Where Two or Three Are Gathered . . . or One?

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

In Matthew 18:20 we find one of the most frequently quoted Bible verses: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst.” I don’t know about you, but this verse has always bothered me. “Isn’t Jesus in the midst of just one person?”

Verses like this need to be understood within their context. Whenever we use language outside of its context it is inevitable that errors will occur and the meaning and intent could be misconstrued or misunderstood. Such was the case with a 23-year-old woman who was institutionalized in 1921 at the Philadelphia State Hospital for what doctors believed to be incoherent babbling. Forty-eight years later it was revealed that Catherine Yasinchuk was Ukrainian, and the babbling sounds were actually words spoken in her native language!

In the same way Christians often misinterpret the truth that Jesus taught in Matthew 18. The text reveals that Matthew 18 is dealing with a brother who sins and requires discipline. The first step is to confront the offender privately. If they won’t listen, then they should take one or two witnesses to substantiate the evidence.

In the Old Testament, there were times when God called upon heaven and earth to be His two witnesses against sinning Israel. In Revelation 11 God sends His two witnesses for the last judgment upon the earth. In Matthew 18 Jesus is explaining to the church that wherever there are two or three witnesses, God acts as an extra witness in the midst of them, thus binding the judgment.

Oh, may we become like Bereans of Acts 17 who received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.


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