Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
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(20) Where two or three . . .—The true meaning of the words is well embodied in the well-known patristic axiom, Ubi tres, ibi Ecclesia (“Where three are there is a church”). The strength of the Christian society was not to be measured by a numerical standard, but by its fulfilment of the true conditions of its life. The presence of Christ was as true and mighty, His communion with His Church as real, when His followers were but as a remnant, as when they were gathered in the great congregation. He would be with the “two or three” (there is, perhaps, a special reference to the self-same words in Matthew 18:16), to plead for them as the great High Priest, to impart Himself to them, to ratify their decisions.

18:15-20 If a professed Christian is wronged by another, he ought not to complain of it to others, as is often done merely upon report, but to go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him his conduct. This would generally have all the desired effect with a true Christian, and the parties would be reconciled. The principles of these rules may be practised every where, and under all circumstances, though they are too much neglected by all. But how few try the method which Christ has expressly enjoined to all his disciples! In all our proceedings we should seek direction in prayer; we cannot too highly prize the promises of God. Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us.For where two or three ... - This is a general assertion made to support the particular promise made Matthew 18:19 to his apostles. He affirms that wherever two or three are assembled together in his name, he is in the midst of them.

In my name - That is,

1. By my authority, acting for me in my church. See John 10:25; John 16:23.

2. It may mean for my service; in the place of prayer and praise, assembled in obedience to my commend, and with a desire to promote my glory.

There am I in the midst of them - Nothing could more clearly prove that Jesus must be omnipresent, and, of course, be God. Every day, perhaps every hour, two or three, or many more, may be assembled in every city or village in the United States, in England, in Greenland, in Africa, in Ceylon, in the Sandwich Islands, in Russia, and in Judea - in almost every part of the world - and in the midst of them all is Jesus the Saviour. Millions thus at the same time, in every quarter of the globe, worship in his name, and experience the truth of the promise that he is present with them. It is impossible that he should be in all these places and not be God.

20. For where two or three are gathered together in my name—or "unto my name."

there am I in the midst of them—On this passage—so full of sublime encouragement to Christian union in action and prayer—observe, first, the connection in which it stands. Our Lord had been speaking of church meetings before which the obstinate perversity of a brother was in the last resort to be brought, and whose decision was to be final—such honor does the Lord of the Church put upon its lawful assemblies. But not these assemblies only does He deign to countenance and honor. For even two uniting to bring any matter before Him shall find that they are not alone, for My Father is with them, says Jesus. Next, observe the premium here put upon union in prayer. As this cannot exist with fewer than two, so by letting it down so low as that number, He gives the utmost conceivable encouragement to union in this exercise. But what kind of union? Not an agreement merely to pray in concert, but to pray for some definite thing. "As touching anything which they shall ask," says our Lord—anything they shall agree to ask in concert. At the same time, it is plain He had certain things at that moment in His eye, as most fitting and needful subjects for such concerted prayer. The Twelve had been "falling out by the way" about the miserable question of precedence in their Master's kingdom, and this, as it stirred their corruptions, had given rise—or at least was in danger of giving rise—to "offenses" perilous to their souls. The Lord Himself had been directing them how to deal with one another about such matters. "But now shows He unto them a more excellent way." Let them bring all such matters—yea, and everything whatsoever by which either their own loving relationship to each other, or the good of His kingdom at large, might be affected—to their Father in heaven; and if they be but agreed in petitioning Him about that thing, it shall be done for them of His Father which is in heaven. But further, it is not merely union in prayer for the same thing—for that might be with very jarring ideas of the thing to be desired—but it is to symphonious prayer, the prayer by kindred spirits, members of one family, servants of one Lord, constrained by the same love, fighting under one banner, cheered by assurances of the same victory; a living and loving union, whose voice in the divine ear is as the sound of many waters. Accordingly, what they ask "on earth" is done for them, says Jesus, "of My Father which is in heaven." Not for nothing does He say, "of My Father"—not "YOUR Father"; as is evident from what follows: "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name"—the "My" is emphatic, "there am I in the midst of them." As His name would prove a spell to draw together many clusters of His dear disciples, so if there should be but two or three, that will attract Himself down into the midst of them; and related as He is to both the parties, the petitioners and the Petitioned—to the one on earth by the tie of His assumed flesh, and to the other in heaven by the tie of His eternal Spirit—their symphonious prayers on earth would thrill upward through Him to heaven, be carried by Him into the holiest of all, and so reach the Throne. Thus will He be the living Conductor of the prayer upward, and the answer downward.

Parable of the Unmerciful Debtor (Mt 18:21-35).

Ver. 19,20. Most interpreters agree there is a connection betwixt these verses and those immediately preceding, as if it were a further confirmation of what God had said concerning his binding and loosing in heaven whatsoever they should bind or loose on earth; and say, the asking mentioned in this verse supposes that no church will adventure upon so grave an act as excommunication, without asking his direction or counsel; nor undertake such a thing as absolution, without the like serious asking of God pardon for the repenting sinner. Now, saith he, let the church be never so small that so joins in prayers on this occasion, what they ask of God shall be done. Whether it hath any such reference or no, or be an independent promise of Christ’s presence with his church, I shall not determine. Those who think this text hath such a particular reference, yet do also grant it a more general promise of Christ’s presence with his people. Whenever they are met by his authority, or upon his account or command, whether it be for counsel, or judgment, or prayer, or the celebration of any sacred institution of his, he is in the midst of them, to protect and favour them: what they ask

shall be done for them; that is, provided the thing asked be good, Matthew 7:11, and for a right end, Jam 4:3, and in a right manner, Luke 18:1 Jam 1:5-7. Christ in this text establisheth the duty of prayer in communion with others. He doth not only require of his people secret prayer, Matthew 6:6, but also praying in company with others; the gathering together of his people for prayer, whether in private families or more public congregations.

For where two or three are gathered together,.... This seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish notion, that a number less than ten, is not a congregation (a); whereas, though the number is ever so few that are met together to pray to God; or to hear his word, attend on his ordinances, or do the business of his house, or transact any affair that is for the glory of God, and the good of souls, in my name, says Christ; that is, by his authority, depending on his assistance, calling upon his name, and making use of it, and seeking the glory of it:

there am I in the midst of them; presiding over them, ruling in their hearts, directing their counsels, assisting them in all they are concerned, confirming what they do, and giving a blessing and success to all they are engaged in. The Jews, though they say there is no congregation less than ten, yet own that the divine presence may be with a lesser number, even as small an one as here mentioned (b).

"Ten that sit and study in the law, the Shechaniah dwells among them, as it is said, Psalm 82:1. From whence does this appear, if but five? from Amos 9:6, from whence, if but three? from Psalm 82:1, from whence, if but two? from Malachi 3:16, from whence, if but one? from Exodus 20:24.''

And again (c),

"two that sit together, and the words of the law are between them, the Shechaniah dwells among them, according to Malachi 3:16, from whence does it appear, that if but one sits and studies in the law, the holy blessed God hath fixed a reward for him? from Lamentations 3:28.''

(a) Misn. Sanhedrim, c. 1. sect. 6. T. Bab. Megilia, fol. 23. 2. Gloss. in ib. (b) Pirke Abot, c. 3. sect. 6. (c) Ib. sect. 2.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:20. Confirmation of this promise, and that not on account of any special preference for them in their official capacity, but generally (hence the absence of ὑμῶν in connection with the δύο ἢ τρεῖς) owing to the fact of His gracious presence in the midst of His people when met together: for where two or three are gathered together with reference to my name, there am I (my presence being represented by the Holy Spirit, comp. Romans 8:9 f.; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 5:4; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:16 f.; also in general, Matthew 28:20) in the midst of them; so that you need therefore have no doubt as to the γενήσεται just promised to you, which I, as associated with my Father (Matthew 18:19), will bring about. The statement is put in the form of an axiom; hence, although referring to the future, its terms are present. The higher, spiritual object of the meeting together of the two or three lies not in συνηγμένοι, which expresses nothing more than the simple fact of being met (in answer to Grotius, de Wette), but in εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα, which indicates that the name of Jesus Christ (i.e. the confession, the honouring of it, etc.) is that which in the συνηγμένον εἶναι is contemplated as its specific motive (μὴ διʼ ἑτέραν αἰτίαν, Euthymius Zigabenus). “Simile dicunt Rabbini de duobus aut tribus considentibus in judicio, quod שכניה sit in medio eorum,” Lightfoot.

Matthew 18:20. δύο ἢ τρεῖς. Jesus deals in small numbers, not from modesty in His anticipations, but because they suit the present condition, and in jealousy for the moral quality of the new society.—συνηγμένοι εἰς, etc., not gathered to confess or worship my name, but gathered as believers in me. It is a synonym for the new society. The ecclesia is a body of men gathered together by a common relation to the name of the Christ: a Christian synagogue as yet consisting of the Twelve, or as many of them as were really one in heart.—ἐκεῖ εἰμὶ ἑν, etc.: there am I, now, with as many of you, my disciples, as are one in faith and brotherly love; not with any more even of you: far away from the man of ambitious, not to say traitorous, mind. There am I in reference to the future. His presence axiomatically certain, therefore expressed as a present fact, even with reference to a future time—a promise natural from One looking forward to an early death. Similar in import to Matthew 28:20. For similar sayings of the Rabbis concerning the presence of the Divine Majesty, or the Shechinah, among two or three sitting in judgment or studying the law, vide Lightfoot and Schöttgen.

20. two or three] In the smallest gathering of His followers Christ will be present. A derivative (synaxis) of the Greek word in the text came to be used among the early Christians for their assemblies, especially in reference to assembling for the Lord’s Supper. Synaxarium, derived from the same verb, meant a Service-book.

Matthew 18:20. Οὗ γὰρ, κ.τ.λ., for where, etc.) The name of Jesus gives power to prayer.—δύο ἤ τρεῖς, two or three) see Ecclesiastes 4:12 and the preceding verses. Three is a number which can be procured even in a barren age of the Church: a greater number is not so easily obtained, and is accompanied by the danger that a hypocrite may be present; yet where many sincere professors are together, how great will be the power of their prayers.—εἰς τὸ Ἐμον ὄνομα, in My name, lit. into My name[835]) sc. with the object of worshipping it. All prayers that are offered in the name of Jesus Christ are accepted by the Father; see Matthew 18:19.—ἘΚΕῖ ΕἸΜῚ, there am I) and all grace with Me; see ch. Matthew 28:20; Acts 18:10; 2 Timothy 4:17. Where the Son is, there is the Father: what the Son wishes, the Father wishes.

[835] Εἰςὄνομα is not identical with ἐνὀνόματι, either here or in Matthew 28:19 (Baptizing them—not in the name, but into the name, etc., i.e. into the fellowship of the Father, etc.—so that they may be members of the church bearing the name of, etc.). The words probably mean “Gathered together unto my name;” the sense which Bengel seems to imply—εἰς, “Ut nomen meum colant.”—ED.

Verse 20. - The promise is applied to the public prayer of the congregation, as we see in what is called "the prayer of St. Chrysostom" in the English Prayer book. Are gathered together. For the purpose of worship. It is a simpler form of the word used in Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." In my Name (εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα); literally, into my Name; i.e. with love to me, yearning for union with me, and acting for my glory. This would imply decent and orderly meeting for the highest ends. There am I in the midst of them. Christ promises a real, actual presence, though invisible, as true as when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, as true as when the Shechinah shone in tabernacle or temple. The rabbis had a saying that if two sat at table and conversed about the Law of God, the Shechinah rested upon them. The promise in the text, of course, implies Christ's omnipresence and omniscience. This is his blessing on united, congregational prayer. Matthew 18:20In my name (εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα)

Lit., "into my name." When two or three are drawn together into Christ as the common centre of their desire and faith.

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