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# 01330 :  Where two or three are gathered together in My (Jesus) Name..
WHERE TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED TOGETHER ……………

Matt 18: 15-20

“15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’

17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

I am particularly interested in addressing verse 20 since this verse is very familiar to most of us, but often not understood as it should be. All five verses are linked together and each one builds on the other. So I have quoted all five verses here.

Contd.

Post by : tomj  View Profile    since : 31 Jul 2007


Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:44:34 PM Close
INTRODUCTION

I grew up hearing prayers at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper meetings quoting this verse – ‘where two or three are …………. midst of them.’ I have done it many times also. I have heard discussions swirling around this verse trying to establish the legitimacy or lack of it, of certain meetings based on this verse.

We gave this verse an honorary status such as the ‘minimum requirement for a quorum’ for a meeting. It gave us the assurance of the Lord’s blessings is upon our gatherings. It gave us the freedom to meet informally and break bread. Was there anything wrong with such a practice? Absolutely not! The Lord will be in the midst of His people. It is His promise. Can we meet informally and break bread? Certainly we can! What we (NT pattern of worshippers) have been practicing is truly scriptural.

So we have a verse here that is applicable to all of the above and carries a wonderful message of God’s unfailing promises. Yet this verse, I believe is wrenched out of its context. So, the main focus of the verse is not brought out and applied as it should be. Other pertinent, yet peripheral truths are established at the cost of overlooking the main focus.

Contd.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:45:35 PM Close
CONTEXT

Let me address verse 19 at the outset for proper context. ‘If two of you agree on earth concerning….. heaven.’ It is true that God hears our prayers. But this promise applies to the issue of discipline discussed in verses 15-17. The ‘two of you’ is referring back to the two or three of the witnesses involved earlier in the disciplining process. It is not a guarantee of answered prayers based on the two individuals agreeing on. [The practice of believers joining together in prayer is good and biblically sound practice, but this verse is not teaching it. I will quote David Jeremiah’s comments at the end as further explanation].

To interpret them as promising believers a blank check for anything they might agree to ask God for, no matter how sinful or foolish, not only does not fit the context of church discipline, but it denies the rest of Scripture, especially the sovereignty of God and the many commands for believers’ obedient submission to His will, not the other way around.

“In addition, to believe that when “two or three are gathered” to pray, some kind of magical power boost is automatically applied to our prayers is nonsense. Of course Jesus is present when two or three pray, but He is equally present when a believer prays alone, even if that person is separated from others by thousands of miles. The misinterpretation of these verses shows us why it’s important to read and understand passages in their context and in the light of all of Scripture.” [Quoted from David Jeremiah on Prayer.]


Contd.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:46:05 PM Close
WHERE TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED TOGETHER ….. !!!

Now coming to verse 20 – the Jewish tradition requires at least 10 men to constitute a synagogue or even hold a public prayer. Here Christ is promising His presence in the midst of an even smaller number; two or three witnesses who gather in His name. What does ‘His name’ means? It means all that Jesus Christ is to us and His claims! When we recognize who He is - the King; the Savior; the Messiah; the Redeemer; the Son of God; we recognize His name.


The Lord is giving His blessings upon such a smaller unit of witnesses to impart disciplinary actions with the goal of restoration of the one who is being disciplined. Please note verse 18 – ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ The Lord is promising His consent upon the decisions, whether as imparting discipline or withdrawing discipline to such a group of people. But they do have an awesome responsibility of acting on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, for which they need to know the mind of our Lord.

Contd.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:46:31 PM Close
CHURCH DISCIPLINE - [A SIDE -NOTE]

Church disciples are to be taken with much care and prayer; it requires us to know the mind of the Lord. Often times we refuse to allow someone from participating from the Lord’s Supper without following the proper biblical steps. Unless a person is under such disciplinary action for severe on-going sin that had been addressed by the elders and yet the person is refusing to correct (eg. 1 Cor 5), the leadership has no right to refuse the participation from the Lord’s Supper. [Although I recognize there could be other serious issues; but any such issue had to be discussed following the pattern described and great deal of care given.] The leadership must be mindful that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who invited a believer to ‘do this in remembrance of Me’. With much concern/ sorrow let me say that in the past many [elders] have treated this as their private table.

Each believer has the awesome responsibility to examine himself (1 Cor 11) and then participate from the Lord’s Supper. The verse is not allowing a believer to examine and stay away from it. There is no provision given in the scripture except for cases like 1 Cor. 5 for the leadership of a local gathering to refuse participation from the Lord’s Supper. That too only after a formal disciplinary action is issued. Such action is taken with the ultimate goal of bringing the person back into fellowship.

Contd.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:46:59 PM Close
In order for a person to have full fellowship with the Lord, he / she must have clear conscience and fellowship with other believers and not harboring hatred, envy etc. This is an individual responsibility. Even if someone has offended me I must show graciousness and never should insist on having the other brother or sister apologize before participating from the Lord’s Supper. [Matt 5:23-24 & Matt 18:15] My only responsibility is to forgive and move on or resolve as Matt 18 teaches me so that my fellowship with the Lord would continue unhindered. If I cannot forgive someone then I do have a spiritual problem which I need to correct.

In the past there were incidents where the person was denied the Lord’s Supper for; wearing Jewelry, owning radios and televisions, keeping moustache etc. If owning a radio were to be a sin 45 yrs. ago it must be a sin even now. This is the reason why we need to anchor our decisions based on the expressed word of God and not on the whims and fancies of any individual believer.

Contd.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 12:47:29 PM Close
PRAY IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST’S NAME!! [ANOTHER SIDE-NOTE]

“Prayer in Jesus Christ’s name is taught in John 14:13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Some mistakenly apply this verse by believing that saying “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer results in God always granting what is asked for. This is essentially treating the words “in Jesus’ name” as a magic formula. This is absolutely unbiblical!

Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus' name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify Jesus.

Saying, “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer is not a magical formula. If what you asked for or said in prayer was not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying “In Jesus’ name” is meaningless. Genuinely praying in Jesus' name and for His glory is what is important, not attaching certain words to the end of a prayer. It is not the words in the prayer that matter, but the purpose behind the prayer. Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name.” [David Jeremiah]

Regards,

Tom J

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Reply by : hanleymathews   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 1:33:57 PM Close
Dear brother TomJ,

Quote "It is true that God hears our prayers. But this promise applies to the issue of discipline discussed in verses 15-17. The ‘two of you’ is referring back to the two or three of the witnesses involved earlier in the disciplining process. It is not a guarantee of answered prayers based on the two individuals agreeing on."

Thank you for your exposition. I would like to express my perspective on v19. I feel the use of the word 'again' at the beginning of v19 makes that statement stand out on "its own right" and can be interpreted in and out of context. It seems that the Lord is suggesting a general principle.

I feel, that when two Spirit filled individuals agree on something, it is the work of none other than the Lord. It is the Lord leading them to work His will. Otherwise, it is generally not possible for two to agree on anything, since all of us are intrinsically different. But acting under the control of God's Spirit, it is possible (I dare say, ONLY under the Spirit's control) for two to agree. Thus, if two agree on ANYTHING (meaning as lead by God's Spirit) and they pray about it, God WILL answer that prayer POSITIVELY. Of course, it does not imply that God will answer immediately, but He will do so in His perfect time.

Quote "We gave this verse an honorary status such as the ‘minimum requirement for a quorum’ for a meeting."

I too have heard this verse(v20) used to express a supposed contentment at our diminished gatherings, being assured of the Lord's presence. However, I feel most "knowledgeable believers" are using the verse sometimes with a sense of humor. But mostly many, when quoting this verse, are trying to fight dejection and brave the sad reality of diminished attendance in weekly meetings, taking courage in the Lord's promise to be with them, even if only 2 or 3 show up. Again, I feel v20 also, can be interpreted in and out of context.

Hanley.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 2:15:06 PM Close
Dear Hanley,

I agree with what you wrote in a general sense; although I have to say, anything that is interpreted out of context cannot communicate the intended meaning the author had meant to communicate.

In my introductory comments I pointed out-

"So we have a verse here that is applicable to all of the above and carries a wonderful message of God’s unfailing promises. Yet this verse, I believe is wrenched out of its context. So, the main focus of the verse is not brought out and applied as it should be. Other pertinent, yet peripheral truths are established at the cost of overlooking the main focus."

Regards,

Tom J

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 3:25:02 PM Close
Dear Hanley,

Let me add few more thoughts in this regard.

You wrote – ” I feel the use of the word 'again' at the beginning of v19 makes that statement stand out on "its own right" and can be interpreted in and out of context.”

‘Again’ or the word ‘palin’[GK] is used to express the following – ‘once more’; ‘repetition of the action’; ‘further’; ‘more over’.

With any such meanings it would be very difficult to see that the Lord was recalling a previous teaching. The context requires us to look at the preceding verses to see what the word ‘again’ means.

It seems to be reiterating a principle that is being addressed within an immediate past and its application rather than pointing to a previous discussion which we do not have a record, per se.

Further more, the Lord has recalled to our attention the OT principle; ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ [Deut 17:6] Considering all these, just because there is the word ‘again’ would not give us the allowance to move out of its immediate context.

Regards,

Tom J

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Reply by : hanleymathews   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 4:03:33 PM Close
Dear brother Tom,

We definitely cannot over-stress the importance of interpreting with-in context. It definitely goes without saying and hand-in-hand with any proper biblical teaching and understanding.

My point was that these verses have a out-of-context aspect AS WELL. And we as a brethren church (I dare say, rightfully) cherish this latter aspect more than the interpretation within context. Would't you agree dear brother?

Also, I did a look up on the word 'again' or the corresponding GK 'palin', in similarly constructed verses. Two stand out: Matt 4:8 and Matt 26: 42. It seemed to me that in both cases, the gospel writer, was calling attention to something new or different from what was discussed in the adjoining context.

I am not trying to be contentious, but I am praising God for the spiritual gift of exposition you uphold in this forum. Thank you brother.

Hanley.

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 31 Jul 2007 5:57:33 PM Close
Dear Hanely,

What you wrote is true.

"And we as a brethren church (I dare say, rightfully) cherish this latter aspect more than the interpretation within context. Would't you agree dear brother?"

'Rightfully'- based on the overall teachings of the Bible, contextually it is not.

Let me bring out yet another reason/ example. Verse 17 -

"And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

Here the Lord telling the 'two or three' to report it to the church. That tells us clearly that these 'two or three' are not constituting the church and there is yet another larger group.

Again, what we believe is scriptural. Does this verse teach us that? I seriously doubt it.

Regards,

Tom J


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Reply by : George P. Koshy   View Profile   Since : 6 Aug 2007 9:16:35 AM Close
Dear Tom J,

It was good to read what you wrote. We usually forget that the verses in the Word of God need to be understood on its context, as well as it's spiritual meaning in connection with other vesres in the word of God.

Please allow me to add a word in connection with our prayers. You did point out that we should pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was He who asked for it. He is the only Mediator between man and God. This Man, Christ Jesus, is appointed as the only Mediator between man and God by God. If we submit anything to the Father ("Our Father" should be the beginning of our prayers) it should be through the Mediator. Any one who refuses to do so, refuses to admit that He is our Mediator who is appointed by God.

Shalom Malekim!!!

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Reply by : greatlybeloved   View Profile   Since : 6 Aug 2007 2:44:44 PM Close
Dear brother Koshy,

<<("Our Father" should be the beginning of our prayers)>>

This is an interesting comment. Should our prayers be addressed only to the Father or can we address to the Son as well?

Can you please comment on that with related verses if any?

Hope I am not diverting the topic, if you think this question does not belong in this thread, please let me know, I will open a new thread.

Regards,

John.

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Reply by : George P. Koshy   View Profile   Since : 6 Aug 2007 3:13:02 PM Close
Dear John,

What I was thinking about:
Matthew 6:6
Matthew 6:9
Luke 11:2
John 16:23
...

As the disciples prayed to the Lord, we could pray to the Lord. He is God. Not only that, He is the Mediator and our Paraclete before the Father. He is also the Leader of our faith. His name is exalted above all.

Shalom Malekim!!!

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