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Where two or three are gathered in My Name

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered [sunago] together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

The Greek verb sunago means 'to unite together', 'to discuss', 'to bring to unity', 'to assemble forces with a view to battle' and 'to entertain in ones home'. This is illustrated by these four verses:

  • "The apostles and the elders met together [sunago] to consider this matter" (Acts 15:6),

  • "It was also to bring together [sunago] in a single body the scattered children of God" (John 11:52),

  • "The whole company of soldiers gathered [sunago] around Him" (Matthew 27:27),

  • "I was a stranger and you took [sunago] me in" (Matthew 25:35).

This verb lies at the root of the noun "synagogue" [sunagogé] which designates a place of meeting or an assembly. We also have to consider that these two verses are placed in the middle of teaching on forgiveness (Matthew 18:15-35).

If Your brother has sinned

"If your brother has sinned, go and take it up [elegcho] with him privately. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. But, if he does not listen to you, take with you one or two people, so that the whole matter is settled on the declaration of one or two witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen to the church also, let him be for you as a sinner or a publican. Truly I say to you, all that you bind on earth it shall be done because it will have been bound in heaven, and all that you loose [luo] on the earth it shall he done because it will have been loosed [luo] in heaven" (Matthew 18:15-18).

It is important to understand that sin binds us to the person against whom we sin by creating a debt. By contrast, forgiveness releases us by separating us from the people and the debts; Jesus makes that clear by replying to Peter's question "How many times shall I forgive my brother?": "It is why, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to call his servants to account. When he began to count, one of them was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents. As he did not have the means to pay, his master ordered that he be sold, him, his wife and his children and all that he had, and that the debt be acquitted. The servant, throwing himself on the ground, prostrated himself before his master: Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything . Moved with compassion, the master of the servant released [apo-luo, to release by separation], and cancelled the debt" (Matthew 18:27 Interlinear).

When we have seen a brother sin or when someone has sinned against us, Jesus asks us to take up this person again. The Greek verb is "elegcho" and its literal meaning is to convince of sin and error, to test, show the true nature, show the truth. The aim of bringing the person to recognise his fault is to get him to ask for forgiveness so that he might be set free (released through separation). But there is also another reason for taking this action, which is emphasised in Leviticus, "... you shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17). In fact, seeing someone sin and doing nothing burdens us to some extent with another sin, that of saying nothing or doing nothing or propagating the sin.

The Church the Body of Christ

We must consider that the Church is a Body, and if a member sins it is the whole Body which is affected by it. For the good of the whole Body and for the good of the one who has sinned, we owe it to ourselves to act with love in respect of the person concerned. This step can be made, if need be, in the presence of several witnesses, "A single witness will not be sufficient against a man to establish a crime or a sin, whatever it may be; a fact will only be able to be established on the submission of two or three witnesses" (Deuteronomy 19:15).

That is why at least two are needed to validate the evidence before the Church. Jesus recalls that it is necessary to separate oneself from a member who refuses to recognise that he is sinning and that this can only be done legally by there being at least two or three to ask the Heavenly Father.

The apostle Paul was led to take this kind of decision, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person" (1 Corinthians 5:11-13).

In addition

"In addition I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything [pragma] that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. Indeed, where two or three are gathered together [sunago] in My name, I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20 Interlinear).

An extrapolation can be made from these two verses about the Church. The Church exists where two people are gathered together in the name of Jesus; the verb sunago enables one to say that the gathering can also be in one's home, that is in a house. Jesus says that two things are essential to ask the Heavenly Father for whatever it may be: to be in agreement (in symphony, in harmony) and to be united by the name of Jesus. The important thing is the unity of the group which can only come if each person is first of all in agreement with God and with His Word.

The Greek word pragma means a task to be accomplished, business in progress, an event, a military action, a real thing (may also be a person). Jesus tells us that for every thing, every action, every item of business, every person, we must address ourselves to our Heavenly Father, and He will answer our request. That also means that even decision taken in the Church cannot be taken by a single person, but must be made in a collegiate manner by a group of people.

Jesus shows us that as soon as we speak of Him, He comes into our midst: it was in that way that two disciples were conversing about the recent events as they walked towards Emmaus, and Jesus came and joined them to explain the Scriptures (Luke 24:13-35). In the same way He came to His disciples who were shut up in place because of the fear of persecution (John 20:19-23); in that way Jesus passes through the walls of our fears to come to us when we are met in His name.

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