“Jesus says, for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
– Matthew 18:20
All right, so I’ve got to be honest. I want to lead us to pray according to this text. But I also want to take advantage of an opportunity to correct, to point out, what is one of the most misinterpreted, misapplied verses, I think, in all the Bible. It is so common when I am in different worship gatherings for somebody to say in that worship gathering, “Well, we know that where two or three are gathered, Jesus is there. So we’ve got two or three here, we can know Jesus is here.”
Jesus promises to be with us as we call fellow church members to repentance.
Matthew 18:20: A Correction
I just want to encourage you. If you’ve ever said that, don’t say that again. Now think about it. Whenever I hear that, I think, “Well, what about when I was in my prayer closet alone this morning? Like, did that mean Jesus was waiting for somebody else to show up before He came into the picture?” How many people does it take for Jesus to show up at a prayer meeting? How about one? Jesus is not saying once you’ve got two or three together, count me in. Once you’ve got a quorum, I’ll be there. That’s not the point of this passage.
This Verse Reminds Us How to Confront a Brother or Sister in Christ
The point of this passage, this verse, Jesus has just spent time talking about the hard work of confronting a brother or sister who has sinned against you, and is unrepentant in that sin. If they keep turning from Christ toward that sin, and they’re showing themselves unrepentant to the point where Jesus sends the whole church after them to call them back to Christ. But it all starts with if they won’t listen to you personally, then take a couple of other people along and have that conversation. So when you get to Matthew 18:20, and Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” He is talking specifically about situations when a couple of people are confronting a brother or sister in unrepentant sin.
Jesus is saying this is not easy to do. I just want to remind you that when you do this, I am right there among you. I will help you do this. I’m calling my children back to myself, and you’re the way that I’m doing that. This is a promise from Jesus. When we are confronting sin in people’s lives, and doing this difficult work of church discipline, Jesus is saying when you do this, I’m right there with you. My presence will be with you in a unique and powerful way.
Asking For God’s Help When Confronting Fellow Believers
We pray, God, help us to do this difficult work of church discipline with the promise of your presence with us as we do. God, when it comes time to confront a brother or sister who has sinned against us, help us to do that with love, and mercy, and compassion, and understanding. Lord, we pray that if it’s necessary for us to then take someone else along, that you would help us together to do that with love, and compassion, grace, and mercy, and understanding. Even when it comes time for the whole church to carry out this process, help us to do that as a church with love, and grace, and compassion, mercy, understanding, all of these things that we see in this passage. Help us to do it with confidence in your presence.
God, we pray all of this so that our brother or sister who has been unrepentant in sin, might be brought to repentance, might be brought back to you. God, we want to see people restored to you, not going off in sin unrepentant. And God, we thank you. We thank you for your love for us, that if we were, if I was to, if any one of us praying right now was to wander off from you, that you have said you will send people after us to call us back to you. Thank you for your love, expressed in this picture of church discipline, and your promise specifically in this chapter to be with us as we call one another to repentance. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.