“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”” (Matthew 18:20 HCSB)
This is a familiar verse of Scripture that is often taken out of context and misunderstood. As with all other Scriptures, it is important to know the context in which this verse was written before we try to interpret it.
First, we need to know that Jesus was teaching about church discipline and trying to restore a person who has sinned against another, in the church. Here’s what Jesus says:
““If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you (Matthew 18:15-17 HCSB).””
Jesus is teaching us that, if there is a person(s) within a body of believers that has sinned against another believer and refuses to ask for forgiveness, or repent, that person must be expelled from the group. He also says that the group must not hang around with the person who was being disciplined, outside the group. Is this extreme? Yes, it is, but it must be taken in Love, with the pure intent and purpose of restoring that person back to the church. The reason the person must be expelled from the church is best described this way, that if we leave a rotten apple in a basket of apples, the good apples will begin to rot as well.
However, this is not a decision that can be taken lightly. This is where today’s verse comes in, starting with verse nineteen:
“Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19 HCSB).”
Here are two things that Jesus wants us to know before we make the decision to exile someone from the church.
1. The church must be in agreement – all the members of the body of believers (church) must be in complete agreement that something must be done about the unrepentant person.
2. The church must agree to pray before acting – we must agree to bring the matter before the Lord, before we act.
3. Only when we are in complete agreement will God answer our prayers. Jesus gives us that assurance.
Now we come to today’s verse and here’s what Jesus tells us:
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20 HCSB).””
Here are three things Jesus wants us to know from this verse:
1. There must be unity – those two or three who gather together must be of one mind, and one spirit. There cannot be disagreement among those who gather.
2. The gathering must be done with the purpose of bringing honor to Christ, our Lord – there cannot be a personal agenda, by anyone involved in the decision making process.
3. Jesus will intervene – only when the conditions above are met, and we seek Jesus’ decision, will Jesus be with those who are gathered, and will help them make the right decision.
Although this passage is about church discipline and restoration, it is my humble opinion that this same process can be used in our homes, among friends, at work, and even at school. Every decision we make must be Christ’s decision, lest we be wrong and have a devastating, negative effect on others.
In Christ’s love,