Five misused Bible verses: Number One, Matthew 18:20

Matthew 18:20

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

How many of us have heard this verse used in public prayer? How many of us are guilty of using this verse in our own public prayer?
I certainly am, until recently I would happily repeat this wonderful verse in our small prayer meeting, or during times of fellowship.

Now I know you’re wondering why I’ve said I’m guilty of using this verse, surely there’s nothing wrong with quoting Scripture during prayer?
And you’re perfectly right, it’s great to use Scripture in our prayer, but only if the Scripture we use makes any sense what so ever in what we are praying about!

This verse is almost always used to encourage us that no matter how small the gathering may be that God is still there with us. It’s used as a rallying call to encourage us , even if the numbers are low, It’s used in every type of fellowship and gathering , when in reality it only makes real sense in one specific situation. Whilst the message is right, using this verse to back-up this message certainly isn’t.

Let’s look at the verse in it’s context, it appears near the end of Mathew 18, a section of Scripture that is dealing with Church discipline. This chapter is teaching us what to do if a brother or sister is sinning against us. Let’s look at verses 15 – 20: [Emphasis is mine]
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.”

Here we see Jesus teaching his disciples that in them gathering together as a Church to discuss important matters (here it is the case of Church discipline), that he will be with his Church, as they seek to be led and guided by him. This verse is about the Church meeting together as a body, knowing that as they meet seeking his guidance, he promises to be with them.

Let’s think about it another way, if this verse is really saying “don’t worry if there’s only a few of you, as long as  there’s more than two, God will be there”, then we have to ask what about an individual Christian, when they pray or praise God, does he not hear them?
It also implies that God needs some type of quota to be reached before he bothers being present. We know this is not biblical, and just plain silly, we have the assurance from God that wherever his people are gathered he will be there, simply because the Spirit lives inside each and every Christian:
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”Romans 8:9

So let’s be careful not to twist the words of God, by doing so in this situation we run the danger of saying that God is not continually present with his people, going against one of the most beautiful  promises that we have as Christians.

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