For where two or three are gathered in my name, there are I am among them. Matthew 18:20.
As a pastor with a deep passion for Bible reading, I discovered that this is one of the most
misquoted verses in the Bible. Having attended numerous Bible study groups over the years, I
hear some spiritual leaders quoting this verse when they have a small gathering to encourage
their followers that the Lord is among them despite their numbers. As a theologian with an
extensive background in biblical studies, I understand that this is not the actual meaning of the
verse since the verse is about conflict resolution. I believe that it is important for every Christian
to understand the meaning of Matthew 18: 20 to avoid misusing it.
I wrote this article to uncover the actual meaning of this verse. In this post, I will cover how
people interpret it and explain the context of Matthew 18:20. Join me in this exploration and
discover how to apply this verse today by the end of this article. Here is more!
How People Interpret Matthew 18:20
According to some people, the verse shows the divinity of Jesus Christ. Some Christians assume that this verse shows that the father is Omnipresent by His spirit. The disciples used these words to encourage themselves that Jesus was among them if they gathered in his name after he ascended to heaven.
Some scholars believe that this verse highlights the value of communion with Christ and also encourages Christians to meet together to pray. You may have heard a pastor in a small prayer meeting quoting this verse to encourage the congregation that they don’t have to be a huge crowd for God to listen to them.
Based on this verse alone, Christians believe that Jesus is not a slave of numbers. This interpretation can raise questions like what if a person is praying alone? Does this mean that Jesus is not in his presence? However, it is not right to interpret the meaning of Mathew 18:20 by focusing on this verse alone.
Other Christians take this verse out of context to mean that when a few people make the same prayer, then God is likely to answer it. This theology is not correct, and it can lead to spiritual abuse. It makes us wonder, does it mean that God cannot answer the prayer of one person?
The Context of Matthew 18:20
For you to understand the true meaning of Matthew 18:20, it is important to look at the verses before that. Before where two or more are gathered, the Bible says that if someone wrongs you, you should approach him directly.
If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not hear you, you should take witnesses with you. If he still does not listen, you should approach the church and if he does not listen even to the church, you should treat him as a tax collector or pagan. This is according to Matthew 18: 15-17
So from the verses that come right before where two or more are gathered, you can tell that the topic that Jesus is talking about is not about the presence of God in a church gathering.
Meaning of Matthew 18:20
Jesus is explaining how Christians should handle conflicts with others. This passage is what is known as church discipline. This refers to the process of correcting sinful behavior among the church body to renew fellowship among the church members and restore the sinner.
The book of Matthew 18 is about how Christians should deal with sin in the church. According to Jesus’ teachings, the process begins with confronting the guilty party directly rather than gossiping to others about the person that has sinned.
The Bible then says that if he hears you, you have gained a brother since the issue is likely to be resolved. You may also have gained him because you did not go to others gossiping about him but approached him directly.
It then goes further to say that if he does not hear you, take with you one or more witnesses. The verse Matthew 18: 16 is in line with Deuteronomy 19: 15, which says that one witness is not enough in conflict resolution. Two or three witnesses should bring a charge against the person since they can help in settling a difference.
If the person refuses to repent, Jesus advised Christians to present the issue to the church. If they still do not repent, the church should remove them from the church. Matthew 18: 18 then gives Christians an assurance that if they follow this process, God is working on it. In this verse, Jesus says that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth shall be lost in heaven.
Then verse 20 is the encouragement that comes at the end of these instructions. It is the final assurance that if you follow this process, then Jesus is with you. If the church was keen on the instructions that Jesus gave in the book of Matthew, then solving problems would be easier.
Christians can also apply this verse when dealing with conflict in workplaces. Jesus did not say that if someone wrongs you, you should strike back and get even. Instead, he lays out the procedure that you should take to reconcile with the person. This verse also teaches Christians the importance of not avoiding difficult conversations with people who have wronged them.
Closing Thoughts on the Meaning of Matthew 18:20
Matthew 18:20 talks about how Christians should deal with sin in the church. It is an encouraging verse that assures believers that if they follow the instructions that Jesus gave about conflict resolution, then he will be with them.
Unfortunately, some Christians misinterpret this verse to mean Jesus is present even in small church gatherings. This interpretation is wrong since Jesus is present even if one person prays alone. Now that you understand the true meaning of Matthew 18:20, you now know the right process to follow when someone wrongs you.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.