“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” Matt 8:20
I hear it when a small group of people has come together to meet. It’s mentioned most often around me when a small group of people pray. I’ve seen the verse written on Christian paraphernalia, t-shirts, wall-art, that sort of thing. It’s even written on the wall at my local church. I’ve loved the verse and all it means for as long as I can remember. The only problem is it has nothing to do with what we think it does.
Context can teach us many things and in this case, it can shed new light on an old promise. I’ve always thought the verse meant that I knew without a doubt that God was with me when I prayed in a group. But we already know that God is listening to us whether we pray alone or in a group of a ten thousand. If this is the case then we might be misunderstanding the truest meaning of the text. Let’s take a look at the passage in which our verse can be found.
Matthew Chapter 18 verses 15-20
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
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.
19 “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.
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
As you can tell this is a familiar passage for many of us. It’s when Jesus is telling the disciples how to deal with sin. Pay attention to what’s mentioned in verse 16 and 20. The same phrase of 2 or 3 is used in both places and both verses are clearly speaking about the same topic.
You see, the same 2 or 3 are mentioned in verse 20 as a reference to verse 16. This means that the group of 2 or 3 people in verse 20 is gathered together because they are following Jesus’ advice on how to deal with sin. The verse is a promise of God’s presence but the promise is made for when we are dealing with sin.
This means if you find yourself in a situation when you are dealing with sin and have come to the step where you need 2 or 3 witnesses that God promises to be with you in the middle of that issue and that is a beautiful promise. I know that when I’m dealing with the difficulties of someone else’s sin that God will be by my side.
Perhaps it is a small difference, but it’s a comfort to me to know God will be at my side when I’m dealing with the hurt and pain inflicted on me. And when I hurt others, I know He will be with them as they point out my sin.
It’s just one more piece of the perfect character of our God. Rest in peace, as you know that God’s promises to be by your side, especially when the going gets tough.
Johnathan Coker is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently a teacher at Chisholm Trail Academy.