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Where Two or More Are Gathered...
A Bold Claim
I've heard this verse used in more situations than I can recall. One that comes to mind is during the time I sang in a Men's Choir at my university. Most Sundays the ensemble would perform at various congregations around So-Cal. This particular time my director gathered us in the courtyard and told us that he was certain God was going to bless us in the next twenty-four hours for what we were going to do for the congregation. He claimed that God was gonna "show up" in the building because of Matthew 18:19-20.
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
These are some lofty claims derived from this one verse. God's presence manifests whenever two or more Christians are next to each other? A window of opportunity for blessing opens when Christians congregate? I have two questions: What are the implications of this interpretation? What is the actual meaning?
What Would This Really Mean?
- If it takes two or more Christians for God to be present, then a Christian by himself is out of luck.
- If Christians are not congregated in a certain area, neither is God.
- If Christians ask for anything in Jesus' name, God will grant it.
There's one glaring reason this view is inaccurate- Omnipresence. Is there any place where He is not? Isn't his spirit inside each and every Christian? Why does the verse mention two or three people rather than 'the more the better'? These ideas fly in the face of the fundamentals of God's character (If you still believe in the fundamentals). I submit that this interpretation is faulty and should be dismissed. Let's explore the passage:
15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”(Matthew 18:15-20).
Context: What we're talking about here isn't a method to invoking the presence of God, but the process of dealing with an unrepentant church member. This passage explains how to deal with this situation within the care and safety of the fellowship. Where two or three gather in the context of restoring a brother, they gather with Christ's approval if the need for church discipline becomes necessary. This a practice seldom used today, which is probably why the verse is misused, but remember that whatever we ask in His name (according to His will) he will grant. God isn't summoned through ritual gathering or prayer like a pagan deity. There are many passages on the subject of prayer, using this one out of context means using it at the expense of God's character.