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Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:18-20


Where Two or Three are Gathered Together



1.  Our text, Matthew 18:20, is often used to assure the Lord's presence whenever Christians are together in a spiritual work.

  a.  If that work is sanctioned by the apostolic word, then we heartily agree, Jno. 14:23-24.

  b.  If that work is sanctioned only upon the premise that 2-3 Christians are acting in tandem, then that is not what this verse says.



  A.  Broader Context: Forgiveness in the Kingdom. Matt. 18:15-35

    1.  Forgiveness of a sinning brother, 18:15-17.

    2.  Authorization for forgiving or retention of sins, 18:18-20.

    3.  Nature and breadth of forgiveness, 18:21-35.

  B.  Immediate Context: Heaven's Authority Concerning the Forgiveness and Retention of Sins, Matt. 18:18-20.

    1.  Almost verbatim what Jesus earlier told Peter in Matt. 16:19.

    2.  Note the future perfect indicative...a state of completion.[1]


II.  APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY, Matt. 18:18-20 (16:19, kingdom entry).

  A.  Apostolic Authority Expresses what has Already been Established in Heaven, 18:18.

    1.  God's word is settled in heaven (stands firm), Psa. 119:89.

    2.  Apostles did not make things up "on the fly"; By revelation they spoke God's commands, 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 14:37.

    3.  They did not have an apostolic council to decide truth (Acts 15).

    4.  Any other rendering of this passage makes heaven subservient to the wishes and will of men.

      a.  Not a passage on heaven's response to prayer (1 Jno. 5:14-15).

      b.  Verse 19: Agreement (symphony) is with heaven in order to accomplish heaven's purpose - not that men agree together and therefore heaven is pleased.

    5.  Verse 20: Gathered together "in my name": Must be positive authority for what is done by "two or three" gathered together.

  B.  Context: The Forgiveness and Retention of Sins, 18:15-17.

    1.  Heaven's will concerning binding/loosing of sins is applied on earth through the apostles' teaching, Acts 2:42 (Jno. 16:13).

      a.  Apostolic authority concerning forgiveness, Jno. 20:21-23.

      b.  Apostolic authority concerning walking orderly, 2 Thess. 3:6-7.

    2.  By following apostles we do heaven's will by heaven's authority.

      a.  True of "whatever you do", since all the NT Scriptures come from the apostles and prophets of Christ, Col. 3:17.

      b.  Heaven's truth was revealed to and preached by the apostles.



  A.  It does not Define the Local Church as Wherever "Two or Three are Gathered Together", cf. 18:16-17.

    1.  The local church is "the multitude of the disciples" at a given place, not a part thereof, Acts 6:2.

    2.  Local church is the "whole body", not some of its members, 1 Cor. 12:12, 14, 19-20, 27.

  B.  It does not Give the Local Church (or any part thereof) Authority to Establish Truth for Itself, 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8-9.

    1.  Matt. 18:18-20 does not give the local church the right to establish its own authority to do its work. (That is perversion of the independence and autonomy of local church.)

    2.  The truth of the gospel defines the parameters of doctrine and practice, not each church, Gal. 2:5; Col. 3:17.

  C.  It does not Describe Members of a Local Church as Agents of the Local Church (acting on behalf of/in place of the local church).

    1.  Ex. Taking the Lord's Supper to members unable to assemble with the church.

*  2.  Must first be apostolic authority for the action before we may confidently do it with God's approval.

    3.  Authority exists for the church coming together to break bread, Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17, 20, 33.

*  4.  Where is the authority for 2-3 to act as agents of the church to take the supper where the church does not "come together to eat"?

  D.  It does not Teach that Jesus is with us Regardless of what we Do. (cf. 2 Jno. 9)

    1.  "In my name" - With and by His authority (Acts 4:7).

    2.  We are His brothers and sisters if we do the will of the Father, Matt. 12:46-50.



1.  The local church (as well as individuals) may only act with heavenís approval when Bible authority exists.

2.  The apostles have revealed heaven's authority to us, 2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:13.

  a.  How the kingdom is entered, how sins are forgiven, and all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

  b.  Enter the kingdom by heaven's authority now.


[1] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 16:19). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.




By: Joe R. Price

Posted: July 7, 2015