Daily Reading: (Matthew 18:20):
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
You must have heard this before, but where? Not in a sermon typically. Perhaps when you were praying with other believers. What many have done is to take this verse to mean is that prayer with more people means an increase in the likely to gain God’s attention. This is not what Jesus is talking about here.
The truth of this passage is really good news because while it is powerful and important to pray together, in my greatest times of need, when an emergency situation arises, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of calling everyone over for a middle of the night prayer. Does that mean that when I pray by myself, God is not with me or will hear me? Does it mean that my prayer will be less powerful when I cry out to God alone and in distress? Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount the following:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Do I need at least two or three people, should I just always pray in secret, by myself? Obviously, context is important but the simple answer is. Pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17) with others and by yourself.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the greatest and most simple instruction for prayer. When should I pray…always! How should I pray? Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Pastor Matt I am supposed to give thanks in a bad diagnosis at the doctors office. How does that work? You aren’t giving thanks for the cancer because that is not from God. Thank Him that He is your Prince of Peace, and that His peace will arise in you and still the storms in your life. Thank God for being in the situation with you. Thank you for His divine healing made available to you in Jesus’ name.
Pray always with other believers whose prayers can bring encouragement and comfort and also pray by yourself. God hears you and is with you and your prayers are powerful with or without others. “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16).
So, going back to our original text- what is up with that statement that when there are two or three gathered that Jesus says He is with them? Jesus is not saying we need to have three people to be with us in prayer in order for it to be worth Jesus time to show up. Did you know that in Matthew 18:20 Jesus wasn’t talking about prayer?It wouldn’t make sense if He was.
So, what was Jesus talking about if it wasn’t about prayer? In Matthew 18, He’s referring to an important part of Old Testament Law, the part about church discipline.
Jesus is explaining that if you have an issue with someone in the church…
- Talk to him or her privately about it.
- If they don’t want to hear it…Take two or three believers with you
*The heart of this approach is restoration.
You know there is a chance he/she might not even be aware of the wrong they did. The word fault here is the Greek word (elegchō) meaning bring to light, expose it (privately). Bring the Word of God, who is the Light of the World into their situation to bring them to repentance, a change a mind about what they’ve done and are doing. If they listen to you, you have won them over. This is a Greek metaphor which means you have helped them escape from evil. You helped them from continuing to sin in that area and sin is destructive and it not only hurts them it hurts others as well.
“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. 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. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:18-20).
Jesus is giving His disciples instruction (Matthew 18:1) about restoring someone who has gone astray (verses 12-14), and offering forgiveness (verses 23-35), and in between these parables of the wandering sheep and unmerciful servant, how the process of reconciliation works (verses 15-20). God assures us that as we go through the process of bringing our brother or sister in Christ back into the fold of the church, God will be a part of it and bless us for it.
I know that ultimately we want to put a number on how many times we should be willing to go through this process with someone. How many times if someone has wronged us should we extend forgiveness? That is what Peter is thinking and asks and that might be your next question too.
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
70×7= 490. 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who chose not to forgive will live a less than abundant life or incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross.
When it comes to forgiveness toward an offender remember how greatly and how much you have been forgiven.