18 October 2008

Where two or three are gathered....? - OUT OF CONTEXT SCRIPTURE!

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:19-20)
If I had a nickle for every time I heard someone use this verse to claim some kind of special presence or assistance from Christ whenever two or more Christian brethren assembled in agreement with each other for some reason, I could definitely enjoy quite a few Venti Starbucks beverages.

What exactly is being said in this verse that is so often used out of context? In order to grasp the context, you must start at the beginning of the topic, back at verses fifteen. If you have a Christian brother who has sinned against you, you are to go and tell him. If he he won't listen to youAgain I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
, then you are to:

...take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (v. 16)
So right here we see why the two or three are mentioned to begin with, for the sole purpose of being witnesses against the sin of the brother in question. This standard practice hearkens back to the ancient Jewish practice and law established in Deuteronomy:
On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deut. 17:6-7)

A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. (Deut. 19:15)
Part of a legal hearing requires two or three witnesses for a case to be established. In Matthew 18, we are dealing with a case against a brother who has sinned. He has been approached by the one sinned against, then he has been approached with two or three others to witness his stubborn rebellion against repentance in the matter, and after those steps have been taken, by the word of the two or three witnesses, his sin is made public to the whole church body, and if he still is in rebellion and won't listen, then he is to be cast out, excommunicated from the body, and treated as one outside the faith, a pagan.

So, the two or three gathered together are not asking God for favors or prayers, but are in agreement over a judgment in the body. The Apostles were given the keys to loose and bind things on earth, and this is an example of that power in action. If you, as a member of a church, are processed legitimately through the Matthew 18 process, and are cast out, then it is indeed a fearful thing for you, as you have legally, by the very power and presence of Christ found present among the words of the two or three witnesses, been removed from the body of Christ for your rebellion.

One commentator states is clearly:

This is connected with the previous verses. The connection is this: The obstinate man is to be excluded from the church. The care of the church — the power of admitting or excluding members — of organizing and establishing it — is committed to you, the apostles (Mt 18:18). Yet there is not need of the whole to give validity to the transaction. When two of you agree, or have the same mind, feelings, and opinion, about the arrangement of affairs in the church, or about things desired for its welfare, and shall ask of God, it shall be done for them. See Acts 1:14-26, 15:1-29. The promise here has respect to the apostles in organizing the church. It cannot, with any propriety, be applied to the ordinary prayers of believers. Other promises are made to them, and it is true that the prayer of faith will be answered; but that is not the truth taught here. (Barne's Notes)
Many today have ignored the power the local, legitimate church body was given to bind and loose such things, pertaining to your very standing in the eyes of God.

Today, if someone disagrees with a church, they simply leave and move on to find one they agree with more fully. But don't be fooled, God doesn't look so simply at rebellion and lack of repentance as we might. If you leave a church in a rebellious manner, without resolving the issue via Matthew 18, your very salvation may be in question before God.

Matthew 18:19-20 is not a comfort for anyone that Jesus is present when they met; it is a call of judgment against those rebellious to the legal offices of the church established by Christ and the Apostles.

View Other "Out of Context" Verses