What's so Special about Two or Three Together?

by Bill Ireland

Text: Matthew 18:15–20

This website takes its name from the remarkable statement of Jesus in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst" (NASB)

Itís the only place in the Bible that these words are recorded, so it might seem an odd passage to base a groupís identity on. In truth, itís one of those profound passages that open a window to a bright, mysterious realm beyond our ability to understand. As our eyes flinch from a sudden bright light, so these words have dazzled many readers who struggled to explain their meaning.

Some commentators have pointed out that this verse occurs in a discussion about settling personal disputes, and its interpretation should be restricted to that context:

And if your brother sins (some manuscripts add "against you"), go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. (Matt. 18:15)

These last words are a direct quote from Deuteronomy 19:15, which warns against relying on just one personís testimony in weighing an accusation. That reference would have been obvious to the disciples, who were steeped in the Torah.

Jesus then confers on his hearers an awesome authority:

Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)

This also would have resonated with the apostles. According to Clarkeís Commentary on the Bible:

... Binding signified, and was commonly understood by the Jews at that time to be, a declaration that any thing was unlawful to be done; and loosing signified, on the contrary, a declaration that any thing may be lawfully done. Our Savior spoke to his disciples in a language which they understood, so that they were not in the least at a loss to comprehend his meaning ...

So how would they have interpreted this declaration? And how should we? Jesus had just conferred the same power to bind and loose on Peter a few verses before. Was it now to be extended to all believers? Or just the twelve apostles? Or, as some nervous commentators insist, only to "qualified ministers"? Opinions vary. But Jesus didnít back away from the implications of His words. In the very next verse he doubles down:

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 18:19)

The context has now expanded from settling personal disputes to "anything" his disciples might ask for. Thatís a pretty broad canvas. Jesus then explains why a small group of two or three believers should have such awesome power in their grasp:

For where two or more have gathered together In my name, there I am in their midst.

Heís there, whether we sense Him or not! So, our decisions, whether settling personal disputes or much larger issues, are guided by His presence—as long as weíve gathered in His name.

This statement also echoes a common Jewish saying that wherever two sit together and share the words of the Torah, the Shechinah (manifest presence of God) dwells among them. By invoking this familiar adage and putting Himself in the place of the manifest presence of God, Jesus was clearly giving the disciples a clue to His true identity.

So what does all this mean for us? It should surely boost the confidence of any congregation that doesnít qualify as a megachurch. If Heís there, we donít need a massive membership roster to be relevant. Itís even more pertinent to house churches, which thrive on, even celebrate, smallness.

We can gather together with great expectations that He will manifest Himself—and devote ourselves to exploring the depths of what it means to gather in His name .

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