Matthew 18:20 : “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I amongst them” (8 Mar 2020)

Time and again, we often hear this phrase verse being uttered in a small prayer meeting or amongst a small group of gathered believers, or even in a worship setting!

I personally grew up thinking that this verse refers to the fact that God is amongst us when two or three are gathered in His name. I came across and read in many books which also alluded to the same of this verse.

I believe I got it wrong! In fact, this verse sits in an important passage covering Matthew 18:18-20, wherein it teaches us the Lord’s encouragement for practicing discipline, instructing how the church should deal with sin.

It must have been apparent to Him that in the days to come the church would find it difficult to follow His instructions about discipline. And hence, he appended these strong words to the commands and directions concerning the matter.

Christ’s presence in the process should be mentioned whenever a discipline session looks discouraging. He promises to be there presumably to work to bring about His will in the case. When discipline has been properly and fully pursued in obedience to Jesus, then we may be assured that the outcome is correct.

Verse 18 then gives assurance that, when this process is followed, God is working in it: “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.”

And verses 19–20 give a final assurance: “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.”

In all three verses, there is strong assurance that the church will not have to “go it alone” when properly exercising discipline. Yet we know that churches everywhere are fearful to follow God’s Word. In Rev 3:19 “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”. Christ’s loving care over the churches is evidenced in His discipline of them.

It’s such an irony! We often discipline our own children; school teachers discipline students under their charge if they step out of bounds; in the military, we are reminded of discipline day in and day out, etc, etc. But when we are asked to come under the authority of God, how often we see ourselves repelling against all the good disciplines that God so desire for us!

It is good to read the Word and to read it diligently and carefully. There may be times that we get it wrong. But God promises wisdom for those who ask of Him.

Recently, a booklet entitled “How to read the Bible for all its worth”, written  by Gordon Fee, has been given to each of our small groups. A copy can also be found in our Emmaus Library. May God help us to enjoy the studying and reading of His Word daily and make us good workmen of His instructions!


Elder Andrew Lim

Ref: Handbook of church discipline (Jay Adams)