as he is disciplining that church over a sinning brother remarks in 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 “in the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, deliver such a one to Satan…”
Yet another verse supporting this is 2 Corinthians 13:1 (which is supported by Deuteronomy 19:15) and reads “…By the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter shall be confirmed.”
In summary, “two or more and I am there” is part of confirming that God is likewise part of the process to ensure that the church body is pure – He is right there with you in accordance.
Why do we so often get passages of the bible incorrect?
Is it not because we only read bits and pieces of the word. We tend not to read the whole context of the passage but just the highlight or quotable portion and then make an application out of context. This often results in misunderstandings that are passed along as biblical truths but are totally misleading.
I pray that we learn to read the full context of the Bible and not just portions.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”