Re-visiting Matthew 18:20

by Greg Gwin

There has been a good bit of discussion about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 18:20: “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  It has been accurately explained that the context of this famous phrase limits its application.  Specifically, Jesus was not discussing worship assemblies.

Unfortunately, this passage has been misused to justify brethren absenting themselves from the assembly of the church and conducting their own devotionals (including the Lord’s Supper).  They express confidence that Jesus is ‘with them’ because a plurality of Christians are in attendance. 

God’s Word identifies that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed “when ye come together in the church” and “when ye come together into one place” (1 Cor. 11:18,20,34).  The objectors argue that when “two or three are gathered together” it constitutes a church.  Thus, they attempt to make their case for the observance of the Lord’s Supper in these settings.

There are some real problems with this explanation.  First, if it is true that these gatherings of ‘two or three’ are really a ‘church’, then we have churches popping up – and quickly disbanding – all over the place.  Are we to believe, for instance, that a ‘church’ existed in a hotel room for a few moments on Sunday morning (just before the participants headed off to the amusement park)?  This ‘church’ observed the Lord’s Supper, and then disbanded never to meet again.  Is this really what folks want to defend?

Second, those making this argument need to look at Matthew 18 a little more closely.  The context describes how to deal with an erring brother.  First you go to him privately.  Then you take “one or two more” (note: that would be ‘two or three’ together – do the math!).  Finally, you “tell it unto the church”.  But, wait!  Do you see it?!?  The group of “two or three” together is clearly distinguished from “the church”.  In other words, Jesus’ own words show that a simple plurality of Christians does not automatically result in the formation of a ‘church’.

So, the very context of Matthew 18:20 proves that these limited, private gatherings do not provide the authorized setting in which the Lord’s Supper is to be observed.  Think!

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