There is a running joke in my house that our County Judge Executive always seems to be present where “two or three are gathered” because he always attends any sort of public event, regardless of the crowd. We laugh because it’s often true.
However, I’ve also heard this verse to justify small gatherings of Christians, very small gatherings. If two or three Christians show up for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting or Bible Study, this verse gets pulled out of context and employed to justify our own presence at the meeting, sometimes with an eye of condemnation for those that failed to show up.
So what does this verse mean? So in the context of Matthew 18, it is the subject of judgment within the church if someone has sinned against you, you are to confront them personally with the sin. If they are not repentant, you are to bring them before the elders, and if not then, before the whole church. If as a church, such a one does not repent, then such a person is to be excommunicated and withdrawn from the fellowship. The idea is that if even two or three are witness to this unrepentance and approving of the excommunication, Jesus is also present, as this unity of decision indicates the presence and agreement of Jesus. The passage is far darker than we usually see applied. It is a hard passage to interpret, and I’ve only given one of a few possibilities. But in short, it seems where two or three are gathered, they may act in unison and pass judgment in the name of Jesus.
It’s funny that this is not the style of church judgment we see employed by the apostle Paul, who in Galatians 2 confronted Peter publicly for refusing to be seen with Gentiles after certain Jews showed up. Peter’s sin was public, so Paul confronted him in kind. There were no private meetings behind closed doors. Public sins have to be addressed publicly?
On the one hand we have Jesus’ explicit teaching. On the other we have Apostolic example. There is something here that may get into another time, but we have enough today to get you to thinking. There are other examples, like 3 John where John tells the church to be rid of a person who was causing trouble. We have 1 Cor 5 where Paul demands the removal of a person living in public sin.
The is probably a book about this somewhere. Remember that this verse is more than about the size of gatherings or about when Jesus shows up.
God bless you and your walk today.