What does the “Where two or more are gathered” passage mean?

“I know God doesn’t require 2 or more gathered to hear our prayers. I have heard some say during prayer “where 2 or more are gathered in your name, there you are also.” The only scripture I could find close to that was in Matthew 18:15-20 which speaks to church discipline. Could you clarify this? Thanks.” –Tammy

Great question! This has to do with hermeneutics, context, and rightly interpreting a passage.

I have heard this verse quoted many times, yet I have never heard it quoted in the proper context. You are correct in your identification of the verse. I have heard it used in the context of church attendance. When few people show up the pastor says, “Where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there with them.” While, granted, that is a true statement, it is not what the verse saying.

Many times people will read one verse and not pay attention to the immediate context nor the grander context of the passage. They will then draw conclusions and interpretations from that single verse which leads to a failure to rightly interpret the text. This is dangerous and where false belief and even heresy can creep in.

I advise people to approach the Bible with this question in mind: “What did the original author intend this to mean, and how can I apply it to my life?” Sadly many Christians approach the Bible with, “What does this passage mean to me?” You could have twenty different answers and none of them be the actual meaning of the text.

This is called Hermeneutics. It is the discipline of seeking the proper interpretation of a text. To properly interpret a text, context is important.

You are correct with the context of the passage. The verse is said in the context of church discipline. It is not in the context of prayer nor is it in the context of people gathering for worship.

I have attached an excerpt from the New American Commentary, written by Craig Blomberg that hopefully will shed some light on the interpretation of the passage.

Sadly, these verses have often been taken out of context and misused. It ought to be obvious that God regularly does not fulfill a promise like that of v. 19 if it is interpreted as his response to any kind of request. In this context v. 19 simply restates the theme of v. 18. The word for any “thing” (pragma) is a term frequently limited to judicial matters. Here Jesus reiterates that actions of Christian discipline, following God’s guidelines, have his endorsement. This remains true even if they come from a very small fellowship, including but not limited to the “two or three” gathered in vv. 15–16. “My Father in heaven” links back with vv. 10–14 and nicely balances “two of you on earth.” God is of course omnipresent, but he is uniquely present in every Christian gathering as his Spirit indwells believers. In context v. 20 then assures God’s blessings on action properly taken to try to reconcile believers to one another (as in vv. 15–18). “I am with them” parallels “it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Jesus implicitly equates himself with God and promises his continuing spiritual presence in the church after his death. Echoes of the Immanuel theme of 1:23 (God with us) reverberate.” (Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, pp. 280–281). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Thanks for asking!

Jacob

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