Bible trivia time. What is Jesus referring to in Matthew 18:20?
- Church potlucks
The answer: None of the above.
Again, context comes to the rescue. Let's look at the passage in question, Matthew 18:15-20 (emphasis mine):
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.16 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. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 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. 19 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.20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
This passage is about how to do church discipline. Jesus outlines what our responsibilities are and gives us the reassurance that if we follow God’s model his will is being done. "There am I among them" is not saying that Jesus is literally there in that instance. It means that He is there figuratively because we are carrying on as he instructed us to.
Is Jesus in our midst when two or more pray? Absolutely. Is he with us when we gather to worship? Of course. But this is not about achieving quorum. God is with us even when we pray or worship alone.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. - John 14:16-17