One of the awesome and amazing qualities of God is his omnipresence. He is everywhere at the same time. I think most Christians would agree on this quality of God. Whether we act like it or not. This is why I find it surprising that so many people seem to blindly accept the misinterpretation of Matthew 18:20.

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

Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

This verse is commonly used by people in prayer gatherings and by preachers of different denominations to encourage (?) the people that God is there in their midst. There’s nothing inherently wrong with reminding each other that God is with us wherever we go. I do wonder how the misapplication of this verse might impact those who think God isn’t with them if they are by themselves.

This verse is taken out of context a lot. In or out of context, we must realize that God is omnipresent. We don’t need to be in the presence of other believers to have God with us. Therefore, when we consider this truth, we might then ask: “what does this verse mean if it doesn’t mean that God is only there when two or three gather?”

When we realize God is always with us, we are on the way to understanding that Matthew 18:20 isn’t telling us that he’s only with us when there are two or more of us together. This leads to examining the context. The context here has to do with offense and sin in the church. This starts with Matthew 18:15.

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.

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)

This has to do with this verse from the Old Testament.

One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (NIV)

When we get to 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” (NIV), we are still in the context that started in verse 15 (dealing with someone who sinned against another Christian). However, Jesus says the same thing to Peter in Matthew 16:19, so we know that it extends beyond the offense in verse 15. Therefore, we can apply it to other situations beyond offense.

We are still within the context of verse 15 as we read verse 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.”

Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

However, people still take this verse out of context, entertaining the idea that if two or three people ask for something from God, God has to do it. Let’s consider this; If God were beholden by his own word to answer any unified prayer with two or more people praying it, then people could ask for any unholy thing and have it be done. This is entirely against God’s will.

Now, we can look at verse 20 within the context I just described. We can see that the two or three who gather together are in reference to the person who sinned in verse 15 and have Jesus’ agreement on treating the believer as a tax collector or pagan.

I’m not going to discuss it today, but the topic introduced in verse 15, continues throughout the rest of Matthew 18. From Peter’s famous question to Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (21 NIV) through verse 35.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:35 (NIV)

This is the context within Scripture for Matthew 18:20. There was also a historical context wherein the Jews believed that gatherings of less than 10 people for worship were not enough. Therefore, Jesus’ reference to two or three people being sufficient, likely serves as a response to the notion that, for a Minyan, 10 people are required.

Verses like this can get by us for many reasons. One of those reasons could be that we don’t know the Bible because we don’t read it. If we don’t read it how can we know what it says? Another reason is that we get used to hearing it used incorrectly and don’t give it a second thought. While I don’t advocate stopping your pastor in the middle of service to ask what he means if he recites this verse. I’m certain that he’ll be happy to explain it to you if you ask him about it after the service. Your pastor is there to help you. Above all, read your Bible, pray, and ask God.

I hope that this day finds you well. Thanks for stopping by!

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be free from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.