We interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast of our regular Elijah post for this thought!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:30
That, right there, is one of the most misapplied verses in all of Scripture. Only, “Judge not,” likely get turned around to mean something it doesn’t really mean more often. Almost without fail it is used to give credibility to some person’s desire to avoid serving with a local body of believers. As in, “I don’t need a church, because where two or three…blah, blah, blah.” I actually had a guy tell me once that he, his dog and the trees in the woods he liked to go to constituted the necessary two or three.
The point here is not to defend the many good reasons we ought to all gather with a local body of believers regularly; that is an entirely different subject and post. In fact, this verse actually has NOTHING to do with church, or the nature of church as an institution. Nothing at all.
In fact, if one considers that verse in those terms, it’s placement makes absolutely no sense at all. Just before it appears, we were talking about church discipline; just after we are talking about forgiveness. Why would that be in the middle all by itself? Answer…it’s NOT stuck in the middle all by itself! It belongs in and concludes the previous passage on church discipline.
Friends, this verse has serious implications in relation to church discipline. There are certainly many gray areas, and we ought not to be legalistic about those. On the other hand, there are things that are NOT gray. Jesus expects His churches to be composed of those striving to become holy as He is, and He expects us to hold one another accountable for our actions and help each other through a process of repentance and restoration when there is sin in the camp.
So, in this context, the words, “in my name,” mean under His authority and the authority of His Word. When we do that, He promises to be there with us. Of course, the flip side is the opposite is also true. If we gather and are not submitting to His authority and His Word, then frankly He won’t be with us. That’s a scary thought. If we, in our local assemblies refuse to submit to His authority by dealing with sin in the camp and working towards repentance and restoration then we may, in fact, cease to be a New Testament church. As He warned some of the churches in the Book of Revelation, He may come and take our candlestick.