About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Where Two Or Three Are Gathered


Matthew 18:20 reads:


"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."


Matthew 18:20 is a popular but often misunderstood verse in the evangelical church.  We quote it to support those attending poorly attended meetings, but was Jesus talking about small gatherings of believers? 


Our secular culture's influence on us has cultivated the notion that bigger is better.  Four people gathered together are better than three, one hundred better than fifty, a mega church better than a tiny country church.  Based on the context of Matthew 18:20, the Greek text, and the language Jesus spoke, I believe this verse has little to nothing to do with church meetings. 


The context of Matthew 18:20 begins in verse 15 where Jesus addressed the issue of restoring broken relationships among His people.  He continued by saying this, as seen in verse 18.


"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."


Contextually speaking, the word "bind" in verse 18 is in reference to binding or restoring broken relationships.  If a broken relationship is bound together on earth, according to Jesus, there is a corresponding response in heaven.  Relational harmony among God's people on earth, then, relates to heaven being able to accomplish God's will among us.  Relational discord inhibits heaven from effectively working among us.    


Verse 19 goes on to say this:


"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven."


In context, the word "agree" in verse 19 is in reference to two people successfully mending their broken relationship.  More basic to two people agreeing on a prayer request is their relational agreement.  Further to this, we derive our English word "symphony" from the Greek word "symphoneo" that is translated as "agree" in this verse.  Symphoneo consists of two Greek words meaning "to sound" and "together."  The agreement Jesus had in mind was a relational sounding together of lives, as musical instruments harmoniously blend together in an orchestral symphony.  When relational harmony exists in church, requests asked in accordance to Jesus' plans will be granted.  If there is relational discord but agreement on prayer requests, our Father is not obligated to grant our requests, and thus one reason for our unanswered prayers.    


In Matthew 18:20 the Hebrew word "synago" was inserted into the Greek text and then translated as "gathered together" in our English text.  Synago was understood by the Jews to mean a community of people existing in right relationship with God and with each other.  Such people did meet together but their meetings were to be birthed from harmoniously relating to God and each other.  This is what Matthew 18:20 is all about.  It has little to do with church meetings.  Matthew 18:20 has everything to do with as little as two or three believers maintaining harmonious relationships so Jesus can effectively minister among them and through them. 


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