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Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifests His presence in a special way when two or more of His disciples meet to pray. The promise is “that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
Matthew 18:18-20 The Message
18-20 “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
How we ought to rejoice to know that where two or three are gathered together in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He has promised to be there among us – for He is the Head of our church, we are all members of His body!
Scripture is clear, as believers we are the corporate body of Christ and when two or more members of Christ’s body are united in prayer or praise, thanksgiving or worship – we are in a small way fulfilling Christ’s high priestly prayer: that we may be one, even as He is One with the Father. Christ is the Head of the body – and when as few as two or three members are united together in Him, they are one community of faith, one with Christ, who is the Head of His growing body.
What an indescribable joy it is to know that Jesus has promised to work in and through the prayer and praises of His people. What an immeasurable comfort to know He is with us as we unite together in fellowship around a shared meal or simply join together, we break bread, pass the cup of blessing, in remembrance of Him. How undeniably important to keep Jesus in His rightful place, as HEAD.
When we come to the Lord in prayer or praise, whether it be individually and corporately. I must decrease and He must increase, for there is one Lord; one faith; one baptism into the body of Christ and there is One Head, who is to guard and guide us individually and corporately. (John 3:27-30 AKJV)
He must completely increase, we must sacrificially decrease so that it is Christ’s beautiful Spirit of unity in the faith, which leads us and guides us as we come together in His name – for prayer and petitions; conversation and communion; a simple communal meal or a meeting of fellowship and church governance ‘for where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.’
This well beloved, oft quoted, oft prayed passage of Scripture must also be clearly understood in its proper historical context when Matthew wrote it.
We must also be aware of Several key understandings implicit in this passage:
- Because the Lord is present when two or three of his disciples are gathered together, his sovereign power and sovereign authority are present, too.
- The power of two or three to agree is not a general statement — in other words, this is not a blanket promise that if two Christians agree about something, God will have to carry it out. It is in the “legal” context of church discipline, sin, and fellowship that these verses apply. (Deuteronomy chapters 17 and 19)
- Because the sovereign power and the authority of the Lord are ever-present, the agreement between these gathered Christians is a reflection of what has already happened in heaven, not vice versa!
To understand exactly what Jesus means in Matthew 18:18-20 we have to look at the context, which includes the surrounding verses in the passage, and the passage before and after, the background of the book and author, including the original audience. Sometimes even just the heading of a passage can helps us.
The heading for Matthew 18:15-17 ESV is, “If Your Brother Sins Against You,” or “Dealing with Sin in the Church” in another translation.
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV
If Your Brother Sins Against You
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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.
Not all biblical translations and versions include the phrase “against you,” but either way we can and should clearly also gather that this passage is about sin and discipline in the Christian community, specifically His Body – the church.
Matthew’s original audience was likely comprised of mostly Jewish believers and some Gentile believers; his gospel was also an evangelistic tool for Jews who did not yet believe as well as good news for Gentiles who did not believe. The Jews reading Matthew’s gospel would have immediately known that this passage dealt with church discipline. Why? Because the passage would have clearly reminded them of the passages in Deuteronomy, concerning the law.
Deuteronomy 17 and 19 speak of 2 or 3 witnesses gathered to testify in court. The witnesses were necessary to establish a case in court.
The Hebrew Bible (Hebrew [Old] Testament) was Jesus’ Bible, and He used it in preaching and teaching. Jewish readers or listeners would have been all too familiar with allusions to Hebrew Bible passages; they knew their Bible well. Unlike most modern Christians, they would not have needed cross-references. This is just another reason to know God’s Word well and to study both the Old Testament and New Testament, neglecting neither.
This does not in any way shape or form mean Savior Jesus does not hear our prayers when we pray alone or with two or three people etc. …He does. (John 14:13-14, John 15:16, John 16:23-25-27 Authorized King James Version)
Our Lord and Savior is present when his people gather together. The fellowship they share is vital. The decisions that are made under the Lord’s guidance by the Christians gathered reflect the decisions in heaven. To put it succinctly: Jesus clearly wants all his disciples to be a redemptive community of Godly character.
When we come to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in prayer or praise, whether it be individually and corporately as the local church. We must each sacrificially decrease, and Savior Jesus Christ must then absolutely increase, for there is one Lord; one faith; one baptism into the body of Christ and there is One Head, who is to guard and guide us individually and corporately as communities of faith.
It is important to realize that inherent in the whole procedure is love for each member of the fellowship, including the fallen brother. It is the concern of a family. Where consuming love for truth and the church flow together, Jesus says that “whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).
We must sacrificially decrease so that it is Christ’s beautiful Spirit of unity in the faith, which leads us and guides us in all things as we come together in His name – for prayer and petitions; conversation and communion; for a simple communal meal or a meeting of fellowship, and church governance, for ‘where two or three are gathered together in My name, I Jesus am there among them.’
What do you believe God for today? Not what you ask, but what do you expect that He will answer? This may well disclose our faith — and our likeness to Christ. Yet it may also urge us to rise to a higher life in the fullness of His Spirit.
Think of the potential, the unlimited vistas of prayer open to us! “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).
In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us now pray,
Loving Father, how glorious it is to know that the Lord Jesus is my living Head. May He lead and guide all my intercessions and prayers – my conversation and communion with others, both individually and corporately. As I gather together with other brothers and sisters, to pray and praise and worship You, I thank You that Christ is the Head in our midst. May all I say and do, both individually and corporately be honoring to You, in Jesus’ name I pray, Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.