Today I want to briefly untwist Matthew 18:20.
I had heard for years that this scripture meant that you needed to pray with brothers and sisters in Christ for your prayer to be really effective. When I first learned the context of this verse I felt like the confusion was benign. What did it really hurt that church folk over-romanticized this?
After focusing on this, the longer I thought about it the more concerned it made me. There are two problems with getting this verse wrong. But first, what is it actually about?
The context of this verse is actually church discipline, when someone has backslid, brothers and sisters lovingly need to help pull one another out of sin.
First, you take your brother aside if they won’t listen bring two or three if they still won’t repent you bring them before the church. If they refuse to repent when the matter is shown them the third time, that is when they need to be removed from the congregation. Again, the heart is important, this needs to be done in love with a deep concern for the souls of the congregation and the individual in sin.
So, what’s the big deal about getting this verse wrong? First, suggesting that this verse means Christ is only with us when two or three are gathered is clearly a contradiction of other verses that say God is omnipresent. It also seems to say that we can manipulate God into doing what we want, so long as we say the prayer the right way.
The second and a more concerning point is the church disciple that is neglected. As churches move to watered down gospels, church discipline has disappeared. Due to this, many of the true believers are being hurt by the sinful conduct of false converts. True believers are also being neglected by church leadership, whose responsibility it is to confront sin.
Lastly, we need to remember that God’s Word is holy, it must at all times be treated as such. God’s Word is a light unto our path, let’s not muffle that light! Take the full counsel friends, not twisted scriptures used out of context to make things more comfortable.