For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
One of the most abused Scriptures, out of many, is Matthew 18:20. This verse is used so often as a verse that proves that the Holy Spirit is present “when two or three are gathered.”
OR, when there is a small group of people who are gathered together. They can make the claim that if you have two or three together, that constitutes a tangible gathering. After all, “the more the merrier,’ or so they say! First of all, one would have to define who “they” are. Where did “they” have the final say?
There are so many aspects regarding this topic, but I merely want to look at the overall judicial aspect of it.
There is a mentality in “churchianity” that indeed does claim that great success is in how many people are gathered, which shows that God is on the move there.
Yet, this is not even close to the truth. Let’s look at the context:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 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 together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:15-20)
It is quite evident, by the context, that a worship service, or prayer gathering is not the object of the passage at hand. The passage is judicial in nature. Another words, Jesus speaks regarding to dealing with an accusation of a brother. Two or three witnesses are needed to avoid false accusations.
This is trans-dispensational truth, which even our civil laws in the United States are, or should be, based upon.
Let’s look back for a moment:
In dealing with wrongful sacrifices, we find in Deuteronomy 17:6:
At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. (Deuteronomy 17:6)
Deuteronomy 19:15 deals with land disputes between neighbors:
One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15)
Deuteronomy 19:16-21 addresses the false witness. I’ll leave that as a homework assignment, though.
When addressing the Corinthian church, and those critical of his apostleship, Paul reminded them of those who had witnessed his ministry first hand. The same principle applies:
This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2 Corinthians 13:1)
Paul had the following to say to Timothy:
Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:19)
Sadly, elders of churches do indeed sin. Others are wrongfully charged with sin, having just one witness. Even in denominations that we are not part of, have this problem. Emotions, and opinion so often drive accusations, rather than the TRUTH. Paul actually gives the proper guidelines in this situation. We continue in his instructions to Timothy:
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. (1 Timothy 5:20-21)
The Word of God is without partiality. The only partiality a steward of the Word of God should have is a partiality to the very literal words of Scripture. We find this nugget of wisdom from James 3:
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
Bob Picard Pastor, God’s Grace Bible Church Millbury, Massachusetts