In this article, we continue with our series on misusing the Bible. We take a look at yet another bible verse so wrongly misquoted and taken out of context: Matthew 18:18-20
"18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
I am sure you have seen prayer warriors, as they are popularly called, casting and losing, and vs.18 is quoted to support their view. You may have also seen vs.19 taken to suggest a prayer of 'agreement' in 'whatever' we ask. So that for example, if you want to pass your exam, you just have to call a brother and both of you pray in agreement and it shall be done. How about vs.20? There seems to be a general appeal to this verse to convince ourselves that God is in our midst during a small prayer meeting or a small group fellowship or sometimes when the church attendance is low. The Pastor or leader of the meeting usually pulls this verse out of the hat to encourage the congregants. But then as you study the context, it becomes obvious that this verse has nothing to do with anyone just binding and losing or asking anything we wish for or Christians convincing themselves that though they are few in number, God is in their midst.
So, what do these verses really mean in context? Let's study it from verse 15, reading the whole discussion in context.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
From vs.15, Jesus talks about us going out of our way to tell a brother who has offended us how we feel in private. Settle it out with the person privately and if the person is sorry, accept their apology and move on but if they will NOT go with one or two witnesses to confirm you truly want peace AND if they still will not hear,tell it to the church and if after the church still can't get such brother to seek peace, THEN Jesus instructs that such brother should be treated as an outcast. This is similar to what Paul asked the church leaders to do in 1 cor.5:1-13. It is against this CRUCIAL DECISION that Christ begins to give authority to the church(specifically the leaders) in vs.18 to 20. When therefore Jesus says whatever you bind or loose on earth shall be bound or loosed in heaven, He was saying when an unrepentant brother is cast out of the congregation by the church, it is sanctioned in heaven. In the same vein, Jesus' reference to two or three was in keeping with the old testament rule of needing at least two or three people to stand as witnesses in court when judgement is to be passed (Deuteronomy 19:15). Here Jesus says when two or three people confirm the unrepentant attitude of a brother, He would be there in their midst helping, guiding, supporting and ratifying their decision.
The truth is, we don't need to be two or three to draw the attention of Christ. He answers the prayers of individuals as well as groups. When a single person comes into God's presence to pray, study or interact with God in any way, Christ's presence is automatically present.
...to be continued