“[W]here two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)
A lot of people take this passage to mean that if they are together with others for church or prayer that Jesus is with them.
He most certainly is.
But this verse is more applicable to discipline within the church. Jesus is saying in the preceding verses and here that if the church disciplines on earth, it will be binding in heaven. And that when the church goes out, Jesus is with them.
R.C. Sproul writes of this verse, “Jesus was saying that He is with the leaders of the church to validate their decisions on church discipline, much in the way that Paul said he would be with the Corinthians ‘in spirit’ as they brought discipline against the man who was living in sin (1 Cor. 5:3–5).”
We live in an age when the church rarely disciplines. Why bother. After all, if the church cracks down, there’s another two blocks over.
But the church should take both meanings of this passage. Yes, bring friends around the table to pray and break bread. Jesus is there with them. Remember also, that the church on earth should discipline. It is not judgment to lay out the standards of faith and discipline those who profess the faith who violate the standards. We are all called to repent.
In this new age, churches, regardless of denomination, need to act with moral clarity. Our faith comes with oughts.