Reading the Word
Matthew 18:18–20 (ESV)
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.”
Understanding and Applying the Word
This passage is often quoted out of context. Jesus did not give us a definition of what constitutes a church with his words “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Many quote these words and apply such a meaning, but Jesus’ words have to be understood in light of the entire passage, which begins in verse 15.
Verses 18-20 complete Jesus’ instruction regarding how to handle a divisive situation between two believers. First: go to the other person. Second: take along one or two others. And last: if there is no repentance, take the matter to the church. See yesterday’s post for more on verses 15-18.
After his instruction on bringing the matter to the church, Jesus tells us that the authority of heaven stands with the church. Whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven. The church (on earth) and God (in heaven) stand in agreement. Not only that, but when the people of Christ gather (two or three gathered in Jesus’ name), Christ is with them. The church represents Christ on earth and his authority stands with his people. So, when the people of God come together and seek his will in such a matter as the discipline of an unrepentant believer, Christ’s authority stands with his people.
We must never forget that the church is not a man-made institution, but was ordained by God. The church is made up of the people of Christ and serves as his representatives in the world. It is the church that has been given the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel to the world and it is the church that Christ has given the Spirit, the gifts, and his authority. May we never despise what he has established and may we seek to do his will in all matters as his people.
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