Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Out of Context! Matthew 18:20
Is it ever ok to take scripture out of context to fit my theology or my sermon point. Well of course not. But so many do today. I think this is allowed in some churches because the preaching is so shallow and diligent study is not applied by many today. I am guilty myself at times.
One verse that is often taken out of context is Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Some will say if two or three gather in His name He is in the midst. Well true, but also if one gathers in His name He is in the midst or if none gather in His name He is in the midst because He is omnipresent. This in NOT what this verse is talking about!!
This section of scripture is talking about Church discipline or confronting a brother in Christ not a Sunday service or prayer meeting.
John MacArthur said "In other words, we're doing heaven's work. We're doing the Father's work. And then Jesus Himself has the final word in verse 20. “Where two or three have gathered together,” not for a prayer meeting, folks. How many does it take for God to show up at a prayer meeting? How about one. “Lo, I am with you always.” It doesn't take two or three. It doesn't have anything to do with a prayer meeting, it has to do with a discipline situation where two or three have gathered together which means this process is in motion, there I am in their midst. Never is the church more in tune with heaven, more in tune with the Father and more in tune with Christ Himself then when it's dealing with sin."
Before this he talked about this section of scripture by stating "Matthew 18, beginning at verse 15. “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And 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 gatherer. Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst.”
I had great difficulty with that passage of Scripture because I in my entire life had never experienced a church, heard of a church that did that...no church that I had ever been did that..people confronting people about their sin, people taking two or three witnesses, people telling the whole church about an impenitent sinning member. The only part of that Scripture I ever heard quoted was the part about two or three being gathered together in My name and there am I in the midst, and that was almost like a popular axiom to remind folks that only when a couple of people showed up for prayer meeting, God showed up too. That was the universal exegesis of that verse.
I didn't know any church that did this. I never heard of any church that did this. And it consumed me in my thinking. I read extensively on that subject and I could find commentators and theologians who explained the text, but I couldn't find anybody who actually applied it."
So the text is talking about church discipline and not "God Showing Up" in a worship service.
On this same text Jim Bordwine said "Verses 19 and 20 have left people with a lot of questions, primarily because they are taken out of context. In this context of the church dealing with sin, how should we interpret these verses? Jesus is saying that when the church must handle a case, such as He has described, the wisdom of God must be sought. This isn’t a blanket invitation to ask God for anything knowing that as long as two people agree, God is bound to give what is requested. In this context, once again, we are talking about rendering judgment. It seems, therefore, that Jesus is saying that when there is agreement regarding a judgment, assuming the principles of Scripture have been followed, the church may feel confident that God approves and will support that judgment, so to speak. This process is, once again, extremely serious since we are considering a person’s spiritual state. It requires the application of collective wisdom."