“For where two or three gather in my name…”

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:19-20

Context is a tricky thing; come to think of it, it can also be inconvenient.

I wouldn’t mind too much if I were able to report to you that if 2 or 3 of us come together and agree that God should provide each of us with 10 million dollars tax-free, that Jesus has promised to do so, but sorry, Jesus has done nothing of the kind!

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from teaching it that way…

If you read the previous part you know that the context is entirely different; Jesus is re-enforcing His remark in 18:18 about loosing and binding. His context is the discussion of how to handle issues relating to sin in the church so as to restore people to their healthy relationship both with God and the community of believers. We need also recall that He is speaking to the disciples, who He is in the process of training to lead the early church; He is not making a blanket statement for everyone, in my view.

As I mentioned earlier, dealing with sin in the church is not an easy business, and it requires wisdom, spiritual maturity, and prayerful reflection, for without these things, we tend to give a knee jerk reaction that doesn’t seek to restore the offending party, but instead seeks merely to punish them. Punishing is clearly not what Jesus is teaching.

With all that I have said in these two posts, I should add something here: Having been in church leadership for more years than I like to count, I realize quite fully that there are situations in which the sin that a person is engaged in brings danger to the congregation; an obvious example would be someone working with children who has sinned in a way that violates a child, or a man in church leadership who has been known to become involved with women who are not his wife… I’m sure you can think of other examples. A leader would tend to disqualify himself from a leadership role in such a case, a person with such a history shouldn’t work anywhere around children, any more than a recovering alcoholic should take a job as a bartender. In such cases, and I sincerely hope that you never have to deal with this sort of thing; we must concern ourselves with the safety of the flock, and the redemption of the offender; we cannot do so without wisdom, spiritual maturity, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in these verses, Jesus is promising to do His part.

In the next passage, Jesus continues to re-enforce this theme with a parable; you won’t want to miss it!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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11 Responses to “For where two or three gather in my name…”

  1. Are you saying flat-out that gathering together for more effective prayer is a privilege limited only to the early disciples and to the field of church discipline? That would be immensely discouraging, and also a kick to other Scriptural examples of corporate prayer. Surely you would not say that God has no plans for anyone besides for the Babylonian exiles just because that’s whom Jeremiah 29:11 was written to. I’ve always been taught that such examples are of a GENERAL principle being brought to a SPECIFIC situation.

    I think preventing abuse of this verse is better left to the New Testament’s celebration of material poverty and its focus on spiritual things over temporal ones, rather than over-stretching the context of a single verse. Although that’s just me!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Brandon I’m not even hinting at that! This passage does fall within a certain context, there’s no way around that, but this principle of His presence is found in other contexts, as you noted. Notice that in my mention of the term “church discipline” I refrained from jumping into the middle of the rather harsh interpretations of many, for many have over-emphasized it to promote a strictly legalistic approach that I wouldn’t care to be a part of!

      Actually, I see it more as you have expressed.

  2. pipermac5 says:

    I also take “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” also to mean that, where two or three Believers are gathered in His name, He promises His presence among them. I realize that, in this textual-context, Jesus is referring to church discipline, as someone else pointed out to me after I said that this verse is one of the three pillars I build my ministry around, but does this promise also apply to a small group of Believers who are gathered in His name to worship, fellowship and study the Bible?


    • Don Merritt says:

      Without a doubt it does! You are quite right to center your ministry on this Steve. Yes, the context deals with correcting error and bringing people back to a better path, but isn’t that one of the reasons for teaching God’s Word in the first place? Of course it is!

      It’s also good to remember that the expression “church discipline” is a man-made one, and while it has its place, it is sometimes over-emphasized at the cost of forgiveness and love which are not man-made terms.

      • pipermac5 says:

        The other two pillars are Matthew 16:18; “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”, and Isaiah 55:11; “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”. Those are promises we can “take to the bank”, even though it often feels like I am ministering in the “devil’s-playground”.


  3. lnhereford says:

    Great post, many grevious wolves have twisted this verse! God bless you!

  4. You let me know if you can ever figure out the “2 or 3 gathering and then getting 10 million dollars scenario.” I would volunteer to be one of those 2 or 3. LOL. Great post. Thanks for helping people understand context and the text better.

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