You have probably heard the verse before: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
These words, spoken by Jesus, and recorded for us in Matthew 18:20, are often used with good intention in many settings to refer to the way that God’s presence is specially manifested in the gathering of believers.
But here’s the thing: Most people who quote that verse, although not incorrect in what they are stating, are taking those words of Jesus out of context.
Do you know what the context was in which Jesus said that famous statement?
Wait for it…
Here’s the entire context:
“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. 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. 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. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
The full context of what Jesus was saying is about addressing Christians in the church who are in sin. He urges Christians to lovingly confront each other if they are in sin, for the purposes of repentance, reconciliation and restoration. This loving confrontation is to be done in the smallest circle possible, because it is not meant to shame a person or embarrass them, but to lovingly confront them because sin by nature is destructive and detrimental, not only to the person who sins, but it has an overflow affect to those around them. Sin never happens in vacuum.
If that person won’t listen to the one who lovingly confronts them, then other objective Christian brothers or sisters are to be brought along, to talk to that person and pray for them to have a change of heart and turn back to the Lord.
It is in this regard, that God says: know that I will with you when you gather together to do this, as a word of reassurance and encouragement to those seeking to do the difficult job of confronting someone in love and urging them towards repentance.
Eric Bargerhuff sums it up well:
Essentially, Jesus is teaching that interpersonal sin and conflict should not be ignored or dismissed, because Christians in general should be committed to maintaining healthy, wholesome, and fully reconciled relationships. After all, this is ultimately why Christ died, so that we first could be reconciled with God and second, reconciled to one another. So we must guard and protect our relationships from sin, especially those relationships between believers.
Jesus is saying that whenever the church is pursuing and is involved in a reconciliation process with someone who has refused to repent, they can rest assured that God’s blessing is with them in their efforts. In other words, as the church renders judicial decisions on matters of right and wrong that are based on the truth of God’s Word, they should be confident that they are doing the right thing and that Christ himself is right there with them, spiritually present in their midst.
From: The Most Misused Verses in the Bible