About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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Where Two Or Three Are Gathered


"Where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them (Matthew 18:20 NIV).  This is one often misunderstood and thus misappropriated Bible verse.  How often have you heard it said that even though there are just a few of us in attendance, Jesus is in our midst?  According to the context and the meaning of certain Greek words in this passage, allow me to suggest that Jesus wasn't talking about Him being present in a poorly attended Christian meeting.    


Jesus began this discussion in Matthew 18:15 through 17 where He addressed the issue of someone sinning against another.  He encouraged the offended party to confront his offender.  If things didn't get resolved the offended one should return with two or three others to rectify the situation.  If that didn't work, the whole assembly of believers should be consulted on the matter.  The point to this exercise is to restore the relationship that had been damaged by sin. 


With a restored relationship in mind, in verse 18 Jesus concluded that whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.  This too is misunderstood.  Jesus wasn't talking about binding and loosing demons as many think.  In context, He was talking about binding and loosing relationships that had been damaged by sin.  If the fractured relationship is restored, you've loosed the relationship that was bound by sin.  More importantly, heaven recognizes the restored relationship.  That's important because Jesus cannot function within His people effectively when He is obstructed by broken relationships that have been damaged by sin.


Verse 19 is also misunderstood.  Jesus said that if any two people "agree" about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by His Father.  The word "agree" is translated from the Greek verb "symphoneo", meaning "to sound together" (Greek "sun'" meaning "together" and "phone" meaning "a sound).  Note the resemblance to our English word "symphony".  A symphony is a musical composition that incorporates numerous musicians and various instruments that function together in harmonious fashion.  That's the intent of the Greek verb "symphoneo" and our English word "agree" in this verse.  The agreement spoken of here by Jesus isn't a couple of people agreeing on a prayer request, especially if the ones in agreement are divided relationally.  The agreement spoken of here is when a couple of people, as in a symphony, function in a harmonious relationship that has been loosed from the ravages of sin.               


I hate to tell you but verse 20 is also commonly misunderstood.  Jesus said that when two or three "come together" in my name, I'll be there.  The words "come together" are translated from the Greek word "synago" (synagoge in Hebrew).  The Greek word "synago" and the Hebrew word "synagoge" were associated with the place of worship known as a synagogue.  That being said, the underlying concept of these words had more to do with the worshippers than the place of worship.  These words incorporated the idea of people functioning in harmonious relationships.  Where the worshipers gathered to worship was secondary to the relationships of the worshippers.      


The words "in my name" in verse 20 cannot be overlooked.  These words mean that the two or three who function in relational harmony have both the authority and responsibility to act on behalf of Jesus in the process of implementing His will on earth.  Only under this situation will Jesus be found in their midst.  Jesus is not obligated to be in the midst of the two or three who act on their own behalf and implement their own plans.      


According to this passage, the mere fact that a couple of people agree on a prayer request doesn't guarantee an answered prayer.  Agreeing in this passage means that a couple of believers function in harmonious relationships within Christian community.  Only then can they anticipate answered prayers.  According to this passage, merely having two or three people in a poorly attended meeting doesn't guarantee that Jesus will be present in the meeting.  It's only when two or three believers function in relational harmony within Christian community that Jesus will be found, not just in their meetings, but more importantly, in their relationships.    



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