God Wants More For You. So Do We.

Do Christians Need at Least 2 People for Jesus to be Present?

Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 16

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.
All right, welcome back to the podcast, everyone. We’re here with another episode and another
question. And the question for this episode is, do Christians need at least two people
for Jesus to be present? And that’s a good question, because that’s a phrase that gets
thrown around a lot today. It’s actually pretty common to hear. And the most common places
that you’ll hear this, really, are in the context of like a small gathering. So it could
be a small church gathering, like for a church service, it could be a prayer meeting, it
could be a Bible study. And what typically happens is a person will notice how small
the gathering is, and they’ll try to encourage others by saying something like, well, we
may be small in number, but that’s okay, because we know Jesus says, where two or three are
gathered in my name, there I am among them. And that sounds like a nice encouragement,
right? Like, I would be encouraged. I’ve been part of lots of small church gatherings. So
that is really encouraging. What’s not so encouraging is when you begin to follow that
statement to its logical conclusion, like, what if it’s only me? What if I don’t have
another person? Is Jesus not present with me unless there’s at least one other person
around? Does that mean that I can’t have a personal relationship with Jesus? And so we
see here a big problem. It’s one that you’re going to encounter a lot today. And it’s the
type of problem that occurs when we rip verses out of their context. You see, one of the
worst and most dangerous things anyone can do is take verses from the Bible out of their
context because context is king. The context of a verse determines the meaning of a verse.
And so we need to dig into the context of this verse in order to know how to properly
understand it. And this phrase, where two or three are gathered, actually comes at the
conclusion of Matthew chapter 18, verses 15 through 20. This is what the Bible says, starting
in verse 15. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you
and him alone. If he listens to you, you’ve gained your brother. But if he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence
of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If
he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on
earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For
where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” So here’s what this
passage is actually about. This passage is actually about church discipline. Jesus is
instructing his followers about what to do when there is sin in the church. And he gives
a number of steps for the church discipline process that are incredibly helpful. So he
says step one, if someone is in the church, they’re sinning, and you know that they’re
sinning and they’re living in this habitual, unrepentant sin, you go to the person yourself.
You go one-on-one and you talk with them. But step two, if that person doesn’t listen
to you, he says, take one or two others so that whatever your judgment may be, it will
be established by the witness of two or three people. So notice the use of that exact same
phrase, two or three. And the reason you need two or three witnesses was to be in accordance
with the law of God. The Bible says in Deuteronomy chapter 19 and verse 15, a single witness
shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with
the offense that he is committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three
witnesses shall a charge be established. So what Jesus is doing here was continuing this
practice within the church with regard to church discipline. He says in order for a
charge to be valid and established, there must be at least two or three witnesses. One
witness alone is insufficient to establish the charge against a person. And so then step
three, he says if the person still refuses to listen, you must then present him to the
church. And then finally, step number four, if he refuses even to listen to the church,
he is to be put out of the church and treated as an unbeliever until the time in which he
repents. You actually see this kind of a process. You can read about it in 1 Corinthians chapter
5. Paul is addressing a serious sin that is ongoing in the church. The church did not
put the person out of the church as they were supposed to. And Paul says you should stop
tolerating the sin of this person. Put them out of the church. Give them time to repent.
And if that person does repent, you receive them back gladly. And there’s actually evidence
from 2 Corinthians that the person Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians did repent. And we see that
person gain membership back into the church and is welcomed back into the church after
he repents. So this is what Jesus is talking about. And the reason that Jesus concludes
these verses with the phrase, where two or three are gathered, there am I among them,
is to legitimize and confirm the church discipline process. You see, unfortunately, we’re living
in a time when very few churches today even practice church discipline, even though it
is a biblical command and even though it is necessary, which is one of the main reasons
the church today is in the state that it’s in. Because we are not practicing church discipline.
We’re allowing people to live in habitual, unrepentant sin. We’re not calling them out
on their sin. We’re not going and talking with them. We’re not following the church
discipline process. And so our church becomes filled with sin. And also, you end up having
a lot of unbelievers who are part of your church who shouldn’t be members in the church
because they haven’t actually repented of their sins and come to faith in Christ. We
need church discipline in order to have a pure church. That doesn’t mean that people
are going to be perfect, but what it does mean is that we actually care that they are
growing in holiness, that we actually care about their sanctification and their growth
in Christ. But here’s what I know. What happens is one of the most common things when you
are practicing church discipline is that people will protest. If you’re going to actually
practice church discipline and you’re going to go through this process, there’s going
to be backlash. Accusations are going to be thrown around. The one who is being disciplined
often accuses the pastoral leadership of tyranny, of being authoritarian, maybe even acting
as hypocrites. And Jesus is anticipating this kind of a response. And He says, actually,
I stand by their judgment. If they have followed the process and their judgment is established
on the basis of at least two or three witnesses, I stand alongside them and their judgment.
And I agree with them. If they have followed this process on earth, it is bound up in heaven.
It has the heavenly authority behind it. And so Jesus is saying, I stand with them in this
process. It is not an act of tyranny. It is not an act of authoritarian leadership or
even hypocrites or anything like that. Jesus is saying, I stand with them. This is a legitimate
process and I am giving my authority to it. And so what we need to do is we need to stop
ripping this verse and other verses out of their context, because when we do that, we
misapply it today. This is not an encouragement for small gatherings. I’m not saying small
gatherings are bad at all. I love small gatherings. They’re some of the sweetest times you can
have. But this verse says nothing about small gatherings. It is not an encouragement for
small gatherings. It shouldn’t be used to apply to small gatherings. But on the plus
side, it does mean that you don’t have to worry about always needing at least one other
person in order for Jesus to be present. You can be sure that if you’re a believer in Jesus,
Jesus is always with you. And that is an encouragement. So thanks for the question. I really appreciate
it. I hope this answer has been helpful and I look forward to answering more in the future.