“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” ~ Matt. 18:20
I can’t count the times I have used this scripture (verse 20) to reinforce having church in aisle 4 at Walmart or some other major store chain. Nor can I count the times I’ve heard it come across the pulpit in much the same way. Referencing two or three out in the bush holding church etc.; it makes a good “missionary” story and this verse fits perfectly into that story. While that may be true, using this verse to support these statements is not true. Unfortunately, we once again miss the real true meaning of this scripture. If we look at context the chapter is speaking of church discipline and not just that but more important reconciliation if possible between two people. How we the church lack in this area is shocking to say the least. Having seen and experienced some “church” discipline and or accountability leaves little room for true reconciliation; more of a beat down and you’re supposed to grovel. Even in that you’re marked as trouble and there’s no true reconciliation. This could quickly turn into a rant about the total and complete failure of the church structure to administer chapter 18 in its truest sense and intent. I’m sure that somewhere, someone has; but I’m guessing that’s a rarity. More often than not it’s as I have stated above, a power play, and it usually ends badly when it involves leadership especially.
So this verse is used to say something completely different that it actually means. I have never heard a sermon with this verse used in context. If it was read in context, it was just in passing and was not part of that particular sermon. We have become crippled and retarded in our faith, our walk and our understanding of God’s Word because of these out of context scriptures used as sermon power points.
Here’s a simple commentary on verse 20, “Verse 20 should be interpreted in light of its context. It does not refer primarily to the composition of a NT church in its simplest form, nor to a general prayer meeting, but to a meeting where the church seeks the reconciliation of two Christians separated by some sin or disagreement. It may legitimately be applied to all meetings of believers where Christ is the Center, but a specific type of meeting is in view here. To meet “in His name” means by His authority, in acknowledgment of all that He is, and in obedience to His Word. No group can claim to be the only ones who meet in His name; if that were so, His presence would be limited to a small segment of His body on earth. Wherever two or three are gathered in recognition of Him as Lord and Savior, he is there in the midst.” So in context it is what we would call and private meeting with witnesses working towards reconciliation! Wow, takes on a whole new meaning doesn’t it. The CORRECT meaning. Much to learn in chapter 18 concerning how, who, what, when and where we are to address and handle disputes and move towards reconciliation and what to do when that doesn’t happen.